Let’s start with the one-liner – what is your company? What do you sell?
Kim Strobel: Strobel Education—we help educators replace the feelings of stress, defeat, and discouragement with energy, empowerment, and enjoyment for their profession and for life.
Tell us your origin story.
I’m a licensed ELA teacher for grades K-12. I taught in classrooms at all grade levels during my almost 20 years as an education professional. I began my career teaching fourth grade, during which time I served on numerous committees devoted to improving the curriculum and culture of schools.
After that, I served as a K-12 Literacy Coordinator, helping to develop a school-wide plan to improve literacy achievement and implement new common core literacy standards. Then in 2013, I began leading some of my own workshops and found that I was very good at connecting with teachers and helping them implement practical, yet effective teaching strategies. About halfway through that year, I was asked to join a consulting company and began providing professional development for them full-time.
While I found myself extremely good at what I was doing, I was working 80 hour weeks and that particular company’s mission was very different from my own. So, in May of 2014, I resigned from that position and was put under a two-year non-compete. That year I took a job as Curriculum Director for a school corporation. Within a year, I started feeling like I was truly meant to become a public speaker and run my own education consulting company. By January 2016, I left my role as Curriculum Director and began Strobel Education.
In less than a year I became a nationally-recognized keynote speaker. Today, I travel the country giving inspirational keynotes to schools with a strong focus on helping teachers reclaim their joy both in their personal and professional life. I have a team of consultants who go into the field and provide professional development to schools and districts, and we also provide online courses for remote schools and teams.
A year later I was fortunate enough to launch a second business—Kim Strobel, The Happiness Coach. I became a happiness coach because of my own dark struggles throughout my life, specifically with panic disorder.
I work with women who want to step into their Arena of Bigness, understand their power, and unleash their happiness one daring day at a time. I empower them to live bigger, bolder, braver lives by living life from the inside out. Part of this business is a 90-day online coaching program. More recently, I’ve begun to implement keynotes and pieces of training around happiness and well-being for the corporate world.
Did you need a lot of capital to start your business? How did you finance your business in the beginning?
Kim Strobel: At first, my husband and I personally financed the business. We didn’t need much capital because I was the sole employee and was trying to do it all on my own. This quickly changed because we became a well-known, go-to resource in the field of education and teacher well-being.
Was this an area for which you had passion before you started the business, or did you see a need and move to serve it?
Kim Strobel: I have always had a passion for students. I wanted all students to believe in themselves and understand they have a positive contribution to make. I’ve always been equally driven to help teachers succeed as well.
How has the business evolved over time?
Kim Strobel: In the beginning, we were hosting regional training for teachers. We slowly started adding onsite training for schools and districts, with the occasional keynote interspersed. Now, I do lots of keynotes throughout the school year (virtual and live) and we have five consultants who go into the field and deliver professional development to teachers.
More recently, I created online teaching courses on topics such as Trauma-Informed Schools, Standards-Based Grading, Growth Mindset, and Genius Hour. I also just launched The Happy Academy, which is a ten-month support program for teachers and students with a huge focus on social and emotional learning and well-being.
How did you grow? Tell us about a moment, or moments, in the early days that were “big moments” for the business. What moved the needle substantially?
Kim Strobel: One of the biggest moments for my business was when I decided to host a regional workshop in Indianapolis, IN and we had over 125 teachers attend. Many of those teachers went back to their schools and explained how helpful the training was, which resulted in many onsite trainings in school districts.
Another huge moment was when the word about my keynotes spread like wildfire. Teachers find me to be very real and authentic, and they are able to connect to me easily.
Every successful small business owner has to navigate the world of expansion. And choosing how to expand is just as important as choosing how NOT to expand. Tell us about forks in the road on your journey.
Kim Strobel: I made several mistakes early on and one of those mistakes was hiring a marketing agency. They thought they could really help my business grow nationally. I spent $45,000 and it got me nowhere. It was a very tough pill to swallow (to say the least), but I learned a lot through that process.
I also think my team and I have overcomplicated a lot of the so-called ‘business of the business’ in the past, and we have learned that simplicity is much better and drives more revenue.
As you’ve grown, you’ve undoubtedly had to delegate. How did you tackle that challenge?
Kim Strobel: I had to hire a team pretty quickly because I was drowning in all the administrative tasks. I think one of my strengths is that I’m not afraid to delegate and get myself out of the weeds. My strengths are creating content and speaking, so I try to spend most of my time doing that. I leave all the details to the team members who have those other skills.
You know the axiom – no risk, no reward. Tell us about a time you took a big risk. Did it pay off? Did it fail? Or you had a completely different outcome than expected?
Kim Strobel: It took a lot of courage to leave my Curriculum Director role to create and run my own business. I had zero business knowledge whatsoever, and I was walking away from a steady paycheck and insurance.
Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It waxes and wanes. You go through a period where you feel on fire and excited about how the business is doing, and then all of a sudden you go through a calmer period and wonder if the business will survive. But yes, taking the big leap has paid off in big ways for me. I generate a lot more revenue, I have flexibility in my work life, and I wake up excited every day to do my job.
Do you/did you have a co-founder or did you go at it alone? Tell us about that decision, and how that affected you as a leader.
Kim Strobel: I don’t have a co-founder, but I did hire a very strong team and they helped me evolve and grow the business.
Have you ever considered taking on additional partners, venture funding, or bank money to grow the company, or have you always bootstrapped?
Kim Strobel: So far, it’s bootstrapping!
Tell us about some of your sacrifices along your small business journey.
Kim Strobel: There are many sacrifices, but to me, they are worth it. One of the biggest things I didn’t realize is that I would live and breathe this job. When you run your own business and you’re deeply passionate about your work, you think about it 24/7. It’s a heavyweight that you carry around because you are constantly trying to grow and maintain it.
That being said, I take off every Friday and have a self-care day. I take a ten-mile run, have a lunch date with my 96-year-old grandmother, and get a massage.
What is the most gratifying thing about what you do?
Kim Strobel: For me, it’s truly seeing and witnessing the transformations that take place after I work with people. I love seeing their faces light up with “Aha!” moments. It’s also heartwarming to see others begin to use the strategies and tools I teach them to help them create a happier, more joy-filled life.
Who is a leader or someone that you admire? Why?
Kim Strobel: Oprah is my North Star. She was told she was “unfit” for television and instead of listening to the naysayers, she went on to build her own platform and empire. She is on a mission to influence others to consciously think about their life’s purpose, and the responsibility we each have to make a difference in this world. I’m positive she will want to interview me for her Super Soul Sunday series. After all, I am a happiness coach.
What is a secret weapon that you have that would surprise people?
Kim Strobel: Contagious energy for life and my ability to be very real, raw, and vulnerable.
If for this business, what would you be doing as a career right now?
Kim Strobel: I would love to be an actress!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Kim Strobel: In ten years, I hope to be doing mostly keynotes and have a team that runs all the behind the scenes for me. I literally want to just hop in a plane, step on a stage and deliver, and leave everything else to my team!
Finish this sentence: “I would not be standing here today if not for ____”
Kim Strobel: Rob Moore, who believed in my ability to speak and present and saw it in me before I ever did.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give your 18-year-old self?
Kim Strobel: To wholeheartedly believe in yourself.