Even amidst a tight labor market with excessive job openings, there are some demographics that have not recovered from the pandemic.
There is a 30% unemployment rate right now for military spouses,” said Victoria Carlborg, workforce development coordinator for the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. “The pandemic was a major setback for most people, but especially for women and especially for military spouses. There’s quite a bit of work we have to do, but I think we’ll get there.”
To “get there” in terms of employment opportunities for military spouses, the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, the National Veterans Chamber of Commerce and SCORE Mentors teamed up to develop a free business incubator program.
The Women Entrepreneur Incubator program launched its first cohort last fall via Zoom, training women to develop part-time or full-time businesses centered around social media management. Initially, the program offered additional career paths, like online travel, virtual assistant and personal coaching but the program eventually focused on social media due to overwhelming interest.
“No matter what type of business they’re thinking about starting, they all will need social media skills because they are starting with very little capital,” Carlborg said, adding that many of the women in the program are adding these skills to advance existing home businesses.
“Before technology, people were doing real estate, notary public, things like that. But when technology came around, social media opened up so many more avenues,” said Joseph Molina, executive director and CEO of the National Veterans Chamber of Commerce based in San Diego County.
The online nature of the program and the business opportunities it offers is by design, Molina said, because military families are often ordered to move on short notice. Being online has also allowed it to expand beyond serving the Camp Pendleton community and now has participants from bases all over the country.
“This works very well for OJT (on the job training) for our spouses because it’s so flexible,” Carlborg added.
Workshops to Mentors
The incubator program is divided into three parts, starting with a series of online classes and workshops teaching the fundamentals of social media management. After completing the coursework, the participants begin an internship program working with companies doing social media.
“They learn what it is like to work with a real company, not just a workbook,” Molina said. “They get to experience the intricacies of working with a client, how to submit a proposal, how to charge for the services later on, how to set up boundaries.”
After the four-week internship, the women are assigned a SCORE mentor to help complete their business – set up their license, set up bank accounts and any other need to get going.
“SCORE San Diego volunteers are experienced entrepreneurs, corporate managers and executives with a diverse set of industries and specialties who volunteer their experience and knowledge to help small business professionals start, develop and grow businesses,” said Laura Rau, mentor and veteran outreach contact with SCORE San Diego Mentors.
To date, the program has around 100 participants from three cohorts. On May 19, the third cohort wrapped up the coursework portion of the program and the first cohort is now entirely graduated and working on their businesses.
“One of those graduates has a contract and became one of our instructors, she teaches part of the training,” Carlborg said. “Two graduates of cohort two are working on promoting other programs through companies and through the Chamber, so they are actively working already.”
The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce’s active role in the Women Incubator Program is part of a new commitment in workforce development for the community. Carlborg – who previously worked for veteran nonprofits as well as the Small Business Administration in Washington D.C. is the chamber’s first workforce development coordinator. The now year-old role is tasked with developing, implementing and funding jobs programs in Oceanside.
Carlborg said her next project through the Chamber is a youth-specific business incubator summer camp. Although the program already has some seed money, the Chamber is looking for more donations of money as well as business attire needed for student mock interviews and internships.
Molina, whose background ins in education, founded the National Veterans Chamber of Commerce in 2017. When Carlborg approached him to help start the incubator program, they set a goal to eventually bring on board universities, colleges and school districts. “So the military spouses get a professional development certificate with CEU units so they can take to the university and get credit,” he said.
Molina received his own degree while serving in the military and benefited from outside classes that offered credits.
“The biggest advantage is reducing the time,” he said. “Instead of taking you four years to complete a degree, it will take you three.”
Oceanside Chamber of Commerce
CEO: Scott Ashton
Business: Membership organization promoting business in Oceanside.
Notable: Oceanside Chamber of Commerce is the single-largest, longest-serving and leading business advocacy organization in Oceanside.