In this week's blog post, Jess Sands talks us through her experience as a military spouse, business woman and her first experience at a Heropreneurs networking event:
"We’ve just been posted from RAF Brize Norton, where I enjoyed the some productive and incredibly successful networking through The Oxfordshire Project and I missed my local business friends. So when I spotted Heropreneurs networking I thought I would give it a try.
Now, as a military wife I am often exposed to the ‘other half’, that being the serving personnel - male or female. They come in various shapes and sizes but have a few things in common. They usually have a short back and sides, they often talk in acronyms and they are very rarely seen out of chinos and a freshly ironed blue shirt. So when I walked into the conference room of the RAF Club for my first Heropreneurs networking talk I was expecting something similar. What I was greeted with couldn’t have been more different.
First, let me tell you about Heropreneurs. Primarily set up for recent Armed Forces leavers and veterans, Heropreneurs is a charity and social enterprise that provides business advice and support. I’d originally heard about them through my work with Forces Enterprise Network. They provide workshops, mentoring, and networking and unit talks from business leaders throughout the country, many with established businesses and a military link.
I cannot tell a lie. I was expecting it to be a bit of a boy's club. I’ve been to far too many business networking events with middle aged men in suits and ties looking very wary of a young female business owner.
I have also spent too many mess functions with similarly thinking sorts of men, not sure how to place me….to be honest I wasn’t expecting to get much.
What I actually found was an open minded group of genuinely interesting professionals, some of which were veterans and others have no service background at all but with an interest in supporting the military.
They were keen to find out about my company and how they could help after our recent posting to North London and were curious about my work with both FEN, FEN HUB (with Recruit for Spouces and Evolution Forces Families) and the Supporting the Unsung Hero Start-Up Business Course.
The evening began with some informal networking (and lovely RAF wine), and was followed by a fascinating talk from a young veteran about his successful business he has launched since leaving the Army (http://thegoodrubbishcompany.co.uk/). After a quick Q&A we had our round table elevator pitches and I was met with sincere interest and a little bit of surprise.
I was the only spouse there that evening, and although I know a lot about military way, the hurdles that I faced for my business were different to the majority of previous attendees.
I spoke of our struggle to find employment every two years after a new employer sees a patchy CV. I mentioned how difficult it was running a household, a business and a family during yet another detachment, and the joys of a posting and losing clients.
I think it struck a chord and I hope that a few went home to talk to their other halves about their careers and the possibilities out there for the ‘trailing spouse’.
I am not sure that they knew about our amazing spouse network, but I promised to bring some more of ‘us’ next time."
About the author:
"Jess Sands is the founder and senior designer at Design • Jessica, where businesses come for stand-out design and marketing literature.
Since graduating with BA(Hons) Jess has worked for the last ten years with major companies such as Oxford University Press, Disney and Marks & Spencer. Now, as a military spouse of a current serving RAF officer Jess has diversified into designing for the military community, working with companies such as Forces Enterprise Network, The Army Widow’s Association and the RAF Benevolent Fund using her special knowledge of the military.
As brand specialists, businesses specifically commission Design • Jessica to set them apart from their competitors and appeal directly to their client base."
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