Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Shannon Gonzales

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Number of Deployments: 0

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
Born and raised in Southern Arizona I met my husband though music in high school. A few years into college an opportunity arose for him to join the Marine Corps Band Program and the rest is history! This program has allowed him to travel and grow both professionally and musically, while I get to relish in each new addition he brought back home to add in my shot glass collection. Before the Marine Corps, I was in banking and this allowed me to continue my professional career on both coasts, as well as our time in Japan. It wasn't until our move to Beaufort, SC that my passion for macarons came out. Starting a new career is daunting, and being a new baker on the block is equally challenging, especially in a small town where we reside. While researching what was required to make this hobby an actual business, I found a lot of adversity. As a spouse we have this culture ingrained in us which tells us to not question authority and to listen to those in charge. This, however, cannot be said when on the path of entrepreneurship. When I had my first hurdle of being told "no" my stomach sank as I was thinking about all the other spouses standing where I was. Many would have stopped there, but I wasn't one of those. I reached out to all the proper channels and regulatory agencies to find out what was required so I could grow my business. I had a fire burning to find the answers, to succeed, so I can pass the knowledge to my fellow spouses that they too, could add additional income streams to their household. During the pandemic, the need for additional income was at an all-time high as jobs and schools were shut down, and spouses were left at home being a full-time caregiver to their children, home schooling for us was difficult. The need allowed me to make a mentorship program. Through one-on-one sessions and workshops with MCCS-SC, I have successfully helped over 40 military spouse and civilian small businesses in my region to gain new financial independence.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I've become an advocate for military businesses in Beaufort, Sc and have created a strong relationship with all of the local agencies to discuss challenges that spouses face to obtain a business license. I've been asked to sit on panels for local city council elections, a Beaufort Chamber of Commerce member, and a guest speaker with MCCS-SC Personal and Professional Development.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Through my own initiative, I teach spouses that starting a business doesn't mean you have to be a permanent resident. Businesses can travel wherever you go and I provide the knowledge of how to start and move it from one place to another. As a spouse, we tend to put our own passions and desires aside until our spouse leaves service. As an entrepreneur, those dreams and desires can become reality and I help take out all the guesswork for those ready to make that step. Doing this for our community is so rewarding to know that I'm just a small part in their happiness, success, and financial well-being. My banking background definitely plays a part in that mindset where I'm just here to help you earn some extra bucks and give you peace of mind.

Describe how you support your community:
I help our spouse community by showing them that their passions can become a reality no matter where the Marine Corps takes you. We have so many creative and professional backgrounds in this community that just go to waste because of how difficult it is to find the right information. Once you do know where to go, or who to ask, it's all downhill. Sometimes there's a specific order that you have to get right, or sometimes there's a longer wait period than expected, however, the end result is always worth it! Each business that I've mentored, I become their number one fan! I love seeing their growth, help with their struggles, and watching them move on to bigger and greater visions for their business!

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for military spouse entrepreneurship. Starting a business can be hard, but it's not impossible! As a spouse we have a couple of extra challenges that we face and we are blessed to be in an area where the military is a huge economic factor. By working with local agencies, I've helped bring awareness to the struggles that military spouse businesses face to legitimize their business and to help their families financially. Being told "no" is a hard thing to hear, but without that "why", we're left wondering "what if...". We ask that question ourselves a lot, but we shouldn't be asking ourselves that when it comes to turning that hobby into a full-fledged business.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I spread this message through my own business social media platforms, several podcasts, local news publications, by word of mouth from previous mentees, and on several local spouse groups in the area. I'm also a huge part of a local pop-up market agency, which allows me to advocate to the local jurisdictions on easy business application processes. I've spoken in front of city councils to amend regulation to allow more pop-up markets which will allow our spouses to be face-to-face to local customers and scale their business to fit their needs.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I would love to sit down with other jurisdictions, where the military has a large economic impact, and evaluate the processes for military spouses to get licensed to grow or continue their businesses. I would also like to create a platform where spouse's can start their research on what's needed to get licensed in the state where they are currently stationed.

Nominations

Shannon Gonzales is owner and operator of Tout Sweet Macarons in Beaufort, SC and has also leveraged her notoriety in the handmade market scene of the Lowcountry of SC to begin consulting for small businesses. Additionally, Shannon has partnered with MCCS-SC in order to provide a monthly seminar to the military families in the area in order to assist in small business creation. Notably, Shannon is a member of the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce, and acts a de-facto small business expert to the City Council, giving military families more advocacy and a voice in the local government. As a result of her efforts, Shannon has helped coached into existence 42 businesses, with an estimated $500,000 impact on the local economy. Shannon has been featured in four local periodicals, multiple Military Spouse centric podcasts, and runs a dynamite social media presence. Incredibly, Shannon was able to accomplish all of this while geographically separated from her husband due to short notice orders.
- by Eric Gonzales