For service spouses and partners, running your own venture can be a great way to generate a steady income that you can take with you when you move. Three entrepreneurs tell us their experiences…  

Chris Keen, married to Kelly, REME TKC – Totally Keen Creative

Chris KeenWhy start a business?

I had a skillset that I’d worked very hard for and didn’t want to let go. After working within the creative industries since the age of 15, I found myself with a very tough decision… we had just had our first child and one of us was going to have to give up their career. Three years down the line, we have two children and one on the way and TKC is doing great. I create and edit podcasts, I still work on the radio and I’m booked to DJ at events several times a month.

How do you find juggling a business and army life?

It’s been quite easy because apart from DJing, everything can be done from home. I have a studio, an editing suite and a pull-up green screen for TV work.

Biggest challenge so far?

It’s been difficult spreading word of my DJ work in a new area – we’ve moved four times in the last five years! Pretty much all of my work has come from word-of-mouth recommendations.

Best thing about running a business?

The freedom to do as much or as little as I want to do is great, especially with a young family.

Top tip:

Don’t rush into it. When I took the decision to go freelance, I wanted to offer every single service I could. I was then reined in by my wife who said to start with the things I’m amazing at, then as the years go by I can slowly add to those services. I’m definitely still in the building stage but I’m so glad I was given that advice because I probably would have been out of my depth!

Esther Lunn, married to Colin, 2 YORKS Lunn’s Mums Fitness Training @lunnsmumsfitness

Esther LunnWhy start a business?

I was originally stirred to make a change when my husband’s postings became incompatible with my first career. My love of fitness and my experience with my first pregnancy inspired me to qualify as a personal trainer, with a particular passion for teaching those who struggle to access classes, or are intimidated by the gym.

How do you find juggling a business and army life?

In 2014, I moved to Cyprus and began studying online and also signed up to the Supporting the Unsung Hero course. Here, I was given the tools and confidence to start my own business and have since moved to Catterick, York, Shrivenham, Glasgow and back to Cyprus. I’ve just started all over again in Shepperton!

Biggest challenge so far?

Having to move all the time is hard, but I have found continually meeting new and talented people with different life experiences has given me extra skills and resilience.

Best thing about running a business?

I feel fortunate to have spent the past eight years teaching the most incredible women. I’ve taught pregnant mums, first-time mums, mums of teenagers, friends of mums and even a few grand-mums.

Top tip:

I would encourage any military spouse to do something they’re passionate about and to access wider support from the military community.

Jen Mackenzie, married to Scott, Royal Regiment of Scotland Jen Mackenzie Antler Art

Jen MackenzieWhy start a business?

I trained as a primary school teacher – my favourite part was always the classroom displays. I started tinkering around with decoupage when we were posted to Inverness, and then stumbled on the antler angle when thinking about Christmas presents one year. Once we moved into our own house and I was able to move from the kitchen table to a workshop things ramped up. I’ve gone from selling decoupaged home accessories at craft fairs to creating high-end exclusive pieces of antler art that have been purchased by luxury holiday accommodation and Scottish estates. I particularly enjoy creating military artwork. A regiment’s cap badge looks spectacular on a set of antlers – although this does mean lots of fiddly crowns and claws to paint around!

How do you find juggling a business and army life?

At times it’s been difficult. You’d find me in my workshop in the wee hours as that was the only time I could get in there. It’s easier now Scott’s home most weekends and the boys are older.

Biggest challenge so far?

It’s safe to say that wrapping and posting a 12-pointer set of antlers beats unaccompanied parenting and running a business hands down!!

Best thing about running a business?

Allowing my creativity to run riot!

Top tip:

Park the imposter syndrome, take a deep breath and just go for it.

Feeling inspired?

Here are some things to think about when setting up your own business…

Get permission

If you run a business from your quarter, self-employed or a franchisee, you need to get permission from Pinnacle and the local commander.

If you’re working from home for another company as an employee, there’s no need to ask for permission.

Work from home?

You can get tax relief for the extra household expenses you have to pay. Typically these include business calls and the cost of gas and electricity to heat and light your work area. Go to

The legal bit

You’ll need to find out what obligations and responsibilities you have as a new business owner – whether a sole trader, limited company or partnership. Certain types of business require you to have a licence to trade or operate. For example, a beautician would need a licence if offering a massage service. It will usually be issued by your district or county council.    

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