Lauren Denny from Simply Stained Ranch is going to be sharing with you how she went from an idea as a classroom teacher to building a brand that is truly going to last a lifetime. She is originally from Idaho. That's where she started her education journey as a fourth-grade teacher. She lived in Idaho, where she became a bonus mom of two. And she and her husband Ben began accumulating animals and growing a farm over the years.
Lauren feels that anybody can become whatever they set their mind to. And she and her family feel very fortunate to be able to share that message with people along the way. Her brand emphasizes what real life is like on a farm. Also the joy and trying to focus a lot on the small everyday moments that come with just the sunrise and funny moments with your animals. Plus trying to remember a lot of those moments that kind of get tucked back away if we're not bringing them to light every single day.
They decided to move to Oklahoma for an opportunity of living on land that has been in her family for seven generations. They took a huge plunge in 2020 to shake things up and become farmers and ranchers full-time. They took the business of Simply Stained Shop, which she started as a teacher. The idea was to support the family and give teachers an opportunity to give their classrooms a homey feeling. They began building signs and ranching full-time. Just trying to figure things out along the way as they build a brand online.
I’ve been obsessed with Lauren for a long time. Originally following her on Instagram and watching her interact with the animals. Where she shared that she knew nothing about animals. They used to live in the suburb. She says she still has no idea about literally anything, but they know a little bit about some things. So they are learning to build a brand while they are learning to farm.
Things like trial and error. Lauren says she planted things in the greenhouse and they didn't work because she didn't use the right dirt. Apparently, that’s a thing. You cannot use clay. And clay is very prominent in Oklahoma. She’s excited about the bees coming next week. Even though this is a new step in the journey, she’s excited to learn more about BeeKeeping. As teachers, we encourage other teachers and our students to try new things. She really feels like that's what she’s been trying to embody.
I resonate with everything that Lauren shared. I think that anyone in the business world just learned the most valuable lesson in life. And that is, “We have no idea what we're doing, but we are just going forward.”
So Lauren made it seem like it was the easiest thing ever. They decided to just move to Oklahoma and inherited this amazing ranch. Then they decided to do this full time. But we all know that there were probably a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get there.
In the beginning, Lauren spent a great deal amount of time in the classroom (like we all do). And like most teachers, she liked to surround herself with things that reminded her of why she was there. Her passion was, creating an inclusive environment. She felt if she had things that made life a little easier with organization tools, then she was able to produce better results for her students. Plus she was more excited to go to work every day, even though the days might be hard and long. That’s where it all started.
She began first with Teachers Pay Teachers and fell in love with the creation process. She created Teachers Pay Teachers products through the Cursive and Crayons business. She wanted her students to feel engaged. Originally the store was just developed for students and then she transferred over to helping teachers.
Simply Stained Shop was developed because she wanted to turn digital products into physical products. Her husband is a carpenter by trade. So they had a lot of extra wood lying around. Lauren is a firm believer in using what you have and making it work. Their sign company was created because she started using what they already had.
She just loves the teaching community because it is such a tight-knit and encouraging group. Something else they needed was to add something else to their income. They had decided to start farming and realized that animals cost a lot of money. Starting Simply Stained, allowed her to buy chicken feed and start a chicken coop as well.
Lauren believes that Teachers Pay Teachers or the digital side of things gave her the confidence to move more towards figuring out how to work with a shipping department. Digital is so interactive. Clients can just download their product and she immediately received feedback. Once she got that under her belt, she felt like she could make the digital product physical. And make it bigger than a standard piece of paper. She felt like it was something that they could learn and figure out along the way.
The digital side of things allowed her to see what works, what doesn't work, what was selling in the store, and what could she really hone in on to start. She really loved creating the products that were transforming the classroom and then emphasized creating those types of products for the physical side. She began her TPT journey with Cursive and Crayons in 2016 and then transitioned into Simply Stained Shop in 2018.
The physical side of building an online business began with Hall passes. Lauren says teachers all know that hall passes disappear and never lasted. So her original idea was to make hall passes made out of wood. That was their #1 product for a really long time. Now they specialize in having your teacher's name customized to make your own door sign.
Lauren says, “we run hard and we run fast at this house. We have multiple gigs going on at the same time.” In the beginning, they worked long hours in order to juggle all the things. Her husband was working for his construction company and she was teaching. Then at night and on weekends, they had a side business of Simply Stained Shop and she was still making resources for Cursive and Crayons. Plus they started building the ranch while they still lived in Idaho.
I know that 2020 and 2021 were some of the hardest years of people’s lives. For us here at the CEO Teacher®, those years really changed everything us. We appreciated family more than ever before. And our business kind of skyrocketed from there because teachers were at home. And our ideal customer a teacher looking to increase their impact and income was at home ready to learn. While you know the progression of the CEO Teacher® Lauren shared how she went from let's make some things. To have a system and started hiring team members.
In 2020 her business really did skyrocket and it was getting to the point where she was having a hard time moving from the teaching world a 100% and giving the sign company a 100% She decided she needed to take on an extra team member in order to help her with building a brand.
Her first employee? Her father! She says he took a big old leap on her making it happen. She knows she is fortunate to work with her father every single day. They began reaching more clients and getting them items as fast as they could. Because they are racing against time when it comes to the demand of how fast people want products nowadays. Everything is a snap of the fingers and that's what makes things happen. They began working hard to make that happen.
It was really hard for her to juggle and figure out how to make both sides of the business work. How would she give a 100% on all sides of the business and keep teaching? It was around that time they felt they really wanted to move forward with ranching and farming too. They knew they weren't able to do it just on their little piece of land in Idaho and working all hours of the day and week. So they decided to take a leap and invest in more property. Originally they didn’t want to move to Oklahoma. Idaho is so beautiful. That's where their friends were. That's where the family was. But something just kept pulling and saying let's see what it would be like. They had the sign company, teaching, carpentry, they had everything they wanted in Idaho. It was just something that just kept their hearts being pulled in the right direction.
It was 2020 and felt like the worst time in the world to sell their houses and move across the country. Take all of the animals that they had grown in Idaho and move them to Oklahoma. It was a weird transition period where they had to go so hard juggling all the things in order to make this big dream happen.
I always hear God telling me to supply my own food for my family. I'm listening to the call, but I haven't quite committed yet. Lauren is so inspirational.
Let’s break down the evolution of Lauren building a brand:
Lauren says it's really about learning that you're allowed to grow and change. And for a long time, she was afraid to acknowledge that. Because she felt like a failure moving away from teaching and going more towards building a brand. Taking massive messy action helped her realize growth might be scary but it's necessary. That's a huge part of their business plan.
Every piece really aligned for them in a lot of ways. But that massive action of going full force and not being afraid to do the hard work it takes in order to get there. Not making excuses and deciding that you're going to stay up till the wee hours of the night to be able to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Those are all the pieces that will take you to the next level.
And it was after realizing that she needed to simply her systems. She was essentially running 3 businesses with her digital, physical, and ranching aspects. So they decided as a family, to incorporate the community to feel like they're part of this journey too!
The new and improved brand is that life is simple. If you'll let it be, and enjoy the simple things in life and country then you’ll resonate with the newly branded business. Country living is something that Lauren and her family have grown to love. She says she did not love it when they first moved. She did not love the snakes. She did not love the dirt, but it was something, that you use to start the foundation. To start to accumulate a passion for the things around you. And so they built a brand that allowed people to see themselves within it. They embody the idea of simply country.
Their audience all have their own stories that they can connect with for the ranch. Whether they are people that are currently living the lifestyle, they want to live the lifestyle, or they have a previous family member that they can refer back to those fond memories. That’s how they decided to connect those original businesses and marry them really well together simply with words.
I love that Lauren gave the multimillion-dollar business statement of a lifetime. I don't think she even realized the importance of what she shared about naming a business and reframing a brand. I've read a lot of business books. And what she said was the most profound thing that I ever read. And it was the reason why we got messy. And then we decided to go all-in with our company name, which is the CEO Teacher® for the exact same reason. She said it's important that people be able to see themselves inside of your brand.
I read that in a business book and I thought, wow. And then I started to look for it everywhere. I said, okay, let me think about my favorite brands. Peloton: when you buy a bike, you don't just buy a bike, you become a Peloton rider. You become part of that community. I love CrossFit. Why do I love CrossFit? Because I identify now as a CrossFitter. So as people begin to see themselves in your brand, that's really when the magic happens. And I would say that's probably the number one thing that most business people in the online space are missing these days. They spend time building a brand around things that they love, but they forget that the people that are buying from them are their reasons why. And so I just want to marinate on that for a second.
Lauren’s brand goes back to teaching. She had a student that had a lamb they wanted to share. Originally she said, no, she didn’t want animals in the classroom because you never know what's going to happen. She decided to say, OK, bring your sheep to class and we'll talk about your sheep. She realized, wow, the students really connect with animals. Her students wanted to know more about animals.
She told her husband she wanted to start raising sheep because she wanted to connect with her students. And she wanted her students to feel like they were a part of her life. So teaching is still the backbone of whatever they do at the ranch. And so that means teaching the people who are coming to the ranch about animals. It's giving them the opportunity to take home a piece of the country life with them. They do a lot of prints on wood with the animals on it. Teachers can decorate their classroom or their home with the things that they enjoy about simple country living. The grand scheme of the big picture here is to also be able to teach people about the animals and about growing their own gardens, plus all of the things that they physically create to go along with that.
Then their audience started reaching out on social media and that became one of the reasons they started doing tours. Because people wanted to know more. They do a lot of virtual tours, especially because of the pandemic. They had a lot of people who weren’t able to get out and experience country life. But they still wanted to embody that within their classroom or they needed something to do. Being able to roll with the tide and be able to change with the way that the world is changing allowed them to change the way the business works while building a brand.
In addition to the digital and physical products, Lauren also wrote a children's book called the Winston and the missing apples. All about their farm dog and his adventures on the ranch. You can experience the animals virtually or in person in Oklahoma at their ranch. You can also find her on their podcast, where they are able to talk with other farmers and ranchers who are wanting to learn about how to get started or understand a little bit more about the ranching side of life. Lauren’s is a 24-hour lifestyle. I can grow my business at the office and go home. And most days I can kind of drop it and forget it, but to have your own farm…
I just can't imagine, because I know it's a lot, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For the people who are wanting to make big changes, you have to remember, why you are there? What is your main thing? Your customers need to be a part of your business, but you have to be invested in your business plan too. You have to remember why you are doing it every single day because building a brand is also a lifestyle.
Are you still looking for help deciding what your main thing is? Or perhaps you are looking to expand your ideas into something bigger and more impactful than you ever thought possible? I spent the last decade putting together the top tips and strategies I have learned in growing a teacher business and building a brand through messy action. If you are ready to unlock your limitless potential and want help in getting started, you can grab your very own copy here: Teacher’s Map of Online Business Secrets.
© kayse morris 2020 / legal / design by saffron ave
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