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Teachers Apply Basic Skills to Entrepreneurial Adventures

teacherart-02 Annette Pelliccio stops to smell the roses.

School budget cuts have left teachers across the country out of work and looking for new jobs or alternate careers.  While teaching jobs may not be coming back any time soon, those with an entrepreneurial spirit just might find a silver lining in the cloud of  unemployment.

BusinessNewsDaily spoke to four former teachers who offer lessons on how to make the move from teaching to entrepreneurship.

Game changer

Michael Falgares was a special education teacher who loved his job.

“My teaching position demanded so much of my time and did not pay off financially,” said Falgares. “I wanted to combine my passion for children, education and entertainment into one business.”

So Falgares started Gamin' Ride, a mobile, indoor-outdoor entertainment theater experience that brings the latest video game, movie, lighting and sound technology to events like birthday parties and school functions. Gamin' Ride currently operates franchises in seven states and is continuing to expand across the country. Falgares expects sales to reach $2.6 million in 2010.

Flagares said he loves owning the company because it combines all of his interests.

“It allows me to work with parents and children to plan celebrations and milestones, which are all happy occasions,” he said. “I still get to teach but now I am educating our franchisees how to operate a successful Gamin' Ride and pass along the skills needed to manage large groups of people. Financially it has been amazing. I knew I made the right decision when in two months [of owning] Gamin' Ride [I] made more than a whole year of teaching.”

Going green

Annette Pelliccio was already considering leaving her job as an elementary school teacher when the events of Sept. 11 helped cement her decision to make a career change that would allow her to spend more time with her children. In 2003, she left teaching to start her own educational, organic garden and lawn care company called The Happy Gardener. The Richmond, Va.-based business now has distributors throughout the country.

And while she’s no longer teaching in the classroom, she’s still an educator.

“I have to be able to teach each of my distributors how to use the products and how to sell them,” said Pelliccio, who said three-quarters of her distributors are teachers or former teachers.

“Teachers generally are passionate about what they do and the distributors who are the most successful are the ones who are most passionate about what my company is teaching families and communities about healthier, non-toxic methods.”

From schoolhouse to house hunting

San Diego-based Schoolhouse Realty is owned by two former teachers, Shannon King and Gaby Preston, who left teaching because the workload, lack of resources and low pay were more than they could manage financially.

They started their real estate business in 2008 and focus on working with teachers who are looking to buy or sell their houses. They also encourage other teachers to get their real estate licenses and work at their firm.

“Real estate is a natural career switch for teachers, as we are still educating our clients,” King said. “We are care givers, and typically great with the hand holding required in a home purchase.”

While the pair has left teaching, they haven’t forgotten their roots.

“We give 10 percent of our earnings back to the schools of our clients’ choices. We’ve given over $30,000 in the last few years,” King said. “We have high school interns every semester, we sit on PTA and school boards and are very involved in the local school community.”

Motivated to change careers

Jaylene Garau, owner of JM Products, is a certified elementary teacher in Florida, where teachers have lost jobs as a result of major budget cuts.

Last September, she started a company that allowed her to capitalize on her understanding of how kids think.

“My product is based on the behavior management strategies that I successfully used in the classroom as a teacher,” Garau said.  “It all started in my effort to help one of my students with behavior issues at home.  I helped that one family and when my strategies worked, word quickly spread among the parents at the school.  I decided to turn my idea into a product.”

The Motivated Child is now sold in stores across the country and was recently named at 2010 Greatest Product by “Creative Child Magazine.”

“I am proof that there is life after leaving the classroom,” Garau said.  “I have several teacher friends who lost their jobs.  Some have been looking for a teaching job for a few years and are still not employed.  I have told many of them to reflect back on their teaching days and they just may stumble on an idea that they could turn into a business.”

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.