Encourage the entrepreneurship that can help close the employment gap for military spouses
Special to Stars and Stripes March 21, 2023
Military spouses have long endured challenges to finding steady, meaningful employment. Facing career barriers distinct to the military community, military spouses have become one of the highest unemployed demographics in the United States — a reality only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a familiar and frustrating cycle in the military spouse community. As families move through new duty stations every few years, spouses accrue resume gaps that make it difficult to find employment that matches their qualifications — if they can even find a job. Compounding this issue is the lack of reliable child care opportunities for military spouses who are also single parents, making it even more challenging to find gainful employment.
However, there is a lesser-known solution to closing this employment gap: giving military spouses the tools they need to start their own business.
As the wife of an active-duty service member, I have experienced firsthand these barriers to employment that are all too common for military spouses. Despite earning two bachelor’s degrees, when it came time to find a job in my field, it became clear that my career ambitions were at odds with our military lifestyle. That is when I decided to forge a new career path through entrepreneurship — and since then, I have never looked back.
Entrepreneurship allows military spouses to enjoy meaningful employment that not only enables them to build their long-term financial future, but also provides the flexibility necessary to keep up with an often-unpredictable military lifestyle. However, while being an entrepreneur is an ideal job title for military spouses, there are still many obstacles that they encounter in their journey to becoming an entrepreneur, including a lack of financial literacy education, varying rules for businesses between military bases, and lack of assistance from state and federal small-business programs.
For example, many military spouses do not have business backgrounds and can be overwhelmed when they start receiving invoices from vendors and suppliers. There is no perfect playbook to running a business, and many entrepreneurs just starting off often cannot afford to pay for bookkeepers and accountants to keep track of the business’ finances.
But to many entrepreneurs’ surprise, there are a number of free resources available to help business owners manage their finances. Many financial technology platforms, such as online payments platform Melio, are both free and user-friendly.
Financial literacy is just one of many barriers that are keeping military spouses from dreams of starting their own business. While there are organizations – including my own – dedicated to providing military spouses with resources to become successful business owners, there is still much more work to be done.
The private and public sectors must come together to make entrepreneurship more accessible to this highly skilled demographic. As military spouses continue to face dismal unemployment rates that risk the long-term financial health of their families, it is more important than ever to invest in this community and give it the support it needs.
By supporting military spouse entrepreneurs, this talented community can continue to grow, thrive, and ultimately close the glaring unemployment gap that has impacted it for far too long. Military spouses and their families make sacrifices every day to keep our country safe, and they deserve a chance at a meaningful career on their own terms.
Flossie Hall is a Navy spouse and entrepreneur who has generated and exited seven-figure businesses across e-commerce, ed-tech, consumer packaged goods and mass production.