Military spouses hoping to jump start their business or careers are invited to attend the Fort Bragg Military Spouse Business and Career Dream Conference at the Pope Family Readiness Group Center, Feb. 10. The event is a collaborative effort between the Fort Bragg Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center and American Dream U.
“American Dream U is a non-profit dedicated to helping our military get the education and access to resources they need to find their dream job or to start a business of their own,” said Michael Barbera, Carolina Regional Director, American Dream U.
Barbera said ADU provides helpful career tools to active-duty service members, spouses and veterans. The organization will provide several career and entrepreneurial experts to speak at the Fort Bragg Military Spouse Business and Career Dream Conference to help military spouses reach their full potential. Barbera said all speakers at the event were chosen for their ties to the military community, professional achievements, content and charisma.
Ashley Thompson is one key speaker at the conference. Thompson is a local Fort Bragg spouse who owns Pressed — A Creative Space in downtown Fayetteville.
Thompson said her business story started when she and her husband had a permanent change of station to Fort Bragg and her husband deployed immediately after their arrival. Like many military spouses, Thompson had trouble finding a job comparable to her employment before PCSing. She went to local business and networking events to meet people and said eventually the entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off on her.
After this realization, Thompson started working in graphic design and branding. This business took off, and when she discovered a vacant storefront for rent in her beloved downtown Fayetteville, she jumped at the opportunity to expand her footprint into the retail market.
Thompson said one of the most importance pieces of advice she received when starting her business was to go ahead and get started. She said many spouses wait to take steps to start a business because they could move or have some other disruption in their life.
“(You should) just go and do what you want to do regardless, and when the situation changes, you just adapt to it rather than trying to predict everything that’s going to go wrong because then you won’t get anywhere,” said Thompson.
At the Fort Bragg Military Spouse Business and Career Dream Conference, spouses will hear pieces of advice like this and more, according to Thompson.
“They’ll get a lot of real-life advice on how to start a business,” she said. “There are a lot of motivational things out there but this will be very practical and this will be from people who have actually done it or are currently doing it.
“And hopefully a lot of networking, so by meeting other people, the speakers and other people in the audience, they’ll probably build really good connections to start a business.”
Barbera said spouses will also identify 22 ways to launch a career that goes where they go and learn how to use their strengths and outsource their weaknesses.
Several area business agencies, such as the Fayetteville and Moore chambers of commerce, Fayetteville Downtown Alliance and the Small Business Administration, will be on hand to give spouses the tools they need to succeed. The event could be life-changing for some military spouses, said Thompson.
“You never know what opportunities anyone you meet, whether it’s the person sitting next to you, or a speaker ... can really do for you,” she said. “There’s always that million dollar connection you never know when you’re going to run into.”