Moni Jefferson, CEO/Founder of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE), is a serial entrepreneur and Active-Duty Air Force spouse. AMSE provides a global digital membership for military spouses to start, scale and sustain their businesses. In addition to her her work with AMSE, she is the owner of Dog Tags and Heels, a PR and social media agency where she works with national and celebrity clients to build brand evangelism and social impact, and Founder of MilSpouse Creative™ and Entrepreneur, the global networking community for MilSpouse entrepreneurs full of mentorship and resources. Also known for her work in the tech space, Moni has created and raised Capital for her three Military lifestyle apps MilCam, MilEmoji, My Ultimate PCS. AMSE is also a partner in the Mentor Makers movement.
How did your company come to be?
MJ: As a military spouse establishing a lifelong career is hard with all the constant moves and the resources available to military spouse entrepreneurs are not ideal for spouses who have to move their businesses every few years. That is why the Assoc of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs was created, by military spouses for military spouses. An online global network with education, resources, and network support spouses need to create a business that thrives.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
MS: In the early stages, it was challenging to secure sponsorships. However, the membership soared because spouses were looking for a way to build their business.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
MS: My proudest moment was when a military spouse said that if it was not for AMSE they would have shut their doors during Covid. Darkest? Expansion can be a learning experience and navigating the waters to decide what’s right for your business can prove to be challenging.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
MJ: I wish I knew so many things. The one thing that sticks out is knowing the value of your intellectual property, brand and sweat equity and how to protect prosperity.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
MJ: Invest in yourself and advocate for yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, how would you expect others to? If you don’t advocate for what you believe in, how will others follow?
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
MJ: I turn to my faith and affirmations to seek guidance and clarity.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
MJ: Success looks like a 10k membership with a global impact on our spouses. AMSE at every single base worldwide. I will achieve it by cultivating fruitful partnerships like that with you guys as the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center and creating a space where military spouses feel like they belong.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
MJ: It has added fuel to my fire. Nothing can stop you; you just have to curve and swerve.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
MJ: I make sure to surround myself with diversity. Gender, color, religion, sex – people from all backgrounds add so much to a team, idea and company. I always advise to bring on team members that know more than you and are not afraid to make mistakes.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
MJ: I love to start my day with a cup of coffee, pencil and journal to write down ideas and goals for the day. A few days a week I hit the gym before I open my emails and connect with my team. I also have taken Fridays off and less work hours in the day reducing from 8am -6pm to 10-4 pm. No one needs to overwork themselves to be successful. I believe in productivity not logging hours.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
MJ: I make sure to take time off and take care of myself. I schedule massages, date nights with the hubby, and trips to get away from the vigorous day to day.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
MJ: I would want people to see me as boldly breaking barriers in a niche space. To have the Brevity [sic] to do so even when no one believed in the ideas. And that I have helped someone with the program I created.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
MJ: Your playing small does not serve the world. This is a reminder to be audacious and the visionary you desire no matter what.
Have you experienced mentorship in your career? Do you feel it was easily available to you?
MJ: Yes, and yes because I asked. I find that most people don’t go out of their way to seek mentorship. Mentorship is pivotal in advancing as a professional. No nothing really in your face about finding mentors. Which is why I love what the [Mentor Makers] program does.
Who are the people who have mentored or influenced you in your life or career? How has their influence changed the trajectory of your entrepreneurial journey?
MJ: So many people have left an imprint in my journey. My mom reminds me to stay strong and show up no matter what. Suzie Schwarts shared with me how to navigate the waters while building a brand in a niche space and my husband Roy Jefferson who has certainly helped me redirect my frustrations and problems into positive outcomes.
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