Once a year we try to pin down Powerhouse Planning’s founder and president, Jessica Bertsch, and ask her to impart some words of wisdom, Powerhouse history, etc. for us to share with you. This year, we decided to take things in a slightly different direction and instead asked Jessica’s husband, Fritz, to sit down with us and give us a slightly different perspective on Powerhouse—how it started, where it’s going, and what sort of impact having an entrepreneurial wife has had on their family.
First, Fritz is actually the fourth of five Fred Stanley Bertsches, the name having been passed down through the generations. Fritz is an active-duty Coast Guard officer who recently celebrated his 20-year anniversary. He’s not slowing down or looking to retirement just yet, though. After recently finishing up a two-year tour as the commanding officer of the USCGC VIGILANT, a 210’ Medium Endurance Cutter, he is now taking up a fellowship that will see him spending a year studying at Carnegie Mellon University. After that, it’s up to the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard has been a part of Fritz and Jessica’s story from the very beginning. Back in 2004, Fritz met Jessica when she was vacationing with friends in Nassau, Bahamas. He was deployed there with the Coast Guard and wandered into a restaurant/bar to watch a basketball game. As Fritz says, “Jess made the mistake of asking me who was winning. After that she couldn’t get rid of me.” Several hours later, knowing he was leaving the next day, he asked Jessica if he could call her when they were all back stateside. She agreed, and the rest is history.
Being married to a military member can make having your own career difficult, and Fritz says it was “extremely difficult” watching Jessica continue to juggle her career and sacrifice opportunities so that he could focus on making the most of his military service career. Even though they made their decisions together, the stress and frustration of juggling all the aspects of a civilian career and a military lifestyle isn’t easy. “It is awe-inspiring to think of the sacrifices she has willingly made in supporting me. In truth, she has served our nation as well through her support and efforts because I know I would not be where I am today without her,” Fritz says.
When Jessica hit upon the idea for Powerhouse, Fritz remembers most the passion she had for the idea. It wasn’t so much about finding a portable career or making money, but what drove Jessica was the idea that Powerhouse could “provide opportunities and possibilities for military spouses who were just like her.” The untapped potential in the military spouse community is incredible, and this talent is so often underutilized due to the uniqueness of military life. Fritz knew Powerhouse would be successful not simply because it was a “solid concept” but also because of the passion Jessica had to make this a reality for others like her.
It’s never easy to start a business, and even though the early days were stressful and meant lots of working at all hours of the day, the commitment to learn while doing everything the business required was “impressive to watch,” Fritz says. Although Jessica might disagree, Fritz says his role was minimal during this time: “I jumped in where I could, like dropping things off at the post office. I simply have tried to be supportive and return the favor of love and support that she continues to provide me.” Jessica has stated many times that his support role is what got her through those early years.
Today, Fritz and the rest of the family continue to provide support and expertise where they can. Fritz lends his knowledge and free time to the financial side of things when needed, but he claims his efforts surely cause his wife “more stress and consternation than I relieve.” Their three children help out as well, stuffing envelopes, keeping themselves occupied when Mom needs to work and Dad is deployed, and other tasks as their ages and skills allow. Powerhouse really is a family affair for the Bertsches, and one made even more so this last year as Jessica ran Powerhouse while simultaneously homeschooling her children with assistance from her mom, a retired schoolteacher. Fritz can’t imagine Powerhouse going forward being anything but successful. In fact, he thinks the next ten years will see similar growth to what the company has experienced its first nine years. He’s noticed the personal growth Jessica has achieved reflects the company’s growth. “She continues to refine her approaches to problems and has gotten even better at multi-tasking,” Fritz says. At the same time, Jessica and Powerhouse have learned to establish boundaries and limits to maintain a healthy balance. It’s not always an easy endeavor and can lead to increased stress levels at times, but in the end Powerhouse’s flexibility is key. Even while becoming an entrepreneur and growing and honing a business model that provides career opportunities for military spouses and veterans, Jessica has been able to be present with their children and be “an amazingly loving and supportive spouse, the nucleus of our family,” according to Fritz. While the Bertsches’ situation is unique to them, the flexibility Powerhouse provides for its freelancers is, as Fritz says, a “wonderful thing.”
We asked Fritz, “If you could be Powerhouse president for a day, is there anything you would change?” After assuring us he’d never take that job as he knows he’s not well-suited to it, he said that if he ever did find himself in that position, there is one thing he’d do: hire Jessica and make her the president! “She thrives in the areas that Powerhouse needs from its president and that’s why she has been able to make Powerhouse so successful.” Entrepreneurship is a fantastic opportunity for military spouses as long as the opportunity “meshes with the family dynamic and the setup of the family’s life,” Fritz says. It’s certainly worked for the Bertsch family.
We asked Fritz if there was anything he was willing to share that not many people knew and we offered bonus points if it was something Jessica didn’t know either. After assuring us that there isn’t anything Jessica doesn’t already know, he offered this one last insight into the story of their meeting: “I actually had to call Jess three times after meeting her in the Bahamas before she returned my phone call. Since she wasn’t ready to date at the time, I waited six months to officially ask her out. I have known how special she is since I first met her. Now, of course, she’s stuck with me and can’t get rid of me.” Given the amount of support Fritz has given Jessica and Powerhouse throughout the last nine years, we’re glad they’re stuck with each other.