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At a recent business conference in the DC Metro, I had the brief opportunity to meet Janine Boldrin, the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Chameleon Kids. My radar is always finely tuned to those who are serving the military community and after speaking with Janine, I knew I wanted to feature the Military Kids' Life magazine on the blog!
1. What was the reason behind the creation of Chameleon Kids?
About 6 years ago, Amy, a friend at the duty station where we were living, called me about an idea she had for military kids. She knew I wrote about military life and wanted to get my opinion on her idea. We talked about the concept (a book for military kids to get them excited about the moving process) then nothing ever came of it.
Years later, I was writing an article with ideas for activities with military kids. I thought of Amy's idea and reconnected with her. The initial idea (a book) was transformed into an overall concept of "Encouraging kids to find the bright side of their military life." The entire thought came from our own experiences as military families.
We felt the only message our kids were getting about military life and family was that it was hard, we were broken, and it was going to mess them up. However, we looked around us and saw thriving families. Yes, we have our problems (and unique ones because of military life) but the message our kids were getting did not match what we needed them to hear.
You live up to the messages you are repeatedly exposed to!
Our magazine (MILITARY KIDS' LIFE), posters, buttons, etc... was born out of our central concept of finding adventure as a military family and focusing on the bright side.
2. How did you and your co-owner meet?
Our kids went to preschool together! Amy and I lived on West Point when our husbands were instructors at the academy. We actually didn't see each other in person again until months after we started the company. Amazingly, her husband got stationed where we were living right when we got orders to move near D.C. So we crossed paths but don't live in the same place!
3. What was the most difficult story or concept you've had to cover in the magazine?
Divorce as a military family. It is a concept that many of our kids wonder about - am I still a military kid if my parents get divorced? And how does that all work. The answer: Yes! You're a military kid. And, yes, it can be difficult and confusing for sure. We had a mom who had gone through divorce conduct an "interview" with her kids and we talk about it in our last issue.
4. If you give parents of military kids just ONE piece of advice, what would that be?
Can I offer two?
Be sure your military kid knows that you struggle too. They need to know they are not alone. This means sharing your own (age-appropriate and child-temperament appropriate) struggles with military life and connecting them with other military kids who can talk about their struggles and accomplishments. Our magazine meets that need by coming right too them with those stories and triumphs!
And point out the bright side. You don't have to go overboard (it is a balance) but point out the good before the bad about the next duty station, plan adventures together as you cross the country to visit a geographically separated parent, and share your joys about service and pride in your military family.
5. Tell us a bit about your own story and connection with the military.
Both Amy and I have active duty Army husbands. Each of us has been doing the military family life thing for over a decade and have a total of 5 kids between us. Amy is a teacher and I'm a freelance writer, which is the perfect fit for the type of business that we started. Our kids and family are just like so many in today's military experience. Deployments. Moves. Uncertainty. Struggles. Joys. Medical challenges. Learning issues. School concerns. So we feel a real connection to the topics we write about and are passionate about our purpose.
6. What are some of the amazing qualities that military kiddos possess?
The one thing we've learned is that not all military kids are the same. While some are very resilient, others really struggle. Some love to move, others dread it. They can make friends fast or not make them at all. So I hesitate to label them with a set of qualities since that may invalidate what some of them feel about military life (Shoot, I'm not resilient so I'm not a "good" military kid.)
But what I will say is that the qualities of our military parents hugely impact the experience of the military child. This has been shown in study after study. If a military parent shows resilience, positivity, and adapts to change, then, many times, their child will most likely adopt these characters.That is why it is so important that we, as parents, take care of ourselves and get the support and encouragement that we need - so we can have the energy to put the "oxygen mask" on our kids too!
FEELING LUCKY? Enter to win a gift subscription of Military Kids' Life by leaving a comment on our Facebook Page! Simply tell us in the comments what branch of the military you have an affiliation with, with details of the service! The giveaway will close on December 20th at midnight.
Meet Elizabeth Boardman, the co-Founder of The MilSpo Project, a Realtor in North Carolina, Navy wife and creator of Southern SloMo Party! The MilSpo Project exists to empower and educate milspouse (*military spouses) entrepreneurs through live leadership events, online educational resources and local chapter meet-ups.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A poet, which was strongly influenced by my love of Shirley Hughes. I was also a Catholic School girl K through 12, and during middle school I was convinced I wanted to be a nun, then in high school a missionary.
How did you and Nicole meet?
Nicole and I met at a Monday night meet up of military spouses. I knew I was going to be her friend when we started talking about the correct use of possessives in the English Language.
What was the NUMBER one reason behind the creation of The MilSpo Project?
Unemployment and underemployment is a very real challenge facing military spouses, which is why many of us choose to start a business. At the Milspo Project we believe entrepreneurship is only solution to the unemployment epidemic, which is the number one reason we started, and the main motivator that keeps us going day to day.
What are some of the challenges you've faced as you've grown your community of women?
We have experienced amazing growth in our first year, the biggest challenge is putting the right communication and follow up methods in place while running our individual businesses outside of the Milspo Project. We are currently a two-woman team, and we have run ourselves ragged a few times this year by putting too much on our plates. Also, fundraising is one of the hurdles we have yet to master. The biggest takeaway for me has been realizing (in Keith Ferrazzi’s words) that you can’t be everything to everybody at all times. We are looking to expand Team Milspo this year because at some point you realize you can’t do it all, especially if you are trying to grow!
What are you most proud of when it comes to The MilSpo Project?
It is not so much what I am proud of, but of whom. I am proud of the women who make up the organization, especially our chapter leaders. I have never met a more hard working, generous and intelligent group of women.
What is one piece of advice you would give a military spouse with big ideas for a project, business or non-profit?
Fear is a liar. Anything you can dream, truly is possible. Try and find an intersection of passion and enterprise with a big “why” and you will be sure to soar. There are so many seats for influencers (especially female influencers) at the table, so pull up a chair! Also, the more niche you can get about your message and your business - the more success you will find.
Tell us a bit about your own story and connection with the military.
I became a military spouse five years ago when I fell in love with a soon-to-be Navy sailor. Love at first sight is real.
What are some of the amazing qualities that military spouses possess?
Military spouses are loyal, creative, hard working, frugal, social and selfless. They also understand sacrifice in a very real way because they live it.
What is one thing very few people know about you?
That I have more than 8 nicknames, all of which I legitimately answer to.
What is your all time favorite way to spend a Saturday morning?
I like to workout early in the morning, shower, and get back in my PJs and read a good book cuddled up in a blanket on my coach. Then a late brunch with my hubby makes for the sweetest kind of Saturday.
Thank you Elizabeth for allowing us to get to know you a bit and share about The MilSpo Project!