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Military Experience Ignites Air Force Veteran's Ambition To Launch Virtual Service Business For Military Spouses

Laura Renner, Air Force Veteran & Founder of Freedom Makers Virtual Services

Tell us about you and your military background:

My name is Laura Renner and I was full-time Air Force for 6 years and then took a 12-year break in service. I have been in the Air Force Reserve now for 4 years. I separated from full-time Air Force on Sept 27, 2007, as a Captain. I am currently a Major, assigned to the J1 of United States Forces Korea.

Tell us about your business:

My business is Freedom Makers Virtual Services, based in San Antonio, Texas. I created Freedom Makers on April 1, 2015. We help solopreneurs and small teams get things done consistently by matching them with a qualified military spouse as their remote assistant. Our mission is to strengthen and grow businesses by providing excellent, customized support while also providing meaningful, flexible work for military spouses around the globe.

Prior to creating Freedom Makers, I was doing recruiting for small businesses and was meeting a lot of business owners who weren’t ready to hire an employee, even part-time. They either had inconsistent or unpredictable revenue, much less need than would merit a part-time employee, or were concerned about compliance requirements. Yet they still needed help. Meanwhile, my brother, who is active duty, was getting ready to PCS and I found myself having an all-too-familiar conversation with my sister-in-law about what she was going to do for work once they reached their new duty station.

I remembered watching my mom go through that (my dad was career Army) as well as colleagues’s spouses and the idea for Freedom Makers hit me. Here was an unmet need on one side (small businesses in need of support services) and an untapped source of talent on the other side (smart, capable military spouse professionals, looking for meaningful work).

Describe how you got the business started:

It probably took about 6-9 months to go from idea to conception. I remember having that conversation in the fall of 2014 with my sister-in-law. Also, I’d learned by then that I was someone who has new business ideas every week but that my interest would fizzle quickly. So I took a few weeks and actually interviewed maybe 5-6 business owners to ask if this was a service they would use, I also asked them what they’d be willing to pay, and how they might use the service. After about probably 3-6 weeks, I was convinced this had staying power for both myself and the market. I officially launched on April 1, 2015 and we got our first client in June.

I didn’t raise any capital but was already involved in networking circles from my recruiting business so I leaned into those networks for referrals and getting the word out. Indeed our first client was one of the networking groups itself.

I had one employee at the time who was a veteran and when I asked her if she’d be interested in being a virtual assistant, she was very transparent with me and said she would struggle with the constant switching between clients throughout the day. My sister-in-law was also not interested as administrative support in business was not her strength. As a result, I posted in a forum for military spouses and got 4-6 who were interested. I’m grateful my employee and sister-in-law were open with me and declined because if either had said yes, we might be a small, boutique firm with a handful of clients. Instead, today, we have a community of about 250 military spouses, of which about 100 are actively working. We’ve supported hundreds of small business owners in the last 8 years as well. 

Tell us why you wanted to become an entrepreneur:

In college, I quickly realized my interest in entrepreneurship, particularly the strategic aspects of it. However, I thought making an impact on military strategy would require years of experience, and I see myself as impatient and a bit immature at the time! During my short stint in the corporate world, I got a taste of strategic influence, but my true desire was to build my life around my own business. Today, our company culture reflects that vision.

Describe how your military background prepared you for entrepreneurship:

I think my military background prepared me in that there were numerous times where I accomplished something I believed I wasn’t capable of. That gave me the strength to continue on when things got hard in the business.  

Tell us about some of your obstacles and challenges, and how you overcame them:

There were so many! I once heard someone say that the fastest way for personal growth is to launch a business and that was definitely true for me. I actively confronted my own limiting beliefs and was determined to make the most of the resources I had. Everyone says starting a business is hard and that is accurate! However, business building is the “good” kind of hard, like going to the gym. A strenuous workout is demanding, but the satisfaction that follows is immensely rewarding, and it only gets better as you make progress. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or out of my depth, I sought out various resources to help me navigate the journey. 

Describe how you’re doing today and what the future looks like:

We continue to grow each year and have built a culture around constantly improving. We have lots of initiatives in place to improve, from marketing to sales to support for our clients and Freedom Makers. We’ve been lucky in that whenever we have struggled to find a technology that worked for us, we found a way to build it ourselves with the resources we had.

Share some advice with your fellow veteran entrepreneurs:

My main piece of advice is to focus on your goal first. Examples include: do you want to exit fast, grow big, be local or national, be a one-person shop, work this until you retire, etc. Establishing your goal ahead of time lets you design your business model based on that goal. For instance, if you want to travel a lot, make your services virtual from the beginning. Then stay focused on that objective, even if the circumstances surrounding it change.. That way, everything you do can be deliberate and aligned with your ultimate goal.

 Where can we go to learn more: