Transition From Dedicated School Teacher To Entrepreneur And Business Owner
Since we opened the doors 12 months ago, 23W has grown three fold.
I realised only the other morning, that for many of the 23W members they are not familiar with how the business has grown over the last 5 years and how I made the transition from life as a dedicated school teacher to entrepreneur and business owner.
When I start to think back to where the dream started, I go back to 2016. I was already 2-3 years into juggling life as a PE teacher and trainer, but something powerful started to change in me. It was not a sudden realisation or epiphany that told me to quit school and ‘do my own thing’, but rather a slow burn or desire to invest more time into my budding business and my clients.
Finding extra time for more clients, longer hours at the gym, blogging, emails and my growing a beautiful, empowering community came at a cost. I gave up playing competitive sports, became less social and spent little, to no time on the couch. This was all to give me more time at the gym or ensure all school marking and assessment were done on time. I become the master juggler.
The Breaking Point
In 2016, I also stepped into the role as Head of PE, had 3 senior classes and was still filled with aspirations to continue making our department one of the best teams at my school. I knew that my life outside of school could never be at the cost of my quality of work as a professional educator. At this time I reminded myself to never complain about being ‘busy’, because I knew I was the one at the helm of the decision making process. But early in 2017, I realised that I was not happy. I felt tired (all the time), started feeling frustrated at school and found myself day-dreaming constantly about what it would be like to open my own studio. There were a couple of breaking points along the way. The times I would blow up at my husband because of something quite trivial, and the numerous occasions I felt sick or unwell. I also realised that I was not following the self love advice I was giving to my clients. I became so pushed for time, that I would often get changed into my uniform on the way to school (after already being up for 2 hours prior). I realised that it was impossible for me to do ‘my best job’ as a teacher, trainer or wife while I was pushing myself so hard. I suddenly felt like I was living a lie at school- the truth was I really did not want to be there. The master plan at the time was to actually fall pregnant so that I had a reason to stop, reset and reboot (which sounds crazy now I write it down). But as 2017 continue to unfold, I realised that we needed a better solution.
Finally the conversations started to happen about a ‘back up plan’. The solution came to Jeremy and I like a slap in the face. After 7 years of in the profession, I was due for 1 term long-service and this time could be used to help me catch my breath and see if full time PT life as still as alluring. In the backend of 2017, I had to keep my head down to build my client base, run challenges and ensure that everything was in place to see success in 2018.
My biggest concern about leaving teaching was leaving a steady income. At the time my income as a trainer was well below my full time salary from school, which is enough to make anyone with a mortgage nervous. In preparation to make the big leap, Jeremy and I also knew that we would never be so financially ‘sound’ or ever as attractive to banks for a loan. So in mid September (2017), we made the brave decision to purchase our second home, an old, run down Californian bungalow on a large block. Having already renovated before, we also knew the extra time off in 2018 would be helpful in getting the house to a liveable standard.
With the dream of opening a studio in 2018, I was very money conscious. Every dollar I earned from the gym was saved and with a new mortgage, weekends away, dinners out and clothing were areas we needed to pull back on.
In the summer of 2018, I was in my element. I hustled to get more clients in the door, took on more hours, changed my business name (from Melbourne Fitness Diaries to 23W), rebranded and worked around the clock to renovate our new home. I loved every minute of making my own schedule and being my own boss.
By April, I had everything I needed in the way of a business plan to open up the studio I had always dreamed of. Time away from school, gave me fresh perspective that it was okay to leave and that I was not a ‘bad person’ or a traitor because I no longer wanted to teach.
In July we signed off on 17A shower street and the work began. We had a 3 month turn around time to get the studio ready for business. Our permits from council came through on the last weekend of October and we were open and training client the Monday following.
Big Take Aways
I feel like journey over the last 3 years has be one hell of a ride with so many amazing take away points.
The first important lesson was one in patients. I knew what I wanted and knew to do it properly it would take time. If you are contemplating giving up your 9-5 job for a passion project, take your time. Ensure that you have done your homework and tested if your business plan is sound. Ensure that there is demand for what you do and the services or produce you are offering.
The next lesson was one about money. It takes a lot of money to set up a business. While you are working two jobs, ensure that you are saving hard. If possible try to find financial security through investments in real estate before making the jump. The banks much prefer to see a steady wage rather than a saving account of a start up entrepreneur. I set myself a goal to have a enough money saved to be able to open 23W without a business loan. By the time you account for equipment, refurbishment, insurance, permits and so on, your hard earned savings go fast. I spent 12 months making a business plan that accounted for every dollar spent, but you will always need more money for the things you do not account for. And while I made small contributions to pay our mortgage in 2018, I did not start paying myself a salary until the start of this year.
Lastly, was a big lesson in self care. There is only so long you can burn the candle at both ends before the ‘wheels start to fall off’. Recognise the early signs. I knew throughout 2017, that I was plotting my ‘life redesign’ and that doing the hours was unavoidable. Give yourself a time limit for this period. It does make it easier when you know that it is only a moment in time.
Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.
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