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 Jeanette Price of Peachy Keen Perfume, Jessica Bertsch of Powerhouse Planning, Bridget Platt of Daddy’s Deployed, Stefanie Weakley of Abby Maddy and Patricia Marzella Mathisen of Nutrisha. This month NextGen MilSpouse features Rosemary O’Brien of Pocket Parks Publishing.
Your Name: Rosemary O’Brien
Military Branch Affiliation: Navy
Years as a Military Spouse: 15 years. My husband retired as a Lt Commander in 2009, but I will always consider myself a military spouse.
Business Name: Pocket Parks Publishing
Year Established: 2013
Tell us about your business: Pocket Parks Publishing publishes guides to pocket parks and public spaces throughout the U.S. and London. The first guide, BEST Pocket Parks of NYC, was published in January 2014. There are over 500 pocket parks in New York City and I always wondered why they were there. I chose 56 of the best spaces with regard to seating and atmosphere and put them in a book before discovering there were parks like this throughout the United States and in other countries. In fact, London is running a program whereby they grant money to individuals and groups to build comfortable pocket parks in unused spaces. I hope to write that book when they complete their program in 2016.
In addition, I am very excited to announce a new venture within this business. I will be writing veterans’ stories and producing a paperback book for them so they can memorialize their experience for themselves and for future generations. The idea formulated recently while attending the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ with Disabilities (EBV) National Training Conference in October 2014. I am a proud graduate of EBV-F (Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families) at Florida State University in 2013. This project is a way to help the military community in a deeper way by helping them tell their stories whether it is for their families or for the larger reading public. It is their choice. You can find more information on my website. My goal is to help the veteran find his or her voice, tell his or her story and inform the generations about their experiences.
Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I kind of fell into it. I returned to school and graduated from college the same year I married my military husband. As an older graduate and military spouse, it was quickly apparent at our first duty station that people did not want to hire me for jobs that would further my career because they knew I would be moving within a few years. After working as an administrative assistant for a freelance writers’ organization in Washington, D.C., I decided to do what they did and began my freelance writing business. I wrote my first novel and had it published in 2002. The second novel was published in 2012 after my second child was born and I got back to work. In between, I’ve written copy for websites, magazines, small businesses and I also teach classes in adult education programs such as the business of writing and how to write a novel.
What motivated you to start your own business? See above. The motivation presented itself to me out of necessity.
What is the best part of being an entrepreneur? I love making my own rules, setting my own schedule and being here for my family. My sons are 15 and 10 now, but I am very glad I have been able to stay home with them throughout their childhood, especially when my husband was still in the Navy.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur? The biggest challenge is finding the work. It takes up a lot of time and you can’t count on a weekly paycheck. It can be difficult, but I feel it’s the best option for me right now. I get fired up about the projects I work on. The veteran stories is one of those projects. When I heard someone in a conference session say she kept a journal in Iraq, I got goosebumps. I knew I had to read that journal and help her make it into a keepsake. I also see myself helping veterans in therapy whose therapist wants them to get their stories out. I think this will be a valuable and rewarding project. The pocket parks books will be continued, but I have a Los Angeles writer working on the next book and plan to hire a writer for Washington, D.C. within the next few weeks.
Do you find that being an entrepreneur fits well with your role as a military spouse (or does it even factor in)?
It fits very well. We moved around a lot, as do all military families. Rather than working at a local department store or in another job that did not fit my career goals, I chose to devise my own career the way I wanted to. If a business call was interrupted by a screaming toddler, the caller would just have to have me call them back since my family comes first. With that said, my boys are well-trained now even if they are home sick. I will definitely put them first and always make time for them, but if I’m on a deadline or need to make a call, they know it’s Mom’s work time and to approach at their own risk.
How do you blend working from home and your family relationships? I work mostly during the day when they are at school and work. I have often worked at night and on the weekends if necessary, but always put the family first. I often find myself exhausted at the end of the day, so these night sessions are few and far between lately. I have APLS (antiphospholipid syndrome) which saps my strength sometimes. It’s similar to Lupus and I’ve just had to make allowances for my health.
Biggest lesson learned so far as an entrepreneur: The biggest lesson would have to be that you never know where good advice or a good idea will come from. We often are too involved in our business to see what it looks like from the outside. I always listen to my clients and my writers and interns, the few I’ve had, and have always gotten great ideas on how to deal with issues or where to find information. Even my high school interns have taught me a few things! You have to listen to others with an open mind.
Best piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Go for it. Take it step by step and follow your dream. Chances are if you have a good idea, someone else has thought of that same idea and just never moved forward with it. Educate yourself, plan well and go for it. If not you, then who?