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In the Army Now

More military spouses are enlisting in business.

Running your own business can provide the flexibility, income and work-life balance that you crave. And it's exactly that flexibility that makes entrepreneurship a great match for the frequently transferred military spouse. "Managing your own business takes more effort as a military spouse, but it can be very rewarding," says Rebecca Poynter, co-founder of the Military Spouse Business Association.

Poynter and co-founders Joanna Williamson and Lanette Lepper wanted to create a place where military spouses could go not only to network, but also to find support and advice on how to get their businesses up and running. They address typical business issues as well as those unique to military spouses, including the challenges and restrictions of starting on a military base, finding business services and clients in sparsely populated areas, and picking up and moving the business whenever orders change. Williamson, 37, founded her business, Atta Girl! Designs LLC, in 2005. Relocating every two years is a challenge for her awards company, which specializes in awards for military spouses (akin to medals for military service)--especially with inventory to move. "However, the spirit of a military spouse is definitely one of can-do," Williamson says.

That can-do attitude has helped Williamson, the wife of a naval civil engineer officer, build her Springfield, Virginia, business to five-figure annual sales--even when she has to apply for a business license, pay business taxes and re-establish herself in a new state. "You have to start running before you even hit the ground," says Williamson.

Poynter, 43, the wife of an army officer, currently runs her 2-year-old PR company, OnPoynt Communications, from Annapolis, Maryland, and is able to retain her clients after a move. "When we moved, my husband was the one packing up the house," she says. "I was in meetings."

With her business just starting to be profitable, Poynter says that in addition to flexibility, "military spouses bring some skills to the table: They're typically good collaborators, good researchers and risk-takers. Those three [traits] are good foundations for entrepreneurship."

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This article was originally published in the August 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In the Army Now.

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