The one word that you can almost always use to describe military spouse entrepreneurs is innovative. These men and women do not see the professional challenges of frequent relocations, an often absent spouse and a limited business network as obstacles.
Innovative entrepreneurs view them as hurdles.
It may be hard to jump over them when they are sprinting at full speed and out of breath. But instead of stopping to catch their breath, they train to jump higher and work to run faster.
These entrepreneurs inspire us with their stories. Let’s introduce you to one such entrepreneur.
Air Force spouse Jason Livery is the owner and artist of Head Strong GraFx. He custom paints goalie masks for the world’s top goalies from the NCAA and NHL. You may have seen his work during the Olympics and Paralympics. He was honored to paint the goalie masks for Team USA.
NextGen MilSpouse recently chatted with Jason about his business, his goalie masks, and the challenges of being a military spouse and entrepreneur.
Why did you start your business?
I needed to do something that could move around with my wife and since she’s an officer we typically move every 4 years. All I know is being a custom painter, so goalie masks came to mind and since none of my clients are local, it was a perfect fit for me.
As long as Fed Ex or UPS can reach me, I’ll continue to have masks arrive to be painted.
How long have you been in this career field?
About 25 years.
When did you start painting goalie masks for professional hockey players?
I got my break while we were stationed at Scott AFB in Belleville, Illinois, just outside of St. Louis. My first NHL client was Brian Elliott while he was with the St. Louis Blues 8 years ago.
How did you get the job to paint the goalie masks for Team USA?
I have been painting masks for the USA Hockey development teams for a few years now and when they assembled the Olympic team they contacted me and asked if I would be interested in painting those masks. That (decision) was a no-brainer.
How does it feel to do this work for Team USA?
It’s a great honor as I am very patriotic and love our country.
Tell us what one thing do you love about your job.
I love meeting and getting to know NHL players and watching them play with the artwork I created on their heads.
What was the hardest part of starting your business?
Coming up with a game plan on how to get my name out there in the goalie world.
Do you have any employees?
I have a freelance graphic artist that I use exclusively to work with my clients in creating custom pre-paint renderings.
You’ve been a military spouse for 10 years. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while being married to a service member?
Keeping my clients up to date with current addresses.
Also making sure the teams’ accounts payable departments are up to date so checks aren’t sent to an old address and lost in the mail.
Have you moved your business between different military bases?
Yes, 3 times now.
What were the challenges for these moves and how did you overcome them?
We try to find new homes with a garage or shop that I can paint in. So, sometimes it takes us longer to find a new home that can accommodate me and my paint needs.
I saw the Jake Allen Military Tribute Mask in your photo gallery of featured masks. Why is it important to give back to the troops and their families?
Our military and their families endure many obstacles and strain. I think that giving them any sort of recognition and appreciation is very important. Letting them know that we, as a country, respect and stand behind them is something that I feel gives our soldiers the drive to keep doing their best and makes all of their hard work and strain on their families worth it.
What is your greatest business achievement, thus far?
Wow I’m not sure. I have a few things coming up this year, along with a TV show I’ll be on this summer with clients from NHL and NFL.
What do you think about the phrase “starving artist?”
I feel all artists are starving at one point in their career. Typically, it’s when you’re first starting out before you get recognized.
Many artists don’t realize it’s not only talent that will make you succeed, but marketing yourself is just as important! Many fail due to this fact and never get out of the “starving” part of their career.
If you had an extra hour in your day, what would you do with it?
If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?
Octoman because I need more hands to paint more masks ’cause currently I can only do so much.