Being part of a military family can have a huge impact on your career and there are many reasons why our community is particularly affected: frequent moves, gaps in employment history and not being able to rely on your serving partner for support, to name a few.
However, an increasingly popular alternative to finding or holding down a job is the world of self-employment.
Many of you are turning your skills and talents into businesses – doing something you love which fits around other commitments. Here, we meet five military spouses and partners who have pursued their passions and muscled into the health and wellbeing industry…
Fitness with Lianne fitnesswithlianne.com
Military connection: I’ve been married to soldier Ash for 10 years.
Why start your business? I have always been a physical training instructor but it took on a new twist when we were posted to Brunei. I moved my business online so I could keep hold of my clients and take advantage of ever improving technology.
Juggling work and military life: It can be a struggle at times to keep the business flowing alongside parenting, working and Ash away every now and then, but as it’s online, I can choose my hours. Perfect for a military spouse!
What have been the challenges through the lockdowns? Home-schooling, moving back to the UK in the midst of it all and trying to secure a job (I’m also a part-time PE teacher). However, it was the catalyst for my business becoming an app – possibly the boost I needed. The community is expanding and I’m developing more content, classes and challenges for my members. I’m a huge advocate of mental health and how being a part of a community, exercising and having support is incredibly important for our wellbeing.
Top tip: Take the step. It’s better to regret starting something than regret never starting at all.
Victoria Martin Fitness victoriamartinfitness.co.uk
Military connection: My husband is in the Household Cavalry Regiment.
Why start your business? When we were posted to Northern Ireland, it was the perfect opportunity to do what I have loved since the birth of my son – fitness and health. I had never had the confidence or time to fit it in around my husband’s busy schedule in London along with the daily duties of motherhood. I completed courses within the first year, then used our second year to build and programme my business so I could take it wherever we go.
Juggling work and military life: Since we’ve been back in Windsor I have free time in school hours to manage my business coaching online and support women on their fitness journey through virtual sessions.
What challenges have you faced through the lockdowns? It was tough as a new businesswoman and mum, especially with home-schooling. But thanks to today’s technology, I’ve been able to use online services which have been a blessing in keeping my business going.
Top tip: Don’t hesitate. Be confident enough to make something of yourself, not just a military spouse who follows the career of her soldier.
The Earth Doula earthdoulaservices.com
Military connection: My partner is in the Light Dragoons.
Why start your business? After having my second child, a passion to educate and empower pregnant folk sparked within me. As a non-binary pregnant person, I wasn’t well represented within birth support, so I trained with the Red Tent Doulas, and then with The Birth Uprising. My entire ethos is to show that hypnobirthing and doula support is for everyone, sometimes you just need to find the right person for you!
Juggling work and military life: Juggling everything is challenging. I’ve done seven months alone, pregnant, with two young kids, in a pandemic!
What’s been your biggest challenge throughout the lockdowns? I’ve relied a lot on friends to help me emotionally and with childcare. I started in lockdown, so it’s always been this way for me, and I’ve slowly learnt how best to adapt to each curveball. I’ve transferred a lot of my services online, I often work at night, and I’m finding ways to support military families struggling financially after this year.
Top tip: Ask for help and accept it when it’s offered. Your business is important and you deserve to put it first.
Military connection: Army wife and mum of two.
Why start your business? I launched SLAM in 2019. It stands for ‘Sweat Like A Mother’ – a workout group designed for women to bring their children along. Originally a primary school teacher, I decided to start my own business after moving frequently. As flexible as teaching was, I wanted to create a business where I was able to take my children ‘to work’, as well as build a community for mums where they feel supported, listened to, encouraged and celebrated.
Juggling work and military life: My husband is currently deployed which makes juggling my two little people and running SLAM a little trickier but having my own business has meant my time is more flexible.
What have been the challenges through the lockdowns? SLAM has adapted well this past year. I moved all our workouts, socialising and playgroups online and everyone was so grateful for this.
Top tip: I’d recommend starting your own business. My own has definitely faced tricky moments in this past year, but it continues to thrive due to a demand for this type of community within the military setting.
Diane Farebrother Physiotherapy & Pilates dianethephysio.com
Military connection: I live with my soldier husband and two boys in SFA in Harrogate.
Why start your business? I qualified as a physio in 2002 and never planned to set up my own business, but moving house so often, I embraced it to stay chartered.
Juggling work and military life: Initially, pilates was the main part of the business and I worked out of my living room in the evenings with frequent furniture shuffles to fit the students in! My business really expanded in the four years we were in Shrivenham.
What’s been your biggest challenge throughout the lockdowns? In preparation for our house move, I had already started online pilates to keep in touch with current clients. All our pictures were down and boxes were everywhere, but then it was postponed within four days of the lorry arriving. Luckily the weather was great and I was able to film outside. It was a steep learning curve with lots of mistakes – failed videos, no sound, noisy lorries and ice cream vans, but I learnt quickly.
Top tip: Upskill early and go for it! I’m much happier when I have my own identity. At work, I’m not ‘mummy’, I’m ‘Diane the physio’ and that feels great.
There are some important things to consider if you decide to become self-employed, ranging from your tax responsibilities to ensuring that you’re legally compliant, particularly if you’re taking your business overseas.
If you live in SFA, you’ll need permission from Amey and the local commander to run a business from that address.
Our Forces Families Jobs (FFJ) team held a webinar earlier this year with three organisations that support military spouses with their business aspirations. You can watch it on the FFJ Business Start-ups page, where you’ll also find more info about the support available to help you get started.