Military families know all too well the stress associated with a PCS (permanent change of station) move. Logistics include far more than packing up a house, which is stressful in itself. Many times, it is the military spouse who handles the responsibility of not only organizing the move, but researching the new location with the hopes of finding a community and neighborhood in which to plant temporary roots. Until now, the popular and necessary method of finding such a neighborhood to live has been word of mouth, and relying on friends or friends of friends to vouch for an area. Add searching for schools and buying/renting homes sight unseen within reasonable driving distance from the base and you have a very stressed out move…that is until recently.
Enter MILLIE, the brainchild of Amy Shick and Lauren Rothlisberger. “MILLIE is an attempt to change the way military families PCS,” said Amy. “Traditionally, the military moves us and you’re left to figure out the rest.”
It was in 2013 when stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, that Amy and Lauren found a common interest for purchasing and remodeling homes at their duty stations and renting them out. “People would share stories about how property managers created more stress than reducing stress,” said Amy. Together they wrote and self-published two digital books, “The First Time Military Home Buyers Guide” and “Military Landlord” (available for free download).
In the summer of 2015, Lauren reached out to Ken Robbins, who along with Jason Dempsey had created AgentHero. In December of 2015, they merged AgentHero to create MILLIE. Now, Ken serves as CEO of MILLIE, with Jason as the COO, Lauren is Director of Marketing and Amy is Director of Community. All MILLIE team members are active military spouses working remotely.
Lauren created the MILLIE website and launched it in March of 2016 and within 24 hours of posting the site to Facebook, they had 20 Scout applicants. “The first 20 scouts we ever had are still scouts! It’s pretty amazing!” said Amy. MILLIE has grown rapidly to more than 400 military spouse and veteran realtors across the nation. “These realtors are very experienced and have lived the PCS process and understand the challenges families face,” said Amy. About 82 Scouts are available and ready across the nation, including in Alaska and Hawaii, to help in the PCS transition, with about 126 approved scouts waiting to create their profile.
Their intent was to provide additional income and working opportunities to military spouses everywhere. “Military spouses want to work,” said Amy, “but it’s hard to find paying work. We want something we can make extra income without the heavy time commitment.” Applicants can apply to be a Scout. The screening process is extensive with references contacted and a phone interview so that experienced and qualified spouses go through a vetting process. “We know we can trust them and that they have an understanding of military spouse life,” said Amy.
Scouts are gold-star spouses and military spouses and they represent families who cannot physically be onsite to manage property and need someone to complete the task. If, for example, someone was moving to JBLM and wanted a home rented before they came, they can send a scout to FaceTime through the property and give additional information so they can make a less risky and more informed decision instead of renting sight unseen. “You can have professional expectations of the Scouts, without feeling you’re putting a friend out,” said Amy.
Also provided on the website are extensive neighborhood guides created with the aid of military spouse focus groups. “These guides help military families calm the PCS storm,” said Amy. They use military spouse photographers to gather pictures of the areas. Guides include a VA mortgage guide, a map of the installation, school scope, neighborhoods surrounding the installation, commute chart with peak commute hours and a calculated commute time once in the gate.
MILLIE continues to grow and has partnered with Bridge Street (corporate properties) to give special rates to military families. “If you’re PCS’ing and have to wait for a property and need temporary lodging, there is a place to live,” said Amy. These properties can also be used during vacation leave. MILLIE also plans to partner with two to three mortgage companies that specialize in VA mortgages, making the home buying process even more convenient for military families. “We want to continue to grow scouts and agents. We want to offer as much as we can to these families,” she said.
Everyone says, “I wish this service existed 20 years ago,” said Amy. “On a daily basis, I feel incredibly blessed that military spouses have a genuine desire to help people and they should be compensated and their time is value and their time is worth something.”