MOAA recently sat down with entrepreneur Lauren Hope to discuss her professional path as an Army spouse, get advice for others starting their career journeys, and see what’s next in a new field.
[FREE DOWNLOAD: MOAA’s Military Spouse Employment Guide]
Q. What’s your military story?
A. My military story began in my senior year of college when I met my husband, Greg, at The Culinary Institute of America. He was a cadet at the United States Military Academy, and like many military spouses, I chose to follow my soldier wherever the Army sent us.
Q. Tell us about your business.
A. Hope Design Ltd. Is a collection of hand-crafted military jewelry and gifts that honor our country’s heroes and their families. Creations are available online and in military mission-driven gift shops.
[RELATED: TRICARE Expands Childbirth, Maternity Benefits Via 5-Year Trial Program]
Q. When were you first “bitten” by the entrepreneurial bug?
A. My entrepreneurial journey started when we moved to our third military home. Employment opportunities that matched my professional training as a chef were rare, and my second child was on the way. I was on the hunt for a job that was both fulfilling and paid more than just covering child care costs. Unfortunately, that job didn’t exist, so I decided to make my first career change and create it myself. I launched Hope Design Ltd. in 2013, just weeks after my youngest son was born.
Q. What inspired you to develop a collection honoring the military child?
A. After watching my children and the children of my friends and fellow military spouses handle the constant changes and challenges associated with growing up in the military lifestyle, I wanted to find a way to honor them, our smallest heroes, and their ability to bloom where they are planted.
The dandelion is the official flower of the military child because it is a plant that can put down roots almost anywhere, it's a survivor and can weather all kinds of climates, and it blooms wherever it is planted. That is why the dandelion is featured prominently on our designs that honor military children.
[RELATED: Pregnant Military Women Face Long Wait Times, Long Drives for Needed Care]
Q. How has the military community and experience influenced your entrepreneurial journey?
A. My business began because of my love of military history, tradition, and community. Each piece I create for a client is personal. They are filled with symbolism - be it a unit, a branch, or a family heirloom - the stories are endless. It is much more than jewelry. The emotional significance it holds for veterans and their families turns it into something much more. The military community and our clients have been overwhelmingly supportive of me personally and of Hope Design Ltd., and it is their support that has allowed Hope Design Ltd. to continue to grow and thrive.
Q. What’s been the most difficult part of starting your own business?
A. The biggest challenges I’ve encountered as an entrepreneur have been moving my business through multiple states, juggling wearing multiple hats as a mom, military wife, and entrepreneur, and learning how to be self-employed.
Q. You’ve hired fellow military spouses to support your growing business. Tell us more about why you made the decision to hire military spouses.
A. The fact that I am a military spouse has been a consideration incorporated in Hope Design Ltd. since the beginning. This business was a career change and a solution to my unemployment problem created by repeated military moves. Understanding the struggles of overqualified and underemployed military spouses, I have made it my mission to support others on my journey by employing fellow military spouses. Military spouses also make fantastic employees. Military spouses are adaptable, have diverse and strong skill sets, and handle stress and challenges well, which makes them a great addition to a growing business.
[RELATED: Doorstep Deliveries Starting June 1 for These 8 Military Commissaries]
Q. How has starting your business inspired growth in your professional life?
A. I have learned a lot about myself and my strengths and areas for growth from the process of starting a business. Every little mistake or hiccup along this journey has been so very personal, because for a long time I was the only one in this! For every 10 positive things that happen, I have had such a hard time putting the one negative thing to the side and recognizing the positive. The biggest lesson I have learned is to acknowledge my shortcomings, learn from them, and move on.
Q. What’s currently on your radar? Tell us about your latest entrepreneurial project.
A. Being a military spouse means remaking yourself and changing course when necessary, and I am excited about the next steps in my professional journey. Hope Design Ltd. isn’t going anywhere, but after purchasing our first home in Colorado Springs, I decided to broaden my knowledge and expertise to include real estate. I launched the Lauren Hope Collective this past year. I share my latest journey in real estate, my work and advocacy for the military community, as well as my love of food through my blog sharing restaurant reviews and recipes.
[CONNECT WITH LAUREN HOPE: Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Pinterest]
Q. What advice would you give to other military spouses who want to start a business?
A. Understand that there will be setbacks. Success does not happen overnight, but instead is a result of hard work and overcoming mistakes. It is also really beneficial to surround yourself with smart people who understand business and who have different skill sets than you.
Making Your Next Move: The Masterful Mindset for Military Spouses
A change of station, whether it's your first or your 15th, can be overwhelming, daunting, scary, and exciting all at the same time. While these emotions are common, they can lead to confusion, paralysis, or even resentment, especially for spouses attempting to build a career.
Sign up for MOAA's Mindset Management webinar on May 26 to learn how to arm yourself with knowledge and a ready-to-use framework to increase self-awareness and avoid self-defeating thoughts and behaviors as you navigate the ups and downs of your career.