For the last 5 years, Hanah Jones has been a member of our Topsail community and, in my opinion, doing an impressive job of balancing the privacy required and building a successful online business.
When I met Hanah Jones earlier this year, I knew immediately her story was something that had to be shared. Many members of the military community are familiar with the requirement for a high level of privacy, but how do you navigate that and build an online business at the same time?
I had the pleasure of learning some of Hanah’s story one afternoon; it was the perfect combination of a beautiful spring day as we sat overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, and a discussion of raw honesty about the discipline it takes to not only build an online business, but also balance that with the curve balls of being a military spouse.
(If you’re familiar with Operations Security (OPSEC), you’ll know how critical it is to be careful with privacy and information. I’ll explain more below).
Are you wondering why we are even able to share her story if privacy is so critical?
That’s what I’d be asking if I were reading this; and the short answer is: unfortunately Hanah’s husband was wounded in an attack overseas and will be medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in the near future.
Hanah Jones is an online fitness & nutrition coach; 1st Phorm Elite Athlete; military spouse; dog mom; and avid decorator. She is passionate about achieving her goals and living life to the fullest.
While in college for teaching, Hanah decided her passion was really in fitness so she followed that path, beginning with her personal training certificate and her business grew from there. You can read more about Hanah’s certifications and business on her website.
Being online based, most of her business and network is conducted through social media, where Hanah shares a lot about her life. However, for the past 5 years she actually could share very little about her personal life with her husband Nick. She laughs and mentions that people used to ask her all the time if she was in a relationship.
What is OPSEC?
Operations Security, aka OPSEC, is the process in which you control information so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and protects our military troops. There are some excellent articles about the “DO NOTs” for operational security here:
Balancing Her Public Career with His Private Life
Hanah says that Nick laid out the privacy rules for her from the beginning, and while she didn’t always get it right, he was always sure to let her know when she had violated the OPSEC rules.
She admits there were times the rules frustrated her: when Nick was deployed she’d want to share a countdown calendar, or it was hard to be on stories and vulnerable about other aspects of her life when this portion was completely off limits to share.
The motivation to keep military life private was strong though, and says “it wasn’t difficult to follow OPSEC because I respect my husband, his co-workers, and their families… and I’m absolutely going to do what’s best for everyone’s safety.” She goes on to add, “I knew what I was signing up for when I met and then married Nick.”
While it may have taken a little while for Hanah and Nick to get used to each others’ careers being so contradictory and opposite, when asked what she would have done differently (if Nick hadn’t been a Marine) she said: “because I have so much of my life on display, it actually was really nice to have my relationship be private.” Although going forward, she’s excited to share more realness of her life instead of a highlight reel.
Having a career as a military spouse
One of the most difficult things to do as a military spouse is maintain your own identity when your life completely revolves around your spouse’s career (the job comes first and family comes second). But, Hanah points out that “your significant other fell in love with you because of your passions and drive and the kind of person you were before military life, and you can’t lose that.”
The constant changes of plans are just a few of the obstacles for military spouses, and Hanah’s advice for this is: “learning to be flexible and evolve with that is a must, otherwise it will destroy you.”
Hanah’s advice for: Balancing work & military life
- Whether you have the limitations of the military or not, starting a business is going to be scary – try to make it something that is mobile, remote, and flexible, but that isn’t any harder than a brick & mortar and does not have much overhead.
- Maintain mutual respect for each others’ passions and careers
- Compromise to work together and not controlling each other
- Understand there’s a 50/50 learning curve and what it really means to work from home (although I think we all have a much bigger understanding of this now!)
- Work hard to understand both perspectives
What does it really mean to “have an online business”
There’s so much behind the scenes work that people don’t see when your business is based online or showcased on social media. There are parts to every career that people don’t like, and an online business is no exception. A flexible job is amazing, but it also means you never really clock out.
I asked Hanah to outline a few behind the scenes items she does:
- While on social media I’m just answering messages and comments, I don’t really scroll or watch stories either
- I spend a daily average of 10 hours screen time just on my phone, that doesn’t include my laptop
- Most used app is instagram
- Writing a new and quality caption for Instagram on average takes me an hour to complete
- Spend hours coming up with content
- Videoing workouts and by the time it’s uploaded to Instagram – after working out it is an extra hour (on top of the workout)
- I work full time + have an assistant that works 30 hours a month and a web developer
Not to mention that she wears most of the hats: cameraman; producer; writer; content creator; nutrition coach; fitness coach; motivator, etc.
“Hanah’s journey is both inspiring and encouraging. Reading her perspective as a military spouse and business owner is behind harrowing. It made me deeply reflect on time management and creating goals instead of dwelling on inevitable challenges. It’s all about how you ride the waves.”Leah Norman
Hanah and Nick are in the process of moving to Montana!
Their plan was always to move to Montana after Nick retired from the Marine Corps and had always been looking for fun. With his medical retirement, however, this plan moved up on their timeline.
“How pretty it is!” says Hanah, “the outdoor life: mountains, lakes, fresh air!”
They plan to raise a family and live the outdoor lifestyle to the fullest: from fishing, hiking, hunting, and riding bicycles. Hanah will continue with her online career and Nick is diving 100% into the non-profit he’s founded called Talons Reach Foundation. Being based in Montana and close proximity to Yellowstone will be the basis for the foundation.
Hanah says they are “winging everything at this point and just playing it by ear.”
Since I first asked Hanah if we could share her story to now, quite a bit has happened! Nick ended up back in the hospital for more surgeries, was awarded the Navy Cross, and has finally been able to move to Montana permanently!
You can read more about Nick’s award here.
“To be honest, this award will forever be ingrained in my mind as the day that I failed — as the day that I lost two of my teammates,” Jones said, growing emotional. “It was the day that I was not able to accomplish the mission at hand. But to much of the world I’m a hero for trying.”Nick Jones
Talons Reach Foundation
Since Hanah is quite the expert on social media, I expected she was playing a big role for TRF, but she says she actually can’t take credit and this is all Nick’s work. You can learn more on their website, but here’s a snippet:
“At Talons Reach Foundation, we are passionate about serving the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community. As former operators, we understand the physical and mental demands placed on our nation’s elite warriors. We recognize the sacrifices made and are aware of the toll this lifestyle takes on our mind, body, and spirit. As warriors we don’t always ask for help, but these injuries compound to a devastating effect on our quality of life. Our goal is to offer our nation’s SOF warriors an opportunity for sanctuary, mindfulness, and the tools and resources necessary to accelerate the path to recovery.”
Follow along on their next adventures:
After the whirlwind of their 2021 journey, I’m definitely interested to see where life is taking Hanah and Nick!
If you have any questions for Hanah, feel free to reach out to her! She loves answering questions and supporting others, especially on the above topics.