Air Force Veteran Turned Military Media Influencer's Strong Voice Creates Big Impact For Woman
Amanda Huffman, Air Force Veteran & Owner of Airman to Mom
Tell us about you and your military background:
I am Amanda Huffman. I served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer. When I left the military I was a Captain (O-3). My first assignment was at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. The F117 Nighthawk was being retired and the base was being redesigned for the F-22 Raptor. There was a lot going on, especially in the CE Squadron. I got to help manage a number of different construction projects on the base. While at Holloman, I deployed on a combat deployment to Afghanistan.
I was the deputy Civil Engineer for the Kapisa Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). Our mission was to work directly with the Afghan people to win their hearts and minds. We managed 26 construction projects throughout Kapisa. Our team was a mix of Army and Air Force members with different specialties and we were attached to an Infantry unit that provided security for various missions off base.
When I returned from Afghanistan I moved to Ohio and worked at Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) Headquarters at Wright-Patterson AFB. My primary role was working to help reduce energy and water consumption on the base. In 2013, shortly after my first son was born I left the military to be a stay-at-home mom.
Tell us about your business:
Today, I am the owner of Airman to Mom LLC. I run my business out of my home, but all the work is available digitally or in print on various platforms. I decided to start a business because I loved to write. Initially, my blog was a hobby that gave me a place to write and share my experience as both a mom, military spouse, and veteran.
I started my blog in April 2014, less than a year after leaving the military. Originally I had no idea what I was doing but then in 2017, I did a series of deployments. I expected to collect stories from men who deployed but instead, almost all the people who responded to my query were women. The stories of the women who deployed were fascinating. I wanted to hear more stories and I switched my focus from deployments to women veterans. The more I dove into the topic of women veterans the more I realized that not enough people knew the stories of women in the military and it gave me the idea to create a podcast.
Starting a podcast was a big turning point in my journey. In 2019, when I started the Women of the Military podcast I had a few opportunities to freelance but my overall business revenue only covered the cost of running my business. With the podcast and other opportunities, I was given more opportunities to write for different organizations. 1n 2019, I also published my first book Women of the Military. The success of the podcast also allowed me to monetize the podcast and bring in another stream of revenue.
In 2022, my second book A Girl’s Guide to Military Service was released. It helps provide guidance for high school girls who are considering military service. It is an award-winning book. It won Gold for Teen-NonFiction and Silver for Business and Career at the International Book Publishers of America 2023 award ceremony.
Today, I have a digital media company. I provide content for my blog and podcast. While also providing regular freelance articles to various media sites, such as Clearance Jobs, Spouselink, Sandboxx, and more. I’m always looking for new opportunities to write and learn. I also recently started hosting a second podcast for the Sabio School of Software and Engineering. I host Breaking into Tech, the bi-monthly podcast highlighting the stories of graduates of Sabio’s boot camp program. I keep myself busy with other side projects such as speaking in various venues, and helping others in their journey to podcasting, freelance writing, speaking, or joining the military.
Describe how you got the business started:
I have worked to grow my business while managing my spending. There was an initial start-up cost in creating a blog and a monthly fee for hosting. But those costs were minimal. Starting a podcast required a bigger investment because I needed equipment and a program to host the podcast and edit the audio. Still, the investment was minimal and by 2019 I was bringing in a small income that covered the cost of podcasting, even if I wasn’t getting paid.
My first freelance writing opportunity came in 2015. I had considered quitting blogging. But a company working to reach the military community asked me to share a post on my blog. The payment paid for the next year’s hosting cost so I decided to reinvest the money in my blog and keep it going. After my second son was born at the end of 2015 I was inspired to write again and kept having opportunities to write in new places and cover the cost of continuing to blog.
I also utilized a lot of free platforms to help get my business started. Canva has a free account to create graphics, Calendly has a free account to help get your calendar organized, social media is free and over time you can work to build a platform. I also used Google and youtube to help answer questions as I learned new skills.
“There are a lot of free resources that can help you get your business off the ground. But it will take time to grow and you have to know that from the start.”
Luckily, my husband’s career has been able to support our family’s needs. But when we moved cross country to Southern California I had to work to find ways to expand my income to help meet the needs of my family. Creating a solid business and network made it possible to increase my income to meet the needs of our family, while also having the flexibility to be at home with my kids when they get home from school each day.
Over the years I have worked to learn more about running a business, and how to be a better writer and podcaster. I have also attended various conferences to network with others who work in the military or entrepreneur space.
Tell us why you wanted to become an entrepreneur:
When I left the military my plan was to be a stay-at-home mom. Leaving the military was really hard to transition into this new role. Starting a blog allowed me to connect with a community. Connect with others who are like-minded. Even if our focus was different knowing there were other people writing. I joined a Facebook group and became friends with bloggers and it helped me to get out of the dark place I was.
If my husband wasn’t in the military I probably would have gone back to work as a Civil Engineer. I had my Professional Engineering License but we were set to move the summer after I left the military and it seemed silly to get a job and then have to move and start over. I also really (eventually) enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. I found community with other moms and today I love to give back and volunteer at my kid’s school and with the MOPS organization.
“Having the flexibility to fit work into my life and being in control has been great.”
I guess, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me, even if I didn’t know it was there. My dad owns his own business. He is a gardener and I spent many summers mowing lawns and raking leaves in the hot sun. I used to equate entrepreneurship with a job like being a gardener and I went to college so I wouldn’t have to do that. But my dad did have the flexibility to set his schedule and be there for me and my sister.
Describe how your military background prepared you for entrepreneurship:
There are a lot of aspects of my military career that I use in my business today. Even though Engineering is very different from what I’m doing today there are similarities. The military taught me to manage my time well. I plan out the work I need to accomplish each week with a general plan on how I will get it done, always leaving extra time at the end of the week to play catch up on anything I didn’t get done. It has really helped me stay on task.
I have also had to use my skill of being flexible with changes and challenges that I face in my business.
“The military certainly taught me to be flexible. It also prepared me by having different courses of action.”
I often have a plan on how I expect things to go in my business and have a plan B and C in case things go awry.
I also think my experience of deploying to Afghanistan and filling a role that wasn’t traditional for women gives me the self-confidence to talk about military life and the challenges women face. I haven’t experienced every challenge but my experience allows me to share my insight and often I can overcome negative comments by sharing my story.
Tell us about some of your obstacles and challenges, and how you overcame them:
I often struggle with imposter syndrome. I really love the work that I do but I often don’t see the value I am providing. Instead, I look at numbers and often find myself wishing I could reach more people and have a bigger impact. My friend recently shared this advice to help me get through these challenges. By remembering I belong here. They need me here. This is where I am supposed to be. And if not me, who will do this work?
As my kids have gotten older I have been able to balance my time where I can be there for them while also growing my business.
“It has been a slow and steady progress taking years to see big changes.”
Sometimes I find myself comparing my story with other people and thinking I could do more. But then I remind myself of what my goals are and that my kids will not be little forever and as they get older I have had more opportunities and the ability to follow through on them. Being a mom is really important to me and that is my priority.
Describe how you’re doing today and what the future looks like:
This is the fifth year of the Women of the Military podcast. I have been able to share over 200 stories of military women and the podcast has been listened to over 125,000 times. It is amazing to think about all the different people who have listened and how those stories have impacted their lives. I’m working to share the stories now with videos on YouTube and I’m hoping to do a series highlighting different career fields as a subcategory on the Women of the Military podcast YouTube channel.
I’m also considering writing another book. I have gone back and forth on a few different ideas and know that to figure out what is next I will need to start writing. But I’m also going to wait until summer is over to dive into this next adventure.
I’m planning to continue freelance writing and hopefully bring on a few more clients to write for. I really enjoy getting to share new stories and dive deeper into various topics.
Share some advice with your fellow veteran entrepreneurs:
I think my biggest piece of advice is to know it will take time to grow your business. There will be days you want to quit and days when you are so excited by what you have accomplished. Have people that you can reach out to on those hard days and can celebrate with when you accomplish something big or small. And don’t forget to take time to celebrate different things in your business. I bought a special pair of shoes when I published my first book and it was one of the first times I celebrated my accomplishments. Every time I wear those shoes it reminds me of all the hard work I did to get to where I am today.
There are a number of resources. For mentoring, I have found Veterati to be a great resource. I also attend the VWISE IVMF. I wish I would have known about IVMF when I was starting my business. They have a program for new veteran entrepreneurs I have heard good things about. I also recommend attending conferences in your niche. The Military Influencer is a great conference to connect with veterans and military spouses.
Where can we go to learn more: