Guest Post by Leanne Kocsis, Director of Research and Development at MilitaryAvenue.com
As an entrepreneurial military spouse you have three avenues that you must take to help build your business clientele. Part of your journey you will have a small 'toll' to pay a charge to get from your starting point to your final destination. Some of your road-trip will be on the 'free-way'; there is no charge except for your time. Part of your journey is pure open country road, taking the time to get to know the passengers, otherwise known as your new clients. All three roads are a part of your journey, a great way to get to your final destination. You could become a known professional, reliable business, and successful entrepreneur.
Reach out to your community. (The Toll-Way but well worth the drive)
Learn more about the organizations in your area. One great example is your local Travel and Tourism Bureau, or Convention and Visitors Bureaus. There are several potential advantages to joining: being able to display your brochures; letting you know when upcoming events you can participate in are; free listings in their online directories. Before you join make sure you ask about the membership benefits. Each Bureau has different membership costs and advantages.
There are countless other ways you can become part of your community. Grab the chance at a city-fair or expose to rent a booth to showcase your work. Learn more about opportunities like these by searching your local city calendars. Don't limit yourself to the city right on the other side of the gate. Search the area for this chance to find meet new customers right in your own backyard.
Reach back to your military-family. (The Freeway)
Take the time to volunteer, jump in to help with your local Family Readiness Group (FRG) or branch equivalent, use your knowledge and expertise to help where you are needed. If you have the skill set that includes selling cosmetics, as an example, then be sure to volunteer at a wives' night out. If your skill set includes being a great organizer then find out how you can help at your local Family Service Center (or branch equivalent). Instead of imposing you will be reaching out and introducing yourself. This is a great place to grow your network. You care about your military-family and that may easily lead to business opportunities down the road.
Be sure to take any courses at your base or post that are geared towards Small Business Administration & Entrepreneurship. These workshops are generally free (or low fee) and not only will help you in your pursuit of your dreams but they will help you get to know others. Family Service workshops are a perfect networking opportunity.
Spread the word. (The Information Super Highway)
Start by thinking of your military-network. A military-spouse is very likely to support another. List your business in different local military-directories that are aimed for the military-family. MilitaryAvenue.com and Sarge's List are two great examples. Another great, and very new, example of spouses helping spouses is The Rosie Network, geared toward supporting our military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs. This is a web search tool that allows the general public to search any geographic area for a service or product provided by a military spouse or veteran. The Rosie Network, a non-profit 501(c)3, allows the spouse or veteran to showcase their product/service with a built in template that gives the option to add photos, testimonials, product, and contact information.
After you have created your free listings fire up the power of Social Media and engage with potential customers. You will not be able to sell your services or products if you don't empower others in the process. If you are a photographer do not simply share your work on your Facebook page but share ideas for getting a great picture. If you do an excellent job at writing resumes and that is what you want to market think big picture and share other employment resources and ideas on your Pinterest page. If you are an attorney opening up shop at your new installation Tweet about legal issues that affect your military community. Share your Passion and potential customers will see your Purpose.
Starting your own business is a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and maybe some tears along the way. Pull out your map, start your plan and get to work!