Who would have ever thought two guys who wanted to make a little extra money for golf, would be in the position we are today. We owe it all to TPT!
Back in 2009, I was scrambling after school for a resource to use with the book Swindle by Gordon Korman. I decided to go online and see if I could find something to use for the next week in school. I stumbled upon a site that had a Swindle resource, but there was a fee. I looked at the image and thought to myself, “Hmm. If this person is selling this resource, I bet I could do this too!” So later that evening, I contacted my friend, and told him about this site called “Teacherspayteachers.” We hemmed and hawed about it for a while, but then decided to go for it. Heck, maybe it would give us some golf money for the following summer.
So in November of 2009, Wise Guys opened up shop on TPT. We had no clue what we were doing. We just both knew that we loved to teach, and wanted to share our creative ideas with the rest of the world. So we set out creating our first free resource (we now have over 100 freebies!) and then began creating resources at home early in the mornings or late at night when our kids were in bed. I can remember when we got our first sale, not too long after opening our store. We were elated. There were other teachers that actually found value in what we created!
As November turned to December, we continued to add resources. As we did this, sales went up a little, and we started to gain followers. I can never forget how we felt when we knew we were being “followed” by other teachers. We kind of laughed about it, and my wife even joked and said, “Hey, you have groupies!” But we were kind of in shock that other teachers would want to find out what new resources we would be creating next. It kind of provided us with extra motivation to continue to create highly engaging activities.
I will never forget New Years’ Eve 2009. We had been on TPT for almost two full months and were about to cross the three-digit (yes 3 digits as in $100) range in sales! I can remember calling the other 1/2 of Wise Guys on that day and just being so excited for the fact that we each had two rounds of golf paid for! We both were excited to see what 2010 would bring!
The next major milestone happened on Valentine’s Day, of all days. We were able to hit the four digit amount. Once again, I called my buddy up and we high fived each other over the phone. Our wives at this time were starting to think we were a little weird (actually, they have always thought that). This continued to motivate us to keep on keeping on.
Something amazing happened as we entered year two on TPT, we noticed a difference at school too. We had more energy, more passion, more desire to reach all of our students. We had a spring in our step and a burning desire to be the best we could be for our students. We had a renewed confidence in our abilities as teachers. TPT had given us a spark, and it was making a difference in our attitudes with our students at school.
As sales started to increase we created a Facebook group with other TPT sellers to help build a community where we could share ideas and tips on how to increase sales. We were all a bunch of rookies when it came to marketing, after all we all had degrees in education! But this small group of teachers helped to build the foundation for what TPT was to become. Names like Deanna Jump, Rachel Lynette, Kristen Bowers, Margaret Whisnant, Tracee Orman, Tracey Kellar Graham, Rachelle, Gunderson Smith, Amy Brown, Jason Elliot and many others began sharing ideas and tips on how to reach more potential teachers. Blogs started to become popular, Facebook started to explode, and sales began to climb. It also helped that the founder of TPT, Paul Edelman, was a former teacher himself, and really relied on these early teacher authors for advice and guidance. This open communication has made TPT what it is today. (We owe it all to you Paul!)
In 2011, an all out assault on teachers and public sector employees happened in Wisconsin. The majority leaders in Madison, Wisconsin decided to sign Act 10 into law. This law reduced teachers’ unions rights to collectively bargain. It also increased our health care, and tied our salaries to the CPI (Consumer Price Index). We began starting to see frozen salaries. We had tough decisions to make. We were scraping by on our teachers’ salaries, and trying to pay our mortgages, bills, put money away for retirement and save for our children’s college funds. At that point, we began to invest more time into TPT. As early as 5AM and as late as 1AM, we would work before and after school (never during contract time) with a renewed passion and energy to show the world what we could do.
From 2012-2013 sales really started to take off. We were working on TPT almost each and every day of the year, even on holidays. If either of us took a trip with family, we would bring along our laptops and still get up early, or stay up late. Our resources were becoming even more creative and engaging, and it was reflecting in our sales. We had found our niche.
In 2014, TPT decided to hold its first ever convention in Las Vegas. I jumped at the chance to be able to meet all of the people I have connected with online. I was excited to meet Paul, the man who had changed Wise Guys’ lives. I also couldn’t wait to see my TPT friends as well. The convention did not disappoint! There was so much energy in the opening keynote it felt like the roof was going to blow off! I got to hear about Deanna Jump and her $1 million in earnings (couldn’t have happened to a better person). But more than that, the convention was purposeful, engaging and highly beneficial to me. I learned more about effective blogging, making covers that pop, finding a niche, and Pinterest too! It was a treasure trove of information that I couldn’t wait to take back to the other 1/2 of Wise Guys and get started. And that was a joke at the convention too. Since my business partner didn’t come, people joked with me about how there wasn’t a second half to Wise Guys and that he didn’t exist. I promised that he would come to the next one.
And in 2015, we both made it to the 2015 TPT Convention in Las Vegas. It was great to have him there. We were able to split sessions and then talk about what we learned. But even better, were the networking opportunities that we had. We joined the Upper Elementary Snapshots collaborative blog and TPT store which consists of: Jodi Durgin, Kristin Rivera, Rebecca Rojas, Pam Thompson Oliveri, Mandy Neal, Jennifer Larson, Melissa Tallman, Mariela, Santillana, Jamie Steinorth Sears, Deb Hanson, Meg Anderson, and April Smith. These ladies were, and continue to be amazing! It is hard to keep up with all of their energy and great educational ideas, but we are trying!
This year, as we closed in on a TPT milestone, we couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful to Paul Edelman, all the TPT pioneers that paved the way for future teacher-authors, the people employed by TPT (special shout out to Amy!), and all the teachers on the website. We know we have become better teachers and that has had a direct impact on our students’ lives. And that’s what matters most!
TPT has made us better educators. We have a renewed passion for a profession that was beating us down with new mandated testing, required norms, and even “non-negotiables” in what we teach on a daily basis. However, being able to collaborate with teachers across the U.S. and the world online, being up to date on the latest research and trends in education, and being able to further develop our creative imaginations to best reach our students has made a tremendous difference in who we are as teachers. Education has been forever changed with major publishing companies such as Pearson who have tried to monopolize textbooks, testing, and interventions. But we know that TPT is a place we can go to and trust for creative, innovative, and engaging resources created by teachers for teachers. That is the place we want to be!
SPECIAL NOTE: FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 1-7 WE ARE OFFERING OUR BRAIN BREAKS CARDS FOR FREE (VALUED OVER $5) IN OUR STORE! CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK!
ALL DIGITAL ITEMS IN OUR WISE GUYS STORE WILL ALSO BE 20% OFF ON TUESDAY MAY 3 AND WEDNESDAY MAY 4 TO CELEBRATE OUR MILESTONE!