New Powerhouse Team Member

Anne Jeanene (AJ) McCoy Bengoa loves design, data, and working with a team of positive people. She is excited to begin a new journey of learning and growth with Powerhouse Planning, contributing however she can.

AJ grew up in Miami, Florida and moved to Washington, D.C. upon the completion of her undergraduate degrees. There she worked full time for a small business government contractor and pursued her first master’s degree. She then moved to Florida’s Space Coast to pursue post-graduate opportunities. There she met her amazing husband, a real-life rocket scientist who works for NASA, and they have been married for over 15 years. She has been busy raising their two kids, working part-time, and volunteering while enjoying the beauties and wonders of Central Florida’s waterways and all the joys of living where rocket launches may be common occurrences, yet are a marvel every time.

Never one to be idle, up until she had kids, AJ was almost always managing at least two jobs and volunteering on the side. Her life and career have been guided by her heart more than any goal, and she has constantly tried to embrace the many amazing opportunities that have come her way. Therefore, her experience is peppered with all sorts of jobs: graphic designer, teacher’s assistant, research scientist, dive master, and GIS specialist, just to name a few. Her two primary focuses have been science and design, but other interests and skills have managed to employ her as well during her life. These broad and diverse interests keep her happily engaged and learning all the time, as the pace of the career landscape is constantly changing.

AJ’s most recent degree was a master’s earned from the Geographic Information Science & Technology program at the University of Southern California. AJ has three additional degrees from the University of Miami and the University of Maryland, in marine science, biology, and graphic design, which allude to the dual careers she has maintained throughout her life. Over the years, she has worked for NOAA, University of Central Florida, NOVA Research Company, National Park Service, Disney’s Animal Programs, University of Miami, Brevard County Public Schools, the Florida Department of Health, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. She has been involved in all manner of graphic design; data collection, management, analysis, display, and distribution; as well as every aspect of publication, from literature reviews, writing, editing, and printing, with a particular focus on the visualization of data.

AJ loves camping, crafting, and any activity that involves water. AJ’s favorite place in the world is floating in an inner tube down one of Florida’s many spring-fed rivers, and scuba diving anywhere is a very close second.

2021-08-26T18:57:44+00:00August 26th, 2021|

A Few of Our Favorite Things

Have you ever checked out the Resource Library on our website? It is full of helpful, free resources that cover everything from small business start-up to coloring pages for your kiddos. We’re dedicated to providing resources that provide the most up-to-date information to help you make the best decisions possible for your careers, your life transitions, and more. Here are a few of our favorite resources.

Small Business Resources

We’re all about small businesses here at Powerhouse (being one ourselves, after all). Having been through the entire process herself, Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch wants to do her part to make the process easier to navigate for others. So, if you’ve ever even thought about opening your own small business, you should check out these resources.

  • Starting Your Small Business is exactly what it sounds like—a resource that will take you through the initial steps necessary to get your small business off the ground.
  • Business Plan takes you through the process of setting up your own business plan to ensure you stay on the track you want.
  • Branding Your Business introduces you to the basics of marketing your business.
  • In-Office Team Building and Virtual Team Building are resources designed to help you build and maintain a strong, dynamic team whether your business have in-person employees or virtual ones.
  • Business Refresh, Goal Brainstorming, and Spring-Clean Your Business will help you redirect your goals and discover what’s working and what needs a little tweak.
  • Direct Sales is for all of you out there who are thinking of starting your own direct sales business. This resource even has tips for those of you who have been doing direct sales for a while.
  • Need to attend or plan a conference? Check out our Conference Attendance Checklist to ensure you don’t forget or miss a thing.
  • Nonprofits, do you need to start writing grants? Our Grant Library and Checklist for Grant Writers are exactly where you need to start.

Bonus resource: We even have a handy calendar of notable American holidays and military dates to help you plan your year.

Career and Life Transitions Resources

We all experience those times in life where we’re preparing for, or in the midst of, a life change. Whether it’s a career change, a personal change, or an organic transition from one phase of life to another, we’ve got you covered. Most of us at Powerhouse are veterans in the transition game, and we want to help others by providing some resources based on our “lessons learned.”

  • Moving soon? Check out our Move Binder. This handy resource will help you keep track of every part of the moving process. From deciding how and what to pack, to scheduling movers, to making travel plans, the Move Binder keeps you organized during a traditionally chaotic time.
  • Do you find yourself faced with becoming a military spouse? Don’t worry, a lot of us did too once upon a time. Our Transitioning to Military Spouse Life resource will demystify the transition period and help you gain an understanding of an utterly unique, and rewarding, life change.
  • Retiring soon? Check out our Transitioning Toward Retirement Designed specifically with our active-duty military families in mind, it helps you keep sane during a stressful time. With checklists to guide you through the process, beginning one to two years preretirement through to the “other side,” this resource gives you timelines and tips for dealing with all aspects of the process.
  • Finally, no matter what your career stage, we’ve got resources to help you find the right job for you. From resume tips and samples to interview checklists, we’ve got the resources to help ease the process, whether you’re changing careers, reentering the workforce after an extended leave of absence, or transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce.

Bonus resource: Want to do something simple to support our military families that doesn’t cost a thing? We have a 30-day calendar of ways to pray for those families who sacrifice so much for all of us.

20 Tips Series

In 2020, we created a “20 Tips” resource every month that focused on a different aspect of small businesses. These are some of our favorites:

  • “20 Tips for Time Management”
  • “20 Tools & Resources for the Small Business”
  • “20 Ways to Measure Business Growth”
  • “20 Tips for Freelance Success”
  • “20 Tips to Have Fun at Work”

Find them all here, including one particularly relevant to today, “20 Tips for Leading Your Business Through Challenging Times.”

Military Kid Resources

Finally, our military kids are some of America’s smallest heroes. In honor of the sacrifices they make, we have created a gallery of Military Kid Hero coloring pages. Perfect for those long hours in the car during PCS season, or just to keep your youngest “office assistants” busy and productive while you check out our other resources, download and print out all these coloring pages.

Newsletter and Blog

Powerhouse produces a quarterly newsletter delivered right to your inbox. Full of stories for inspiration, business tips, and tons more, this is one of our favorite resources. Sign up to receive our newsletter and check out past editions anytime. In addition, we are always updating our website’s blog, which is full of tips, additional resources, and lots of information on the Powerhouse team.


We’d love to hear what resources have been most helpful to you. Please contact us, and always remember, the resources are here for you to use whenever and as often as you’d like (or share with a friend). But if you find yourself in need of more help, Powerhouse’s team of freelancers stands ready to assist you.


2021-08-08T21:47:50+00:00August 9th, 2021|

The Importance of Brand Consistency


If you’ve ever done a branding exercise—designed a logo or rebuilt a website, for example—then you’ve already begun to embrace the idea that branding is an important part of business. And yes, the visuals of your brand, like logos and websites, are important. But your brand is much bigger than the aesthetics.

Your brand is everything that a customer or perspective customer encounters when it comes to your business. It’s your mission statement, your values, your written communications, your commercials or print ads, and, of course, it’s your products and services.

If your brand were a person, it would be the equivalent of its personality. There’s even a term for this: your brand identity. And the people interacting with your brand make purchasing decisions based upon emotion, not logic (even when they think they’re being super smart about “doing their research”).

Your job as the creator or manager of your brand is to make sure the emotions your customers feel include sentiments like familiarity—they recognize and know your brand—and dependability—they feel like they can rely on you to be the company you present yourself as. If you don’t care about your “brand identity,” if you think that’s a bunch of fluff that has no substance, you send that message too (one that’s better for your competitors).

So, what’s the secret to sustaining a brand that’s easily recognizable and trustworthy? Brand consistency is everything. And yes, you can hire very expensive consultants or teams to support this effort, but if the budget’s not there for the pros, you can also still be mindful about brand consistency and reap the rewards.

Get team buy-in. Your employees should be experts on not just your products/services, but also the story your company tells—its value proposition. This is true whether their job description includes sales or not. When everyone working for you is clear on your “why” and “how,” they’re better able to support your brand consistency efforts from within.

Refer to the manual. Create and enforce brand guidelines that are to be used by everyone involved with the business. These are the colors and fonts we use. Here’s our origin story. This is the tone/voice we write with. These are our target demographics. Mapping out the visuals and storytelling choices you’re committed to as a business in a set of brand guidelines means everyone has and can easily follow the same set of rules. That translates to greater brand consistency.

Pro Tip: Your brand guidelines can be an informal document or a beautifully crafted packet. Either way, they are (should be) a living, breathing thing that is regularly revisited, reviewed, and updated as needed. If there are changes made as you do business (e.g., new product offerings, new graphics, etc.), make sure those are reflected in your brand guidelines and then implemented across all platforms and branding assets.

Promote accessibility. The best way to get everyone on the same page—your best chance of having consistent brand promise and delivery—is to make sure your branding assets, including your brand guidelines, all live in the same place and can be accessed by the content writers, web designers, and marketing specialists who need them. This way, everyone is pulling from the same agreed-upon sources. And it’s an easy way to avoid version confusion too. This folder/file/drive should always house the most recent versions of any branding collateral you use.

Pro Tip: Worried about losing or deleting the older versions of things? Make a sub-folder in your branding assets collection for archived materials, and you can easily go back and reference what has been used in the past.

Whether you dive in and fully commit to revisiting and revamping all the elements that together make up your brand identity or decide just to dip your toe in, like with one of the suggestions above, it’s worth the effort. Your customers and potential customers will get to know you better when what they see is consistent in all the places you interact with them (social media, website, etc.). As that happens, you’ll show yourself to be familiar, reliable, and trustworthy. And ultimately, that will allow you to share more of your special brand of value with the world.

2021-08-01T21:06:08+00:00August 1st, 2021|

Spotlight on Powerhouse’s Sarah Zerr

While Powerhouse Planning (Powerhouse) may be an entirely virtual company, we still manage to find ways to connect with each other, ensuring we know each other and work well together. We may be spread out across the country, but we were doing remote teamwork well before it became a thing this past year. It’s part of what makes the Powerhouse Team Solution so successful. So, imagine our excitement three months ago when we were introduced to our newest team member, Sarah Zerr.

Sarah, like so many of us at Powerhouse, is a military spouse. She’s also a Marine Corps veteran and helicopter pilot. After hanging up her active-duty hat, Sarah decided there was no better way to start her civilian career than as one of Powerhouse’s stellar project managers. In her first few months, Sarah has slowly been getting acclimated to the way we do things and taking more of an observer’s role while she learns the specific processes and structure here. Her “outsider’s view” of things has already been making an impact, one we’ll be seeing much more of soon.

Initially, Powerhouse drew Sarah in because we’re primarily made up of military spouses and veterans. “Having been both, I know and appreciate what type of person it takes to serve in those ways,” Sarah says. Being fortunate enough to call our founder and president, Jessica Bertsch, a friend was icing on the cake. “I knew any organization [Jessica] was a part of, especially one she founded, was going to be a great place to work and spend my time,” Sarah says. With only three months under her belt, Sarah says she’s already found a work home that speaks to her, one that allows her to fit work in at her own pace. She can have a heavy workday one day and the next shift to a light one to focus more on her young family. “At my current stage of life with two young kids (and now a puppy), work is what actually provides balance,” she says. Finding a company that not only understands but also actively promotes that work/life balance for its employees is key.

Speaking of that young family, Sarah and her husband are the proud parents of Ellie, 6, and Jack, 4, as well as a teething, four-month-old goldendoodle puppy. “He’s fun and cute, but it’s a tad hectic with a new puppy and little kids who aren’t the most trained themselves,” she says. Having recently transitioned from her Marine Corps career flying CH-46E helicopters is a change for Sarah and her husband who were married shortly after their graduation from the Naval Academy. Her husband, a Marine Corps major, recently made a minor career change himself, when he transitioned to the Marine Corps Reserve. Having a little more stability in their home life is something the family is looking forward to enjoying, along with experiencing all those daily little moments.

“I love photography,” Sarah says, “It’s a bit of a creative release, but has been awesome capturing so many memories.” She started her amateur photography hobby when her oldest was born and quickly learned that having the ability to capture those everyday moments spoke to her. She says, “I love looking back at older pictures of the same activity and seeing the obvious changes, even in a photo that is taken just months apart.” Sarah says that her favorite photos aren’t the posed ones, but the ones that record those “tiny details [that] make me stop and appreciate them more.”

That passion for capturing still images is something Sarah also uses to speak for her. In fact, when asked to describe herself she replied, “I’m someone who hates talking about myself. I’ll just give you extra photos for the blog article instead.” What those photos show is a woman dedicated to her family and one who truly enjoys spending time with her favorite people. Being a mom, Sarah says, is satisfying,  and she hopes one day she’ll look back on these years as one of her greatest accomplishments. But she also finds “managing an idea that turns in to awesome physical content is a great small win that I directly see and feel good about.”

Which is why Powerhouse is such a good fit for her, and it speaks to the best advice she can give: “Decide what it is you need or are missing. For me, I needed something to be able to point to and say, ‘I helped achieve that.’ Once you identify what you truly are missing to feel fulfilled, it may take some sacrifices in other areas to achieve it, but it is worth it.” For Sarah, that was why Powerhouse was such a perfect fit. It allows her to be involved in content creation, taking a client from that initial idea all the way through to the “beautifully developed product.” That she can also work with nonprofit clients is a bonus. “Helping the helpers also has some pretty high job satisfaction,” is the way Sarah puts it.

It’s clear Sarah will positively contribute to Powerhouse over the years, and she’s excited for the roll out of our new website. While not quite ready for prime time yet, the website is one of Sarah’s first projects with Powerhouse, and she can’t wait for everyone to see what we’ve come up with. “At Powerhouse, we have helped with the branding of a lot of companies. I think our new website and content brings our branding up to the outstanding level we offer our clients,” she says.

We couldn’t leave without asking Sarah to tell us something about herself not many people might know, especially her new colleagues at Powerhouse. She says, “Although I was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, I actually hate roller coasters and most amusement park rides. I am not looking forward to when my kids outgrow the kiddie rides and I have to go on the big roller coasters with them.” Don’t worry, Sarah, now that you’re with Powerhouse, some of us will volunteer to go on those rides with your amazing children so you can keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Which is honestly one of the things we love about you.

2021-07-08T02:28:20+00:00August 1st, 2021|
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