Military Spouses Find Social Media Business Boost

By Rachael Riley The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Some military spouses are launching successful businesses via social media. From Facebook to Instagram these entrepreneurs are connecting with customers around the world, one post at a time.

The Fayetteville Observer

Alec Artis has a YouTube channel, Sara Becker makes floral arrangements, Brianna Johnson paints and Samantha Thompson owns a boutique.

While the women may not all know each other, they have a couple of commonalities -- they're all military spouses, and they have an online presence to promote their businesses.

Thompson, the owner of Fabulous Find Boutiques in downtown Fayetteville off of Hay Street, maintains two Instagram accounts -- one for the boutique @fabfindsbtq, with more than 18,000 followers, and her personal account @samantha_fabfinds, which has nearly 25,000 followers.

Thompson grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Fayetteville, where her mother is originally from, her junior year of high school in the late 1990s.

With parents who were entrepreneurs -- her father had a dermatology clinic -- Thompson opened her store, which was a consignment shop at the time, in 2006 in her dad's office.

"And then eventually, I just wanted to bring in retail," she said of what led to the boutique, which coincides with her style and fashion interests.

By about 2009, her family started Blue Moon Cafe, which they have since sold.

Thompson's boutique, which was at Leclair's General Store until about three years ago, is above the cafe.

"I moved here just to get more downtown vibe," she said of the business's current location. "I wanted to do more online and it was going to be more like a showroom space, but then I still have my in-store shoppers."

Thompson met her husband, who is in the Army, in 2016.

"He actually lives in a different country now," Thompson said. "And I decided to stay here with the business, since he's coming back in a short amount of time."

Thompson said the business first started out using Facebook to promote and Instagram soon followed.

She used to be apprehensive about using photos of herself on her website, until one day when one of her regular models wasn't available.

"I feel like Instagram, it's a huge platform, so I think that's what made me so tentative about it," Thompson said. "And then I just ended up taking the pictures one day, and the feedback was really good ... I feel like everything I think about myself, other people don't see that."

Thompson still uses models for the boutique's page and has collaborated with other Instagram influencers.

She also uses links on her own page that promote other brands she wears but might not have in the boutique.

Thompson said she also likes having a local presence with the brick and mortar business.

"The store is really how I meet everybody," she said. "It's a great place to hang out. It's like a nice little like meeting point of where we can sit and hang out. I mean most people like clothes, and can have a glass of wine from downstairs."

------ Nomad Blooms Becker is originally from Binghamton, New York, and moved to Fayetteville in March 2017.

Her personal Instagram, @sara_mayte, is nearing 1,000 followers; her business Instagram is @nomadblooms.

She met her husband in 2015, when he was attending the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Working as an admission's counselor at the college she attended, followed by being a government contractor at the West Point Museum, Becker's interest in floral arrangements started when "things fell through" for her New Year's Eve wedding in 2017, and she was left to make her own arrangements.

"I got a lot of good feedback on it, and so I was just like, 'Hey maybe I can make something out of this,'" she said. She's since taught herself by joining Facebook florist groups and watching YouTube videos.

After working for a local catering company that also had floral designs, Becker decided to branch into her own business. It's one of many project she's currently juggling -- the others include renovating a home in the Haymount neighborhood of Fayetteville, working as the event coordinator for the annual Dogwood Festival and renovating a vintage camper she plans to use for her business.

In the midst, her husband is deployed to Kuwait.

"I'm an only child originally, so being on my own doesn't bother me," Becker said. "I have a lot of great friends here and a good support system even though I don't have any family or anyone like that from the area."

Her first event was for a Mother's Day popup at Leclair's General Store in Fayetteville.

Known as Nomad Blooms, the concept coincides with the camper she is renovating that she hopes to use for popup events and will allow her to move around.

"I could move it around town and move it to our next duty station, wherever we end up," she said.

And moving was also something she considered when she created the business.

"One of the reasons why I started my business was I just wasn't having much luck on any of the fields that I had done work in previously and so as a spouse, you kind of just have to adapt and evolve and make something work for you when you can't find anything else," Becker said.

Becker's floral arrangements have ranged from being used for weddings and events to individual arrangements. She's made a greenery and sunflower archway arrangement for the A Midsummer Night Downtown: Fourth Friday event in downtown Fayetteville. She's also made a chandelier out of greenery for a friend's photo shoot and experimented with a new way to make flower crowns.

As well as sourcing zinnias from a field in Stedman, Becker uses a local distributor in town but also ventures to co-ops or flower farms in the Raleigh area, depending on what a client wants.

Her arrangements include using white anemones with a dark center, ranunculus, spray and standard roses, or "deep moody colors," to light or bold colors.

Brianna Johnson Art Johnson is originally from Michigan, and met her husband in an orchard where she worked a few years ago.

Her personal and business page on Instagram is @briannajohnson_art, with more than 1,300 followers.

The past two years they lived in Georgia, before her husband's latest assignment at Fort Bragg, and the couple moved here last October.

Johnson started painting about 12 years ago, when her grandfather bought her an art set.

"He always told me we have pretty big artists in our family," she said. "My great-aunt painted a picture of a tiger for Walt Disney."

After painting off and on, she started painting again when she worked as a nanny in Georgia

"My husband deployed while we were in Georgia, and I think that was part of the reason why I really dove into my art," she said.

She officially legalized her business in North Carolina this March.

Specializing in watercolor work, Johnson's paintings are mainly custom wedding bouquets for brides, but she also has painted pet portraits with flower crowns.

Averaging about 10 hours sometimes to work on a painting that she starts out by sketching, Johnson said she "tries to capture every detail."

Johnson said social media has helped make the business portable -- meaning she could work on a painting for a client in North Carolina if she goes back to Michigan.

"And I can kind of market it in any state I want, which can be handy," she said of using social media.

YouTube, marketer Alec Artis is originally from Boise, Idaho, meeting her husband when she was 16 in high school.

Married at 19, the couple arrive at Fort Bragg about three years ago.

Artis, whose Instagram @alecartisofficial has more than 2,000 followers and YouTube channel has generated thousands of views, has used social media since the age of 10 or 11, starting out creating graphics for a boy band fan club website.

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