Ever wonder who is behind the info inbox of your favorite brands when you have a product question or need to directly connect with someone behind the scenes? Well, here at Kibou, that person is a living, breathing angel named Chelsey who keeps the wheels in motion and keeps our customers happy every single day.
After two years of Nell and Stephanie handling all customer inquiries, we had outgrown our capacity to handle all customer needs in a timely way without bringing someone on to exclusively focus on you! So we went to a company called Squared Away–an agency that provides jobs, community, and benefits for military spouses–to find our perfect person.
Who are you? What should we know about you?
Hi! My name’s Chelsey. I’m from a little town just north of Pittsburgh, PA but you can currently find me close to the East coast in sunny Florida. My husband and I are high school sweethearts and we’ve known each other since junior high. We’ve been together for 11 years, married for almost 7, and we have a 5 year old son named Axel. I might be biased but I think he’s the coolest kid ever and he brings so much life and laughter to our lives! We’re an Active Duty Air Force family and have been for the last 10 years. We also have two Great Dane/Lab mixes who we adore (and they both weigh more than I do). I have my bachelors degree in Criminology/Sociology, which I’m hopeful that one day I’ll put to use, but for now I’m enjoying being a mom, being an executive assistant, and going wherever the military tells us to go!
Where is your favorite place that you’ve lived and why?
This is actually really tough to answer because I think I love all three places I’ve lived for different reasons. I loved Pennsylvania for the seasons (mostly Fall), the delicious food, and of course our families being there. I loved living in Wyoming because we were right on the border of Colorado, which I think is the most beautiful state, and we were always hiking, snowboarding, and enjoying the mountains. I love Florida though for the immense sunshine, the beach, and how many family friendly activities are around us for our son to enjoy.
Tell us about Squared Away.
Squared Away is a company that hires military spouses to be virtual executive assistants for a wide variety of companies. Michelle, the founder, is also a military spouse who understands the struggles of keeping and maintaining a job as a spouse of someone serving in the military. Squared Away assistants can handle any and everything except filing taxes. They really work hard to match assistants and clients based on needs, experience, skill set and personality. I feel like they made a great match by pairing me with Nell and Steph and the whole Kibou community!
Why is Squared Away such a gift to you as a military spouse?
It has been such a struggle to find a job as a military spouse. Whenever someone hears the word ‘military’ they know location isn’t permanent. Everything about military life is unstable. So I was running into the dilemma of no one hiring me or giving me a chance, even though I was educated and had some experience, because of the instability that my husband’s job brings. Then I had our son and decided to stay home with him for three years. Doing so put an even bigger gap in my resume and made it that much harder for me to find something I actually enjoyed doing. I joined a military spouse job board page on Facebook and stumbled upon Squared Away in June 2021. It seemed like the perfect fit - something I was qualified for and good at, something I could do at home, something I could bring with me no matter where we end up in this world, and something that still allowed me to live a life outside of work and never miss the small things with my son. I’ve been working with Squared Away since July, and with Kibou since September-ish! It’s been a HUGE blessing for me and my family!
How does being a military spouse impact your day-to-day life?
I really try to not make being a military spouse a huge part of my identity, and we’re also big believers in leaving work at work, so I also don’t think it makes our marriage that much different than anyone else's. My husband and I were together before the military became a part of our life, and I was adamant about finishing my degree before joining him in Wyoming so I could have something of my own. You really do have to learn how to do things on your own a lot of the time (I spent the majority of 2020 during the pandemic alone while my husband was deployed to the Middle East). And as a couple, we really have to navigate last minute departures and learn to be okay with missing out on things/celebrating things at a later time. I think of the 11 years we’ve been together, we’ve been able to celebrate our anniversary twice because he’s always been away for it! I’m a person who likes control and likes routine, so it’s sometimes extremely stressful not knowing when we’re going to move, where we’re going to go, when he’ll have to leave again.. But it really just makes us appreciate the time we get to spend together and appreciate the now.. Because the future is always unknown.
For those of us who have never lived in one, can you tell us what it’s like to live on a military base?
It’s funny because a lot of people I know always say “it’s so great you get free housing, you’re so lucky”. While military members do get a housing allowance every month, it’s not technically “free” to live on base. But something that’s actually coming to light, thankfully, is the terrible conditions of military housing on a lot of military bases. We lived on base for about two years in Wyoming and vowed that if we could avoid it, we would never want to live on a military base ever again. The truth is – living on base can cost more than buying/renting a house off base (that was our case here in Florida where we own our house now). We actually had to get our son tested for lead poisoning at our last base (as did all the families on base) because they found lead in all of the bathtubs. Black mold is also a huge issue. We even had a sewage issue at one point which had us living in a hotel for 2 months (with a baby and two giant dogs.. Very unpleasant) while still having to pay rent. While it can be convenient to be surrounded by other military families and my husband being so close to work, the benefits definitely don’t outweigh the cons in our opinion - especially when military members and their families aren’t allowed to have a voice and take any action in these matters. It works for some families and it’s a great option to have but right now, we currently live about 30 minutes outside of the Air Force Base and we actually really enjoy owning our home and the separation from the military base and lifestyle to try and live a somewhat different life.
Let’s shift gears to YOU! Outside of work, what are your favorite ways to spend your time?
My absolute favorite thing is being a mom. I like to volunteer at Axel’s school, take him to the park or the beach, or dig giant holes in our backyard in true boy mom fashion. Outside of that though, I love to play volleyball, go on bike rides, go to the beach, paddleboard, hike or do anything outdoorsy and adventurous. I’m also a sucker for binging really good shows and movies (current favorites include Ozark, This Is Us and all the Marvel movies!)
Best book you recently read: Admittedly have not read a book in a while!
Favorite book to read with your son: Oh this is a tough one! He’s a big book lover and we have so many. I’d have to say my all time favorite to read to him is Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton. We’ve read it to him since he was a baby and we have a whole song/dance we made up to it. It always makes us giggle.
Go-to/Favorite recipe to cook: I cook a delicious chicken, broccoli, rice casserole every week in the instant pot because it’s SO easy and it’s always one of the only meals I can get Axel to actually eat :)
Favorite music to listen to when you have the car to yourself: I’m a big modern reggae fan - so anything beachy/vibey like Iration, Dirty Heads, Rebelution, Ballyhoo! are always playing.
Favorite place to go in Palm Bay, FL: The beach!! Palm Bay isn’t a coastal town and is about 12 miles inland, so the quickest/closest beach to us is about a 15 minute drive to Melbourne Beach. It’s a quiet, not-so-crowded beach and we love it. We try to go at least once a week.
Favorite thing about being from Pittsburgh :) : Even though I’m not a technical “yinzer” - the thing I love the most about Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania is the food! I love ordering salads and sandwiches and fries automatically come on all of it. People look at me crazy when I order a side of fries to add to my food here. I had no idea it was a Pittsburgh thing until I moved away!
Best vacation you’ve gone on: We unfortunately don’t get to go on too many vacations because our time off is usually spent going home to visit family since we only get to see them once a year. I do have to say we took a little 3 day vacation to Disney in March though and it was SO much fun! (and my Kibou was a LIFE SAVER!!!)
#1 Bucket list, do-before-you-die thing: My absolute dream is to stay at the Giraffe Manor in Kenya!
The last picture or video you took was of… A dreamy Florida sunset from my backyard
If you could live anywhere in the world it would be: I think somewhere in North Carolina. That way I can still experience seasons, but not in an extreme way. We’d be closer to Pennsylvania to our families, but still have the ocean and the mountains in drivable distance!
Finally, what is in your Kibou?!
On a normal day you’ll always find Burts Bees chapstick, hand sanitizer, Bou-boo bag, hand lotion, sunglasses and sunscreen, all of my cards (debit, drivers license, Costco membership, etc), my phone and a portable charger and baby wipes.
For our trip to Disney, all the same things plus little snacks (like applesauce packets and granola bars). We ended up using the Bou-boo bag within the first 10 minutes of the first day (No joke!). It was a huge life saver for standing in the long lines. I had everything I needed to keep us comfortable and happy, and for the majority of the rides, I could just put the seatbelt on underneath my Kibou and never have to take it off. On the few rides where it wouldn’t work to keep my Kibou on my waist, it fit right into the little pocket that all the rides had. SO convenient and so much easier than lugging around a huge backpack and having to leave it behind because it wouldn’t fit on rides. Disney can be stressful and overwhelming as it is. I will shout Kibou to the rooftops forever for every mom because being hands free (and minimal) was the key to my sanity for the long, hot days!