Last month, we recognized 10 Military Spouse business owners as finalists in StreetShares Foundation’s Veteran Small Business Awards. Now is the time to announce the winners! We’re proud to give Military Spouse business owners the recognition they deserve. As the foundation of military families around the world, they’re not only caring for families at home, but are also talented and driven individuals who have founded businesses that support their military lifestyles.
First Place: Brooke Barnes, Air Force Military Spouse, Co-founder of Edge Co-Working (Clovis, New Mexico)
Second Place: Kathryn Thomas, Navy Veteran and Military Spouse, CEO of Yoga 4 Change (Jacksonville, Florida)
Third Place: Abbey Sass, Army Military Spouse, Co-founder of Civil Sass (Chatfield, Minnesota)
We're proud to represent these amazing military spouse business owners through the Veteran Small Business Award and look forward to growing with their businesses as they need business loans, lines of credit and government contract financing.
First Place: Brooke Barnes, Co-founder of edge co-working
Brooke Barnes and Jessica Johnson, Co-founders of edge co-working and both Military Spouses to active duty Air Force members, started the co-working space because they saw other motivated military spouses, like them, who also wanted to continue working full time in a remote location.
“Jessica and I were lucky to take our jobs with us and to work remotely for the first time,” Brooke said. “But, we missed being around the office, socializing and feeling motivated from coworkers.”
Military bases aren’t always located in the largest cities. Brooke and Jessica were relocated with their husbands to Clovis, New Mexico, a town with a population of approximately 40,000.
“There aren’t a lot of career opportunities in a small town, so working remotely is a great option,” said Jessica. “With backgrounds in marketing and engineering, we feel that it’s important to keep your skills sharp and to continue professional development.”
edge co-working is a co-working space for working military spouses whose spouses are stationed at Cannon Air Force Base. Many co-working spaces are in large cities. Brooke and Jessica decided not to wait for PCS orders to make them move to a larger city for their next career step or to work in a co-working space. Instead they decided to start a co-working space where they lived.
edge co-working serves military spouses connected to Cannon AFB, other remote workers, freelancers, consultants and entrepreneurs in Clovis and the surrounding communities.
“With edge co-working, we’ve been able to build a bridge between military spouses and the local community,” Jessica said. “Many military spouses have a negative view on living in Clovis because it’s a small, isolated town and nothing like their previous PCS order in sunny Florida. We get to make a huge impact and introduce military spouses to the local community off of the Air Force Base and encourage them to get involved.”
Brooke and Jessica plan to use the $5,000 toward marketing, bringing in professional speakers and career coaches and licensing their business to serve military spouses all over the country in smaller cities.
Second Place: Kathryn Thomas, CEO of Yoga 4 Change
Kathryn Thomas served in the U.S. Navy as a Navy helicopter pilot for seven years, a dream of hers since she was 11 years old. While on deployment on a mission, she injured her ankle, lost all feeling in her left leg and was forced to medically retire from the Navy.
To recover and for therapy, Kathryn turned to doing yoga. Soon after she founded Yoga 4 Change, a nonprofit that brings a purpose-driven yoga curriculum to veterans, incarcerated individuals, vulnerable youth and those suffering from substance abuse. Kathryn thought all hope was lost when she was forced to leave the Navy. However, through Yoga 4 Change, Kathryn found that hope again and is now able to instill the hope in others who may have gone through much more trauma.
Photograph by Tracey Williams
Kathryn went through teacher training in Hawaii where they introduced yoga into prisons. She moved back to Florida where her husband was also stationed in the Navy. There, she approached yoga centers to become a teacher. But after having to go through another surgery, she was bedridden again. After recovering again, she decided to start Yoga 4 Change with a whole new curriculum – a curriculum that honors each individual’s story.
“Every step they’ve taken has led them here. It doesn’t matter if someone was incarcerated or struggling with PTSD,” Kathryn said. “If someone has gone through a certain path, he or she doesn’t have to repeat that path.”
Yoga 4 Change has served more than 20,000 individuals all over the Jacksonville, Florida region. The 12 yoga instructors teach at different facilities such as correctional facilities, prisons, outpatient clinics, schools and halfway houses. Duval County judges are incorporating Yoga 4 Change into prisoners’ rehabilitation program.
“Instead of sentencing them to domestic violence or anger management courses, they’re being sentenced to Yoga 4 Change classes,” Kathryn said. “We’ll be teaching people who are going to be released in the next six months, positive ways to deal with depression, anxiety and substance abuse.”
The $3,000 veteran business grant will be going toward this initiative. Kathryn has also won in Bunker Labs pitch competitions and IVMF business challenges.
Third Place: Abbey Sass, Co-founder of Civil Sass
Abbey Sass and her Army veteran husband co-founded Civil Sass, a hops farm serving craft breweries in Minnesota. Both Abbey and her husband Jake grew up on farms in Kansas and Minnesota, respectively, and always looked for a way to get back into farming and build a family farming business.
“With the craft beer industry booming here in Minnesota, there’s a huge demand for local ingredients,” Abbey said. “Hops grow well in our latitude and in the last four years more people have developed small commercial-sized farms all over Minnesota. Most hops ingredients come from the west, but more and more are popping up in the Midwest.”
Civil Sass farms are located in Chatfield, Minnesota and currently have one acre of hops with 700 plants.
Chatfield has a vibrant civil war historical element. During the civil war it was the county seat and everyone who wanted land in Fillmore County had to go through Chatfield. The Chatfield Guards, a group of militia members, immediately volunteered when President Lincoln called for troops. They became Company A of the 2nd Minnesota Regiment.
Civil Sass farms are located on Old Territorial Road where the troops marched during the Civil War. The Civil War history of Chatfield is where the name Civil Sass comes from.
Abbey has always worked really hard and leveraged her experience in interior design and translated it to marketing and communications in her business.
“We’re in our first season of growing hops. It’s just my husband and myself with some help from family and friends, so it’s a ton of work – about 15 hours a day in the yard,” Abbey said.
Abbey and Jake plan on using the $2,000 to go toward installing a well on their farm. Hops need a ton of controlled water including irrigation plans.
Abbey and Jake are motivated to get involved in the community and want to get the community involved with Civil Sass by forming the Sass Army. For example, the Sass Army will participate in the town festival, Chatfield Western Days, where thousands of people gather for four days. The Sass Army will run the Bingo game and proceeds will go back to veterans.
Veteran Business Grants
Any small business needs some sort of funding. Veterans and military spouse business owners have an advantage to get business funding through veteran business loans or through business grants and contests like the StreetShares Foundation’s Veteran Small Business Award. What’s better business funding than free money?
One winner of the Veteran business grant said, “every veteran business owner should apply for this. It’s idiotic not to.”
Apply for the next round of veteran business awards by first downloading our featured ebook. Good luck!