Career

One Milspousepreneur’s Journey from Japan to Jacksonville

Jen McDonald

Spouse deployed…Mom of small children…Unemployed…Family thousands of miles away.

Sound familiar? Most military spouses can easily relate to the above scenario. But when Marine wife Lakesha Cole found herself alone in her California apartment with her 3-year-old child while her husband was deployed, she didn’t simply bemoan her lonely state or hold out for better days ahead. Instead, the seeds of a business idea began to germinate.

Challenge Turned into Opportunity

Her idea grew into She Swank, a curated shop for girls featuring clothing and accessories that embody fun, the innocence of childhood, sparkle, and imagination. She Swank began online and was not only a new business venture, but also an example to her own daughter. Cole notes that,

“We debuted our first children’s collection in 2011 to introduce entrepreneurship to our daughter in a way that was fun and easy to understand for a 5-year-old.”

The Cole family relocated overseas to Okinawa, Japan, where She Swank opened its first pop-up store. Now, with a recent PCS with her Marine to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Lakesha is excited to announce a brand new location for the brick and mortar shop She Swank Too in Jacksonville, NC.

The store will highlight imaginative clothing and accessories for girls ages 1 to 6. You can still shop She Swank Too on their website, order monthly “Oh My Glam!” curated boxes, or one-time gifts or items.

Overseas or Stateside: A Business Force to be Reckoned With

Regardless of her location, Lakesha Cole serves as an inspiration to other military spouses who may also have entrepreneurial aspirations.

She proves anything is possible no matter where in the world you are because, after all, she’s moved her business overseas and back now. Solving employment challenges through creative means is her passion!

She notes that unemployment rates among female military spouses stand at about 32% (according to a study by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families). This rate is nearly three times that of our civilian counterparts, with the stresses of military life—deployments, frequent moves, and childcare issues–contributing to the difference.

As the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, Lakesha has sought to use her position to empower other business-minded military spouses. In 2014, she founded Milspousepreneur, using her skills and experience to inspire other entrepreneurial military spouses living overseas.

She’s also the author of the upcoming book, Mommy Retailing: A Mom’s Guide to Starting a Children’s Boutique, which is packed with practical suggestions for working from home and actionable tips about all the aspects of starting your own children’s retail store.

Grand Opening of She Swank Too in Jacksonville, NC!

The She Swank Too brand has served customers in all 50 states and four countries. The She Swank Too store in Jacksonville, North Carolina will host its grand opening on Saturday, November 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 715 Gum Branch Road, Unit 6 in Jacksonville.

The day will include children’s activities, food, giveaways, and featured speakers.

Lakesha has a clear goal for her brand:

“My vision for She Swank Too has always been to create an experience for our customers through memorable fashion that is unique to our location. The newest store in Jacksonville will be reflective of the global perspective that exists in a transient community, such as this one. My focus remains in using this business as a vehicle to give back and create goodwill in the community that we call home.”

Features of the new store include:  

  • Shop by appointment
  • Build your own Oh My Glam! Box
  • Host a trunk show
  • Book birthday parties and play dates
  • Shop handmade, locally made, modern, and playful products with your children!

Be sure to check She Swank Too’s website and Facebook page for more information, including timely announcements and videos.

And personally speaking, I think you’ll be inspired by this video of Lakesha’s journey and back story of She Swank Too, just like I was!

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