At the Country Music Hall of Fame Theater this past week, one standing ovation brought this military spouse to tears (noteworthy only for its exceptionally rare occurrence). From on-stage, Inc. Magazine’s President and Editor-in-Chief Eric Schurenberg called attention to the front row, where a group of Veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs invited by the magazine to attend their annual Grow Your Company Conference (GrowCo) were sitting. He explained to a crowd of highly successful CEO’s that the attendees in that particular section were all military entrepreneurs. In an instant, the entire audience erupted in cheers of support.
It was surreal.
Here we were, dazzled and excited, waiting to see our respective favorite celebrity entrepreneurs–Daymond John of Shark Tank, Joe Gebbia of AirBn’B, Jessica Alba of The Honest Company, David Chang of Momofuku, Marcus Lemonis of The Profit, and Bre Prettis of MakerBots, just to name a few at this year’s event–and yet we received the standing ovation. Amid such talent, the crowd’s response was overwhelming. Our businesses are–for the most part–teeny compared to even the non-celebrity entrepreneurs in the audience, but that didn’t really seem to matter because in that moment, all military families striving to create a business received a tangible public recognition that the private sector supports their efforts.
For the past few years, Inc. has invited military entrepreneurs to participate in their learning conferences through the Inc. Military Entrepreneur program. Run by Veteran and serial entrepreneur Norm Brodsky and his wife Elaine, the program provides an unparalleled support network for military entrepreneurs. Military entrepreneurs dedicated to both taking control of their financial future and serving again in a mission in the private sector should take the opportunity to learn more about the program.
The Inc. Military Entrepreneur program has provided mentor-ship opportunities for hundreds of military entrepreneurs. In their dedication to helping military families succeed in business, the Brodsky’s have helped many businesses, including Pressed Branding, KinderJam, and The Rosie Network thrive under their tutelage. The couple spends considerable time and effort to show they truly believe that military families have a great capacity for success in business.
That support should not go unrecognized by the military community. The 30-odd Veteran and military spouses who attended the event represent something far greater than simply their own businesses. They represent a growing entrepreneurial movement among the military community of Active Duty, transitioning, surviving, Retired, National Guard, and Reserve families who are seeking more: More opportunity, more flexibility, more creative outlets, more solutions, more time with family, and more financial security.
Having written about the impact of both sequestration and the recession for MilitaryByOwner for the past two years, I am intimately aware of the financial concerns facing Veterans and military families alike. Ever optimists, though, military families en-masse have pivoted to turn these obstacles into opportunities. Real estate woes, a 90-percent rate of military spouse underemployment according to research by the Military Officer’s Association of America, and Reduction-in-Force boards have thus combined to create a sense of urgency. This urgency has provided the impetus for aspiring business owners within the military community to define and pursue their dreams.
The nature of military life presents so many options for learning creative problem solving that it serves as a good launch pad for entrepreneurship. So, perhaps we should follow the example set by Inc. and stand up in support each of other as we create goods, services, jobs, and a better life our families.