Ashley’s business endeavors started when she stumbled upon the subscription box concept. She realized she could build a business that sends families all the tools that they need to be successful during deployment, spend quality time as a family and strengthen the bond between the child(ren) and their deployed parent. So she founded Counting Our Heroes Home, with the mission being to support military families on the home front. Ashley’s husband is in the Wisconsin National Guard. Their home base is New Richmond, WI with the 1-128th Infantry, Bravo Company; but they live in Chetek, WI.
When did you start your business & what made you decide this career path? I started my business in May 2020. In 2019, we found out that my husband was going to be deployed for the first time since we had been together. He had a previous deployment but it was ten years earlier and he was a single bachelor so we knew that for all of us it would be uncharted territory. Because of my experience as a school counselor, I knew that it was going to be a difficult year for my children, and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I spent countless hours researching all the best books, activities, apps, etc to have prepared for the separation that they would face from their father. But nothing could prepare me for what deployment would look like and as much as we want to have the best laid plans deployment often throws that right out the window. To make matters worse, in the middle of our deployment we were facing a pandemic with stay-at-home orders, and a difficult situation got to the point of being almost unbearable. How could I keep structure and predictability in my children’s lives when the world around us was in chaos? Mother’s Day 2020 brought one of the worst meltdowns, as my two-year-old decided that he wasn’t going to take a nap. I was overwhelmed and felt alone. As a National Guard family, I didn’t have a tribe, but it dawned on me in that moment that deployment did not have to be difficult for other families in the same situation. I could create the tribe and community that I wished I was a part of. I could use the information and knowledge that I had from my research and our experiences to help others. When I started researching ways to do this, I stumbled upon the subscription box concept. I could build a business that sends families all the tools that they need to be successful during deployment, spend quality time as a family and strengthen the bond between the child(ren) and their deployed parent. And so, a couple days after my mega meltdown, I founded Counting Our Heroes Home, with the mission being to support military families on the home front. It has been six months of sending care packages to families on the home front and I have never been happier.
Where have you lived and what has been your favorite base so far? Because we are a National Guard family we have not been relocated; so, both my husband and I have lived in Wisconsin throughout his entire career. My husband has been lucky enough to serve with the same unit during his entire career, through every promotion that he has received. If he Is promoted with another unit within the state, he may need to travel farther for his training, however we do not Intend to move. This Is our favorite place to be because we are within 15 minutes of both of our families.
What is the biggest challenge of being a military spouse and pursuing your career? My husband was already a career military man before we married, but because we are a National Guard family, I have been lucky to pursue whatever my heart desires. The biggest challenge I have faced was having a civilian job that didn’t understand or have experience with other military members. When my husband was deployed (though FMLA exists for this reason), they didn’t understand what the needs of my family would be or how to support me. I walked away from that career path because my family will always come first to me. When you have a spouse in the military, you are often the primary parent (even outside of deployment) because they can’t just leave work early so it is being able to adjust fire and change your path, as necessary. Creating this opportunity, allowed me more flexibility to be there for my family which was extremely important to me.
What are your other hobbies? I love reading, especially books that can help with personal and professional growth and development. I am addicted to working out; I exercise 7 days a week (I don’t know what a rest day is). I love writing, my love language is words of affirmation, so you can usually find me journaling, writing my husband love notes and now with the business, I love writing personalized notes of encouragement to all my subscribers.
What are some benefits of being a military spouse as a business owner? My business is entirely online so should we eventually move or be relocated (though not likely), I could take my business anywhere. The online community is amazing with support for other military spouse business owners. We are an amazing group of people who took matters into our own hands and created something amazing. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to help other military families if I was not a military spouse. My experiences and my family’s experiences with deployment, our lack of local support and sense of community is what led me to start this business. Military spouses are go-getters and oftentimes others like me, create what we need or wish we had. By providing that online, it is accessible to everyone, no matter where you are in the country. 6 months in, we have sent packages to 19 states which is so exciting to me. I can’t wait to send more and grow this company even more.
If you could, what advice would you give yourself when you first started your business? “Don’t compare your Chapter One to someone else’s Chapter 20.” It is easy to look at what someone else is doing and think you are so far behind, but you are not at the same point in your journey and even if you compare your chapter one to theirs, it was a different time and a different experience, even a different niche. So, don’t play the comparison game. Sometimes it can be hard to see past what is right in front of you or be discouraged because you are not moving at the same pace as someone else, but it will happen. You will get to where you need to be, at the right time for you.
Photo credits- Elizabeth Ann Photography & September Belle Photography