Duty Station: Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
I am an Army Spouse of 8 years, a mom to 2 boys with one girl on the way, a business owner, and active volunteer. In 2017 I found myself, like many military spouses, unemployed due to a string of military moves. It was then that I became passionate about military spouse unemployment. After much research I decided that I wanted to do something about it. I created 27 West Boutique in order to employee and empower military spouses. As a busy mom, I understood the need to feel good and look put together. Our mission at 27 West is twofold. First, we strive to provide quality clothing at affordable prices with excellent customer service. Our second mission is to provide employment opportunities for military spouses. The current military spouse unemployment rate is 24%, 6.5 times the national average. Our goal at 27 West is to grow a company where military spouses can have a career with advancement opportunities as they support their spouse in their military career. In November of 2020 I opened our first store front just outside of Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). I have employed 8 spouses and have hosted over 20 other veteran and military spouse owned businesses in the store. I have created a community of inclusivity and connection for local JBLM spouses! We are currently in the process of opening a second location so that we can employee and empower more military spouses!
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
During my time as military spouse, I have made it a personal goal and passion to serve and volunteer in my local communities. I have been honored to lead in many different roles within the community such as serving as an Army Key Spouse, an FRG Leader, the fundraising chair for Santa's Workshop, and as the historian and publicity chair in a spouse club. Currently, I am working as the communications coordinator for Santa's Castle at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In this role, I use social media to provide and promote information on the mission of Santa's Castle to help more than 2,300 local military kids who's families are experiencing hardships. I am also a member of my spouse's brigade steering committee where I provide advice and advocacy for other military families. I also proudly own a local woman's boutique near base where I employ and empower military spouses.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have made staying involved in the military community a priority. As a small business we have hosted community events for different spouse groups to help support. We offer our store front space for SFRG events, unit coffees, and other military spouse social events free of charge. 27 West also hosts events and makes donations to organizations like Santa's Castle, the Dupont Little League and as well as collecting donations for clothing for people in need.
Describe how you support your community:
As an experienced military spouse with a small business near base, I make it a point to employ military spouses to help and empower our community. I feel that it is important to support other military spouses in their needs of employment in easily accessible business opportunities as they are continuously moving and PCSing. At our store we also help other military spouse entrepreneurs grow their business through vendor events and consignment sales. Over the previous year we have worked with 20+ other military spouse entrepreneurs, providing them the opportunity to grow their business, advertise and share experiences as a community. One of our mottos at 27 West is community over competition and this year we are highlighting a spouse or women owned business each week to highlight the amazing work they have done.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Giving a platform to military spouse owned businesses, as well as other women owned businesses is extremely important and what I strive to advocate for. As both a military spouse and a woman that owns a business, I know how daunting and challenging it can be to start a new venture in an uncertain environment. According to Hiring our Heros, 24% of military spouses report having either owned their own business or been self-employed. Spouses are often hesitant to take steps forward to start a new career or business due to uncertain timelines and deployments. However, they are resilient, innovative, and adaptable due to their life as a military spouse. The military is a community and spouses need a community for business and entrepreneurship.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have spread the message of my advocacy by building a community based on the principles of military spouse employment. Support across the community is done primarily through word-of-mouth support from other military spouses, community events, and social media. I also strive to be part of the local community by joining the small business associations and participating in local government town halls to advocate for small and women owned business.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
First, I would like to say thank you, it is such an honor to be nominated. If selected I would like to continue to bring change to the challenge of military spouse employment and entrepreneurship. It is critical that military spouses feel that they can maintain a career through their spouses' service time. Additionally, I would like to improve entrepreneurial support to military spouses providing education and resources on how to transfer and expand their business throughout military moves. My mission is to support and encourage military spouses to follow their dreams and to love and believe in themselves.
Stephanie is a fantastic supporter and military spouse advocate. She is a small business owner with a big community presence! She has created something pretty special in our small community and is always looking for ways to support military spouses! She would be a fantastic addition to the military spouse of the year program!
- by Sonia Garza
Stephanie is a wonderful mother, and boss! She is an amazing example to me as a young military spouse. She opened a boutique with the goal to employ and empower military spouses, all while raising three children and supporting her own husband in the Army. She empowers and supports all of her employees and always offers advice and empathy. She holds community events, bringing in other local military spouses who own small businesses to participate. She is an amazing boss who deserves to be military spouse of the year!
- by Skylee Horspool