Did you know that veterans represent only 6% of the total U.S. population but account for 13.5% (or 3.7 million) of all small businesses in the United States? These businesses employ 5.8 million Americans; pay wages in excess of $210 billion and contribute $1.7 trillion to the U.S. GDP.
Our veterans committee is always considering new ways the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce might support veterans in our community, our workforce and as entrepreneurs. So in 2016 we've introduced “In the Spotlight: Veteran Business Owners.” It features veteran business owners – highlighting the diversity, creativity and community service of veterans who continue to strengthen our country with their small business endeavors and entrepreneurial spirit.
Want to be “In the Spotlight”? Please send me an email and tell me about your military service and your business.
In the Spotlight: Suzie Mills, owner of Honest Soul Yoga
Former IT professional, Suzie Mills, took a leave of absence from her job to fulfill her personal goal and family tradition of military service – she joined the Air Force reserves in 2004. It was during deployment to Afghanistan that Suzie realized she wanted to make a change in her career by moving into the wellness industry. She found yoga after she injured herself during a triathlon when she returned from her deployment. Once she found yoga, the answer to her career question became clear. The community environment at the yoga studio had her hooked. Suzie knew immediately that yoga was the business she was going open. And she knew where - the Kingstowne area of Alexandria needed a yoga studio that could provide a place for adults to connect and nurture their whole being: mind, body and spirit.
Forging her path forward, Suzie started yoga teacher training in early 2011 and became a certified yoga instructor. She taught classes around northern Virginia and then Honest Soul Yoga was created in 2013 when she started teaching yoga out of her home with just 5 yoga mats. Classes grew quickly and it was time to find space for a dedicated studio. She continued working her full-time job in IT while running and the studio and teaching classes. In May 2014, she transitioned to running the studio fulltime and signed a lease to expand the studio to include a second practice space, and grow from 1400 to 3600 square feet! Immediately after the expansion, Suzie was featured on the Working Women Segment with Alison Starling on ABC7, where Alison called the studio “Cheers” of yoga studios where everybody knows your name. The studio has become well known as a community place for families to connect.
Building on her dedication to create opportunities for and within the community, Suzie opened Honest Soul Yoga's training center in September 2016. The training center hosts specialized yoga teacher trainings and workshops, including certification programs for yoga teachers, kids’ yoga teachers and continuing education opportunities for yoga teachers. The training center included a second expansion, giving Honest Soul Yoga three practice/training spaces within three years.
Suzie realized within the first year of operation that the Honest Soul Yoga community primarily consisted of military members and their families. Over half of Honest Soul Yoga’s staff members, and more than 60% of its clients, are military, military spouses or family members. With this in mind, she put more intention behind being a military-friendly, family-focused studio. This meant expanding the studio offerings to include more class formats as well as yoga for the entire family - prenatal and postpartum, babies, kids and teens.
Suzie’s support for military members and their families extends beyond the Honest Soul Yoga studios. She developed a partnership with the USO of Metropolitan of Washington - Baltimore to offer two complimentary yoga classes per week on Fort Belvoir for military members and their families as well as quarterly family classes, on-base. She offers complimentary physical fitness classes once a month at the studio for any military organization. Suzie continues to develop relationships with military organizations in an effort to be of service to those that have served our country.
Honest Soul Yoga is located at 6470 Landsdowne Centre Dr, Alexandria, VA 22315. Check out its website for additional details on classes, special events, operating hours and more.
Charles McCaffrey is the volunteer chair of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Veterans Committee. His fulltime job as director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Community Business Partnership pays the bills.