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How This Founder Created a Virtual Assistant Company to Employ Military Spouses Worldwide

It is an act of heroism to join the army to defend the country. Serving the country nets low wages and an incredible amount of time away from family members. About 52% of the 1.3 million active duty personnel are married. The Blue Star Families 2019 Military Family Lifestyle Report found that 48% of military spouses are concerned about or have difficulty finding employment, and 76% of spouses are unemployed. Much of the unemployment rate is due to the frequency with which military families move and move.

Michelle Penczak, military spouse and founder of Squared Away, employs and empowers military wives to build their own careers.

Squared Away, a full-service virtual executive assistant company, enables its employees to work from anywhere in the world while continuing to serve its customers. Employees handle everything from project management to chief of staff roles. The company just reported annual recurring revenue of over $3.1 million.

“When I met my husband, who is a sailor, I thought I would have no problem getting a job,” says Penczak. “That actually wasn’t the case. When we moved to North Carolina, I literally sent out hundreds of applications, and no one wanted to hire me just because I was a military spouse who It was ironic to me because I honestly tried to sell it to a few different companies because “I promise for the three or four years I’m here I’ll dig and do my best.” They weren’t interested, which was totally opposite to everything I’ve heard about being extremely supportive of military spouses and veterans. It was mind-blowing, to be honest.

Penczak began her career as an assistant working in Washington, DC, before meeting her husband. Once married and after a year of looking for a job, she signed up with a virtual assistant agency where she was employed for 24 months. Without warning, the company went bankrupt.

Three months pregnant with her husband deployed, Penczak decided to call her client and explain what had happened. He told her that he wanted to continue working with her. A few other customers have followed suit. Six months before giving birth to her son, she built up a solid list of clients.

In 2016, her husband had to move to Hawaii. Penczak explains, “I was like, ‘I built this. There’s no way I’m letting it falter just because we’re moving six time zones behind Eastern Standard Time.’ We moved to Hawaii I told my clients I was taking a week off to move and I got back to work after a week on the island I literally started at 9am eastern normal. So I woke up at 3 a.m. in Hawaii.

Over four years, Penczak has grown her team to more than 150 military wives working in six countries. As all employees are military spouses, they support each other through the pre-deployment process, adjusting their families to the new base, state or country and making time for special events. She went from being a virtual assistant to running her own business helping other military spouses build careers.

“Every year, thousands of us travel around the world with our military,” Penczak says. “Some countries it’s easy to get a job. Some it’s not. It’s hard if you have kids and put them in their schools while your spouse is traveling. It’s a crazy lifestyle. as spouses, I feel like a lot of us felt we were going to lose our identity that wasn’t tied to being a military spouse. That’s one thing I love about my team. , is that they actually Squared Away as their own career.

As Penczak transitions her business and remains on track to grow the team to 500 virtual assistants over the next two years, she is focused on the following critical milestones:

  • Have a clear vision of your next springboard. Clarity will help you stay focused and maintain momentum.
  • Surround yourself with people who will stand up for you not only in good times, but also in difficult times.
  • Create a timeline. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Having a general idea of ​​what goals you want to achieve and when will keep you on track.

“I haven’t seen myself as a CEO in a million years,” Penczak concludes. “I didn’t even know exactly everything that was going on in there. I was always a very frank, very open person… I wanted to be completely transparent with everything that was going on, good or bad. That way , everyone is always on the same page.”

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