MilSpouse Collective Annual Conference

Paperback Events Founders Jessica Khouri-Charysz and Katie Tollis-Flabbi created the MilSpouse Collective to bring together military spouses and help them achieve their goals. Their first annual conference was held on May 25 in Pembroke. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post) ***Les fondatrices de Paperback Events, Jessica Khouri-Charysz et Katie Tollis-Flabbik, ont créé le MilSpouse Collective dans le but de rassembler des conjointes de militaires et de les aider à atteindre leurs objectifs. La première conférence annuelle a eu lieu le 25 mai, à Pembroke. (Photo : Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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By Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post

The inaugural MilSpouse Collective Annual Conference was more than just a business and networking opportunity for Candian military spouses.

It was also a chance for attendees to gain fellowship, and an understanding that only military spouses have while forging bonds and growing skill sets.

The event was set up in a creative manner, bringing in a sense of fun as well as professionalism, all while catering to the unique challenges that exist as a military spouse, even more so as an entrepreneur.

Bringing together military spouses is what the Paperback Events girls do best. Yet founders Jessica Khouri-Charysz and Katie Tollis-Flabbi were still astounded at the response and the sheer size of the event.

“It has been amazing,” said Tollis-Flabbi, “it really has. Everybody has such positive energy. They are learning a lot. They are mingling. It is everything we wanted and more.”

Most military spouses are highly educated and career driven. Some of them have impressive resumes and backgrounds that they’ve either had to put on hold or compromise in order to follow their loved ones across the nation.

It is a story that they themselves have gone through.

“We started our own business because of the unemployment and underemployment that so many military spouses face,” said Tollis-Flabbi.

“It is important to build a community,” Khouri-Charysz said. “Not only with people who can support you in your business, but people who can support you in your life.”

By hosting this conference on May 25, they hoped to bring together some of these spouses and encourage them to follow their entrepreneurial spirit and build that community. The day included inspirational talks as well as practical workshops and a panel of successful military spouses sharing their experiences. But it didn’t stop there.

Attendees were given fun swag bags, Instagram stations, yoga sessions, worked on themselves with a headshot station, a braid bar and a brow bar and treats like a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and many tasty snacks, followed with a happy hour once the business portion of the event was done.

“At Paperback Events we like to create unique experiences and so for us, we are over traditional conferences and board rooms,” said Khouri-Charysz. “We are trying to make it something that people will remember and enjoy.”

The bulk of the conference was held at Crazy Beautiful Dresses in Pembroke, but the workshops and lunch were held in other nearby businesses. Partnering with other organizations has been a Paperback Events move since it was created, as they view collaboration with others as very important. This method also helped participants learn about the community in addition to bringing up the energy by moving around.

“By walking to our workshops, we are also bringing that modern way of understanding how people learn and it really inspires and brings in that energy flow,” said Tollis-Flabbi. “We think this will have an overall positive effect on the experience.”

The event also broke down some of the misgivings some employers have about hiring military spouses. Though frequent postings are a norm for most, it doesn’t mean that spouses don’t make valuable employees.

“Yes, we may be transient but the skills we can provide to that workplace at that moment in time is invaluable to their business too,” said Khouri-Charysz.

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