Editor’s Note: Military Spouse Entrepreneur Spotlight is a monthly Q&A designed to celebrate the successes and acknowledge the challenges of a military spouse entrepreneur.
In the past, we have highlighted Lauren Nygard of Lauren Nygard Photography, Lindsey Germono of Germono Advertising Company, Amy Rowland of Play Across America, Jessica Bartram of Fayetteville Hypnosis, and Patrice J. Carter of Breakpoint Coaching and Speaking. This month, NextGen MilSpouse features Maggie Varona of ServingTalent.
Name: Maggie Varona
Military Branch Affiliation: Navy
Years as a Military Spouse: 13
Business Name: ServingTalent
Year Established: 2015
Tell us about your business: I co-founded the company in 2015 with Marcelle Yeager, a State Department spouse who has experienced many of the same challenges that we military spouses face. We both knew that military and foreign service spouses represent an incredible talent pool that is being overlooked by many employers. Together we decided that not only could we help these immensely qualified spouses, but we could also provide incredible value to employers.
ServingTalent offers flexible staffing solutions delivered by select military and foreign service spouses. Our mission is to end the extreme underemployment issue among spouses and ensure that they can achieve career success while supporting their service member and our country.
We identify project-based, part-time, and full-time positions with employers and vet candidates to make a direct, suitable match.
Employers are looking for adaptable and driven professionals, which perfectly defines our candidates. We’re currently working on hiring more spouses ourselves, which will enable us to deploy more spouses to employers. One way we are doing this is by entering grant and award competitions, including the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.
What’s your biggest lesson learned as an entrepreneur so far?
It’s impossible to know everything about starting a business, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you’re starting out, fellow military spouses and outside experts in areas you’re not as strong in are important resources to tap into.
Leverage your networks to find out what you need to know and develop your ideas. We’ve all felt at one point or another that we were up against an impossible task. Feeling like there are others who can and want to help goes a long way toward helping us reach our goals.
On managing work and life – is it all about blending or all about balancing? Why?
I think it’s all about balance. I have three young boys and their energy level still leaves me awe struck – as does their ability to keep me on my toes!
In any given day, I’m a business owner, taxi driver, outfielder, goalie, math tutor, piano teacher, tai chi student and cake engineer. No two days are the same and that’s exactly how I like it!
Trying to find the right balance is a constant challenge, but prioritizing is key, and I am always asking myself if something can wait or needs to be done immediately.
Tell us the one thing that makes your dual-working military family successful?
Sharing responsibility for family and life is key. My husband and I both work hard and realize that not just one of us can shoulder everything that makes up our lives outside of work.
While it’s usually not a perfect 50/50 divide, we try our best to divide responsibilities between us. He helps a great deal with the PCS process and taking our kids to certain extra-curricular activities so that it’s not all falling to me.
Having a true partnership is what I think makes a dual-working military family successful.
Choose one: coffee, wine, water or soda?
Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without:
Must-have song on your productivity playlist:
“Run the World (Girls),” Beyonce
Leave us with some wise words…
Be confident in your abilities and be tenacious! There are so many opportunities out there but we tend to either not seek them out or assume we can’t make it work. Be confident in the fact that your skills are valuable and, what’s more, they are highly desirable to employers.
Instead of hiding your military spouse status or treating it as a challenge to be overcome, wear it as a badge of honor.
You can live anywhere and get anything done, and often you’re doing so in a strange place with no help. You don’t whine or give up when the going gets tough – you get tougher. Because you have to. And you do it every day.
Employers are learning that you can teach someone the skills necessary to do a job, but it is much more difficult to teach empathy, adaptability and emotional intelligence. You likely have skills you perhaps have not even thought of because they are second nature, but you can bet that the right employers will notice your value and hire you.
Network, network, network. While it might seem that moving around so much makes it hard to make connections and network effectively, I think the reality is just the opposite.
Because we don’t usually have family where we live, we tend to make deeper bonds of friendship with the people we are stationed with. These friendships become lifelong connections which, over time, spread out across cities and countries all over the world. Keeping in touch with those friends, neighbors and supporters is so important when trying to keep your career moving forward. The best part is that these are people who will WANT to help!
We understand each other, we’ve been through the deployments and last minute PCS changes together, and we know how important it is to stick together. We are fierce in our loyalty to one another and we will gladly help each other in any way we can.
Do your best to reach out to friends and fellow spouses, past and present, to keep the connections strong. It will pay dividends both in terms of your career success and, even more importantly, in the goodness that comes from helping others!