Living in a family is hard. Siblings can get on nerves, or parents just don’t understand what is being said. But being in that family can be even more difficult if you haven’t grown up with half of them.
According to Stepfamily.org, a website focused on the foundations of stepfamilies, 1,300 stepfamilies are forming each day; 50 percent of families are remarried or re-coupled; the average marriage in the U.S. lasts only seven years; and one out of two marriages ends in divorce.
Tessa Wade, a junior studying business management, has started a business called Family Fortitude to help families in these major life changes. She has a personal stake in wanting these families to succeed because hers is one of those 1,300 daily stepfamilies.
Wade said Family Fortitude is an online curriculum that works with the international company, Strengths Strategy. For this program, a family can get on and view online profiles of other families who have done the program and pick a mentor.
Wade said in doing this program, families can discover their strengths and then be mentored on how to use those strengths to help their family.
Once the family goes through the program, they are able to help mentor another family. The goal of the company is to become international.
Wade said she feels like she had been prepared her whole life for this.
She said she went through sexual abuse as a child. Then when she was around 13, her parents divorced.
Wade said once her mom remarried, she wasn’t sure what to call her new step dad. She didn’t really like saying “Ryan,” because it felt distant, but she didn’t feel quite right calling him Dad either.
“I felt there was something more. So I got on my knees and said ‘Heavenly Father, what do you want this to be? and he said, ‘I want you to help families.’”Tessa Wade
“Because of that, then I came up with the word ‘stad,’ which is step dad and dad combined,” Wade said. “And even though it was something so small like a nickname, I really started to notice that it was really helping my family a lot.”
She said she feels this is because a nickname shows that you are on good terms with someone.
“He loved it,” Wade said. “(He would laugh) and say ‘It sounds like you are calling me stud.’”
She said once she returned from her mission, she decided to trademark “stad” and “stma.”
She found there were many people who wanted to help and invest in her trademark. She even had an attorney help her file the trademark for free.
She had shirts and lanyards with sayings like “World’s Best Stad” printed on them. After a while of things going really well, she started to feel like there was a greater purpose.
“I felt there was something more,” Wade said. “So I got on my knees and said ‘Heavenly Father, what do you want this to be?’ and he said, ‘I want you to help families.’”
She said at first, she thought she could use the profit from the merchandise to provide services for families.
Wade said she still felt there was more, so she continued to go to her knees to know what to do.
“It was a really sacred process,” Wade said. “I was in the temple one day and, no joke, he just revealed it all to me. I could see what Family Fortitude was supposed to be. … It really gave me confidence that this is not my company; it is the Lord’s.”
Emily O’Dell is an intern with Family Fortitude and is senior majoring in Marriage and Family Studies.
“I have such a passion for family … and I really feel like it is inspired and neat to be a part of something that started from nothing and seeing the process,” O’Dell said.
Wade said students don’t have to wait to graduate to make a difference. She said now is the best time to start.
“Every single person has a purpose and it just takes being sincere, and asking the Lord, to know how to use your strengths to help others,” Wade said.
For more information, visit famfortitude.org.