Secrets To Running A Thriving Online Teacher Resource Business: An Interview With Bethany Lake of Math Geek Mama

Bethany is former classroom teacher with several years of experience teaching mathematics. She currently runs her online business, Math Geek Mama, alongside being a full time wife and homeschooling mama of four.

She loves math and is passionate about helping students understand, thrive and hopefully come to love math as well! Bethany’s goals in creating Math Geek Mama are to break through the barriers, redefine for students who a “math person” is, and enable students to really understand the why of mathematics, rather than simply memorizing seemingly nonsensical procedures and formulas.

Join Edupreneur Today as we share insights from Bethany on how she’s earning consistent income selling digital teaching resources from her website.

You Will Learn:

  • How to purpose your time when growing your digital resource business.
  • How long to stay in research mode when beginning a new business.
  • Pros and Cons to selling digital teaching resources on your site vs. Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT).
  • And SO much more!

Links and resources listed in the interview

 

Interview With Math Geek Mama

 


 

Can’t listen right now? Read the transcript below!

KP [00:00:01.19]: Hi everyone. I’m Kiana Porter-Isom from Edupreneur Today and joining me today is Bethany Lake. Hi Bethany, how are you?

BL [00:00:10.03]: Hi, I’m good.

KP [00:00:11.24]: Awesome. Bethany, could you tell us a little bit about your business?

BL [00:00:15.28]: Sure. So I’m the founder of Math Geek Mama and it is a website dedicated to providing fun and engaging math lessons, math ideas, math resources for anyone who is educating kids, so parents, teachers, home scholars. Just trying to help parents and teachers make math fun.

KP [00:00:42.18]: So what drew me to Bethany, and I haven’t told her this yet. My background is an educator in mathematics, and when I taught in the classroom, taught mathematics eight grade six seven, and then I transitioned from that world to be an instruction or coach in mathematics. I know all about the need in urgency to make math fun, and I really love that ketch in your website. You actually wanna make this fun for kids, right?

BL [00:01:08.00]: Yes, absolutely

KP [00:01:09.19]: So could you tell us a little bit about your career in education before you transitioning to being an entrepreneur?

BL [00:01:16.02]: Sure. My background is pretty varied. My degree is in mathematics and I have the master’s in teaching. So I started in public school teaching algebra in high school. I had just got married and really shortly after that, we had our first child. My dreams of being a teacher and all of these plans got turned on tad. I ended up quitting that job to stay home with my daughter and looking for other ways to use my degree to make money but still be home with her. So I did some one-on-one tutoring, something in middle and high school math classes things like that. That’s for a couple of years, my husband decided to go back to school. and so I went back to the classroom, and I taught in a private school and again went back to teaching Algebra. So I taught honors Algebra II, college Algebra. I’ve taught in a lot of different roles and different environments.

KP [00:02:39.00]: How long were you a teacher before you moved into the entrepreneurial space?

BL [00:02:44.01]: I’ve had three years three years in the classroom, and a couple of years of doing private tutoring.

KP [00:02:56.27]: Was there anything in particular that prompted you to start a website as your business?

BL [00:03:06.01]: Yes. I was teaching that at private school, and it was great and I loved it, but we had our fourth child and it got to the point where it was too much like I just couldn’t juggle being mom and being a teacher anymore. So I quit again to stay home with them. Still, I love teaching and I love helping students and helping teachers, so I still had this desire to use what I knew to help others and to help students. In the meantime, I was home with my kids and I was starting to homeschool my oldest, this is a couple of years ago. Being math teachers, and especially being a high school math teacher, I don’t know anything about teaching reading. So here I am with my five-year-old trying to teach her to read and I don’t know anything, so I was spending a lot of time online, and I spent a lot of time on this reading mama. Her name is Becky Spence, she is a friend of mine now, who used to be a reading specialist and just had the site full helpful resources, articles to help me learn how to teach reading. Her site is great. So one day I was on there and I was just reading about her and looking at her site, and it just hit me. I could do this, I know how to teach math and some people don’t. I’ve got that idea and I started brainstorming immediately like what I could include on my site  and what it would look like and how I could help teachers. So that’s where the idea came from.

KP [00:05:13.13]: I think sometimes we take for granted what we know and sometimes forget that other people don’t and so we can teach what we know. That was just aha moment for.

BL [00:05:26.02]: It really was. I had spent years wanting to be home with my kids but still bringing in some income. Trying all these things that are totally not the right fit for me, and when I finally realize, wait a second, this is what I love, teaching math is what I love, I could do this.

KP [00:05:47.27]: So when you are beginning your business, what were the first three or four steps that you actually implemented to get started?

BL [00:05:57.17]: First, I did a ton of research. I’m a planner and I wanted to have everything all lined up and figured out. Probably to the point of procrastinating but I did. I did a lot of research I read everything I can find about starting a blog, how to set it up and that sort of thing. The biggest help for me in getting started was Abby just a girl and her blog. She has lots of really helpful resources for getting started. She has a book called building a frame work, which was hugely helpful for me and just waling me through exactly what to do and how to get started and I felt I was able to get started on the right foot thanks to her kind of baby steps walking me through it, so I read a lot. Then I really just started creating resources. I had this  vision of the site that would be useful for a teacher, and so I started creating worksheet and lessons that [00:07:11.18] [inaudible] a lot of try and error in terms of learning how to use word. When I was in the classroom, I never had to make things look pretty, so I had to learn where do I get all this clipart and how do I design it so that it’s cute, so that was a big learning curve. Then, I finally got my act together, I started a launch date. I decided being a math geek, I was determined that I needed to launch in time for Pi day. I wanted to start, I wanted everything to be ready by March 1st so I could share a lot of fun Pi day ideas and let the world know I’m here!

KP [00:08:05.18]: And to those who know math teachers who don’t know a Pi day is, it is March 14th because that’s what Pi equals 3.14. So as math teacher who celebrates March 13th as Pi day.

BL [00:08:19.03]: Yes because we’re nerds.

KP [00:08:23.02]: So just to summarize. Your first week steps you said first research mode, so like your research and you read a ton, and then you started creating resources to run your site, and then you said a launch date.

BL [00:08:35.12]: Yes. I started the launch date and worked backwards from there.

KP [00:08:39.05]: How long would you say you stayed in research mode?

BL [00:08:41.22]: It was probably over a year.

KP [00:08:43.29]: So you had to do it again and take out the move and all the things. What would say like a recommendation is a good amount of time to reach before launching and starting a new business?

BL [00:08:56.16]: I will say, from experience, don’t take a year to research, that’s not necessary. Find a good book like Abby’s Building a Framework. If you know that you wanna start a website and build your business that way, find something that rocks through it and just do it.

KP [00:09:25.00]: So what would you say the most challenging part about running your business right now?

BL [00:09:30.16]: Right now, for sure it is finding balance. The reason that I left the class was I could be home with my kids, and now that I’m from home, the to-do list is never done. There’s always things that I could be doing or things I have no ideas that I have time for. So remembering why I do this in the first place and keeping the most important things first is important, so that’s kind of making sure that I’m really careful with how I spend my time.

KP [00:10:13.03]: Do you have work hours and mommy hours, or do you just take each day as it comes?

BL [00:10:21.14]: Again, I’m a planner. I don’t want to just wake up in the morning and say, we’ll see what I get don’t today. Because trustfully, my business would never happen if I ran it that way. So I do have set, loosely, set times that I specifically set aside to work. I try to stick to that and thankfully my husband is incredibly supportive and he usually gives me a little bit of time on the weekends where I can go and not have the distractions and interruptions. I have to be very careful with prioritizing and making sure the little bit of time I do have is spent on the most important things and the things that are gonna give me the most return from my time spent.

KP [00:11:20.22]: What are one or two things that if you spent time working on these one or two things you’re gonna really see a return on your time investment?

BL [00:11:29.22]: The number 1 thing that I try to spend my time on is creating great content. There’s lots of people out there who will tell you all these different ways that you can be on Facebook, be on Twitter, be on Pinterest and do it all and promote everywhere and that’s great, I’m sure that would help grow your business, but I don’t have time for that. So I spend a lot of time just creating really great products and being as helpful as I can. In terms of promoting and getting myself out there, Pinterest has been the biggest for me. It seems to be… it’s more long-term in terms of bringing traffic to my site than anything else because when something is pinned is there forever, unlike Facebook where two days from now people would be talking most something else. And also Google search which is not gonna be necessarily the same for everyone, but for me if you’re a math teacher and you are looking for an Algebra lesson where you’re gonna go. Are you gonna look in Pinterest or you’re gonna in Google. That’s where I spent the most time.

KP [00:12:50.17]: Probably not you wanna go to Facebook to search for lesson on teaching slope. So to date in your business, what has been your proudest moment?

BL [00:13:03.16]: What I try to do is create products lessons teachers are gonna love because all the work is done for them but also that students are gonna love. If they aren’t engaged, if they don’t love it, if they’re not having fun learning math, then what’s the point. So I recently created a pretty extensive math project, it’s designer on amusement park. I poured all of this time into it and I was like, “That’s so cool, that’s gonna be so great.” But really I’m still kind of afraid like what did the kids hate this, what id it fails. After I got it out there and I sold it and teachers started using it. One teacher told me after she used this with her students. My class really enjoyed this resource, and when it was time to switch subject there was a lot of complaining.

KP [00:14:08.26]: What a compliment!

BL [00:14:11.02]: That was a huge compliment to me because that means that the kids enjoyed it and they really were digging in and engaging with math.

KP [00:14:21.10]: And having a good time rather doing it.

BL [00:14:24.03]: Exactly, that’s my goal.

KP [00:14:27.21]: You sell digital products for teachers. Do you have a teacher take your store?

BL [00:14:34.28]: I do.

KP [00:14:36.21] So how do you decide which products go where?

BL [00:14:41.23]: All of my products are both places. My first starting, I knew about teachers pay teachers, and I know there are teachers who do very very well there and completely build their business there and that’s great. When I looked at it, they take a very large percentage of your sales, and I just kind of trying to think long-term. I wanted to have… I do want put my eggs in one basket. I sell my products through my website except for the credit card fee, I get to keep with the profit, but then I also have them on teachers pay teachers because some teachers if they’re looking for something they just go straight there for sure, and so I sell them in both places.

KP [00:15:35.08]: I just wanna get your feedback on that because I think sometimes teachers who’re selling digital products especially lesson plans kind of get blurry where to sell products. I too sell digital products on my website and I have a couple on teachers pay teachers. I personally enjoy the control over my products and like having direct access to my customers like letting them know when I have a product out and I know that teachers pay teachers doesn’t give that liberty. So I just like to give other input on why one over the other are your case both for sure working for you.

BL [00:16:11.18]: Yeah. I do get sales in both places which is great, I agree. I like the freedom of having control over my products and my readers. I can reach out to them and I can engage with them through email.

KP [00:16:35.01]: I think there is benefit in both way, it’s certainly nice to have your products on your website for the reasons that we spoke about.

BL [00:16:42.02]: Yeah, definitely.

KP [00:16:43.08]: So for new teachers and new educators or former teachers who wanna start their own business either full time or on the side, what is the best advice you have for them in order to getting started?

BL [00:16:54.21]: Treat it and see it as a business from day 1. Don’t give yourself the ability to put it off or say, “Oh well that’s just my side things I’ll do it later. That’s just my hobby.” If you want to create either replace your teaching income or just have a little on the side, you have to treat it like a business. So I would say you have to set aside dedicated time even if it’s a very small amount of time, you have to set it aside. You have to go to work, you have to treat it like a job and show up every day. In the beginning, when you’re making $0 from it, you have to treat it like a job where you are getting paid, otherwise, it’s never gonna happen.

KP [00:17:48.08]: I’ve spoken with a lot of teachers and when I asked them to tell me about their business like a few of them said, ” Oh my god, I’ve never thought of this business.” So I’m so happy you said that because I just agree how important it is to treat it like a business even I ain’t getting paid, it hard I ain’t getting paid. But if you don’t [?][00:18:06.01] then you may never get paid, that is valuable advice. So as we wrap up, are there any closing thoughts just last minute insights that you would have for a teacher who just knew this and wanted to get started and just needs a little bit of motivation?

BL [00:18:27.13]: I would say don’t await until you have everything for you now and know it all and you’ve got the perfect site or the perfect product or perfect whatever because if you do, it’s never gonna happen. Because you’re never gonna know it all and it’s never gonna be perfect but just jump in and try and be okay with making mistakes,

and learning from them, be flexible. When I first started, my original vision from my business was a little bit different, but as I started trying things and experimenting seeing what works, seeing what teachers find the most helpful, you’re gonna have to just tweak it as you go and we’re fine what you’re doing and never ever stop learning because you can always be better and you can always improve.

KP [00:19:21.21]: Owning a business is very much about experimentation and you have to be okay tell yourself that I’m gonna see if this works, and if it does, great, and if it doesn’t, I’m just gonna go and try something new.

BL [00:19:32.14]: Yeah, and try something else.

KP [00:19:35.04]: So as you wrap up, tell my audience where they can learn more about you and your business and connect with you on social media.

BL [00:19:43.25]: Sure. My site is Math Geek Mama. I have a Facebook page is just Mathgeekmama. I’m on Pinterest, very active on Pinterest, and I’m also at mathgeekmama on Instagram.

KP [00:20:03.12]: Perfect. Instagram is my favorite, so I’ll be sure to connect with you there. Thanks Bethany so much for sharing all of your amazing insight. It has been my pleasure to talk about how you got mathgeekmama up and going, and I’m sure everyone has learned something tremendously valuable.

BL [00:20:19.20]: Well, thank you, thanks for having me.

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