Mobile Business Class Helps Military Spouses Gain, Maintain Employment

May 15, 2018

Starting a Mobile Business class travels to different bases throughout the state.
Credit Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

One of the ways the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides assistance to small businesses is through education. SBA provides free individual face-to-face, and internet counseling for small businesses, and low-cost training to nascent entrepreneurs and established small businesses. In South Carolina, a fairly new education program for military spouses teaches how to start a mobile business. South Carolina Public Radio talks with the creator of the class to learn how a successful small business can help military spouses, their families and the economy.

Blue Star Families (BSF) is a nonprofit that connects research and data to programs and solutions that impact military families. High unemployment and underemployment rates due to constant relocation is an issue that impacts both military families and the economy.

The organization recently released the findings of its MilSpouse Employment Study. Of the military spouses surveyed, 77% said military lifestyle negatively impacted their career. Half the spouses surveyed  said they contributed zero income to their household's finances and many indicated their household had less than $5,000 saved. According to the study, the unemployment rate of military spouses is 12.04% compared to only 7.74% of civilian spouses. Those higher rates of Unemployment and underemployment, according to this study, costs the U.S. economy almost one billion dollars a year.

Earl Gregorich, Senior Consultant with the Columbia Small Business Development Center teaches about digital marketing during the 'Starting a Mobile Business for Military Spouses' class at Fort Jackson.
Credit Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

"We are educating military spouses on building  a mobile business that they can take with them from state to state or even to different countries," Wilburn said. "So no matter where they go, they will be able continue their businesses and career," she added.

This past April, Wilburn and her team conducted a class at Fort Jackson in Columbia. There they taught how to avoid the PCS (permanent change of station) job search and covered topics like; business registration, taxation, business plans, social media marketing and search engine optimization. Wilburn said they also get a lot of questions about multi-state permitting requirements.

The class is fairly new and much like the demographic it's designed to serve, it travels to different stations within the state. The April class held at Fort Jackson was only the second session of the year, Wilburn hopes to expand its reach.

"I see continuing this program all throughout the state; at the Navy and Air force bases in Charleston, at 

I see continuing this program all throughout the state

Shaw and Fort Jackson as well." A schedule of future classes was not available, but Wilburn said the local SBA's Boots-to-Business program is another military-specific educational tool open to both veterans, military spouses. That program offers "eight different modules about starting a business," Wilburn said, including  contracting, financing, business plans, and marketing.

The two-day class is conducted once a month in collaboration with SBA's resources partners like the Veteran Business Outreach Center and the Small Business Develop Center.

"After that, they a two-week course through Syracuse University to continue learning more about starting a business.