Are you living your best life? I know that everybody needs a best friend. Like the two ladies, I recently interviewed. They have the best relationship ever, and they are truly living their best life while balancing a business and family life. And I cannot wait to share what is possible when you just think it and you believe it because these women have literally written out their life stories. And it is just truly a blessing to watch.
I am excited to share how these two beautiful humans became Happily Ever Elementary. They are excited to share their story because they truly believe that anyone is capable of what they’ve been able to achieve in the last five or six years. But basically Loreal is the reason Stephanie is even a teacher. Stephanie was looking for a way to serve others. In college, she was kind of spiraling. Her background is in musical theater of all things. And Loreal kept reminding Stephanie she knew how much she loved kids.
Loreal comes from a family of teachers. She kept telling Stephanie it was the best job in the world. And so once Stephanie changed her major she was hooked and fell in love. Then Stephanie took a risk while she was waiting for her first teaching job. She was holding out for the school that Loreal and her sister worked at. In their district, there are plenty of jobs in the inner city, but they were looking at a neighborhood school. This was when Teachergram was just blowing up.
Loreal had been sharing ideas with Stephanie all through college. And Stephanie felt like she had so many of these ideas and wanted to try them all out. Put them to the test and then share them with others. And once they opened themselves up to the community online, they kind of slowly became Happily Ever Elementary.
They started with just a few ideas as most teachers do. And when they started creating things specifically for the needs of their students and started to share them with others, they realized that there was an opportunity to actually profit for the benefit of their families. It really only took one successful product for them to see the potential. And from there, it's just kind of grown exponentially every single year.
Their story came about organically. Loreal credits Stephanie (as a theater major) with having no fear behind just being silly and being open and singing with kids. When they began the Instagram platform Loreal remembers being a little bit shyer and reserved. A little bit more nervous about the failure aspect and she worried about whether people were even watching. She was so nervous when they started and only talked to about 10 people at a time with their Instagram stories and lives. But Stephanie gave her that push and nudge that she needed to jump on board with her and to share ideas.
They immediately made friends with others on social media. They were watching all the teacher Instagrammers and trying to do what they do best and create original work. And it really just paid off for them. They really pushed each other to where they are today because teaching was something that wasn't on Stephanie’s radar and doing something like Instagram was not something that was part of Loreal’s personality. They really give credit to one another, because they wouldn't be on social media without each other.
They don’t live their lives in fear. They try to be really open-minded to different opportunities, even if they're scary and they're not expected. When it came to TPT and opened up their store, their first product took so long to create. They got hung up in all the details. Was it convenient for a teacher? Was it priced correctly? Could the students do it independently? Was it going to require too much work for both students and teachers combined? They poured themselves into it.
That first product took a few weeks to create, and now they can turn out a product pretty quickly. But that first product is their least selling product. And it took them learning from that experience. And eventually just trying again to make things for their students. Eventually getting the hang of the process of creating, and posting, and sharing on Instagram once they had a larger audience. They feel fortunate to have each other to turn to in scary times. Like when they don’t know how a product will resonate with social media, and their audience.
I remember back to when I first met them, at a teacher conference, they have always had something very special. When I first met them their platform was just barely off the ground. They pushed each other to go up and introduce themselves to every teacher influencer they saw. They were trying so hard to network because it's one thing to talk to teacher influencers and other teacher creators through social media. It's another thing to make a memorable interaction with them face to face. They love when people recognize them and immediately start talking to them because it's just them breaking that barrier. They had the opportunity to meet everyone at that first conference and they didn't let that go to waste. They talked to everyone that day, every conference they went to after that, and still to this day.
They learned a lot that first day. Not only through networking, but also from putting themselves out there. I think that they are doing amazing and great things, but I really wanted to talk about something that's not necessarily easy to talk about. They are a prime example of why this is so important because we see a lot of glitz and glam, and #bestlife in the Teachergram world. But if you know the intricacies of everything, it's not always rainbows and butterflies. It’s very intimidating to go out on a limb and say hello to all of these people that you only know from social media. But it’s best to remember to just be you, and live your life with integrity, no matter what's going on behind the scenes.
Stephanie and Loreal have been through some serious failures in our business with mistakes and things they could have changed. But they feel that when you have someone to take ownership with, it's so much easier. The more they talk about reality and behind the scenes with other creators, they realize everyone has been through failures. They have all been through successes. Everyone has been through scary times where you might think this step is too risky. As teacher-authors, they are putting a lot into their business. And since they are doing it together, they have to work twice as hard and produce twice as much to make twice as much income to make it worth it for both families.
They really have this amazing marriage of personalities in their business. Loreal is not a high-risk person. And Stephanie is a dreamer, so they balance one another out. It was a really natural transition for them to start a business platform together. A lot of people aren't fortunate in that way. Although they do hope that everyone can find a teacher bestie in their lifetime because they benefit from the relationship in every way. Whether it's just their mental health or having someone there when they fail. They try their best to be genuine about it. And when things are uncomfortable on social media, obviously there's been a lot of polarizing topics that have surfaced in the last year or so. And that can be a really tricky area to navigate alone since they are essentially role models to others. These social media platforms sometimes come with certain expectations. They remind us to be honest, open, and genuine. Because a lot of the times when you admit those failures and when you talk about how uncomfortable you are, that is where you will connect with our audience.
One of the most controversial topics they touch on through their social media marketing is how much they put into their neighborhood school. Whether it's time, money, or energy. And they hope that people can understand that when they think of their own boys and soon-to-be daughter going to this school, they are going to whatever they can to make the experience an amazing one. Loreal grew up in her mom's classroom playing school, so she understands the pull. She'd be in there on the weekends after hours with her mom. Then as she got older, she was helping. And actually, now, they teach at the same school. And her sister is an assistant principal down the street.
Good stories are my favorite. We've hinted a little bit about these two amazing ladies living their best life and creating this future for themselves. So they kind of took us through how they have transitioned from classroom teachers to getting amazing at marketing strategies for social media and making it all work. So this is where being human comes into play. The pandemic was hard on everyone for a plethora of reasons. Loreal and Stephanie delivered children while quarantined at home. And Loreal was even in the hospital for a month before she had her son Everett. Stephanie had her son Harrison right before their school shut down. And she was dealing with a lot of postpartum anxiety and paranoia about leaving him.
As teachers, it's stressful because typically we are all looking for a directive from our administration and a lot of the time we don't get it. And if we do get a directive, it might be super last minute, or it might change the next day. And during the pandemic, that was really scary because a lot of information has not been concrete. There is still a lot of misinformation and a lack of directive among schools.
They spent some time getting to the bottom of what was really bugging them and how to get back on track during their season of life. Neither one of them knew what going back to school would look like in this pandemic. And Loreal took it upon herself to call the district, a huge school district where things are constantly changing. And asked about a job-sharing option. And they told her it's actually up to her principal because this is extremely uncommon in their district.
And they were so pleased that their principal said yes because they were ready to quit. Not because they don't love teaching, but because they were in a season of fear. Stephanie was scared about leaving her son and having him out of her sight and also with the pandemic she didn't know what teaching even looked like. And she was fearful of bringing that sickness home to her baby. And at the time her grandparents were also staying with her. And so Loreal being proactive was the one that took the step in that direction of job sharing. And it ended up answering all of their questions.
Loreal was so thankful that Stephanie was brave enough to share her feelings. Because she is not alone in the sense that people have had highs and lows during the pandemic. And it was a scary time for people in mental health and just feeling all the feels when you're alone. Job sharing has given them a little bit less of that mom guilt. They know they work a ton on their teacher businesses, plus classroom work. They don’t want to one day regret putting so much work into our business and not giving their kids enough of our time.
They believe that this transition is going to help them be better moms, better people, more well-rounded women for their families and husbands. They feel lucky that their district has given them that opportunity. They were so excited to have the sharing option that they gave their principal 100% control over where she put them. She originally placed them in fifth-grade math and they didn't care. It was one of those things where they decided they would teach anything to have this opportunity. Organically things just started happening at their school and the art room position opened up. And since their principal knew that was a passion of theirs she made the decision to move them there. And now they are living their best life.
They remind us all that they are living at the peak of their dreams. This is the peak that they have been working towards. Their plan was never to leave the profession. They just love teaching too much, and it’s in their blood. They really felt like the change to contract sharing is good for their content. Good for their followers. And most importantly, great for their families.
And for anyone who feels like, oh, they're so lucky, they are just extremely blessed. Stephanie reminds us all that all it took was Loreal asking. It's always going to be a no until you ask for sure. So if you're wondering if this is even possible for you, the best way to find out is to ask.
I had never heard of job sharing before. And after they shared it with me, I started seeing it a little bit more on social media and thought, this is amazing. It's a wonderful way to keep teachers in the profession. That way they're not burning themselves out. And giving them the opportunity to do what people used to do all the time, which is to work part-time. That was THE thing when I was growing up, part-time stay-at-home moms. They worked part-time and someone kept their kids for a little bit of the time. That was a real thing that has started to disappear in recent years.
Many times we don't have the same luxury that other places have when they have babies. As a teacher in some areas, you get a whole year of maternity leave or spouses get paid leave as well. But more often than not, it’s just too short. Even now with having my own business, the thought of putting my child in daycare was so crippling a few weeks ago that I know that us getting COVID was a little nod saying you're not ready yet. And that's okay. So even though the sickness was hard and it was difficult, it gave me a little bit more time at home with my baby, because I'm just not ready yet. I don't know if you ever get there. Honestly, it doesn't matter how many kids you have. It's still hard every single time. So I am thankful that Stephanie and Loreal shared their feelings on that. It made me feel less alone.
I really wanted to know what their next year would look like, with the job sharing and family life and growing their business, and how they are going to manage it all. So in a perfect world, because they haven't started quite yet, they want to hopefully work towards that work-life balance that everyone really strives for in the teaching profession.
They acknowledged the fact that the last thing that they currently work on is themselves. And so they’re hoping to create more space in their lives to be better women. The goal is for that to trickle into their lives as businesswomen, as moms, and as teachers. But most importantly, they are hoping to find this regimented balance where they can say, they’re going to serve their store and teacher business for two hours a day. And they will work on teaching stuff for a set amount of time each day. And the rest will be allotted to family time.
They have been watching not only me but other teacherpreneurs pave the way to be businesswomen and great role models for their families. They have decided they are going to be working two and a half days a week in their business. And the rest of their time will be in the household side of their lives.
The way their district let them choose how to split their weeks was a key component in their new schedule. It could have been AM and PM. It could have been a week on, a week off. However, splitting the week halfway will give them an opportunity to bond and connect with the same group of kids. So every kid who joins them on Monday will see Stephanie, and every kid who joins them on Fridays will see Loreal. There's some consistency there. They get two and a half days a week, teach art, and instill that love of art with children while living their best lives.
There are so many things that are going to be different this year, but what we're going to notice is the pressure of teaching in the classroom. In today's day and age, it is almost debilitating to teachers. It's a true problem. We have the pressure that's put on an educator with test scores and standards and objectives. Creating Social Media worthy classrooms, navigating the changes trickled down from Admin. And don't get me started on all of the upper-grade stress that people are going through. It really is a problem.
Stephanie and Loreal really stress that all of the unknown and stressors are what was damaging their mental health. Being pulled in so many different ways was causing anxiety and undue stress. They feel lucky to still be with kids and inspire kids and have that opportunity to still love on children, and then also go home and love on their own babies.
They both talked a lot about mental health. I am truly grateful, especially in this season, I've been very open and transparent about my own struggle with postpartum depression and how I created this purposeful life and I've been significantly better. And then I had another baby and I don't think it's postpartum depression this time. But as Stephanie chatted about anxiety, I realized I had a lot of anxiety and fear that I've never experienced before. So that's been a new thing for me to kind of navigate, but I know that the number one thing for me is getting back to myself to get in a good place.
I asked Stephanie and Loreal to share some steps for someone that might be struggling, even if it's not postpartum, even if it's with teaching in a pandemic or just dealing with a new season in life to better their mental health.
The first thing that is always helpful is just being honest with yourself. If you're feeling that anxiety or that struggle, and you're putting on that positive face all the time. It’s best, to be honest about where you are on your journey. I talked recently about toxic positivity. That’s putting a positive spin on everything. When you say to yourself that everything is fine. You’re strong, you’re good. You’re getting through it. That can be great to have that positive mindset. But sometimes you need the time, and the space to look in the mirror and say, I’m not doing well. Where do I go from here?
I think that means that you're ready to take the first step towards something a little more positive, and a little more healthy. That can look a lot of different ways for different people, whether it's leaning on a friend or starting a new hobby or regimen, whether it's working out or eating healthy. But it starts with you. So if you're going through a struggle, it’s time to ask, what do you need to better fulfill yourself?
And so many times people talk about how much of your life has been changing to be so great. And it is, but there are so many other things that come with it that people don't talk about enough. And they are not afraid to say those things on social media and to connect with their audience. They often ask for advice on things on their Instagram platform. Leaning on other women, talking about things, getting advice, if you're comfortable, really helps you get through it because there are people who've made it to the other end. Others who can tell you, I have been through this and this is what helped me. It may not help you, but there might be some parts of there that can help you get through it. And that's all you really have to do is just get yourself through it in a safe and productive way, because there are going to be seasons of life that are harder than others.
I love that they are so open and honest about their struggles. As I was listening to Stephanie and Loreal talk about sharing their business and Teachers Pay Teachers store I realized I needed to break that down a bit. They had to make the decision to split a teaching contract, which means they’re splitting the income there. They’re splitting their TPT income. That seems like a recipe for disaster, by the way, for most people. So obviously they have a very strong bond. That's more like sisters than best friends. I can see how it works out flawlessly for them. But I think from the outside, looking in, this seems like a recipe for disaster. I know they’re open with each other, but what does that conversation really look like with your best friend?
According to Stephanie early on, it was for fun. They were doing Instagram for fun. And when things started to pick up and get a little bit real, they had to have a really honest conversation about the roles that would play in their business. And as Loreal said, it may be a character trait that they both have, but they feel immense guilt about letting anyone down ever. And while that can be a natural thing, fear of letting each other down is a driving force in their business.
If they wake up to 10 texts from the other one they are going to rise to the occasion because they don't want to let each other down that day. They always say that this is a family business because they’re more like sisters. They mentioned, “If you think you really ready, if you're going to take the step with another person, you need to make sure that this is the right person. Because there could very well be fallout or differences between a friendship or business partner relationship.”
But what they think is fair is that everything is split in half. If one of them is going through a season of life where they just had a baby, one creates, and the other helps with the ideas. Even though one creates and produces the entire product they are still happy to put it in their store and say, half for everything. Because they know there may be a time when the other one is going through something with no time to create. They have a balance, but they also have their day jobs. They both have an equal hand in product creation and marketing strategies for social media. Which makes it really easy because when the income does come in, they don't feel like it was an unfair balance.
They have a joint bank account with their business. So therefore the money goes into one place. They pay themselves equally from there. And they work and push each other so that they can make more. Then that income seems like a little bit more because cutting everything in half is a little daunting and in the grand scheme of things sharing two jobs is not so bad.
I think that's so important, not just if you're going to have a partner in your business, but even if you run a team. My integrator is becoming my best friend. And she makes me a better human every single day. She challenges me to be a better version of myself, whether it's showing up at work two hours early because she has already been to the gym. And she's got 10 things already done or whether it's sharing something about our spiritual journey that makes me kind of look within. And I've been very open about how Allie has changed my life. I didn't know that people like that existed. I've never encountered a friendship quite like that before. So Stephanie and Loreal give me hope that people are good and that it can work out.
I think we hear so many negative things about working with other people. This one is putting in too much work. And that one is trying to take too much of a cut. But if you just look at it from the perspective of we're just people and we're doing the best that we can. And we're going to split everything 50-50. I think that's why Stephanie and Loreal have found so much success.
Stephanie and Loreal were able to share some advice for anyone who feels like it's too daunting to do this by themselves. And they want to find a partner to do this thing called TPT or job sharing in a school. Like any other partnership, whether it's marriage, friendship, or business, they absolutely felt you need to start with values. Because another reason they don't mind sharing everything is that their number 1 value is family first. They are not keeping tabs on each other because they know their families come first. They’re willing to put in the work while the other person needs to take some time. If you're looking for someone to create with or share any kind of business with, they would start with values.
They even mentioned if there is someone that you look at on Teachers Pay Teachers and love their stuff, you can have individual stores and reach out to do a collab. Maybe a product idea or share a concept with them, but still keep things pretty separate. They don’t recommend jumping all in with someone you just met. They remind us that they grew up together and are more like sisters. They trust each other and that had to happen first. Before sharing finances, and a bank account.
Another thing they mentioned for a successful business partnership (and one they rely heavily on) is that they bring totally different strengths to the relationship. Stephanie brings a lot of creativity and a lot of clip art since she can draw beautifully. Loreal brings a lot of tech-savvy video editing and heavy computer work to the products. And if they didn't have each other, they would be doing things they didn't care for. If you can find someone who's not exactly like you. Someone who balances you and brings that extra element to the table is really what makes it work.
There have been many success stories that look completely different. It really comes back to that fear piece. If you're willing to work with someone and you both have ideas, and you're both excited about it, that might be enough to start with. Sometimes you just need someone to hook arms with and give it a try.
They worked on ideas for a while before it became Happily Ever Elementary. Before it was a full-fledged business with moving parts. They were in no place to have an LLC or open a business account for the first year. It just takes trying it out for a little bit and experimenting and going for it.
When you really start looking at it, our team dynamic is great. We know what Enneagram numbers work really well within our team. And we know what numbers may not work really well. And it helps us in our interview process. Not that we judge someone just based on their number, but we know that if our strength is in this area and theirs is in that area too, we may not need to have the same exact thought processes within the team dynamic. Allie and I are so similar and creative but on the technical side, we are complete opposites. Together it's this perfect marriage and it works flawlessly.
More inspiration for living your best life, as a teacher-author:
You can find Stephanie and Loreal with Happily Ever Elementary on every platform. You can find them on Instagram and Youtube, and TikTok and they have a website www.happilyeverelementary.com ~ If you ever happen upon them in real life, please stop and say hi. Otherwise, shoot them a DM. They would love to hear from you.
© kayse morris 2020 / legal / design by saffron ave
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