Lindsey Wheeler is the founder and curator of the online boutique “Love Lindsey” and nonprofit organization “Operation Artemis.” She’s on a mission to bring restoration to women’s identities and Gold Star families (immediate family members of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict). Her awe-inspiring story of how a military wife used her fear for her husband’s life as a drive to build a business that empowers thousands of women across the country. She is painting the broad strokes of what being a mother and entrepreneur can look like.
Lindsey Wheeler: I come from an entrepreneurial background. My dad and my grandfather trained thoroughbred race horses. My dad started when he was 18 and he grew to be a very successful thoroughbred racehorse trainer in California. I saw hard work and dedication growing up; I definitely have it in my blood.
When I started, I didn’t think entrepreneurship was the path for me. When somebody asked me what I wanted to do, I said I was going to take Diane Sawyer’s job; that’s how confident I was. I got to grow up in this idyllic, small town community. Everybody kind of laughed at me, this small town girl from Idaho. I went to college, became a TV reporter and absolutely loved that job.
I married an Army Special Forces soldier, an elite soldier. We met through circumstances that were really tragic. My boyfriend and best friend from high school was killed in Iraq in 2004. He was one of my husband’s best friends. We met through losing someone that we love so very much.
I was successful in my job, and I loved what I did. I never thought that I would stop being a TV reporter. But we got married and started to have children. My husband was gone most of the time deploying and that was the driving force to know I wanted to be home with my kids.
As my husband was getting ready to deploy, I had a baby that was six weeks old and a two-year-old. I started thinking it’s not a place that you would normally be as a new mom and wife. The idea of starting my own boutique came out of that need for something that’s mine. So in 2014, I started a little boutique business out of my guest bedroom.
I loved clothes from the get-go and I thought everybody could throw some random things together and make it work. I found out that was a gift I could give to people. I could help people put things together for them to feel good about themselves. I wanted to have connections with people in this world of online shopping, instant gratification and throwaway fashion. I looked for any connection that I could have with them. If that was buying a piece of clothing and jumping on Facebook Live, shopping with me in person even if they didn’t buy anything, I wanted them to walk away feeling uplifted and loved. That’s where my boutique, ”Love Lindsey,” came from.
Lindsey Wheeler: It was so hard and I think it’s not talked about enough. Military wives are not given enough credit for it when in fact they are serving just as much. Your brain goes to these places of thinking the worst. You’re afraid to open the door because when there’s a knock at your door, you wonder if someone’s going to be standing there in uniform. Then your world would be over. I have hugged so many FedEx Delivery drivers and UPS men in tears because it wasn’t a chaplain. I’m so grateful that my husband came home because not everyone is as lucky as we are.
That drive came from knowing I could dream up all the worst-case scenarios, or I could do something. For the next six months, he’s going to be gone, I could have something amazing to show for it. That was the catalyst to begin growing my business.
I chose the path of trying to do something and focusing on the things that I could control. I couldn’t control my husband getting shot at or roadside bombs in war. But I could control where I put my effort and my energy. I put it into something that I thought could make a difference for our family and for others, and it did.
We started “Operation Artemis” to give back to Gold Star families and to wounded soldiers because that could have been my husband. Now we’re working a lot with veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Our charity is evolving as we see a need.
LOVE LINDSEY BOUTIQUE
Lindsey Wheeler: I want to have an impact. As we’ve expanded and added accessories, shoes and I launched a beauty line, we want to keep evolving. I feel passionately about community and bringing people together. My dream for the next phase is creating a place where people can come to a retail store, coffee shop and event space. I want it to be this place of community where women feel supported and loved where they are right now.
Lindsey Wheeler: When I hear L.A. STYLE I think of sophistication and inspiration. I love that I can look at what you do at the magazine and know that it’s not just a pretty picture. They’re gorgeous, but there’s meaning behind them. That substance is what really inspires me.
I think fashion is a way to share who you are without saying a word. Being able to take pieces and put them together to find your own personal style is something that I work really hard at. Finding something that speaks to you and is uniquely you, then putting it together. To me, that’s LA. Finding the cutting edge that not everybody is wearing yet and making it your own.
Lindsey Wheeler: “The Second Mountain by David Brooks.” I’m reading it right now and I think it is so powerful. I have all my sticky notes on it. I love “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike. That’s such a great book for business. I also love “Hug Your Customer” by Jack Mitchell. It’s such a great perspective on having connections with people.
MENTORSHIP & FAITH
Lindsey Wheeler: I love Mel Robbins and her high five challenges. She doesn’t know who I am yet, but I am wildly inspired by her.
From the entrepreneurial side of my family, my dad. His drive and work ethic are wildly inspiring. I watched him build something from the ground up. To put in the hard work even when he didn’t feel like the business was working. I learned that from an early age and I still draw on [it] to this day, 41 years later. Even when I feel like the business is not working, I’ve got to keep showing up. Consistency and confidence are the keys to my success.
The third one is faith. At the end of the day, that inspiration comes from God. From knowing I’m not in control, which is hard sometimes, but knowing there’s a bigger reason behind it. I don’t think I would have ever survived losing my boyfriend at 24 had I not had faith. I didn’t have to have the answers of why someone so incredible was taken so soon. Faith is what pushed me to put one foot in front of the other each day and really take advantage of opportunities that come my way. I see each challenge as a gift. Losing my boyfriend is such an inspiration to me because of my faith. He inspires me to live a life that is worthy, because he didn’t get to. If I waste a day feeling sorry for myself or being mad, then I am wasting the gift that was a day that he didn’t get.
Lindsey Wheeler: If it sets your soul on fire, keep doing it. There is no time limit. I’m 41. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet of what I want to do with my life or the impact that I want to have. If you feel like it’s too late, or you’re too old, or you’re not good enough, I want you to challenge that by thinking about what you really want to do. Start today.