By April Dudash
Leslie Saenz, owner of So Chic Bebe on Hay Street, received word around the holidays that her family would move to Germany.
Saenz and her two children plan to join her husband, the garrison commander at Grafenwoehr, this summer, but that's not going to stop her or her Fayetteville business. She's done it before, when her family had to pick up and move to Washington, D.C., only a year after her store opened downtown.
For two years, Saenz ran her shop remotely, with help from her good friend, Adrienne Walker. Saenz would visit once a month and call her staff daily.
Now, she's staring a six-hour time difference in the face and a hefty airplane ticket if she wants to drop in.
"Every time she leaves, I feel like I'm losing my spouse," Walker said.
They paused when they realized they couldn't text message each other once Saenz leaves.
"I haven't even thought about that," Walker admitted, slightly surprised.
So Chic has been open since September 2007, when Saenz decided to throw her home sewing and embroidering operation into the world of retail. She was originally a software designer for a small D.C. defense contractor but started playing around with embroidering machine software before the birth of her first child.
Six employees work at the shop, and many of them have also been military spouses that have come and gone.
"It's hard when you're in a career field, to have your husband pick up and travel every few years, Saenz said.
But a move to Germany has its advantages. "He already knows it's coming," Saenz said of her husband. "I'm decorating."
Spouses and licensing
Military spouses who need a state license or certification for their profession may soon get relief when it comes to transferring those credentials across state lines.
Joining Forces, the White House initiative started by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden to support military families, is giving states a goal of 2014 to help streamline occupational licensing.
A report found that military spouses were 10 times more likely to move across state lines than their civilian counterparts and more than 100,000 of them need some type of licensing or certification.
North Carolina has the fourth largest population of active-duty military spouses in the country, or 55,563.
Thirteen states, including North Carolina, have proposed legislation already. A total of 11 already have adopted legislation that will help streamline licensing.
N.C. House Bill 799 has passed and was received by the Senate last summer. Records show it was last referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.
Military veterans looking for work have a new source in GetHired.com. The website launched in February, but its creative team has already found several ways to link vets to jobs.
The idea for GetHired.com stemmed from CEO Suki Shah's frustration filtering through hundreds of static and similar resumes from job seekers all hoping to fill one position.
GetHired uses video and audio to differentiate between candidates and their resumes. It's free for both job seekers and employers.
Employers can search for candidates with military experience by looking for those checked factors on their profiles, Shah said.
In the first 24 hours of GetHired's launch, everyone from "mom and pop shops to Fortune 500 companies" representing more than 90 countries signed up.
Shah said veterans often underplay certain skills despite their extensive military training and experience moving equipment worth tens of millions of dollars and protecting countless lives.
"A static website that allows you to submit static resumes just isn't adequate," Shah said.
We'll toast to that
Aberdeen's Railhouse Brewery has gained popularity since its opening last year. In fact, the Moore County Chamber of Commerce named it the 2012 Entrepreneur Business of the Year.
In Cumberland County, the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce named military contractor K3 Enterprises as a finalist for its Business of the Year award along with Construction Systems Inc., which specializes in military projects. Army veteran Ron Matthews received the Realtor Cup.
Back in Aberdeen, Mike Ratkowski, Railhouse co-owner and former Army staff sergeant, is running out of room. "I have pallets and kegs everywhere."
Ratkowski and his business partner, Brian Evitts, received an N.C. Department of Commerce grant that will help them move to a larger location in Pinehurst. Their brews are found throughout Moore and Cumberland counties. The pale ale is always popular. The oatmeal stout is a favorite among soldiers who have been to Europe. The owners hope to experiment with an IPA soon.
More than 60 percent of their business comes from members of the military.
"We're just a little tiny brewery," Ratkowski said, "but I think the craft beer culture has grown so much in North Carolina."
Railhouse chairs the Festival of Beers every May - May 19 at the Southern Pines Elks Lodge - and Ratkowski serves as the vice president of the Aberdeen Business Guild. Railhouse is a member of the N.C. Brewers Guild.
With a goal to soon expand into Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill bars, the 34-year-old Ratkowski starts his day brewing, bottling and transferring at 9 a.m. then tends bar until 2:30 the next morning.
"It's the best job I've ever had," he says.