MOAA Interview: This Army Spouse Brings Fitness and Families Together

MOAA Interview: This Army Spouse Brings Fitness and Families Together
Army spouse Tess Partridge founded iStroll in 2015. (Courtesy photo)

When Tess Partridge launched the stroller-based workout iStroll in 2015 at age 26, she didn’t rely on social media algorithms or fancy ad campaigns.


“To get the word out, I would hang out in the Target parking lot and put flyers under car windshields if there was a child’s car seat in the backseat,” Partridge told MOAA.


Since then, she’s seen seven years of expansion. But it hasn’t come without challenges.


“From licenses, to state regulations, to getting onto military installations, to insurance, to social media, to growing from one entity to 30, I’ve lived by the rules of thumb: E-mail or call and just ask because if they don’t have the answer, they might know someone who does,” Partridge said. “And be prepared to be told ‘No’ 10 times before someone tells you ‘Yes.’ once.”



iStroll lets parents work out without worrying about hard-to-find child care. (Courtesy photo)


Here’s more from Partridge on her entrepreneurial path.


Q. What’s your military story?


A. I married my best friend’s older brother in 2012 after dating him for almost three years, and consequently, I married the Army as well. When my now-husband and I were dating, I was still in college and working, so wasn’t fully submerged in Army life until we tied the knot. As milspouses, we’re often told, “You knew what you signed up for when you married a solider,” but boy, unless you’ve lived through it as a child and/or adolescent, we have no clue. The Army life hit me like a freight train. It derailed my career, some significant life goals, and really any vision I had as a wife and mother.


[MOAA INTERVIEW: This Army Spouse Finds Success on the Move]


Q. Tell us about your business.


A. iStroll is a legitimate workout for moms, led by licensed and trained professionals who also happen to be moms, too. Alongside the awesome workouts, iStroll hosts monthly crafts for children, organized walk/runs, coffee meet-ups (where the coffee is provided), playdates and story times for the children, and more. iStroll brings families together under the commonalities of parenthood, fitness, health, and socialness, providing community and support during a phase of life when it’s needed most.


Q. When were you first “bitten” by the entrepreneurial bug?


A. Sometimes the greatest things are truly created out of necessity. As a young mom who once had big professional goals, I was staring loneliness and jobless-ness in the face after a PCS and the birth of our first born. With a predicted duty station of only one year, I opted not to attempt a 9-to-5 job for the short time there. Instead, I utilized my love for exercise and past experience as Division I athlete and pre-med college graduate to start a bootcamp-style fitness class where mothers could bring their children in strollers. It was a win-win for me – exercise and mom-friends when I needed it most!


[RELATED: Military Families Still Struggling With Mold at Privatized Housing]


Q. How has the military community and experience influenced your entrepreneurial journey?


A. One of the things I love most about the military is the people I get to meet; if anyone needs a positive influence on their entrepreneurial spirit, they should surround themselves with military spouses. Military spouses just have a way about them – they’re pros at pivoting when needed, being creative with the hand they’ve been dealt, picking up the pace when times are dire, slowing down when the time is right, and supporting each other like it’s an unspoken promise across the organization. The poise amongst the chaos military spouses carry is something you can’t quite put into words until you’ve experienced the little fire that lights in you after being around driven, supportive milspouses, faced with the most dynamic of circumstances, and watching them gracefully navigate through it all. Once you experience it, you want nothing more than to emulate it.


[RELATED: Program to Help Military Families Pay for In-Home Child Care Off to a Slow Start]


Q. Through your business model, you’ve empowered fellow military spouses to become entrepreneurs. Tell us more about that.


A. Especially in the military, spouses with young children need a way to exercise. There are no gyms on military posts that provide child care, and our active-duty spouses tend to work long hours and are often out of town, leaving few options for moms (or dads) to work out unless we’re paying for child care. Military spouses who have heard about iStroll love exercise and love helping other women. They have successfully opened iStrolls with our team’s guidance and amazing onboarding process. Empowering a military spouse to do something good for her, good for her family, and good for her community is a great feeling!


Q. How has starting your business inspired growth in your professional life?


A. Starting a business has made me realize that perhaps what I thought was my ideal career simply was not. The freedom of making my own schedule and setting my own goals (and achieving some of those!) while being gifted the opportunity to raise my children at the same time has been such a blessing. While making an income doing something I love, I also get to see all the soccer games, all the baseball games, and even be on the board of the PTO at my children’s elementary school. Building a business from nothing and turning it into something thousands of families have utilized has instilled in me a confidence that I do not have to work a standard brick-and-mortar job to feel like an adequate “professional.” iStroll is just the beginning for my family and I; As much as a learning curve running iStroll has been, it has given us the understanding that despite facing unfamiliar territories, with hard work and determination we can conquer any dreams we strategically set our minds to.


[CONNECT WITH iSTROLL: | Facebook | Instagram]


Q. What’s currently on your radar? Tell us about your latest entrepreneurial project.


A. Always, always, always opening more iStrolls to give more families with young kids the opportunity to exercise and be social is an all-inclusive, supporting environment. Also, in the next few months I’ll publish my first book!


Q. What advice would you give to other military spouses who want to start a business?


A. Start! There’s no perfect chronological order when starting a business, however, it is important to put a plan in place, and begin executing. Know there will be speed bumps, some big, some small, but expect them and when they arise, pivot and go!


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About the Author

Jen Goodale
Jen Goodale

Goodale is MOAA's Director of Government Relations for Military Family and Survivor Policy.