My friend Susie Zahratka is a homeschooling mom of four and an entrepreneur, the owner of two businesses. How does she do it? I get my writing done first thing in the morning before the kids are up, but not everyone works this way. I decided to interview her and get the scoop.
Affiliate Marketing and Baking
The two businesses that Susie runs are very different from each other, yet they have a common theme. One is mainly online, where she sells organic body care products through Poofy Organics. I’ve tried some of Poofy’s products, and I’ve been very impressed. The company is ethical, produces everything in very small batches, and is dedicated to only using safe ingredients. I always read ingredient lists, and I’m feel confident using their stuff. This was the driving force behind Susie’s choice to use and ultimately sell Poofy Organics: knowing everything is safe enough for her kids to use, even the make up products.
Susie’s other business, baking, seems on the surface completely different. She takes local orders through her website and email, and occasionally bakes for events. But again, health is the driving force behind her decisions. She got into baking to help with her family’s health, providing them with bread and desserts that were better for them than store-bought and packaged pastries. She uses traditional sourdough techniques, whole grains whenever possible, and natural colors. (Susie had loaves of sourdough bread colored with streaks of beet powder rising when I visited.) Enough people began requesting her food that she started selling her work.
Before having her fourth child, Susie was baking for a variety of events and selling out at all of them. She’s scaled back now, mostly baking for a select clientele and a few events. She’s bringing in a small amount of money there, and a lot of satisfaction. Her online business brings in a more steady income for the household.
But wait, how does she do all that and homeschool too? First of all, their family has become more and more of an unschooling family over time. She has a great sidebar in my book Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits about how she went from being a teacher to a homeschooler to an unschooler. Unschooling means less scheduled stuff, at least on a daily basis. It also means that the kids are used to taking the initiative. Susie’s oldest son, age 12, made me a cup of tea and then worked with my youngest on Lego Mindstorms while we were there. Guess who used his savings to pick up some used Mindstorms gear this week?
Her kids are now seeking out more in-depth work on subjects they love, rather than having to be led through every lesson. So when Susie has an event to bake for, the family knows they have a couple of days to settle in for some good study and play time at home. They also know it’s temporary, and that they’ll be back out at the skate park or sledding with friends or visiting a museum shortly.
Susie also schedules specific times to do her regular baking and other business promotion. One day a week is set aside for getting her computer work done, and a lot of the baking happens after the kids are down for the night. That means that even with having two businesses she still spends more time with her family than if she were working a regular job.
I asked Susie if she had anything she wanted to pass along from her experiences, and she had a couple of suggestions. First, leave plenty of extra time to get things done. Know what your deadlines are and schedule time to get everything done, then leave a little more. That way you have the extra time if you need it, but you can take a bonus trip to the museum if you don’t.
Be Willing to Fail
Second, don’t limit yourself to what you already know and are good at. Susie surprised herself, because she’d never been good at baking before. I’ll write more about her family’s health journey in another post, but because of food restrictions she was forced to cook a lot of things at home that she hadn’t done before. It was a steep learning curve. She failed a lot, making inedible creations or ones that just weren’t what she wanted.
Susie says once she got over the hump she realized that not only was she good at it, but that she now enjoys creating things in the kitchen. It works the same when you’re 40 as it did when you were five: the better you get at something, the more you enjoy it. Now her baking is in demand, and our son got a lovely gluten free and diary free chocolate cake for his birthday. (He’s gluten free, and one of his good friends is dairy free.)
Should You Be an Entrepreneur?
Only you can answer that question. I’ve tried to answer a different question: Can you homeschool and be an entrepreneur? Of course, every person, every family, and every business is unique, so nobody else would do it just the way Susie’s family does. But yes, plenty of people do homeschool and run a business at the same time, and even make money at it.
And if you’re in the Twin Cities in MN, shoot me a message and I’ll connect you with Susie so you can try some of her pastry goodness. Even if you’re not, check out her FB page, Yoga Pants and Bonbons.