Are you a TpT product seller? Get ready to be inspired today!
It’s no surprise to anyone that it’s been a really rough year for those in education. Teachers have had to change the way they teach overnight.
Our TpT product seller clients here at Simple Pin (that’s Teachers Pay Teachers product seller), who create awesome resources for these amazing teachers, have experienced that same need for a sudden change in their business strategies.
How do you navigate when your entire business changes overnight?
Today we are talking with one of our favorite long-time TpT clients, Christina Winter of Mrs. Winter’s Bliss. She is sharing with us how she adapted her business focus during the pandemic and what she learned about herself and her audience in the process.
I hope you’ll listen to Christina’s thoughts on connecting with your audience in a time of change and think about how you can use her experience to inform your own business strategy when you’re next faced with a changing landscape in your business.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that we are hosting a podcast survey this month.
We’re celebrating five years of the Simple Pin Podcast!
We want to continue bringing you great information for the next five years so we’ve created the survey because we really want to learn more about you. We want to know what your learning needs are and what you want me to teach about.
How can the SPM podcast really help serve you and help your business grow?
If you would be so kind to click the survey link and share your thoughts with us, you will be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card. This giveaway ends May 31, 2021, so we’d love for you to fill out the survey and get in on the chance to win that gift card!
Let’s dive right on in to today’s podcast with Christina Winter of Mrs. Winter’s Bliss and learn how she adapted her focus as a TpT product seller in this pandemic year.
How to Change and Adapt Your Focus as a TpT Product Seller
The Origins of Mrs.Winter’s Bliss
Christina was a full-time teacher and taught first grade for 21 years. Passionate about hands-on learning for her students, she created many of her own teaching resources. As an avid reader of teaching blogs, she began sharing her ideas on her own site as a hobby in 2013.
Her teaching friends were always commenting on her resources. They started encouraging her to sell them on Teachers Pay Teachers.
The Teachers Pay Teachers platform was in its early years at the time, so she really didn’t think much about the marketing end of her business. She didn’t truly market her products — instead, she simply put them up on the platform and waited to see what would happen.
Christina says her hobby turned into this accidental business. She loved seeing and hearing about her resources being used in other classrooms around the world.
Leaving The Classroom and Transitioning to Full-Time TpT Product Seller
When she realized her lifetime dream of becoming a mom, she found time was passing so quickly and she wasn’t getting to spend enough time with her daughter. Instead, she was busy being mom to the 24 kids in her first-grade classroom.
That’s when she started considering turning her hobby/accidental business into something bigger.
I just looked at my husband one day and said, “Can we make this a go?” And he said, “Let’s take a year and see what happens”.
She let her principal know she wasn’t going to return the next year and she dedicated her time and focus to being a mom and growing her business.
Fast forward four years — her business is growing like crazy. She now employs other people and she also gets to do all the “mom things” like field trips.
Moving from the classroom into the business world was a big leap for Christina. She didn’t have a marketing degree or business experience, but she found the help she needed in other ways (like listening to the Simple Pin Podcast).
Christina began to educate herself about Facebook, Pinterest, and other platforms. She realized what powerful tools they were for getting information out to an audience.
Leaving the security of a traditional job was a bit scary at times for her, but It was also an amazing time for Christina.
I had so much experience being a teacher and I was so passionate about teaching that everything I did with my students and the resources that I created were so intentional. So when I was able to put those resources out in the world and see people buy them I thought, ‘Wow! Other people are getting a great experience from this as well. — Christina
Her Pre-Pandemic Business
Christina says that being a teacher/author gives her a big advantage when it comes to understanding her audience. She’s been in the teaching trenches. She knows the daily challenges of:
- managing meetings
- building relationships with helpers, students, and parents
- meeting the needs of students at varying academic levels within one classroom.
It’s a perspective that big book publishers often don’t have.
Constantly thinking about her audience is a big focus for Christina. She is always working to build that intentional focus with her team. She has two audiences to consider.
We’re intentional about setting teachers up for success as they’re delivering the resources and the lessons, but we’re also intentional about setting students up for success. That’s really important I think.
Christina realized early on that Pinterest marketing was something important as she saw so many teacher/authors working hard to become part of many group boards. However, she didn’t have much knowledge about how it worked.
As a full-time teacher trying to manage teaching, a family, and her business of creating teacher resources, she turned to platforms like the Simple Pin Podcast to educate herself.
In the beginning, she didn’t really have much of a Pinterest strategy as she was building her business. She was just putting resources on Pinterest without any strategy and hoping that people would see them and become interested.
Christina believes that her dedication to testing products and paying attention to audience reaction helped her tremendously. When she saw a pin get 20 to 30 repins in an hour, she knew this was something she needed to keep doing. It motivated her to learn more about Pinterest and develop her strategy.
How the Pandemic Shifted Her Teachers Pay Teachers Business
As we know, the world basically shut down in March 2020. Everything came to a screeching halt and the world of education was no different.
We saw a massive shift in how kids were being educated; going from a traditional classroom model to a virtual classroom model.
Ironically, Christina was on a cruise at the time and had no idea what was happening until her cruise ended on March 15.
I really didn’t know the world was shutting down. I got off the cruise on March 15, turned on my phone and my thought was – what in the world is happening? I feel very blessed that I even got off the cruise ship!
Overnight, teachers basically had to learn a new job. Instead of being in a classroom full of children, now they had families staring at them through Zoom meetings. Many teachers had to simultaneously learn how to use all this new technology while also learning how to maintain an online classroom and provide education to their students.
Because Christina’s approach to education in her first-grade classroom was dedicated to the idea that kids learn best hands-on, she never had any experience with Google classroom or platforms like SeeSaw and digital activities.
I didn’t believe that’s what students should be doing. I really believed that their fine motor and developmental needs should be met hands-on.
Christina still holds that belief passionately, but this past year has challenged her to think about that approach in new ways.
When this educational shift happened, her sales dropped drastically. But just like most of us, Christina thought students would be home for two weeks and then things would go back to normal.
She made no plans to change the format of resources.
She distinctly remembered having a conversation with a good friend and saying, I’m not going to change the whole business just because of this. I’m just going to stay the course! Obviously a few weeks into that she started to shift her thinking.
Christina says the shift in understanding the need to change her focus happened because she could hear the desperation in the voice of teachers. The resources they so desperately needed to navigate this sudden change to a world of online teaching really weren’t easily available to them.
She felt like she was fully capable of doing something to help because she wasn’t in the trenches. She had the freedom to think about what she could do to help her teaching colleagues.
Christina said it was so helpful to be part of her mastermind group and have the opportunity to discuss possible solutions.
There was a big disconnect between teachers and resources because they didn’t have time to go looking around for those resources. So she focused on how she could get the content out to teachers most effectively. She decided to create a blog post with all the resources gathered in one place. That was her first step.
Then Christina started looking at resources she had already created and began to think about how she could make them digital. She knew the young students she created resources for would have limited tech skills so her resources had to be created in a way that teachers could easily get them to their students and students could easily navigate them in the digital world of learning.
This was a hard process for her.
She didn’t know anything about this world of technology in the classroom so she just had to dive in and start learning.
Adding Digital Products to Her TpT Product Line
With a huge desire to help teachers as quickly as possible, Christina just dove in and started creating resources. Her heart was with all of the teachers who were living in crisis mode and she wanted to be able to contribute in some way to help them.
I made a decision that if someone had already purchased a resource from me I wasn’t going to charge them for the new digital version of that product. I decided to add it to what already existed. So teachers just got this free upgrade. It was my way of giving back and earning trust with my audience.
The new demands on teachers and students have changed how she views all of the items she creates. Her new resources are now made in both printable and digital forms so that, as students are starting to filter back into the classroom, teachers have both resources available to them.
Christina says it will be interesting to see what happens when schools are completely open and “back to normal”. She believes that everyone is sick of being on a screen, but she will continue to ask her audience what they want so her team can best serve them..
She personally believes she would want to use the hands-on and paper/pencil printable activities. But she realizes there are advantages to digital activities as well. One of those benefits is the savings on prep time for teachers.
Christina says if she could change anything about how she navigated this past year, she would jump right into creating digital products without so much hesitation.
She would also hire more people to help sooner. This would have allowed her to get more content out to teachers quickly.
Despite these regrets, she is proud of the work her team was able to accomplish and how they were able to help teachers during a difficult time.
I think that we served teachers who were really needing help. I think that we had to do some hard work. We had to learn. Teachers were being asked to do hard things too so I said I have to do some hard things to help them.
Mrs. Winter’s Bliss: Key Takeaways from this TpT Product Seller’s Story
Christina is excited about releasing a course this summer. She is working hard on creating that content.
She is also really excited to keep listening to what her audience is saying about their wants and needs for the future.
She feels she has some really great teammates to help her move forward.
Christina and her team plan to keep talking with their audience about ideas and pivoting to meet their needs.
There are just certain niches like education, travel, and the wedding industry, that were so impacted over this last year. To hear how people in those niches have really listened to their audiences and navigated to meet their needs is inspiring.
Here are some key takeaways from Christina’s story.
- We need to continue to listen to where our audience is and then try to pivot with them to continue to serve them.
- There’s an element of figuring it out as you go along; a need to be willing to test things to see if they work.
- There’s a need to realize that an approach might work with part of your audience but not all of your audience; be open to thinking out of the box.
We’d love to hear how you have been inspired by this story.
For Further Listening/Reading: