What It's About
Teacher spells out major profits with her sign language videos.
Words of Wisdom
It’s good that Shelby is transitioning to streaming because lots of us don’t have a DVD player anymore. The last computer I had that included one was more than five years ago!
Updating the technology is important but, of course, the real value is in her content and the relationships that she’s building. As long as you keep updating and keep nurturing, that never goes away.
Researchers frequently conclude that learning sign language as a toddler can help them learn to read at an accelerated pace. By using this research, Shelby became an in-demand tutor around New York City—and eventually landed a gig tutoring Bono’s son.
Notes from Chris
Episode 621When Shelby Rideout graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in elementary and special education, she didn’t go into teaching—she went into acting. She moved to New York City and started trying to land gigs. Shelby knew that making it as an actress probably wasn’t going to happen immediately, so she decided to start sign language interpreting and tutoring for elementary-age kids to help make ends meet. She put up fliers around private schools across the city, and before she knew it, she was tutoring—a lot! Shelby made a name for herself and even tutored Bono’s son, who still hasn’t found what he’s looking for… and couldn’t live with or without her. Her favorite subject to tutor was reading, but it was also a challenging one. Some kids took to it eagerly, but for those that struggled, reading was a nightmare. It damaged their self-confidence and made them timid to learn, which in turn was hurting them across their other subjects as well. Shelby worked with kids as early as four years old who would say things like, “I hate myself” or “I’m stupid” because they couldn’t read well. It was heartbreaking, and she knew she would do anything she could to help her own children learn to read at a young age. In fact, as time went by, she had two of them: a one-year-old and a two-year-old. As kids can do, they required a lot of attention—Shelby just wanted to do things like cook dinner without being constantly interrupted. So she came up with a plan: she would make some home videos about how to read and sign that would keep her kids entertained while she cooked. She set up a screen in her basement, pulled out an old puppet named Paulie, and started filming. It was fun, and it allowed her to combine her three passions: acting, signing, and teaching. Altogether, this first round of videos only took an hour of time and a few dollars for a simple, white screen. (Paulie worked for free.) And her kids loved them. Before long, Shelby’s kids were her best party tricks. At one point, when Shelby’s son was only one year old, he signed “banana” in front of her friends and everyone was amazed. They wanted the videos for their own kids, so Shelby burned a few copies onto DVDs and gave them away. [DVDs are these things that used to exist before streaming.] After a couple years of seeing her friends’ kids learn to communicate at rapid speed, an idea clicked. Why wasn’t she selling these videos? They were clearly working and definitely wanted by other parents. It was a massive project, but Shelby and her husband knew it was something they were passionate about and that there was demand. Finally, after two years, Bright Signs Learning started selling on Amazon.com. The product included four videos, flashcards, and a workbook, all for just over $100. In December of 2016, Bright Side Leaning had its first $10,000 month. And monthly sales have been between that and $15,000 ever since. But while the slow, steady revenue growth and big upcoming opportunities have been thrilling, the best part of it all for Shelby is hearing from her customers. Their toddlers are quickly learning to read and sign at a very young age, and Shelby knows she’s helping kids all over the country become learners who will thrive in school and life beyond.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Bright Signs Learning: If you're looking for a sign, maybe this is it! Learn more about Shelby and her products over on her website
- Immigrant Couple Translates Heritage Into Children’s Flash Cards: Two immigrants from Laos meet the needs of an underserved community in a $50,000 per year hustle
- 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!
- Flight Attendant Gets Paid to Help Kids Learn About the World: After visiting 50 countries, a flight attendant and her pilot husband create an income-generating project to teach kids about the world
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