Thursday, June 18, 2015

The beginning of our partnership!

By: Jill Dockins 

So, you're thinking of starting a business with a partner.  I am one of two teachers who decided to create a partnership to sell products on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

In the Beginning…
Cary and I drove 5 hours to a conference in East Tennessee this year.  During that drive our conversation steered into my successes with my husband loading his lessons and our math and science activities on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Cary was full of questions ???? and I was more than happy to talk about it. *:D big grin

The last three hours of our drive was discussing the possibilities of joining together.  I shared with Cary the difficulties I was having with launching a huge kindergarten-2nd grade product line.  I was wavering on doing this myself or trying to wrangle my hubby into another venture.  When Cary showed so much interest and I got a feel for her strengths, I offered the partnership to her.  I needed someone with energy and  expertise that would compliment my skills. 

1.  First, you need to decide if you really need a partner.  Is this something you can do by yourself.  Sure, I can do this myself.  But, creating this business, will help me set goals and use my talents as more than just an extra budget for travel and charity. 

2.  Your abilities and skills should compliment one another.  While I am artistic and creative.  My business partner, Cary, is detail oriented and business driven.  Right this minute I have about 37+ products I have developed and at least 15 more ideas that haven’t been developed.  I never seem to finish them.  I am constantly improving and redesigning without posting a thing.  Cary is coming to my rescue.  She can comb through and fine tune each product with her magic designing eye. 

3.  #2 leads us to discuss how the business will be divided.  While I have some products near completion that I am excited about, Cary is going to finish, polish, post and market the products.  We agreed at this time, that would create a 50/50 input into each product. 

3.  Plan your goals and dreams for this partnership. During that 5 hour drive we discussed my families success with becoming debt free after following many of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover strategies.  Cary’s goal is to be debt free.  My goal is to pay off our mortgage.  Nothing is more freeing than paying off debt.  So, our venture will hopefully help us realize our dreams. 

We arrived at our conference motivated to investigate the possibility of going into business together.  We were full of excitement and tossed ideas back and forth for days.  

Let’s DO IT!!!

10 Steps to Start your Business Partnership for Teachers

Step 1.  Partnership Agreement
Once people get to know me, they find out I plan for ANY possibility.  People who work with me are horrified when I state, “If I die in a fire death this weekend, the testing material is…”  .  Its just me.  I always plan for the worst.  Maybe that is why I am so easy-going?  When life throws me or my family a ‘bump’, I usually know things can be much worse.  I tend to be happy and feel blessed with everything in my life.

So, when I throw out some of the following topics at Cary to agree upon, she was also very surprised.  I told her, while we are friends now, you never know what could happen.  While we are healthy now, what happens when one of us cannot continue.  So, many things have to be discussed before forming your Partnership Agreement.  I have piece of mind now knowing what will happen to our partnership in the event of a dispute, death, or even health issue. 

These topics need to be written out as detailed as possible.  It was the outline for our Partnership Agreement

Partnership Name
            Other names/logos
            Cash Investment
            Contribution/ % of ownership
            Pay – How/When
                        How  to divide profits/losses
Future Business Decisions
            Scope of individual authority to make decisions
            How to handle disputes
                        list arbitrators you would use if possible.
            How partnership will be dissolved
Management duties
            Divide up who does what

            *Contact similar partnerships for any advise (if teachers, contact us!)
*If your business name is anything other than your last names, then you may need to register your fictitious name.  We used our last names.
            *Legal Review (should be cheap, since you have done most of the work prior to the review)
            *Sign Partnership Agreement (notary not necessary)
Step 2.  State ID
This was a simple process and the first major expense ($20 in Tennessee).  To register your partnership, you will need to have the following items:
            -partnership agreement (specifically the pages that detail partnership authority)
            -alternate names or TPT store names.  Anything someone might try to search for your company.  For us, it was Dock Right and LOL with ESL.  Our partnership logo is a play on our last names and looks like Dock Right, but the INS in my name and the W in Cary’s name is between to form ‘wins’.  If someone were to just look at the logo though they may assume we are named “Dock Right”. 
So, in the part that says, “this partnership has the additional designation of,” we put all names someone might try to find us.
The State Acknowledgment letter arrived in 5 days.  
Step 3.  Tax ID
The tax ID was needed to open a joint business account with the bank.  Paypal and Dwolla may aslo require it.  This was simple in the state of Tennessee.  I was able to apply in minutes online.  There were no fees to apply.  The tax ID letter came approx.. 4 days after applying.  
Step 4.  Joint Bank Account
Now you are ready to open a joint business account.  It is important that you research different banks.  Cary went to major banks, credit unions and local banks.  We found the fees attributed to those accounts vary drastically.  We just needed a place for Paypal or Dwolla to ‘dump’ our earnings.  Cary finally found a local friendly bank with only $100 start up.  We opted for the least expensive account.  The only draw-back, is we do not have online banking.  That would have been $10 per month.  We just didn’t want to spend that kind of money to start up our business.  So, we will do it the old fashioned way! 

To open a bank account you  need the following documents:
Partnership agreement
State ID letter
Federal Tax ID
2 forms of ID
And, in my case, I needed to unfreeze my credit line. 

Your probably asking yourself, why would she freeze her credit records?  Our school system was ‘hacked’ a few years ago and we found freezing our credit line was a free way to protect our family members from identity theft.  In my state it is free to unfreeze and freeze the credit line.  Also, you only have to freeze one of the credit reporting agencies and it will lock all attempts to open credit lines and or accounts under your name.  I used Experian to freeze my credit.  I found it very simple and fast to unfreeze online.  Just remember to keep your pin number from the reporting agency to temporarily unfreeze your account when needed.  It works great!

Step 5.  business email accounts (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL)
I opened up email accounts for all the major free Email providers.  I played with a few and Cary played with a few.  We decided Cary would manage and use the gmail account and I would manage and use the yahoo account.  No particular reason.  We just got use to using them and found sending attachments easy with both.  We wanted to ensure all communications were kept for our records in mutual accounts.  Both accounts were opened with the same information so we both have access to both email accounts.  The trick is to check these accounts daily. 

Step 6.  Paypal account or Dwolla account
This took hours!!  I remember signing up for Paypal in 1999 to buy my daughter adorable Gymboree and Baby Lulu outfits on Ebay.   It was so simple and easy.   Not true today in 2015.  I was so disgusted with the process, but thought I had no other options with Teachers Pay Teachers.  Paypal was NOT user friendly at all.  Infact, I found it quite rude.  I’m not sure how an online process accomplishes this, but I was intrusive and ridged.  At the end of the process, you have to wait for banking verifications, identity verification, residency verification, id verification…oh…and tax id verification.  ARGH!!!  While I waited (which will take DAYS!), I decided to open our Teachers Pay Teachers account and get it ready to sell.  Low and behold…you do NOT have to use Paypal.   
I have never heard of Dwolla.  After quick research, it was and easy and simple option.  Selling on TPT, we will never need the Credit Card flexibility of Paypal.  We just need to dump $ into our banking account.  The fees for Dwolla sold me instantly.  If you plan to sell products on a website, sure Paypal is the only option now.  But, that will be a few years out for us.  Dwolla was so EASY and user friendly.  It wasn’t as cumbersome as Paypal and the first question asked was, is this a business.  Yes!  Things flowed flawlessly.  I only have to wait for one id check and we will be ready to receive revenue.  YEAH!

Step 7.  Teachers Pay Teachers Account
Thankfully, this was an easy process.  You do not need anything to open your account or even begin designing your TPT store.  See ours here:  
You do however need to decide if you are going to have a free account or a premium account.  While this was a no-brainer for me, I had to educate Cary on the importance of choosing the Premium account.  The first major difference is the amount of royalties you receive from TPT.  The free account is currently 60%.  The premium account is 90%.  So the difference for every $100 sold will be $30 in TPT fees.  The cost of the premium account is $60.  If we sell $200 the first year, it will pay for itself.  Now for the newbie with little products in development, it may not be cost effective.  But, for us, I project we will probably sell $200 per month within 6 months.  For us, the Premium TPT account is a must!
I first worked on the banner.  I had this idea I had worked on for a while.  To make this a banner, I had to rework it 3 times for it to fit properly in the banner window of our store.  Then, I did a quick re-design of our store front logo to make a button logo for out profile picture.  Now, we need to load products and start sell, sell, selling!

Marketing Yourself
Steps 8 – 10 deal with marketing your products.  I heard this called “gorilla marketing” on the radio.  These are three easy and FREE steps you can do yourself to get your products visible to potential customers.  Yes, you heard me right, FREE marketing you can do yourself!

Step 8.  Pinterest Account
People LOVE pinning!  They see something they like and don’t want to forget about the idea.  I use Pinterest myself.  I have a Kindergarten Board with all things for each letter sound unit I teach.  I fill it with fun and funny media to engage my little ones.  These pages are loaded with online stories, video clips, live animal webcams, and songs.  Who doesn’t love to dance to Stray Cat Strut as you teach Catina the Cat, letter C?
Anyway, back to marketing.  Creating a Pinterest account and allowing your pictures and elements to be pinned on your website and blog will generate countless contacts you would have not made without it.  For example, my husband started a blog.  In his blog, he pinned one of his pictures.  That picture was pinned by 3 people.  Those three people progressed until he noticed a week later it generated 60 re-pins and a spike in our TPT sales in the day following his pin/blog.

This is not my thing.  This is Cary’s thing.  I, in fact, dislike Facebook.  But, if you are in this business,  I do recognize it is a valuable tool.  Every time I update our website, the popup asks me to, “Share on Facebook”.  Since we are not completely up and running yet, I say, “soon, little intrusive one, soon.”

10.  Website/Blog
We went with a free website with Tripod/Lycos.  There are many options out there, Weebly etc.  They offer free templates and fairly easy to begin.  I do hate the limited ablitity you have with a free site.  I want to move things and add things that just are possible in a free website builder.  Also, those pop –up ads are so annoying.  But, we decided not to purchase a domain or web service to start up and save a little money. 
The blog is essential.  We decided to create a free blog with Google’s Blogger.  So, you should now be looking at our site  Something brought you to see this very post.  Some key word you typed in a search engine, or even a pin posted on Pinterest or Facebook or even a picture in a Google search may have helped you travel to this very spot.  I thank you for your interest!   I also thank the power of the BLOG!  It allows me to market our products and help two hard-working teachers realize our financial goals.  Well, we aren’t all that ‘scrooge-ish’.  We do hope to bring value, education and inspiration into the lives we touch.  We didn’t become teachers to make money, that is for sure!!

Consider the Expenses
We are trying to keep our expenses as low as possible.  We spent $20 to register our business with the state, $100 to open a bank account, $60 for the premium TPT account.  This doesn’t count the expenses you may have with the legal review of your partnership.  You may be able to use legal aid or a family member.  So, your ‘bare bones’ expenses could be as low as $180 to start your partnership and sell on TPT.   With product design, you will need fonts, clipart, backgrounds etc. too.  You can find many things for free.  It is all about time though.  So you many have to pay to save you time.