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Filling the Gap in Your Community

Catherine is the successful business owner of The Redbird Studio and an Air Force spouse who embraces the military lifestyle. It all started with her first move as a military spouse to Ramstein, Germany.

“So, I get there, and you know I can’t find employment ‘cuz you know overseas employment is super difficult,” she remembers.

Catherine was looking for work as a statistician, since she was a thesis away from obtaining a Master’s Degree in Statistical Data Analysis. Not being fluent in German was a huge disadvantage to finding employment in the foreign country. But networking with other military spouses led her to finding fulfillment in something she loves.

Her friend and fellow military spouse, Ashlie Weisel, was also stationed in Germany and opened an art studio due to the growing demand of art lessons for American children in the community. Catherine, who had a love for art, enjoyed helping Ashlie at the studio, but the idea of profiting from art like Ashlie never crossed her mind.

“She goes, ‘I’m pcs-ing (moving) next month. You have a knack for this. You should totally teach this. It will do well,’” Catherine recalled.

Catherine trusted her friend and decided to transform the bottom floor of her home into an art studio. She filled out the legal paperwork to get a German business license, which was in her words, “Super simple.”

“The hard part is the taxes,” she said. “You have to have a German tax accountant to do it because it’s all in German.”

She began her business by creating a semester long syllabus for her art students, ages 5 and up. Her first lessons were, “Art Around the Globe” for the older students and primary art for the younger students.

“I sold out in the first two hours,” she said.

She began getting requests to teach adult classes and used her previously learned skills to intrigue us military spouses who love wine by teaching wine-glass painting. It didn’t stop there. Spouses were interested in making their Pinterest fantasies come true and wanted to learn string art, so off Catherine went and taught string art.

Two villages down, another military spouse was teaching canvas classes.

“Hey, just as a non-compete, I’m not gonna offer any canvas classes,” Catherine told the other military spouse. “I’ll teach kids because you don’t offer children classes, but I will refer any adult who wants canvas classes to you if you send kids to me.”

They created a relationship and partnership by referring customers to one another whenever they were completely booked.

“It snowballed into something where I was working 80-90 hours a week.”

She took it a little easy after giving birth to her beautiful daughter but didn’t stop. Catherine strapped her infant daughter in a baby carrier and continued teaching art two weeks after delivery. (Can you say SUPER WOMAN?!) The women in her art classes loved the sight of her bundle of joy and took turns holding her.

“I was like here. You can hold her,” Catherine laughed.

A couple of other military spouses joined forces to open a wine tasting studio. Every weekend, they opened their doors to the community and offered different wines. Catherine saw this as an amazing opportunity to have fun and earn money with other spouses.

The other military spouses charged their fees to serve wine, while Catherine charged to teach people how to paint on wine glasses and canvases.

“We just had this awesome successful spouse systematic relationship,” she said.

Catherine manages, runs and works the business on her own. Her husband and mother contribute to the business every now and then, but The Redbird Studio all belongs to Catherine.

“There’s nothing that I have to currently outsource,” she said.

Catherine PCS’d (moved) to Guam after five successful years in Germany.

“The cool thing is this business can go anywhere. So, it’s been great,” she said.

She made friends by joining the Andersen’s Enlisted Spouses Club and invited them over to her house for a free paint night. Her friends had such a great time, they supported her by sharing her links on Facebook.

“I haven’t had a lull since the third month we’ve been here,” she said surprising herself.

Catherine has expanded her business to woodwork since moving to Guam. Somebody asked her to make a coin rack, so she gave it a shot. Now, that’s one of her most requested items- make 14 or 15 a month.

“Yeah there might have been a lot of cussing involved the first few rounds, but once you get a hang of something, you can do pretty much anything,” she said.

Catherine will soon be preparing for another PCS back to the states. Her ability to adapt keeps her from worrying about the fate of her business. She’ll just fill the hole within her community that’s calling her name.

“I don’t know what the gap will be at my next base, but hopefully we’ll see.”

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