What It's About
An agriculture teacher grows and nurtures a six-figure side income using a niche market.
Words of Wisdom
This project serves a very specific group of people. While some find marketing to a small group of people limiting, Alicia credits it for her success. One Less Thing had very little competition and came up at the top of searches when people were looking for agricultural education materials. Plus, she could rely on people learning about her products by word of mouth, since the community was so tight-knit.
At one point, Alicia and Brian decided that both of them would work for the business. Only 6 months after that, however, the worst economic downfall since the recession hit. They didn’t have a steady paycheck or benefits. The two learned that if they were both going to work for the business, they should act like they already were only living off the business before the other spouse quit their job. If they couldn’t survive without dipping into the other spouse’s paycheck, they weren’t ready yet.
Notes from Chris
In 2006, Alicia Tomlinson had just become a parent. She and her husband Brian were thrilled at the arrival of their firstborn, but Alicia quickly realized that her long work days as an agricultural education teacher just wouldn’t work, at least not for a while. She decided that she wasn’t going to come back for the next school year and instead would focus completely on being a full-time mom. This, at the time, seemed like a much-needed break. That “break” was over before it began. As soon as her fellow teachers found out she was leaving the school system for good, they began asking her about making course materials for them. Alicia wasn’t sure about taking on the extra work but agreed to at least show her friends the materials she had on hand. They were amazed. They couldn’t stop talking about how much time they’d save if they had these materials. Naturally, Alicia was stunned! She knew that there were very few resources for agricultural education teachers, but had no idea that her personal materials would be so attractive to her peers. That's when she got to thinking—what could she do if she really devoted time and effort into creating a product and sold it? After all, she was already well versed in all kinds of agricultural subjects, from forestry to veterinary science to meat science to parliamentary procedure. Plus, she knew what teachers wanted, since, well, she was one. After some deliberation, Alicia decided she would try it out—much to the delight of her friends in the industry. As Alicia continued to learn about what this side hustle would take to produce, she realized how few materials were necessary to start making products. She already owned a computer and had recently been gifted a printer. All she needed was a pouch laminator. It cost $500—not a small amount of money per se—but it was the only thing she had to buy. Not bad for overall start-up costs! With her business tools assembled, Alicia began to create her first products. She started with two products almost every kind of agricultural education teacher could use. The first was a review game all about the Future Farmers of America, or FFA. She decided to price the game at $50. The second product was a series of "icebreakers" for teachers to use at the beginning of the school year to help the students get to know one another. Alicia knew that teachers could create products like this themselves, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that they no longer would have to, which Alicia knew would be attractive. She began making other class materials and eventually expanded into study cards for something called Career Development Events. At these events, students have to identify all kinds of things from slices of meat to species of plants and animals, to types of industry equipment. It was unrealistic for teachers to have examples of all of those things on hand, and they were often forced to create their own study cards. Alicia decided that she was going to do it for them. That was the product that really put her business, now called One Less Thing, on the market. Teachers were telling one another all about Alicia’s products, and word traveled quickly in the tight-knit group. Plus, Alicia was speaking at agriculture education conferences and getting a ton of exposure there. After the cows were put out to pasture, Alicia made $35,000 in revenue that year! One Less Thing has now grown to become more than just a side hustle, and she now produces lesson plans in addition to the other products. Altogether, it pulls in about $200,000 a year, giving both Alicia and her husband the opportunity to work on it full-time. They can support their now family of five with the side hustle Alicia happened to give a chance a few years ago. Alicia still can’t believe that she gets to do what she does as a job. She loves being able to attend every event her kids have and to be able to eat lunch with her husband every day. She’ll keep putting out her ag-ed resources until the cows come home.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- One Less Thing: If you're interested in learning more about Ag education, hoof it on over to Alicia's blog to learn more!
- Shopify: Alicia used Shopify to set up her site for One Less Thing, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!
- Choir Teacher Turns Music Workbooks Into Noteworthy Hustle: A passionate choir teacher on a limited budget discovers an untapped market
- English Teacher Turns Passion for Verbs Into Online Income: In search of extra income, an ESL teacher creates a game that shows students how to use phrasal verbs. Turn it up!
- Waldorf Teacher Designs Curriculum for Other Educators: How a teacher uses what she knows to help other teachers save time and teach more effectively
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