We’re thrilled to launch “Sub Spouse Small Businesses,” a new series where we spotlight (you guessed it) submarine spouse small businesses! These features will highlight spouses who own or operate their own small shops around the world, from photographers and candle-makers to Etsy shop owners and hair stylists. We love to showcase these creative, ambitious and passionate spouses who inspire us all. Whether they inspire you to pursue your own side hussle or support a fellow spouse, thanks for reading! Do you want to nominate a small business? Drop us a line.
For our inaugural post, we are so excited to spotlight one of my personal favorite small businesses, Modern Rosie! I was lucky enough to get to know Becky Litton during my husband’s first sea tour. Not only does she create incredible artwork celebrating the submarine lifestyle, but she also has created a supportive community through her private Modern Rosie Subs Facebook group. Through her designs, Becky pokes fun at the more difficult aspects of the submarine life (check out her PCS collection) and honors sailors and their families ( Submarine Hymn and Submarine Wife Challenge Coin). Becky also does regular collaborations with fellow submarine spouse artists and donates her art to the Dolphin Auction.
It was an absolute pleasure to interview Becky and learn even more about her business:
Name, Business: Becky Litton, owner, Modern Rosie
Hometown: College Station, TX
Current Duty Station: Pearl Harbor, HI
Q: Tell us about your business.
I like to say that Modern Rosie is an independent artist lead company that promotes a feeling of community, empowerment and independence for military spouses through inspiring design and meaningful art. But, that’s just a fancy way of saying I draw cute submarines and put them on cool stuff for awesome submarine wives to enjoy.
We sell prints, stationery, accessories, challenge coins and a variety of home decor items featuring my illustrations and the artwork of guest artists from our main website. We also sell blank journals, pins, stationery and a selection of other items on Amazon. You’ll find fabric featuring our artwork over at Spoonflower, and we still have a thriving Etsy shop as well. Our target audience is the military spouse, and our goal is to celebrate the life we have made as military families.
Q: What made you choose this type of business?
I started out working as a freelance illustrator fresh out of grad school (and newly married to my sailor.) I drew logos late at night while my husband worked swings in nuke school. I designed websites for clients while living in the Groton Chalet during SOBC. And, I did hundreds of quick and dirty diagrams, logos, graphics, and screen printing designs while my sailor was at sea on his first submarine here in Pearl. It was good work, and great for a highly mobile military spouse, but it was always work for someone else. I feel like my company is one of my children. I might have cooked her up, but she’s got a spirit all her own. To be honest, I really just wanted something pretty to put on my walls next to my husband’s plaques, photos of submarines and framed certificates. By the time he was a department head It was very clear that although there was tons of submarine merchandise out there, none of it was really for me.
Q: What motivated you to start your business?
Modern Rosie really began with a few painted wood signs in Kings Bay, GA. I hand painted things like the Submariner’s Prayer, dolphin insignia and world maps onto wood and sold them to an ever eager bunch of future Rosies. I made reproductions of some of them and sold them as art prints. Etsy was the latest thing back then and the best thing ever for a crafty mama. At about this same time we found out that my Great-grandmother had worked as a welder at a factory during WWII. I found the correlation between the independent, strong women of that era and modern day military wives was inspiring. And so, I dubbed us all Modern Rosies.
As Modern Rosie grew out of being a hobby and into a real business, I realized that working for myself and catering to customers in our community was WAY more fun than working for clients and having deadlines. From there Modern Rosie grew with the technology. Print on demand, digital downloads, integrated e-commerce websites and fulfillment centers have helped us grow our inventory, and platforms like Spoonflower and Amazon help us reach a wider audience than ever. Although our submarine sisters will always be our favorite Rosies.
Q: How do you manage the work/life balance as a submarine spouse?
Balance is a unicorn. She’s pretty, but she’s not real. I always picture non-military small business owners running their companies as if they are on a treadmill at a steady speed. But for us it seems like life is always throwing deployments, PCS’s, order changes, and other surprises our way. Just when I think I’m jogging in my zone my treadmill goes full speed up hill, and right before it throws me off, it collapses down to an agonizing snail’s pace… before it explodes into a fiery ball of chaos from which only my fleet of support sisters and some wine (in a cute submarine wine tumbler) can save me.
The truth is that something you’re carrying is always going to be heavier than everything else. Sometimes your website shipping calculator goes bonkers and you spend a week of late nights working to get it straight. Sometimes your husband’s command needs you to be a project manager, a babysitter, a halfway box hoarder and a therapist all at the same time, and all work stops. Sometimes you have to have your friends help you carry the heavy stuff. Real work/life balance in our community is only balanced over time, and it looks like changing your work habits and expectations with the season (sea/shore duty), accepting change with a positive attitude, and rallying your support system when you them.
Q: Any advice for fellow submarine spouses who want to start their own business?
First, just start. Do it now. Stop nuking it out. Don’t let the fear of procedures, paperwork and moving keep you from starting. Getting all of that in line is part of it, but it shouldn’t be the FIRST thing you do. Start the business (write the blog, take the photos, sell the wine, draw the cute submarines!) the rest will follow. Second, don’t be afraid of the copycats. If you get some, then congratulations, you’re on the right track. Support others in our community that are doing the same thing you are. There is room for everyone, and lifting each other up and learning from others will only make your company more valuable.
Q: Favorite thing(s) to do in your current duty station?
My absolute favorite thing to do in Hawaii is to get up before dawn and strap both my kids to my back before hiking up to the Pill Boxes with my dog, followed by an invigorating kayak trip to the Mokes before we settle in to start our training for the Honolulu Marathon. I am so kidding, did I fool anyone? My dog would never make it halfway to the Pill Boxes. Those are all great things, but my real favorite thing is to have brunch in Waikiki. I adore brunch. The Moana, the Royal Hawaiian and the Halekulani are my favorite places. Give me a mimosa by the ocean, and I’m a happy girl (I feel like there’s a t-shirt design in there somewhere.) But, since we can’t do that right now, my new favorite thing is to sit on my front porch in our little Navy housing neighborhood and watch the sunset over the tiny strip of the harbor and mountains that we can see from our front yard. There’s nothing like the island breeze in the evening and sharing a glass of wine with good friends.
Q: Where can we support and learn more about your business?
You’ll find all things Modern Rosie at modernrosie.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram @modernrosie and we’d love for you to join us in our FB group Modern Rosie Subs at where you’ll find a permanent discount code you can use anytime.
Interested in nominating a small business for our series? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.