For many Americans, starting a small business is a dream come true. Since 2000, small businesses have created 10.5 million jobs, and as of 2021, almost 20% of small businesses in the United States are women-owned. Small businesses offer individuals the opportunity to develop as leaders and creators while working for themselves. For many, small businesses also offer the freedom to work where and when they want, which for a military spouse accustomed to moving every 2-3 years, is crucial.
While the rewards are copious, with over 50% of military spouse business owners who responded to a 2020 survey reporting earning six-figure+ incomes, getting started is often the hardest part. If you’re a military spouse, you’re no stranger to managing personal plans and your time, which already sets you apart in terms of being ready to take the leap into small business ownership. But you don’t have to do it alone. No matter where you are in your process of starting your own small business, consider signing up for a mentorship! American Corporate Partners, better known as ACP, has a robust military spouse mentoring program that is open to any and all spouses of active duty military service members.
One such Protégé, Shamonda Strother, worked with her Mentor to streamline her thought and branding process to successfully launch her youth empowerment/leadership development experience/clothing line, You Can Fit Out 2.
Shamonda’s small business journey started like any other: with an idea. Having learned the importance of faith and community at a young age, Shamonda had always made it a point to host events for her community, creating a real sense of support and unity amongst her neighbors. This sense of duty to her community coupled with an observation she made about her kids and their apparent detachment from anything but their phones inspired her. What if there was a lifestyle clothing brand that encouraged youth to build community while also encouraging them to be their most authentic selves? Thus, the idea for You Can Fit Out 2 was born. Having spent much of her professional career as a nurse while simultaneously operating as a community liaison, Shamonda knew that she was going to have to make a significant shift in her priorities if she was to make her dream a reality. Seeking a little guidance, Shamonda applied for an ACP mentorship in October of 2020.
Shamonda was paired with her ACP Mentor, Cari, just after she had left her nursing profession. Not only was she dealing with a career transition, but she was facing a significant industry shift as well. Her Mentor, Cari, was prepared for it all. Cari is the Chief Business Development Officer for a financial technology company and primarily used her expertise in product development to coach Shamonda in the right direction regarding her business plan by guiding her focus onto her mission and how it is incorporated into her products and services.
You Can Fit Out 2 has two main components: a clothing line and community engagement, which Shamonda fondly describes as, “edu-tainment–– educating kids through entertainment. I show them that they’re each different, and that those differences can make a positive impact in the community.” Shamonda’s main objective was to synthesize all aspects of her business into a cohesive brand so that she would in turn be able to market it as effectively as possible.
Before pursuing her idea to open an LLC, Shamonda was her brand; she was already well known in her local community in Atlanta, Georgia from hosting events out-of-pocket with the intention of boosting morale and bringing people together. The initial challenge was translating Shamonda’s personal brand and energy into her newly formed small business.
“When I came into the mentorship, I needed to work on my business strategy without crushing my creativity and I found the perfect match! She’s very honest, authentic and smart. She directed all my creative ideas and gave me the courage to look for clarity over perfection,” stated Shamonda.
Shamonda and Cari worked together over the first few months of their ACP Mentorship on solidifying Shamonda’s message so that each piece of clothing she sells carries with it the intent of helping the women and children wearing it “to build faith, hope and servant leadership amongst the youth in the community through fashion, tech and design.” Since the official launch of You Can Fit Out 2 in December of 2020, Cari and Shamonda have been meeting monthly to keep up to date on the progress and growth that Shamonda’s business is experiencing and discuss possible grants that she can apply for as a small business owner and military spouse.
As an entrepreneur, Shamonda is organized, motivated and passionate about her business. With the help of her ACP Mentor, she was able to gain an outside perspective from an objective third party who could weigh in when she needed to parse her ideas from one another. When asked what piece of advice Shamonda would give to fellow military spouse entrepreneurs who are getting started, she touted the importance of staying true to oneself and to one’s vision.
“Don’t let anybody change who you are. You can mimic success or you can do it yourself. Associate yourself with people who are honest, who have time and are authentic. My Mentor was a good leader, honest and respected my creativity. And, don’t be smarter than your mentor. Listen to what they say and if you agree, implement their ideas,” said Shamonda.
An ACP Mentor can serve as a fountain of knowledge for any Protégé, but especially to someone who is preparing to launch their own business. Your Mentor can be there to provide valuable feedback, insight and encouragement as you start out on this new venture! If this program sounds like something you would benefit from, please don’t hesitate! Apply for an ACP Mentorship today to kick your entrepreneurial spirit into high gear.