In our Deployment Diaries series we're highlighting incredible women who are doing inspiring things all while braving deployment...
This week we meet Britni Miltner- corporate employee, self-taught blogger, new business owner, mom, wife, wanna be yogi, and volunteer Mentor for Military Spouse Advocacy Network’s New Military Spouse Support Program.
In 2017, Britni created OakTree Network, a website and android app, during her spouse's deployment. Oaktree Network is THE gig network for the military spouse community. Mobile reputation allows easy connection with "mil-neighbors" with each PCS.
If you've got secret deployment-dreams of starting your entrepreneur journey keep reading to be inspired by Britni's story!
Hey Britni!! Tell us a bit about yourself...
Hey there, I’m Britni, and I’ve been a military spouse since 2007. I’m originally from Atlanta, and went to Auburn (War Eagle!). I’m a wife, mom to one daughter, dog mom, corporate employee, and military spouse. My husband is in the Navy. Additionally, I created OakTree Network in 2017 and am one half of the MilSpouse CoffeeHouse podcast.
How did you develop the concept for Oaktree Network?
I created OakTree, which is a gig network for the military spouse community. I’m currently working on a bit of a rebrand and will relaunch this summer with a new look and other things! OakTree has an Android app, and I’m being told that an iPhone app is coming soon!
MilSpouse CoffeeHouse is a fun podcast that I started with fellow milspouse entrepreneur, Leslie O’Bryant, of Classy Broads Coffee and Homefront Handmade. We connected in a milspouse Facebook group and really hit it off!
Fun fact: Leslie and I still haven’t met in person! Our podcast is laid back, and we talk about milspouse life stuff. We release a new episode biweekly, and we have Open Mic Guests who join us to speak on the topic of the day. We have a lot of fun, and hope our guests and listeners do, too; that’s the whole point!
I created a blog called MilSpouse Resource in 2015 when I noticed that my fellow military spouses were finding it difficult to locate resources for entrepreneurship and remote positions. I have been very lucky and have been working from home since 2008. I knew that I had to do something with my self-proclaimed expert googling skills.
With no blogging experience, I turned to Google’s Blogger and created a blog. I’m not really a writer, but I did have things to say. My Facebook following slowly grew, which became my main connection with the page’s fans. Currently, it’s more of a Facebook page where I share important information with the page’s following.
Because of MilSpouse Resource, I began joining Facebook networking groups for military spouses. I began connecting with other military spouse “doers” and realized that I wasn’t the only one with passion to do more for our mil-community.
I noticed a common theme in local military spouse pages: spouses trying to make money with their services (dog sitting, maid service, hair and makeup, photography) but the Facebook admins would have numerous rules about advertising, it was impossible to get their name out there. I knew there had to be a solution: one place where we all could go to locate other spouses and their services.
So, while my husband was deployed, I created OakTree.
I named it OakTree, because an oak is the symbol that was reoccurring to me that represented spouses: the oak is the official tree, it held specific roles in US history (The USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” was made from Oak!), it’s a strong wood, and it’s very diverse.
A military spouse is all those things and more!
What were some of the challenges and advantages to starting a business while your spouse was deployed?
There are challenges that come with starting a business, no matter if there is a deployment and child involved or not. My challenge, just like most entrepreneurs, were – and still are - time and money. But, because I didn’t have local friends (that’s another lesson for another day), I had all the time in the world after my daughter’s 6:30 pm bedtime, and during naps on the weekends.
After my work day was done and my daughter went to bed for the evening was when I would get down to business. I decided to take advantage of the disadvantage of being stuck at home at night alone.
What advice would you give a Military Spouse who is considering a business launch during the deployment season?
There are SO MANY spouses who have launched during a deployment. I think there’s no better time. If you have children, work while they’re at school/friends, or sleeping. Depending on their age, you don’t even have to wait for those times. Depending on the business you’re creating, you could potentially put the kiddos to work, helping to package items or sort inventory. If it’s regularly in your schedule to do “date night” with your spouse while they’re home, use that set aside date night time to work on your business.
Starting a business requires sacrifice no matter when you’re starting one; I simply used any personal time I had to create OakTree. I still do that, since the business is still very new.
Self care is very important too,, but I’m still learning how to factor that in. I’m getting better! Be sure to try to make sure you have time to go for a walk, meditate, read a book, or take a yoga class.
What are your MUST-HAVE tools for a successful season of deployment?
FRIENDS! Don’t make the mistake I did – don’t do deployment alone. Find someone to be your check in buddy and meet up at least once every few weeks if once a week isn’t possible. Deployment (and Entrepreneurship) can be very lonely. Don’t do it alone.
What are your scheduling secrets!? How did you manage to both start a business and care for your family during deployment?
Scheduling is still something I struggle with, BUT I like to go to bed early and I like to rise early. I think best in the morning, with a good cup of coffee. I work on OakTree and MilSpouse CoffeeHouse before my regular work day starts. Sometimes I’ll work during my lunch break, and then after dinner I can get back at it if I need to. I also like to get things done on lazy weekend mornings while the family is hanging out on the couch watching tv before the day gets going.
Where can we learn about Oaktree Network & Milspouse CoffeeHouse?
OakTree can be found at www.oaktreenetwork.com in the Google Play store, and on Facebook and Instagram.
MilSpouse CoffeeHouse can be found at www.milspousecoffeehouse.com , on Stitcher, Google Play, and iTunes! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, too!