Military Spouse Spotlight:
The military spouse unemployment rate hovers around 22%. It’s a startling number. That Monica Fullerton found an amazing career path against those odds surprises exactly zero people who know her, how capable she is, and how determined she is when she wants something. But if the only way to have a career was to be Monica Fullerton, she’d be the only one working.
It shouldn’t be that hard for a military spouse to find professional success.
Monica’s Military Spouse Experience
From smalltown Ohio, Monica was inspired to leave home and get an education by mega-mogul Oprah, and her ability to wield her platform to inspire and bring people together. Monica completed her MBA in marketing from Lynn University in southern Florida before reconnecting with a high school sweetheart, who was in the process of receiving an Air Force commission. Their connection was strong, and Monica found herself face-to-face with a tough decision. She positioned herself well to realize all her career dreams in south Florida, or she could see what life is like as a military spouse. She ultimately went with her heart, and they married as he took orders to San Antonio, Texas.
On average, military families move every 2.5 years, but thankfully, that hasn’t been Monica’s personal experience. After two years in San Antonio, TX, half of which her husband was away, she followed him to Las Vegas, NV, where he’s continued to serve for the past eight years. Monica is grateful for the stability, and knows that’s not every military spouse’s experience. It empowered her to pursue a corporate career with third-party logistics company Worldwide Express, and of course explore entrepreneurship.
Sure, military spouses move around a lot, and they often endure long deployments as functionally sole caregivers if they have children. But there are generous, gifted, incredible people in the military spouse community, and their potential contributions to society can go unrealized as they languish in low-opportunity job markets on bases, some in very remote locations, across the world.
Monica found herself in a car with three such skilled and talented military spouses—a photographer, a private investigator, and a coffee roaster. Monica remembers thinking: there’s got to be a way to bring all of us together—a platform where military spouses can empower and support each other running their own businesses.
Monica launched Spouse-ly as a platform for military and first responder families to sell their own goods and services. She saw it largely as a sort of Etsy-meets-Angie’s List, where military families could support each other by having a single location where they could feel confident every single product was supporting a real military family just like them.
The previous eight years Monica spent in logistics with Worldwide Express were invaluable in thinking through and working out the details of Spouse-ly. Figuring out the details and edge cases of how customers and vendors alike were going to interact with the platform, the finances, and of course, the logistics, were all things Monica’s education, career experience, and natural gifts all lent themselves to. What’s more, she found she had a passion for the work, and that building something she thought could be a game-changer for the spouses she knew on base gave her work a sense of purpose.
Spouse-ly launched during the pandemic, at a time when military spouses found themselves at home, perhaps without much to do. Many turned to hobbies, and hobbies have a way of turning into side-hustles and small businesses in the modern world. Spouse-ly was the perfect platform for hundreds of military families to explore new entrepreneurial dreams and launch small businesses from home.
Connecting With Bunker Labs
Monica can’t remember a time during her Spouse-ly launch or journey where she wasn’t aware of Bunker Labs, and at least poking around the edges of the community. However, she didn’t formally join until summer of 2021, when she joined the Veterans in Residence 21B cohort in Las Vegas. She loves the Bunker Labs community of like-minded veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs, and the opportunities to find other companies that align with Spouse-ly and her own experiences.
Monica enjoyed her time as part of Veterans in Residence so much she immediately transitioned into a larger role as a Bunker Labs Ambassador for Las Vegas. The new role puts Monica right at the center of the community where she can connect people to each other and resources, including her rapidly growing network of small business vendors on Spouse-ly.
“As an entrepreneur, it can be a very lonely journey, and being able to be a part of each other’s journey makes it all so much more rewarding.If I need help in a certain area, I know I can go to my Bunker Labs community and put out a call and say ‘Hey, I’m looking for this type of help. Does anybody know of anyone, or can anyone help me out?’ And more often than not, get help.”
Building a Household Brand
Monica is on a mission to make Spouse-ly a household name. In 2021, she was featured in Forbes Next 1,000 for her work with Spouse-ly, and it’s only continued to grow since. Today, Spouse-ly hosts over 3,000 different products and more than 200 services from nearly 500 different military and first responder family vendors. She’s also attracted high-profile corporate sponsors like USAA Small Business Insurance, US Bank/Elavon, and GovX, and a dozen community partners within the military and entrepreneurship spaces.
Her drive for growth comes from the realization that the bigger Spouse-ly gets, and the more shoppers she can drive to the platform, the more money she’s putting in the pockets of struggling military and first responder families, and the more control they gain over their own destiny. Monica is also exploring a whole new avenue for Spouse-ly entrepreneurs—corporate gifting and wholesaling.