Name: Rosemary O'Brien
Business Name/Occupation: Owner, Pocket Parks Publishing
When did you know starting a business was right for you? Tell us about your business: I finished college in my early thirties around the same time I married my then active duty husband. It quickly became apparent that I needed to work for myself when I kept getting turned down for great jobs. I was working for a writers' organization in Washington, DC, when I looked around and realized I could be doing what these freelance writers were doing, so I went home and wrote my first novel. I then began freelance writing for different magazines.
What is the most disheartening thing you have encountered in your career as a military spouse?: The lack of understanding among employers. We are still great workers if we move around every few years, even better sometimes because we appreciate the job and most of us will work hard to prove it. If employers will jump into the age of telecommuting, they would find a lower overhead and a strong staff of grateful military spouse workers, and not just customer service telephone agents.
What career challenges have you faced because you are a woman?: It seems that age is an issue these days not the fact that I am a woman. I am 51 and just went for a dream job. If I got it, I would continue working on my business on the side, but this dream job would have happily been my priority, of course. Someone half my age with half of the experience got the position and I was very disappointed. When I mentioned this to one of my SCORE counselors, he suggested I might have come off as too much of a leader in the interview rather than an employee. I don't know about that, but when I am ready to hire, I will welcome leaders to help me grow my business.
What advice would you give a woman, in particular a military spouse, interested in staring her own business?: Get as much info and training as you can. The greatest thing I've ever done for my career and my business is attend EBV-F (Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans' Families) down at Florida State University. They gave me solid entrepreneurship training and fantastic connections and tools to move forward with my business and to decide which would be the right business idea to go forward with in the first place. I feel I owe them my success and will not stop trying until I make a good living from my company or another one if that should be in the cards.
What is the most challenging thing about being a military spouse and business owner? What is the most rewarding thing?: The most challenging is moving around my schedule for the sake of my family. I work from home, so lately the snow days make it almost impossible to work, but I do my best. As a writer, though, it's difficult to think and write with someone asking what there is for lunch, for example, or if they can have a playdate with their friend who is also home from school. I just wish I made more money, but I hope that will come sooner rather than later. I've been running this business since 2013, so I'm due!
The most rewarding is that I CAN move around my schedule for the sake of my family because I do work from home. On one of the more frigid days, I was able to sit in a warm car at the bus stop with my son and another kid because I am the ruler of my own schedule. The other mother drove by on her way to work and thanked me. It made me realize why I am lucky to work for myself. I also love being able to travel for business without having to ask anyone if I can have the time off.
How did it feel when you made your first sale?: It was exciting to be validated. I knew this book, BEST Pocket Parks of NYC, was the first of its type and was so excited to find others felt the same way enough to purchase it.
What is one obstacle you have faced as a business owner, or on a personal level, as a military spouse, that you would have never expected?: I never would have expected feeling out of place in my hometown. We moved here during my husband's last assignment before he retired and I am amazed at how little people know about the military life or what I do. Even more, I'm surprised they don't listen when they ask about it and you try to tell them. After so many years in the military community, I guess I've become acclimated to a different lifestyle. I hadn't realized that before I moved back home. I also miss my friends who are scattered around the planet. We are all great at keeping in touch from a distance, as most military spouses are, but I would love to have them all sitting in front of me sharing a beer or a glass of wine every now and then. We just have to do it separately if we have the opportunity.
What is one business goal you hope to accomplish by the end of this year?: My goal is to make a certain amount of money by the end of 2015. I began this journey in 2011 with the research of my book, got the business organized in 2013, published the NYC book in 2014 and am on the journey with my new service, Veteran Stories, now, so I think it's about time my hard work has paid off. I'll just keep going until it does, but I'm very ready for the reward of making a decent profit.
As a military spouse, or business owner, I know one thing for certain. It is . . .: Change is certain. You have to expect it and do your best to handle it with grace. From being alone with little kids for a while while your spouse is 'away' to juggling your schedule to fit the family's schedule, you need to push forward to reach your goals. Just keep going and build your network of supporters and cheerleaders along the way.
What strengths do you possess, that you did not know you had, until you became an entrepreneur?: I am great at learning what I need to learn no matter how steep the learning curve. I can do anything I need to do if I believe in the product or outcome.
My biggest fear is . . . : Not making enough money to keep my business going. I just want to enjoy my work and be rewarded financially for it so I can contribute to my family's financial needs.
My greatest accomplishment is . . .: Graduating from college after 7-years and many personal trials.
When I grow up I want to be . . . : A financially comfortable business owner doing what I love to do which is to write.
In 2050 I hope women are/can/have . . .: The same pay rate and respect in business as men. We often do more and should be respected for it by being paid accordingly and taken seriously. We should not be penalized financially or by losing advances in our careers for deciding to have children which is often what happens. I feel honored to have the ability to have children and honored to have had the opportunity to stay home with them while I was a military spouse. My career has suffered, but I am richer in experience for it and can easily see myself as the leader of many employees after my experiences juggling my world as a mother and a business owner.
What is your legacy?: This is a difficult question because it is many things. First, my legacy is my children. What and how I teach them to relate to the world is my legacy. The second would have to be my books. I am proud to have two novels and one non-fiction work out in the world. Third, a future legacy would be all of the veterans I plan to help tell their stories. Their experiences out in the world, even if only for their family, would be another wonderful legacy to leave behind.