Celebrating Small Business Week with RCAF spouse and entrepreneur Laura Hanek

October 19, 2022 - Royal Canadian Air Force

Holly Bridges

Entrepreneurship is a viable option for many military spouses and family members looking to expand their horizons. In fact, recent research shows that approximately eight percent of employed military spouses are self-employed, making it that much easier to transport their respective businesses with each posting. Military Family Services is working with local Military Family Resource Centres and other community partners to establish training opportunities and resources for military family entrepreneurs. Today we celebrate Canadian Small Business Week, which is being held in communities across Canada, by featuring one of these entrepreneurs.

Laura Hanek is a freelance business owner, who owns her own illustration and graphic design business with clients from all around the world. Her husband joined the RCAF Reserve just before his 18th birthday, then transferred to the Regular Force to become a full-time service member in 2016. He currently serves as an Flight Engineer in Petawawa, ON.

Laura shared her own story in the hopes that it might encourage other military spouses struggling with new postings and the stress of irregular deployments.

“I think storytelling is crucial to us as human beings, and it can be a source of education and comfort, to read [that] you aren’t alone,” she said.

Learning how to adapt to a rural environment

As a young, career-driven military spouse, Laura described the difficulties when it came to seeking employment after being posted.

“I [had] moved to Petawawa from Burlington, so it was quite the shock when it came to job searching. I was an in-house graphic designer, making a fairly decent salary, and [I was] confident in my career path,” she explained.

Adapting to life in a more rural part of Canada presented a huge challenge when seeking employment as a military spouse.

“I realized that I needed to adapt and figure out a job where I did not have to keep pressing the restart button,” shared Laura. “I started my business in 2016 as a side gig, and I had part-time jobs to get by. Those jobs helped me fund my business into what it is today. I was able to network rapidly, [and] due to the nature of this small town, make a name for myself.”

Being self-employed as a graphic designer meant that Laura could remain employed despite any postings that came her way.

“I have only had to move once so far, and my business is ready to move again should we have to - what I’ve built is mobile, and designed for military life!” she laughed.

Military spouses offer so much talent!

As a passionate business owner herself, Laura described her frustration with employers’ reluctance to hire military spouses due to their more transient lifestyle.

“It’s really quite a treat for towns that are near military bases to have access to so much talent, and it can be a shame if they only look at it with stigma. Do you know how much impact a fresh perspective can have on businesses in six months? An incredible amount - tap into it!”

Having experienced the struggles of finding steady employment herself, Laura described how she tried to give back to the community.

“I am always looking for ways to help [military spouses]. I am a part of a local business network, and I am always keeping an ear out for positions that my fellow military spouses could fill.”

The military community builds a sense of family

Loneliness is often a recurring feeling among military spouses, Laura included.

“[I remember] when I first got married and [we] moved into our first place together. [We were] happy to have spent a summer together, enjoying the beaches and the sun. But as autumn arrived, so did a three-month course that my spouse had to leave the province for,” Laura recounted. “The second week in, I broke down. I work virtually, so I didn’t know a soul in town. I was stressed and I felt so alone.

“[But] I overcame it by reaching out to the local MFRC and joining some classes,” she shared. “After that, I built the confidence to volunteer at my local animal shelter. I made so many friends that winter!

“The military community shows incredible strength, resilience and a sense of family. I could ask for any type of help, and I know someone will have my back.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Speaking on what her advice for new military families would be, Laura emphasized the importance of reaching out and asking for help. “Really, ask for help. You will never burden anyone! Your local Military Family Services are there to support you with whatever you may need,” she said.

“I can’t speak for every unit, but [spouses] typically stick together and like to help each other out. Things can get tough - but stick it out. There are benefits to the military lifestyle - and as unique as the experience has been, I wouldn’t trade this life for any other!”

If you would like more information about running a business as an RCAF spouse, including how to get started, visit these resources:

https://www.cafconnection.ca/National/Programs-Services/Employment/Entrepreneurs.aspx

https://www.cafconnection.ca/National/Programs-Services/Employment/Entrepreneurs/Helping-Entrepreneurs-Reach-Complete-Success-(HERCS).aspx

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Entrepreneur and RCAF spouse Laura Hanek with her husband, who works as an Flight Engineer.

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Entrepreneur and RCAF spouse Laura Hanek in Petawawa.

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