Running your own business is hard work, time-consuming and sometimes risky, but it can also give you flexibility, fulfilment and independence. So how do you create a company and how do you make it pay? We spoke to entrepreneur spouses to find out the secrets of their success…
Beci Greenwood, Army wife for five years
Business: From Little Greenwoods (family-inspired prints)
Reason for starting up: After becoming a mum I found that I didn’t want to return to a job that I wasn’t passionate about and, with the price of childcare, it wasn’t financially viable. I looked for something flexible so I could see my daughter hit her milestones, whilst future-proofing my career against postings.
The story so far: After reading about the Supporting the Unsung Hero course in Army&You, I completed the start-up course. It was a big achievement, as was launching From Little Greenwoods and making my first sale.
Challenges: Juggling the business with being a mum and looking after a household has been hard, especially when my husband is away.
Managing your finances: Living in SFA has allowed us to save money, so I didn’t require any financial help when setting up. The business is still in its infancy so I’m yet to see the financial rewards, but with what I’ve achieved so far I know it will happen.
Top tip: Take advantage of courses and organisations open to you as an Army spouse.
Erin Scarfe, Army wife
Business: Hari & Fox (greetings cards)
Reason for starting up: I had been drawing one-off cards for years for friends and family, so I learnt to digitise them so that they could be printed and sold.
The story so far: We’ve moved once already since launching Hari & Fox and I simply update my contact details. I also print all my postage at home so at the end of each day I place orders in my local post box. My husband’s work takes him away a lot, so Hari & Fox allows me to look after our baby and draw, pack orders and post on Instagram as and when I have time. Knowing that people want to buy my work is really heart-warming.
Challenges: Having too many designs and not enough time to draw them!
Managing your finances: I self-funded my start-up with savings, but since then the business pays for itself. I don’t turn over a lot of money; all earnings are re-invested, as soon as I have raised enough money I order more stock.
Top tip: Focus on today, not tomorrow.
Hannah Nicklin, Army wife and former soldier
Business: Imagine Sew Beautiful (bespoke embroidery)
Reason for starting up: The concept emerged from ideas from my military career. My vision’s for a bespoke embroidery business.
The story so far: When I left the military, I wanted to create a business that would challenge me mentally and professionally. The idea of retaining memories came from losing my father tragically while I was serving.
Challenges: Time. My husband has been deployed for 21 months in the four years I’ve been running the business. Being a mum with limited support, I am focused on the business in the evenings and when they’re at nursery.
Managing your finances: Initial start-up costs came out of personal savings. Website orders and invoices are managed through PayPal, and at shows I use a card reader.
Top tip: Embrace social media; understand how you can use your customers to advertise your business. Don’t wait until you’re 100 per cent ready as you never get to that point!
Kerri Coyne, Army wife for three years
Business: Kerri Coyne Photography
Reason for starting up: After we married, we were posted to Cyprus where I studied photography. I set up my business from my quarter with the beaches providing the perfect backdrop for me to capture memories for families.
The story so far: Coming from an Army background, I know that people always want their milestones photographed – I can adapt my business wherever I’m based.
Challenges: My main challenge is trying to stand out among my many competitors, but this pushes me to be more creative.
Managing your finances: There were some initial costs setting up. As the business has grown, I’ve invested in my studio equipment and props.
Top tip: Carry out extensive research, know your target audience and have the passion and belief in what you do.
Sara Dennis, Army wife and former Army nurse
Business: Sara Dennis Embroidery
Reason for starting up: On a posting to London I studied on the Royal School of Needlework future tutor programme, so it seemed a natural progression to teach. I started a company as I enjoy the flexibility of being freelance.
The story so far: Over 30 years we’ve had 21 moves, so I’ve dipped in and out of jobs. Textiles have been a continuous thread throughout and some of our postings have been a great source of inspiration. Getting an outstanding achievement award for my work with Combat Stress was a real highlight.
Challenges: Some days can be overwhelming.
Managing your finances: Initially I had to invest in training, equipment and materials. I don’t suppose I’ll ever be a multi-millionaire, but then I wouldn’t have married a soldier if that was a life goal!
Top tip: Take a day off every now and then; starting your own business can be all-consuming.
Jo and Charlotte, Army wives
Business: Two Dandelions (social media management)
Reason for starting up: I was mentored by another Army wife who has her own marketing company. Business grew, so after meeting with Charlotte it felt right to set up together.
The story so far: We run content creation and customer service for a range of brands. We’re happy to pass on our expertise and would love to help other Army spouses.
Challenges: We used to be neighbours and could work together but since moving, we Facetime most days to keep everything organised. It can get lonely so we try to meet halfway every month as we enjoy planning face-to-face.
Managing your finances: We’re lucky that social media doesn’t have too many overheads. We now pay ourselves and reinvest in the company to cover costs.
Top tip: It’s not as scary as you think. You’ll be amazed at what you can teach yourself online.
Business: Dot Project (social technology enterprise)
Reason for starting up: I met co-founder Annie and we immediately clicked; we started a business to increase social impact through technology.
The story so far: We support businesses, social enterprises and non-profit organisations to achieve social change through enabling technology. They often lack the knowledge and confidence to use it effectively.
Challenges: The shift to Army life was challenging as our first posting was to the Highlands. I felt that if I could make things work there then I could succeed in most situations. I accessed a lot of free business support in Scotland.
Managing your finances: In the beginning we didn’t invest much, but we focused on the areas which would help us grow, attending events to network and upskilling ourselves. I don’t feel worse off, mostly because I am happier.
Top tip: Enjoy what you do because you’ll never work harder than in your first years of starting a business – it’s worth it to maintain a rewarding career.