Editor’s Note: MilSpouse Entrepreneur Spotlight is a monthly Q&A designed to celebrate the successes and acknowledge the challenges of a milspouse entrepreneur. In the past, we have highlighted Stefanie Weakley of Abby Maddy, Patricia Marzella Mathisen of Nutrisha, Rosemary O’Brien of Pocket Parks Publishing, Kristine Schellhaas of USMC Life and Vista Bartholomew of VistaPix Media. This month, NextGen MilSpouse features Jessica Roberts of Aim High Writing College Consulting.
Military Branch Affiliation: Army
Years as a Military Spouse: 3
Business Name: Aim High Writing College Consulting
Year Established: 2013
Tell us about your business: I founded Aim High Writing College Consulting to assist aspiring college and graduate students in finding and preparing the most competitive school and scholarship applications. My mission is to assist students of all ages in defining and achieving their goals, with an emphasis on developing a student’s writing skills. I help people make a great first written impression.
My work as a Higher Education Consultant is informed by both my experience teaching at the university-level, as well as my time as a graduate student who had to fund her own education. At 21 I was awarded a scholarship to attend Harvard University for my Master’s degree; I’ve also won a Fulbright Award and a Title VIII Research Award. I know how to turn application essays into school acceptances and funding offers, and I wanted to help both parents and students do the same.
As an instructor, I noted that many young people arrive to college unable to write a proper paragraph, never mind an entire essay. And these are not unintelligent students! The fact, rather, is that writing is no longer taught as a distinct discipline. However, strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are what launch us to academic, and later, professional success.
I use the application process as a discrete project for teaching young adults how to transition successfully from high school to college, and then to graduate school or the workforce, by transforming them into Self-Advocating Students. A self-advocating student is confident asking for help when needed, is comfortable articulating her strengths and skills, and takes the initiative to fund and make decisions concerning her academic and professional goals.
To that end, I offer services including Essay Writing Assistance, Scholarship Search and Application Assistance, Financial Aid Counseling, Interview Prep, and a Blueprint to College Guide for Parents.
I also accept resume writing and copywriting assignments from business clients on a case-by-case basis, as well as pursue my own writing through freelance and personal writing opportunities.
What’s your biggest lesson learned as an entrepreneur so far?
So many of us–myself included–can be intimidated by or wary of our perceived competition. But I have found that the persons in comparable fields are usually a fantastic resource and our relationship benefits our respective business practices and client bases. I communicate regularly with other women business owners who do resume writing, career counseling for young adults, and college financial aid planning. I appreciate having someone to refer a potential client to if I think their needs will be better met by any of my peers, while they send clients to me when it is a student looking for essay writing assistance, scholarship help, and interview prep services.
Moreover, reaching out to people doing similar work builds an informal network for exchanging ideas, problem-solving, and successful marketing practices.
I have learned that your competitors are not necessarily your immediate competition, and in most cases, these relationships only stand to benefit your own business.
On managing work and life–is it all about blending or all about balancing? Why?
If blending refers to mixing and balancing is about offsetting one with the other, I would instead suggest that work and life is best managed through brokering. That is, consistently negotiating and arranging a viable plan for both your professional and personal selves. It is extremely important to me to be a “present parent” to my 10-month-old daughter. I value and appreciate the opportunity to stay home and play, interact, and enjoy new experiences with her.
I also, however recognize that my business was my baby before I had a baby, and I feel best when I’m also nurturing that creative part of me that is best expressed in my own writing projects and assisting others with theirs.
I intentionally designed my business to be mobile, so that I could continue to work no matter where my husband’s career takes us, as well as something that can be scaled up or down depending on my family’s needs at any given time. Although I was back to working with a client when I was only two days postpartum, I was more selective about who and what projects I took on for the first 8 months of my daughter’s life. Now, however, I’m brokering new ways to expand my business once more through increased in-person networking, updating my website, and returning to personal writing projects, including a book manuscript.
Brokering to me means finding a way to organize my priorities as a spouse, mother, business owner, and writer so that everyone affected in my immediate sphere–not just myself, my goals, my needs–finds the arrangement agreeable.
Tell us the one thing that makes your dual-working military family successful?
My husband has always respected that I want to work and I consider him my adviser. He encourages me to bet on myself and invest in my ideas, options, and opportunities. Last year when I wrote a book, “Navigating the College Applications Process: A Complete Guide for Students and Parents,” he let me talk through the chapters and reviewed the content. He believes in me, and always makes me feel like my business and writing projects are valuable contributions to our family.
Conversely, I am flexible about yielding to his career demands, or at least the Army’s demands, regarding where we live, how long we are there for, and its impact on our family life. I understand that right now my career must work with and around his. Accordingly, I designed my business with that flexibility of schedule and location in mind, and accept clients on a national basis, whom I work with over Skype and email.
Choose one: Coffee, wine, water or soda?
Coffee. Always coffee.
Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without:
My old-school desktop computer. I prefer working on it to any laptop, tablet, phone, or fancier computer design.
Overcast – I love listening to podcasts! Right now I’m listening to a podcast by the Emily Post Institute, answering listener’s modern etiquette questions. I like to put on a podcast while I’m walking the dog, cooking, or with my daughter in her playroom.
Must-have song on your productivity playlist:
I can’t listen to music when I’m working! I like complete silence if possible when I’m writing.
Leave us with some wise words…
You can have everything you want and do everything you want to do. Maybe not all at once, at the same time. But there are creative ways to accomplish any and all of your personal, academic, and professional goals.