Article by Len Vermillion, Media Manager
On her website, Carmen Coker teases people about her time in the U.S. Air Force. A former intelligence analyst, she refers to an old, but never-out-of style joke when describing her military experience. “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,” she quips.
Affable and personable, Coker speaks fondly about her time in the Air Force, which took her all over the world- from Montana to South Korea (she separated in 2005 as a captain). From her current home in the United Kingdom, where her still active-duty husband is based, Coker is just as excited about her life as a military spouse and successful entrepreneur.
After six-and-half years in the military and now a as a military spouse, Coker is used to being PCS’d and moving around a lot. “I can say that I changed locations a lot, and each move provided me a different type of job with different responsibilities,” she says. “For me, it was a lifestyle and career that required me to stay extra organized. “I’ve always been organized,” she continues, “and it was my interest in organizing that led me to a career as a virtual professional organizer.”
Yes, that’s virtual. You’ve probably seen the television show “Hoarders” or the likes? In the show, a professional organizer stands over a house full of dust-collecting stuff and scolds a troubled soul. “I’m not that type of organizer,” Coker quickly points out.
Sure, she helps her clients reclaim their physical space, but Coker is also interested in helping clients with much more than just stuff. “I take a holistic approach to organizing and I show people how to not only organize their physical space, but also their minds and lives,” she says.
And she does so from afar, via her website, e-mail, the telephone, etc. She also utilizes digital media such as blogs, webinars and e-books.
When Coker separated from the Air Force, she did what many intelligence analysts do upon transitioning-she worked for the Department of Defense as an analyst for L3 Communications. She says she found the work interesting, but wanted to move on to something entirely different, something for which
she really had a passion.
In May 2007, she officially opened Clutterbugs (www.organizeclutterbugs.com), which offers residential virtual organizing services. Many of her residential clients came from both the military spouse community and the civilian world. She says as a military spouse herself, she understands the difficulty of packing and unpacking constantly, all the while keeping some sense of organization and sanity. It is something she, herself, has dealt with often.
The virtual nature of her business model lets her keep regular clients even when they are moved to a new location or, when she is. It also expanded her possibilities for success. “Going virtual gives you the flexibility to work anywhere you want, and it instantly expands your client base,” she says. “It instantly expands your client bases from a local market to a global one.”
Even though Coker runs an American-registered business, she does so from her current base in the U.K. and will do so from wherever she and her husband end up. She also helps others get into the business of virtual organizing, something she says a lot of her military spouse clients ask her about. “Virtual Organizing is a great vehicle for military spouses, because you can easily take your projects, clients and business wherever you are stationed in the world,” she says.
In fact, Coker is founder of the International Association of Virtual Organizers (IAVO), now part of Carmen Coker International. (She also started Organized Entrepreneur (www.organizedentrepreneur.com), which offers business organizing and productivity services.) IOVA supports and encourages organizing experts to grow their business virtually through websites, blogs, e-zines, e-books, affiliate marketing, teleseminars, webinars,
virtual coaching and consulting.
“Running three companies keeps me on my toes. I have to stay organized myself to keep each business running smoothly,” she says.
In the five years that Coker’s been a virtual professional organizer, she already has made quite a name for herself. She’s been featured on CBS and NBC, and in publications such as
Real Simple magazine, Better Homes and Gardens’ Scrapbooks and etc magazine. She’s also won numerous awards and recognition for her work.
Where will her work take her next? Coker’s not sure, but what is definite is that when the time comes she’ll be organized and ready for it.
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