When Chelsea Mandello launched Troopster she was serving active-duty in the military. She served seven years and deployed across 13 countries and nine ships.
In 2013 she was deployed to the Mediterranean for Anti-piracy operations. Her mother would spend weeks putting together a care package with her favorites – baked goods, chocolates, and items that she knew she would love and need on deployment, but unfortunately the items didn’t survive the journey.
Knowing many other families suffered the same disappointment, she began searching online to see what resources were available. She found there weren’t many options. “It was in that moment that I wanted to change this because I knew that I wasn’t the only individual and my mom wasn’t the only family member facing this issue.” That was the start and motivation that led to Troopster, a nonprofit charity that sends care packages to deployed US Troops around the world.
In the beginning, one of her biggest challenges was navigating the business realm while balancing a military career. She had to learn not only how to start, operate and run a business, but how to do it without impeding her military service.
Chelsea read “How to For Dummies” books and SBA article printouts during her lunch break and exhaustively packed care packages at home — after standing 24- to 48-hour watches — and was encouraged by her command, family, and community.
Today, the challenges are a little different. Since Thanksgiving 2015, Troopster has continued to grow to meet the needs of military families. Hampton Roads is a military community with the largest naval base in the world. Chelsea takes great enjoyment in connecting and working with the community through volunteer engagement, community packing events and by participating within the community alongside its multitude of organizations, annual festivals and longstanding traditions.
Troopster relies on sponsorship, donors and partners to not only stay up and running, but to support hundreds of deployed service members in need monthly. Troopster’s greatest business success has been winning the Microsoft Empower Possibility competition. To have Microsoft, a goliath international business, recognize the work of Troopster for those in the armed forces was incredible.
“The best part of owning my own operation is that I am the director of my own schedule. However, the changes it has brought to my life is that I work more than ever before because of how fervently I believe in the work that I’m doing. What sets us apart from our competitors is that we are a nonprofit that also provides personalized packages. This is something wholly unique! If I could offer any advice for anyone interested in starting their own business, it would be to find a mentor within their industry.”
A good mentor can guide you and illustrate options you might not be fully aware of yet. They can open doors for you and help connect you with opportunities. And they can introduce you to more resources within your community.
For Troopster, Retail Alliance has demonstrated support, helped guide the charity through access to resources, and has offered networking opportunities to further engage with the HR community.