“The military has truly taught me how to adapt and evolve. With 7 moves in the last 10 years, starting a family, multiple jobs, and an extreme career change, I have made the choice to adapt and flourish with every move. Never in a million years would I have guessed where the Army would have taken me. 12 years ago I was single and fulfilling a life long dream, attending the Culinary Institute of America. I now stay at home with my little boys and run a very successful Etsy store, designing and creating a military line of jewelry.
“The military came into my life when Facebook first came out. I found three of my Ohio high school classmates that were currently in my New York area and messaged each of them to see if anyone would be interested in getting together. We were a long way from home outside Cincinnati. One responded; he was a cadet at West Point, not too far from me. We met up, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Our first move was to Ft. Stewart, GA, where we married and he started his first deployment. I wanted to do something big to pass the time, so I applied for Top Chef. It was quite comical really, all of my girlfriends sitting around the table with wine deciding who would be the videographer for my application, what the script should be, and so on. I got called for an audition and I was cast on season 5.
“You’re sequestered during the filming of reality competitions, so I couldn’t have my cell phone with me. During the designated times to call home, of course I had no way to reach my husband. Kudos to the production crew, who gave him the director’s cell phone number, and anytime he would call – whether it was 2 in the morning or during filming –they would ensure I could talk to my husband. It was an incredible experience, despite not winning.
“I cooked all the way through our tour at Ft. Stewart. When we moved to Ft. Knox, there really wasn’t any fine dining, so I managed a Panera. Anxious to get back in the kitchen, when we moved to Ft. Hood I started catering from my home. Another military spouse, only two doors down from us, had previously been a chef in LA doing all sorts of red carpet events. We linked up and did it all – change of commands, private parties. It was incredible.
“When my son was born, we found out the really hard way that he had five severe, life-threatening allergies: wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and egg whites, which pretty much eliminated everything I usually made. Suddenly my world was turned upside down – not just as a chef, but as a mom. Gone were the days of baking cakes in the kitchen, as I couldn’t risk it. Everything stopped; it had to.
“This is when jewelry came back into my life. I’ve tinkered with making jewelry since I was six, using macaroni noodles and yarn. It’s always been a fun hobby of mine, and after making such a big lifestyle change from cooking, I picked it back up. I started playing around with pieces from my husband’s uniform. His best friend collects military memorabilia and I got very interested in the items he’d find. I started transforming old collectables into jewelry at my kitchen table, and now I have an Etsy shop – Hope Design Ltd. When one door temporarily closed on my cooking career, a new one opened and it has been a dream come true. I am grateful to have been successful in making a business out of something others view as a hobby.
“I love repurposing vintage components into modern jewelry, men’s accessories, and more. My collection consists of hundreds of pieces, both vintage and modern. To collect my supplies, I frequent flea markets, estate sales, and military expositions, but also make the pilgrimage to New York’s garment district to stock up at specialty vendors of vintage and antique components.
“My understanding, appreciation, and respect for military customs and protocol have taken my little business further than I could have ever dreamed. What does success look like for Hope Design? Well, I had the privilege of commissioning unique pieces for the White House. That’s pretty cool.
“What’s next? An expanded line of button jewelry created from official military buttons for all services coming in December, just in time for the holidays. I have always made predominately Army themed items, as that is my current post, but I promise I am expanding my selection to all branches in the coming months. I pride myself on customer service and work very hard to listen the needs of all my clients.
“I am honored to be a military spouse, thankful to be an entrepreneur and deeply proud to be an American. ”
This weekend, support “Small Business Saturday” by shopping Hope Design Ltd.
Photo credit: Rita Jana Photography