Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in professional development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jennifer Martinez, owner of everything just so, located in Seattle, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
As a professional development facilitator and content creator, I develop courses and classroom materials to help busy Upper Elementary teachers plan, organize, and simplify their workloads.
My main site, everything just so, hosts a blog that provides practical resources for simplifying teachers’ jobs and saving them time, including tips and strategies for developing their craft as an educator, organizing their workflow, and finding balance.
My professional development company, GROW pd, hosts an annual conference called inspired, which provides affordable, virtual professional development for practicing 3rd-6th grade teachers around the world.
Tell us about yourself
I’ve worked in the field of education for over 20 years, with the majority of that time spent teaching third and sixth grades. I was the type of teacher who never felt like she could do enough for her students and was often the first one in and the last one out of the building.
Passionate about literacy and mentoring, my committee work led to leadership roles and professional development sessions that shaped building policies in curriculum alignment, instruction, and technology. While I enjoyed my work, I soon found myself overwhelmed with little room for margin.
When I reached a point where my workload overshadowed my love of the work, I knew it was time for a change. But I didn’t want to bring change just for me. I wanted to be part of a solution that lightens the load for overwhelmed teachers everywhere. Create an environment where educators can find solutions to everyday issues, quality, research-founded teaching materials, and easily accessible pd.
So I turned my passion into a business that empowers others. Knowing I’m helping make other teachers’ jobs more manageable keeps me going.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment has been establishing my annual Upper Elementary Teachers Conference. When the pandemic hit, teachers were scrambling - trying to adapt to constant changes, teaching in multiple places, and juggling responsibilities at home and work like never before. They didn’t know how to plan for a new school year when nothing was certain. I wanted to create a space where teachers could find new ideas, resources, and inspiration to keep going.
In the first year, we focused on strategies for teaching remotely and ways to create digital resources that were effective for both students at home and in the classroom. Teachers were so appreciative of the event we’ve kept it going ever since. We’ve doubled the number of sessions since then and include topics such as content area instruction, classroom management and environment, social justice, SEL, lesson planning, and organization.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
By far, one of the most difficult parts of being a solopreneur is having to juggle so many things on your own. Going into this, I imagined my days would be full of nothing but creating products and never considered all of the rest that goes into making a business successful. You’re constantly wearing so many hats - it’s easy to become overwhelmed and want to give up.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You can’t do it all - so don’t try. When you’re working alone, you feel this pressure to be successful at all things or on all platforms. And you can’t. So get specific on the one thing you want to be known for, who your ideal client is, and focus your energy where they are. As you grow (and especially when you’re able to hire team members), you can branch out into other spaces or platforms.
- Find your people. Working as a solopreneur, especially when you’re working from home, can be incredibly isolating. Connecting with others who work in your field and understand your business is so important. As an introvert, this was difficult for me at first, but it’s been a game changer in my business. Being part of a community, joining a mastermind, and working with a business coach - all of these have strengthened me as an individual and significantly impacted the success of my business.
- Give yourself grace. Things won’t happen as quickly as you’d like. It’s rare to be an immediate success, and that’s ok. Celebrate positive progress and small wins. It will keep you going.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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