Here are the 8 most important things I learned after spending a weekend with military spouses and veterans:
I just spent 2.5 days with military spouses and veterans at the MilBlogging conference in Dallas. It. was. incredible.
The first night, I think half the room was in awe and ‘fan-girling’ over the other half of the room. There were representatives from large veteran-owned companies like Sword & Plough, Grunt Style, Bottle Breachers, and Military Wallet. Famous military spouse companies like R. Riveter, USMC Life, and The Military Wife and Mom were also present. There were published authors, journalists, media companies, entrepreneurs, and lots of bloggers.
Most of these people interact and follow each other online. Some of them have known each other for years. But this was the first time everyone gathered in one place. And we had a blast.
I was incredibly surprised and touched that so many people knew me and my Seasoned Spouse writing. What I still consider my “little” blog is apparently a big deal in military circles. The larger, more famous companies never shunned me out of conversations. In fact, they welcomed me and asked how we could work together!
That’s the beauty of the military community. Everyone was there to support, encourage, and share free advice. Let me give you a taste of the MilBlogging conference experience.
8 Things I learned from spending a weekend with military entrepreneurs:
1. Our community is full of talent and creativity. Everyone there was very good at something and doing amazing things in their field. Whether they were famous speakers, writers, non-profit startups, technical geniuses or creative entrepreneurs, everyone had something to offer. If you need something done or want to grow in your business, look to the military community first. These people have talent and passion! For example: this panel of entrepreneurs all survived Shark Tank and created their own business!
2. Military spouses support and encourage each other. Again and again, I saw military spouses connecting and collaborating. No one was back-stabbing or fighting over contracts. I heard one of my favorite mottos repeated several times: “A rising tide raises all ships.” When the military community encourages each other, we all succeed.
“A rising tide raises all ships. When the military community encourages each other, we all succeed.” ~The Seasoned Spouse
3. There is room on the Internet for everyone. Many new bloggers and entrepreneurs wonder if their ideas are unique enough to be successful. The military community is small: only 1% of the American population. Can we handle any more bloggers? The answer is YES. Everyone has a unique perspective and a distinct voice. I only started my blog 18 months ago. And it has now grown to thousands of followers! If I can do it (with 4 kids!), you can too.
Here I am with Jen McDonald, a military spouse author. A year ago, I read and reviewed her book, You are Not Alone. What an honor to connect in person!
4. Deployments and PCS moves don’t slow us down! Military spouses are amazing. There were conference attendees who were in the middle of an international PCS move. Some were transitioning into military retirement. I was able to attend even though my husband is currently deployed, and I connected with several others who had a deployed spouse. We handled childcare arrangements and travel logistics to make this event possible. (Shoutout to my sister who flew across the country to watch my kids for 3 days!) Military life can’t slow down a military spouse on a mission.
The #MilBlogging17 conference taught me: you can't slow down a milspouse on a mission! Click To Tweet
5. Veterans and military spouses don’t always have the same needs. The conference attendees were about 60% military spouses, and 40% veterans. Each group seemed a little surprised that the other was there, and they didn’t always know how to work together or what they had in common (besides the military). During breakout sessions, the groups often segregated themselves to different rooms based on the speaker topics. This division is something to consider for future conference planning.
6. Wherever you are, take the next step. Everyone who attended was at a different point in their career. Some were established businesses who had published multiple books, sold millions in merchandise, or employed hundreds. Others were new start-up companies where everything is done by a single entrepreneur. Nevertheless, everyone had something to gain from this conference: new networks and connections; new contracts and job opportunities; new advice about social media, working with journalists, or publicity. No matter what you are doing, you can always improve.
7. Know your own worth, and believe in it. One big takeaway is that our community undersells itself. Military spouses are often so happy to find work that they accept low payment. Being around these professionals who believed in me helped me realize that I have a talent and skills. My writing has value. And I need to stand up for the value of my own time. When we stand together and affirm each other, we get closer to achieving fair payment for military spouse work or veteran employment.
8. Never underestimate the power of a dream. The entire conference came together because one year ago, a man named Curtez Riggs had the dream of reviving the old Mil-Blogging conference. Never mind that the conference hadn’t met for several years and had no leadership team. Curtez found sponsors, venues, hired a team (shoutout to Wise Advise for their incredible logistics coordination!), and made it happen. If one man can put together such an incredible conference in just one year… then almost anything is possible!
Military spouses and veterans are hard-working, passionate, skilled people. I am honored to be one of them and work with such inspiring individuals. Everyone came away from the conference with a fire lit under their feet. Each person had big dreams and goals for their company. Don’t let that fire burn out! I can’t wait to see what the military community will do in the next year!