Army spouse Kayla Corbitt was one of our first 2023 Military Entrepreneur Challenge (MEC) grant recipients, but soon after participating in March, she knew she would pitch once more on an even bigger stage: our national MEC at the Military Influencer Conference (MIC) in Las Vegas.
The Operation Child Care Project was created because Kayla saw how childcare inaccessibility for military service members and veterans was directly linked to home and food insecurity, unemployment, mental health, and military retention. Her nonprofit offers case management to help families understand all of the available options, and then supports them in the choice that best fits their needs. The Operation Child Care Project has a childcare scholarship that is easily attainable, and it also advocates on behalf of military families around the country. It approaches advocacy by listening to the needs of the families and sharing their stories, which in turn allows it to collaborate to create solutions that address the actual problems that families relay.
“The Operation Child Care Project is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to military family quality of life,” explained Kayla. “Over the last decade hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on military spouse employment and education programs in an effort to curb the never changing 22% unemployment rate, yet it hasn’t budged. The core issue of child care access and equity has not been addressed. At the end of the day it does not matter how many hiring fairs, resume workshops, college courses, or motivational workshops are available when families do not have the child care access to attend. Families are frequently referred only to on-base child care when care is needed. We know that this option has lengthy waitlists and lacks transparency regarding access. When families are told about off-base options, they must go through a cumbersome and confusing process, spanning months, if not years, to determine what their options are. There was no centralized system to give families all the information they need to make decisions in a simple and straightforward way, until now.”
Kayla was committed to pitching at MIC, but there was one ironic obstacle: childcare. With her husband still on active duty, Kayla realized that they had no one to watch their children or transport their young student to school each day. Where she was lacking in options, though, she found opportunity.
“I decided it was a golden opportunity to make a point. My spouse took off work and I flew my family in. I wanted them to take up space, be visible, and honestly be a bit inconvenient for business. It is easy to put child care on the back burner when it doesn’t show up in the professional world; it is hidden labor. The response from the audience and attendees before, during, and after my pitch reaffirmed that we are all going through the same thing, I just made it loud.”
With a child on her hip as she pitched to the live audience for the Final Round, she drove the point home that childcare is not a luxury item—it is a necessity. When the votes were tallied, The Operation Child Care Project was the clear winner, announced at the exclusive Mighty 25 Awards Gala later that evening. After she won, Kayla was given the stage to detail The Operation Child Care Project’s mission and goals. With the $15k capital winnings, provided by Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream, she will hire a full-time case manager who will provide the boots-on-the-ground support that so many military and veteran families need. With the generous $50k legal services provided by Holland & Knight LLP, she will pursue brand protection in an effort to not only protect her nonprofit, but the military families who try to access support. After dealing with companies who claim to be part of the solution but ultimately are stealing The Operation Childcare Project’s words, mission, and branding, Kayla will make sure no military families are scammed by these fake organizations.
As for her future with us? She isn’t going anywhere. “I am happy to serve Second Service Foundation in any way I can, whether it is coaching, judging, or carrying heavy things from a car to the stage!” said Kayla. “Organizations like Second Service are rare, and the support I receive from them is never ending, even before I won the competition. It inspires me to be a part of that.”