“We knew we had to change something.”
A few years ago, VAUSA founders Mary Elaine and Brett Baker were on a completely different path in life. Mary Elaine had her Master’s in Education and was teaching full-time at an elementary school. Brett was serving his country as a U.S. Army Ranger in the only job he’d known as an adult. The young couple had just welcomed their second child and were extremely busy and stressed.
Brett was frequently deployed overseas and sent on remote training missions. His availability to help care for the children and deal with household chores and disruptions like paying bills, coping with sickness, and taking the vehicles to the shop for repair was hit-and-miss. As a result Mary Elaine struggled to juggle her career and the needs of her family. She faced the painful realization that she couldn’t give her students at school the full attention they needed and be the mom and wife she wanted to be for her family at home. If her children were sick and couldn’t attend school she felt like she was neglecting her work when she stayed home with them. And when Brett was granted leave from the military it often didn’t coincide with her vacation time.
Mary Elaine lived with a sense of guilt that she couldn’t fulfill all of her obligations, and both she and Brett agreed that the work and life stresses were taking a toll on their family. As Brett put it, “this was not how we were meant to live.” Work life and family life were out of balance.
It wasn’t easy an easy decision for Mary Elaine to leave the field she majored in at college and worked full-time at for over five years. She loved teaching, and before that career she was employed in various jobs since she was old enough to work. Having the independence, financial stability, and creative outlet that comes with a career were important to her. What she needed was more flexibility in her work life so that she could be there when her family needed her and be able to enjoy time off with her husband and children when Brett took leave.
After learning about a new opportunity from one of her room mothers, Mary Elaine made the decision to take her career in a completely new direction. She started as a personal assistant during summer break and loved it so much she hasn’t looked back.
Mary Elaine took to personal assisting very easily. Her skill sets learned from teaching and serving as a military spouse proved to be a natural fit for meeting her first client’s diverse needs. This client, The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra, remains a client to this day. Mary Elaine dove right in to the new challenge, quickly building trust with the band members and providing an invaluable service for them.
As a personal assistant Mary Elaine was able to contribute financially to her family and enjoy the sense of independence and accomplishment that come from having a career, all while having some breathing room within her schedule to meet her family’s needs. Both she and Brett realized that they had stumbled upon a workable solution for improving their work-life balance.
The couple had a light-bulb moment. They could use their own experience as a military family and readily available technology to connect the needs of clients with an underutilized and potentially valuable business resource – military spouses, a group of people whose family obligations make it difficult for them to employ their talents in traditional jobs and who already know what it means to serve others. Their new business would focus on connecting entrepreneurs struggling with their own work-life balance with fellow military spouses seeking a more sustainable career path.
In 2018, Mary Elaine and Brett launched into building their small business – VAUSA – modeled after Mary Elaine’s own successful career transition. They have worked tirelessly to form a business model that’s different from any they’ve known, one that is based on shared core values learned from years of military and work experience and that relies on an extensive process for matching the right assistant to the right client.
From the start Brett was completely on board with Mary Elaine’s decision to try a new career. He began as more of a sideline supporter since he was still very actively serving in the military. But an unexpected injury and pending medical retirement have meant that Brett is now a full participant in developing the couple’s new business. He’s working closely with Mary Elaine to develop the company’s organizational culture and build VAUSA to be a leader in the virtual personal assistant industry.
VAUSA and the world of personal assisting weren’t even a thought when Mary Elaine faced the challenge of finding a better way of balancing a career with caring for her family. Today she can’t imagine a more fulfilling career, and with the help of her husband Brett she is continually striving to improve the lives of clients and fellow military families alike.
Follow along with us while we share our journey of developing VAUSA into one of the country’s premier virtual personal assistant companies. And please reach out to us if you’re ready to improve your work-life balance. We’d love to be a part of your path to success.