An Entrepreneur and veteran, Chelsea is the founder and CEO of Troopster Military Care Packs. Troopster.org (est. 2015) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting quality deployment packages to servicemen and women overseas. After graduating from Ball State University, B.S. Advertising, in 2011, Chelsea joined the United States Navy working as a Photojournalist where she traveled the world to provide media support and see first hand the accomplishments and capabilities of the Armed Forces. It was during her experiences with the military, serving across 13 countries over the course of 7 years, that she was inspired to establish Troopster.
This episode is sponsored by Ashleigh Magee Coaching. you’d like to learn more, send Ashleigh an email to admin@AshleighMaGee.com
Chelsea has received multiple recognition awards to include the Small Business Administration Person of the Year Award, Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, Cova Gives Back Award, Microsoft #EmpowerPossibility Award, Verizon Salute Award and Innovator of the Year.
She was planning to join the Navy and had started her officer package in her last year of college. But the recruiter she had been working with retired and didn’t submit her package and no one could find it. So even though she had her degree she decided to go for it and enlist in the Navy with the plans to transfer from enlisted to the Officer once she was in. But she didn’t know how hard that process would be. And by the time she completed her officer package she started Troopster. So it all worked out in the end.
She enjoyed boot camp and made good friends and she was really excited about her job as a photojournalist. She learned so much. One of the experiences she shared was going to a campground where half the team had paintball guns and the other half had cameras. They were instructed to “document the war” and then after an hour switched roles.
Her first assignment was at Norfork in Virginia and it was “Big Navy’s” journalist portal, where journalists went to tell the Navy’s story. She wasn’t at Norfork for very long within weeks of arriving in Virginia she was headed out on her first deployment to Japan. She was attached to different ships to capture the story of the Navy. She was always coming and going. Gone for a few months, home for a few weeks and then heading back out again. She loved getting to capture the stories of the Navy and shared some of her favorites.
But everything wasn’t easy. In 2013 onboard her seventh ship and for some reason she found herself integrated among the rest of the Public Affairs officers on the ship. This wasn’t the way it had been on her previous ships, but she worked around it. But she noticed everyone in the shop was extremely unhappy and she wasn’t sure why. But the leader of the section quickly showed why everyone was so upset. His demeanor and had tirades that made life hard for everyone.
She decided to document everything and presented it to her Squadron Officer. He tried to handle the situation, but she got yelled at by the Chief and nothing changed. So she continued to document and then went back to her Squadron Officer and she brought someone with her, but they ended up being too afraid to speak up. He sent her back to the office and didn’t help with the situation. The whole situation tainted her experience in the Navy. No one seemed to care about the sailors on the ship.
As all this was going on she received a care package from her mom. When she opened it she found that everything had gone bad and it was like putting salt on an open wound. It was the final straw and she burst into tears. And then a week or so later she was in the library. She knew she had to do something else so she started Troopster. She didn’t want someone else to feel the way she did. And through a lot of hard work and daydreaming, she created Troopster.
On Thanksgiving Day in 2015, she launched her business. She had been thinking there was more to do, but her mom encouraged her to launch. She has learned a lot and continues to learn. They have sent more than 7,000 care packages around the world. It is grown so much and she loves her job.
Connect with Chelsea:
Mentioned in this episode:
Girls Guide to the Military
From the Navy to Entrepreneurship Episode 27
From the Navy to the Air Force - Episode 15
Surviving Sexual Trauma in the Navy - Episode 26
Amanda Huffman 00:00
Welcome to Episode 74 of the women on the military podcast this week, I'm talking to Chelsea Mandello. She is the owner and creator of Troopster care packages. She shares how her experience of being in the Navy and being deployed and being at a place that was pretty remote meant that sometimes when the care packages got to her, they had been pretty much falling apart or the contents were spoiled or they were missing. And so she decided that when she was still in the military, she wanted to change that. And she started Troopster and I have been following her journey for the past few years. And it's really exciting to share not only about Troopster today, but her military experience in the Navy. So let's get started. You are listening to the women of the military podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm your host military veteran military spouse and mom Amanda Huffman. Michael is to find the heart of the story and uncover issues women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women, and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of women of the military. Chelsea is the founder and CEO of Troopster Military Care Package. She is a veteran of the Navy and after graduating from Ball State University, with a BS in advertising in 2011, she joined the US Navy and started working as a photo journalist where she traveled the world to provide media support and see firsthand the accomplishments and capabilities of the armed forces. It was during her experiences with the military serving across 13 countries over the course of seven years that she was inspired to establish Troopster. She has received multiple recognition awards including the Small Business Administration Person of the Year, Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, Cova gives back award Microsoft #EmpowerPossibility Award, Verizon Salute Award and Innovator of the Year. I'm so excited to get a chance to talk to you today. Welcome to the show.
Chelsea Mandello 02:16
Yeah. Hey, Amanda, thank you so much for having me on. I'm excited to get to talk with you, too.
Amanda Huffman 02:20
So we met a while ago via the internet and then in person, I guess just over a year ago at the Military Influencer Conference. And I've just been really inspired watching what you've been doing with Troopster. And it's been really cool. So I'm excited to not only hear about your military story, but hear about what you're doing today. So we'll start with why did you decide to join the military?
Chelsea Mandello 02:45
Yeah, well, so when I joined the military, I had just graduated from Ball State University. And I originally came from a military family. So I had already grown up, you know, hearing all of these great stories. The military about these ventures and experiences that my mom had been through. And then my older brother was currently going through, he actually still serves in the Air Force. And so I'd always just been so inspired by the military. And when I graduated, I had this vision of I wanted to see the world and before I went straight into an advertising firm or out into the business world, I wanted to join the military, serve my country and get to have my own adventures and experiences. And so that's what I did.
Amanda Huffman 03:33
And since you had your degree, did you ever consider becoming an officer or?
Chelsea Mandello 03:39
I did. And, you know, hindsight is 2020. So actually, I had been putting in my officer packets my last year at college, and the gentlemen who had been helping me to fill out my paperwork on who was working with individuals who are commissioning He actually retired. And he had never put any of the documents like filled out into the system. And when I went back after he retired and I graduated, they couldn't find any of my paperwork. And so it was a little deterring. But I was also just so excited. I just wanted to join. But I figured, well, I'll just join really easily as an enlisted and I'll transfer laterally over. I did not realize at the time how difficult that actually was. Otherwise, I would have just re gone through the process of commissioning. Did someone give you the advice that you can just enlist and then crossover or was that just something you thought would be easy to do? Now someone had given me the advice that I could just transfer laterally really easily. And the person who had told me that was at a completely different recruiting station back home. So I went to school up north in near Indianapolis, Indiana. And so I had traveled back home and it was In one of the smaller recruiting stations that someone had told me that, and that's why I ended up just going enlisted. And then thinking I could transfer over.
Amanda Huffman 05:09
I feel like I've heard that people have been told that advice more than one. So I don't know if it's like a lifestyle that people believe or something that they just it's kind of weird because it's like, it's not as easy as just, you know, it's not an easy switch.
Chelsea Mandello 05:25
Yeah, not at all, you know, someone who doesn't actually have an experience with the military yet. I fully believed it. So it's just kind of one of those, you know, recruiter, horror stories that you care about. And, you know, after I gone in, and I figured out Oh, this really isn't that easy. I was putting in my officer package for Officer Candidate School. And it was about the time that I was completing my pack and putting it in that actually, I started my company. So you know, in the long run, I think it really worked out.
Amanda Huffman 05:57
Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about Your Navy experience. So you went to boot camp, and then where did you go?
Chelsea Mandello 06:05
So boot camp, I actually had a lot of fun in boot camp and probably one of the very few people who had a good time in boot camp. Well, in one sense and another I had a difficult experience that happened but at the same time, I gained quite a lot of friends in boot camp. And right after I had gone through boot camp with three or four people who were actually going to be in my same rating, which was mass communication specialist. So, in boot camp I had already made friends who are going to be in the same rating will be rolled straight from boot camp to Fort Meade, Maryland, which is where the Defense Information school is located. And the training for mass communication specialists was another experience where I thought it was a lot of fun. You are there to learn how to be a photojournalist for the military, which you know, I had already come in thinking that that is so cool. Heroes, this very creative writing that I never knew the military had. So it was just very neat for me. And you could be a journalist, you could be a photographer, you could go to an extra schooling and be a graphic designer, you could learn web design. And in this school, we just started to learn the basics of graphic illustration of graphic design. We learned how to be photographers. And at the end of the coursework, we would go on this three- or four-day experience where we as a class of maybe about 25 hiked out to this kind of campground area, and we all had cameras that were issued to us. And during this camping experience, we would be separated in different groups. And there was, you know, one experience where half of us were given paintball guns and the other half of us had our cameras, and we had to document a mock battle. And so, we're going through and we're taking these photos and then after you know, an hour, we would switch places. And then we would get to use the paintball guns and really just kind of letting off steam, but then also learning how to quickly adapt what we had learned over this seven-month training period. And just overall, the overall coursework I thought was a great deal of fun, I mean, it touches to the principles and the basics of being a photojournalist. And then they put it into a fun training environment that you could actually make applicable.
Amanda Huffman 08:43
That sounds really interesting and really cool. And I think that sometimes people don't realize all the different opportunities are in the military. And that sounds like something that could easily transfer into the civilian world. And all that training was invaluable.
Chelsea Mandello 09:00
Oh, yeah, no, absolutely. You're right about that. And actually a few years later, I did end up going back to DMFOs and I had received my illustrator degree or Illustrator certificate. So now I am a certified graphics Illustrator. You know, the knowledge that I gained from that entire program for my career in the military. It really has helped me in the civilian world.
Amanda Huffman 09:24
That's cool. So where did you go after you finished? I would call it tech school. I don't know.
Chelsea Mandello 09:32
The we call it A-school.
Amanda Huffman 09:36
So where did you go after a school
Chelsea Mandello 09:38
So I put in my dream sheet and I think that everyone in the Navy puts those beautiful Navy coastal bases. I think we all had Hawaii on our dream sheets and we all had Spain and we all had, you know, Japan or just something really interesting. And I like many received orders to Norfolk, Virginia. Which Norfolk has the largest naval base in the world. So it's a very large naval population. And that's where my first set of orders were to. And it was for a command called Navy public affairs support element. So this was kind of big Navy's journalist portal. This is where journalists want to tell the overarching story of the Navy. And that was my first billet. That's where I headed to,
Amanda Huffman 10:27
in the bio, it talks about how you went to 13 countries and seven years. So obviously, you deployed and left the United States how quickly from when you got to Norfolk and you got settled. Did you go on your first deployment?
Chelsea Mandello 10:45
Very fast. The turnaround time between getting to my first command to going out on my first deployment was a matter of weeks. I arrived in Norfolk got enough information to get my ideas. The base parking passes, which at the time we were being issued to get an apartment. And then very soon after that I had my first set of orders out of space, and it was to Japan. So, we loaded up myself and squadron of three or four other journalists, and we donned RC bags and we headed off to Japan. And from there I really bounced around from a multitude of different platforms. And it was really supportive ships that were for deployed out of the Seventh Fleet. So we transitioned from large amphibious decks, such as the Bonham Rashard to smaller deck platforms are smaller amphibs to the USS Tortuga, which is a smaller deck, and then from there, I was just really kind of bouncing between ships where I would stay on one ship for Three or four months while I was deployed, then I would go to one of the other ships that was part of that amphibious ready group, which is called an ARG, (amphibious ready group). And I would try to capture the different stories and photos from each perspective ship. That was my first deployments. But I say first, really, with the nature of our job and with pain, maybe public affairs, it wasn't a typical deployment where you would go out with one ship, come back, stay in port for a year or two and then go back out for us. We would come back in for a couple of weeks, and then go right back out with a new ship or a new Squadron and be right back on deployment. So I ended up developing quite a lot of time. Really.
Amanda Huffman 12:51
And so were you ended up being based out of Japan or did you come back to the states for a couple of weeks and then
Chelsea Mandello 12:57
Yes, I came back I ended up In the Seventh Fleet area for I think about eight or nine months. Also, while I was over there going to a sub tender called the Emory S. Land. And that was out of Guam. And then while I was in that area, I had also gone through Malaysia, and just a few other bases and ships over there. So that's how the plan was for me where I would go to a command or a ship, and then I would go to a new one. So, when I did come back from Japan, I stayed for a little bit and then turned right around and went to the Fifth Fleet area of operations, which is the Mediterranean area. That's where you have the Strait of Hormuz, you have Jordan, Oman, you have Greece you have the United Arab Emirates, anything you know, that's in around the Mediterranean, by way the Atlantic.
Amanda Huffman 13:55
Wow. So you saw a lot of the world.
Chelsea Mandello 13:59
I did. I really joke that the military got its money's worth out of me. I really did get to see the world. I mean, I got to travel. And I think that I had one of the best jobs in the military because it was creative. It was fun. It always transition. There were different aspects of it. So I do think that I was very blessed in that situation.
Amanda Huffman 14:23
And do you have any like memories or stories that you got to write about during that time that stick out or?
Chelsea Mandello 14:31
Yes, there's a couple. So with one of the ships, I believe is the Tortuga. We went to a city in Malaysia, and high in the mountains of Malaysia, there was this. Not quite an orphanage, but it was kind of a hospital orphanage where the nuns are nurses there would take in children who were from surrounding villages in Malaysia and these children had been brutalized, several of them were missing limbs. Several of them had been burned, either by just very terrible situations, you know, that had taken place in the villages or conflicts that had happened or parents. So just a lot of background for these kids where they had all faced something very, very traumatic. And this location was, it took us, I think, almost three hours to reach, it was way off the beaten path. And it was a little difficult to find. And you were just driving on these dirt roads for powers and you're going higher and higher and climbing, climbing. And we're on this bus and going higher and higher and we're in kind of this tropical jungle and all of a sudden here's this sanctuary for these children and Yeah, these children are anywhere from infants all the way up to 1011 years old. Dozens of them and we got off this bus. And there were only maybe about 15 of us coming from the ship. And our only job was to just be there just to love them and have fun with them and play games with them. And it was such an amazing community relations experience where these kids even though they had these just tremendously difficult things happen to them. The moment they saw us, thank you just wanted to play and they just wanted to hug us and, and one girl came up and she grabbed my hand and she took me over and they had monkeys there and so she wanted to show me the monkey and she wanted to color and he said ours. Just playing and loving These kids. And it was just such an amazing experience. And I loved writing the story and taking the photos about it called the Healing Hearts. I seem to think but it was just, it was one of those stories in those moments that I will always remember you had such an impact on me.
Amanda Huffman 17:22
Yeah, that sounds like quite the experience. And it's kind of interesting that the Navy, like, had you guys do that as a humanitarian mission just to go and spend time with the kids and play with them. And it's so important, but I think sometimes we think, oh, that's not really that important. But to those kids about it was life changing, just like it was for you
Chelsea Mandello 17:43
It meant the world to them. I mean, you could see it on their faces, that it just, it meant so much to them, and it meant a lot to us.
Amanda Huffman 17:53
Wow, what a good story.
Chelsea Mandello 17:56
Like I said, I'm very fortunate. I had a great That afforded me the ability to see just the variety of aspects that the military participates in. And, you know, a lot of times Americans see or envision the military as just being overseas in some desert area fighting a war. I'm really doing so much more than that. We're doing so many different things, just all around the world. Yes, we are in vulnerable areas, and we are still protecting our nation's freedoms. But we're also still out there trying to help other countries trying to help other citizens. And we're just we're always trying to make such a profound impact on the world. And it's and I'm really glad to get to share that with you.
Amanda Huffman 18:47
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Amanda Huffman 19:19
Let's get back to the show. Yeah, that's really cool. So, you deployed and you traveled all over the world. And it sounds like you had a really cool job. Did you have any struggles while serving in the military?
Chelsea Mandello 19:33
I did. Yes. In 2013 I was on board my seventh ship. And actually, I just crossed over to take the place of someone who had to quickly depart as the squadrons lpo so I was being flown over to take their place and you know as a larger deck ship side from from a smaller deck. And it was a larger amphib. But it was one that I'd been on before I'd been on larger deck amphibs. So, I had already known my way around. And by then I knew my job pretty well as a squadron, we are there not to be a part of ship's company. Our role is to tell the big story of the military and the ship photographers in the ship journalists are there to cover any aspects are taking place on board the ship. So, I had been sent over to be the lead Petty Officer (LPO) of my squadron of photo journalists, which there were only two or three of us. And when I got on board, it was already somewhat of a different situation where somehow for some reason, we had been integrated with the ship's other journalists. And so that was already a bit of a different situation. I quickly noticed that a lot of the service members who were in this division were just immensely unhappy and didn't quite grasp why. So, I get on board, I just, I just started going, I know my job, I know what I'm supposed to do. And so, I just get there and immediately start finding stories to write finding photos to take. And I put myself to work. And shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the lead Chief Petty Officer of the division. And it was a chairman who, unfortunately did not strike the professional chords that you would hope for. He was an individual who had a very volatile temperament. He would come into the division, he would throw laptops on the ground, he would throw tuna dollar headphones into the ground, I mean, he would just come in screaming and ranting and raving at this division, which there were about 10 of us and I was the second oldest person. So, a lot of the individuals that were in there, or kids, I mean essentially didn't know they were over 18. They were 18 and 19. But this was their first deployment. And this was the first experience to the military. And I just remember being so shocked that here was this individual who was acting like this. And you would just go into his tirade. And it's just a very reactionary individual. And so I started documenting when these outbursts would happen, what the situations or and I noticed just a bit of a pattern where he would just place blame on these sailors. He would have cleaning as punishment or you would have them staying, you know, when you leave to in the office, and really after seeing all Things that he was doing. It no longer surprised me Why? None of the journalists that were there wouldn't do their job. I mean, they come to work. They were stressed. One of the individuals told me that majority of the office was presence. Just a very, very stressful situation. So, I ended up documenting everything and I took it to my officer, my Squadron officer, which remember again, normally we shouldn't even be in that office normally would be separate from that office would be there telling a big story. Somehow chief had negotiator worked it out the obstetrician, he wouldn't be in charge of us. He would work for him to write the company and ship stories and photos. But so, I wouldn't the officer of my Squadron because in my eyes that was in charge of us was my Squadron. The squadron officer Not ship's company. So I took this tie off, Sir, this is what is going on. Here's a record. Everything that I've collected, I really put them separated from this and he was very polite. He said, I understand this. I've heard of that. Thank you so much. And I left that thinking all as well. And next thing I know, the chief calling me into his office because our Squadron officer had gone to him to let him know. So I get called in the chief's office and just absolutely he you know, just threw me into the wall. Not literally, but,
Amanda Huffman 24:49
Chelsea Mandello 24:49
it just tore me pieces. So, I stuck myself. I said start acting this way. This is not professional environment. I think this is great and He let me go. And over the next couple of weeks, it was more of the same and really nothing had changed. So I continue to document that and write everything down. And this time when I went back to my officer, I brought someone with me, I brought one of the junior sailors who, again, this was their first deployment. I had tried to tell them this. Like this is not how leadership should be. And I brought them with me, but when the time came, too afraid to say anything, I ended up asking if they could not speak to the officer because they just wanted to get through deployment and put on them. And you know, I couldn't fault them for that. At the time, I tried so hard just to convince them to fight by then, you know, they've been on the ship way longer than me. And the fight was kind of already so I Couldn't force them to do anything along those lines. So I went into the office for myself, Sir, this is still taking place. This is what's happened in the most recent events. This is how this individual acted. And again, he sent me right back down to the chief. So it was just this mindset. I quickly learned that maybe I can't trust my Squadron officer maybe doesn't have our best interests in mind. So, I was still willing to fight. I was still willing to try and fix this situation, or scrapped and I ended up going to see someone from the ship and went to I believe they were Senior Chief onboard the ship but they were someone that was supposed to be there to help you. Port something needed to fix something some wrong So I went to this individual and I again brought all my records. I said, Hi, I'm part of the squadron. This is what's been happening the past couple of months that I've seen. And I lay everything out. And after I put all of the information out there, this person leans back. He says, you know, this Chief, he's on his way out, he's going to be leaving. This is his last deployment. So how about we just get through the deployment, and then you’re not part of a squadron anyways, you're not really going to be a part of the ship. You're going to get to leave soon anyways. So why don't you just put it behind you and just let me know anytime things happen. And I remember giving us and just feeling the ultimate defeat as I had this image, the military as professional environment where if you worked hard, and you did the right things, in your job and in your career, you were there to uphold American standards and just to create this environment, and that if there was any wrongdoing, there were measures that would be taken in good would win. And yet I loved this office and it was like my last-ditch effort. And it seemed as though no one cared. No one knew level had not just my back, but no one cared about the junior sailors who were in that office who were being tormented. I mean, they hated their life. They hated being there, and no one was looking out for them. And I felt like I had tried so hard to bring this to light, and yet no one cared. And so, I really hit such a low point of just, I didn't know what to do. And I remember going into end room, which is that's exactly what it is a small room. We're it's like an empty room that isn't really utilized. And just going in there and sobbing, because I didn't know what to do. He was a moment that I really kind of gave up on. And it's kind of interesting how things work out because it was around that exact same time that I had. I received the care package from a mom that ultimately led to me starting this company, but just the motions of going for me at that time was made life so hard. And I was in the office the next day after I tried my last ditch and feeling completely defeated. And the chief comes in and he looks at me and he says, I need to have this graphic illustration done and that was something he would do where he would come in to the office, pull someone out and he would want something right away immediately, no matter what you were doing, you had to drop it throws a photo of storage right away. And then if you couldn't get it in time, if the timeline wasn't able to be met, then you knew you were gonna have to face him later. And it's just very stressful situation. But at that time, I, gosh, I just did not care. I was finished with the military at that moment. And he comes rolling in. I need this illustration and I need it now. And I I essentially told him that I wasn't going to do it. He goes storming out of the office and Sue Varian and this was a very against my character. I mean, that's thing I had always been such a hard charger to that point. I would do my own thing. I would write my own stories. I was a self-starter. And this was completely against my character. This was against nature. And the next day cleaning stations, the officer of my Squadron who I hadn't seen since the last time I tried to report the chief, he comes in, he says, hey, I've heard you, you've had a bit of trouble. We're going to move you to the library. And you don't have to work for the rest of the deployment. And we still had probably three months left in this deployment. And I was so broken, and I was staring at him and I was thinking, if you have to hide some fun, away and you have to give them, put them in a place where they no longer have to work, you have to know that something is wrong, but you have to know. And it was just it was crazy. I love library. I mean, I I mean, I love working in the library, but Just that entire time period, had such a dramatic shift for me, but in such a weird way, it was also that time that I started my company Troopster as it was the same time period where my morale was so low, and I just wanted to try and take care of people. I wanted to take care of these kids that I knew were having a hard time. I tried everything and I couldn't do it. I wasn't succeeding. And I got this care pack from my mom and heart murmur. I was so low and I opened this pack up and everything and it had gone bad. I mean, she sent me like chocolates and she sent me baked goods. And that was like my final straw. I burst into tears because it just felt like absolutely everything the universe was against me. And it was then a week or so later that library. It was the final straw that made me want to take it And so I was getting this care pack and was because of these events that I just I decided, you know, I'm going to I'm going to do something because I have to do something, I have to engage somehow. And if I can't win on the ship, I'm going to do something else. And so that was when I ended up starting Troopster was because I didn't want anyone to ever feel the way that I was feeling. I wanted someone like my mom to be able to send a care package or something like, like someone else's home, to be able to get that pack out. And for an individual who might be having a difficult time as I was to get that care pack and everything would be great. And since you know, the next couple of months, I wasn't going to be working on normal things. I start daydreaming about Okay, well, how can I do this? How could? How could this take place? How could this happen? And a couple years later A stroke of luck and some more daydreaming. I launched Troopster.
Amanda Huffman 34:06
That's crazy. And I think when you're talking about the care packages, and like you were really down, and when people think about care packages, they think, oh, and then everything, you know gets uplifted because you get a care package and everything is great. But like you said, everything was so older, rotten, it just you had to throw it all away, and then you feel even more conflicted and upset.
Chelsea Mandello 34:34
Yeah, it was just, you know, and that happens a lot more often than you think. And it's tough to put a care package together. Yeah, it's very stressful. So those who are back home takes a lot of time you have to work around, you have to grab the items and a lot of times you lump it in with your usual shopping. And sometimes you just don't think about the items you put in sometimes. I mean, obviously sometimes there's a lot of thought that goes into it. But they're not necessarily items that will make the trip. And then you have to find a post office and then you get to the shipping, which is always going to be really expensive. And then there's customs forms. So even the shipping process and making and sending me a care pack can be stressful. And, you know, I knew that when I got that pack, and I didn't want to tell my mom, that it wasn't anything other than great.
Amanda Huffman 35:25
Yeah, because, yeah, I've helped friends and I've sent parent packages and you're right. Even deploying, I would still be like, Okay, what should I send in the care package? Because you like, aren't in their situation and then you're like, want to get the right things and then it is a lot of work. You have to get all the things you have to get the box you have to do the post office in. The forms are not easy. So yeah, all those things
Chelsea Mandello 35:52
It is really hard. This was my solution. This was me trying to impact what I do. Could trying to make any situation that I thought should be easier. I mean, this was my way of taking action.
Amanda Huffman 36:07
So what exactly did you do? When did you launch Troopster? And then what happened?
Chelsea Mandello 36:14
Yes. So I actually I waited until I got to shore duty. So you rotate from sea to shore in the Navy. And I waited until I knew I wasn't gonna be deploying out on a ship. Because I thought, if I'm going to be fulfilling these packs, I need to make sure that I have some stability that I'm here all the time that I can actually do this. So for two years, from 2013 to 2015, that was when I was really planning everything. I had never even considered starting a business. Right. But like that never occurred to me at all. When I was in college. I tell you, if it had, I would have paid so much more attention to my business classes like that would have happened. I would have paid more attention to my economics teacher to everything that I ever class that I took on the business program. But I hadn't. So I was figuring this out as I went. So I collected, you know, starting a business for dummies book. And I printed off, I couldn't even tell you how many pages from the Small Business Administration, and just those two years was me trying to figure it out, putting together a business plan, just really learning on the go. I would take lunch breaks and over lunch, I would just be reading what is the business license? What kind of entity Do you want to be? Do you want to be an LLC or sole proprietorship? Or should you become a corporation? And I was just trying to learn as much as I absolutely could. This is scary, you know, like it's exciting to daydream about something, but then it's really scary to actually push go and I had started Doing this and I ended up using all of my leave, I took all of my leave, so that I could create the websites that I could start putting products on the website. And when the time came, I had used all of my leave without even realizing it, to start this company that I didn't have enough leave to go home for Thanksgiving. So, I'm on the phone with my mom, and it's Thanksgiving Day. And we're talking and I'm wishing her a happy Thanksgiving. And the conversation just kind of rolls over into Troopster. And I talked to her about an essay, you know, I, oh, I've just spent so much time putting all these things on. I think it's ready. But there's still so many other things that I need to do and it's not perfect. And she said Chelsea, it's never going to be perfect. If you wait for everything to be perfect that time is never going to come and you're never going to launch You might as well just go ahead and push the Launch button. Because what is the worst that could happen? And, you know, I got to thinking about this, okay, okay, I'm gonna do it. Here I go, I'm going to do it. And on the phone with her, I open up my store, and I press launch. So Thanksgiving Day 2015 Troopster officially became live.
Amanda Huffman 39:23
That's cool. And that's, I think that's really important business advice, because it's very true that you can get stuck in the like, pre-launch phase of doing a business and like, Oh, well, this is a right and this is needs to be done and better. And you can just make a list of like 1000 things and never hit that Launch button. And I'm kind of a weird person because I have an action person so I kind of like just do stuff and then I'm like, oh, maybe I should have like slowed down and like, done some research. But even so with the podcast, I tried to like Have a plan. And that kind of got me into a point where it was really hard to hit launch because I was learning and like you said, there's so much to do. And then I was like, I didn't get this done. But yeah, you have to just start and then of course, correct the homeboy. So you hit launch on Thanksgiving. 2015. And let's fast forward to where you are now.
Chelsea Mandello 40:26
Yeah, so I've learned a lot. And you know, I'm still learning. We celebrated our fourth birthday in November. And we have sent more than 7000 care packages to troops deployed across more than 20 countries. We have helped thousands of military families, military spouses, moms and dads to send personalized care packages. And then we also do donation packages. So, it's just grown immensely. I mean, I just I love my job every day to help Someone sent a personalized pack to someone who's deployed overseas. And just sometimes I can't believe how far it's come.
Amanda Huffman 41:08
Yeah, it's been really cool to watch. And I got to make a pack at the last military influencer conference. And it was really cool, because it was so easy to do, because you had everything set up for us. And it was just nice to be able to give back in such an easy way.
Chelsea Mandello 41:23
Yeah, thank you. Yeah, that was fun. And that's something we try to do. We work with, you know, organizations, conferences, businesses all across the nation, and we essentially take care of everything. So if businesses want to sponsor 200 care packages, then we will bring content item who will bring the care packages, we will take care of shipping, we will do everything and we will just show up with all of the items so that you can have that hands on experience and impact morale if someone deployed some glad you had fun. I did.
Amanda Huffman 41:59
Yeah, and What if I was someone whose spouse was deployed or my child was deployed? What would be the West best way for me to get in contact with you and send a care package of my own to my own loved one?
Chelsea Mandello 42:14
Yeah, so the best way to do that is to visit our site, which is www.Troopster.org. And from there, they can pick from more than 60 pre made kits. We have them broken down into branches, they can grab a pack that they like, and they can personalize it from there. They can add photos, write a letter, they can even add more items to it. Then they just put in the address shipping is free, and they just press Send. And then we actually have a staff who are veterans who have been deployed, know what it's like, who do all the running, round packing and shipping for you.
Amanda Huffman 42:59
That's really Awesome and such a great resource that people, it's not surprising that it's taking off because it's a needed resource. So, it's awesome that you're doing that. I have one last question, because I asked everyone this question, but what would you tell girls who are considering joining the military?
Chelsea Mandello 43:18
I think so for women, if you're considering joining the military, I think that you need to try and seek out a mentor first seek someone who is a female, who has been in the military who can help guide you. Because I think that if you're coming in and you're just picking a job, and you're going in kind of blindly, it can lead to a lot of issues. But if you have a mentor who can help guide you and say, Okay, what are your interests? Do you have a degree in this field? Are you afraid of swimming? They can help you really decide. Pick a branch, try to find a job, compete or advocate something times when you go in and you're at the recruiting station, your other careers, if you don't know, then he can just lead to so many issues later on down the road just because you didn't know. So, if you have that advocate, you have that mentor, they can really help to guide you. They can be there with you, the recruiting station, they can talk shop, as it would be to the recruiter and your advocate saying, No, this is what they want to do. This is what would really help. And I think that that's something that I would recommend to girls who want to join the military.
Amanda Huffman 44:34
It's funny that you say that because that is like my big passion project that I'm working on right now, because I mentored an airman and I didn't realize how important it was to help her because she actually got some bad advice from a recruiter that will not bad advice. He didn't do paperwork that he should have done, but I didn't even know that paperwork needed to be done. And so I'm currently working on a book called The girls go to the military. And I'm hoping that I can use this resource to help women decide like what branch or they should join officer enlisted. All the questions. I keep making a list of more questions that needs to be added to it. But I also really think not only for women who are joining, but women veterans who are no longer in, it would be a great way to tie the two communities together. So, if you're listening, and you're looking to join the military, and you want a mentor, just email me, and I'll put all my links in the show notes if you want to contact me. And that way we can partner people together because I think for me, it's been really healing to help this young Airman and I've learned a lot and I've seen how much she needs help, because she doesn't know what she doesn't know. And even I don't know some of the answers to her questions. I think that's great advice. I agree. I think everyone and that's also why the podcast exists because then hear from different women and their experiences and their stories and the different branches. So, yeah, I think that's great. Thank you so much for telling your story telling about your time in the military telling about what you're doing today. I really have enjoyed listening to you share your experience, and just learning more about what you're doing.
Chelsea Mandello 46:21
Yeah, Amanda, thank you, again, so much for having me on. I think that's awesome what you're doing with the book, that's really something that's needed. And truly, if there's any way that I can help you spread the word for that. I would love to be an advocate for you. So that that's just wonderful that you're doing that.
Amanda Huffman 46:38
I'll keep you in the loop for sure. Thank you. Thank you for listening to this episode of women of the military. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of the amazing stories I have with women who have served in our military. Did you love the show? Don't forget to leave a review. Finally, if you are a woman man who has served or is currently serving in the military, please email me at airman to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can set you up to be on a future episode of women of the military. Check us out on Patreon.com/womanofthemilitary to support the work Woman of the Military is doing!