Today we talk with Samantha Metcalf….
Samantha Metcalf (39) used to feel over-worked when she was a teacher at a busy East London school. Although she found her job incredibly rewarding, after taking time out to travel with her partner, she decided to make a pivot in her life. She now runs a successful history subscription box company. She is thriving on her newfound freedom and flexibility, and is also able to fully embrace life as a new mother, on her terms. This is how she made her ‘pivot’…
As a teacher, there are countless challenges. What I consider to be good challenges include providing pastoral care, understanding each child’s needs and strengths, planning for their progression both academically and as a person, and making learning fun and effective for all. Teaching is undoubtedly a wonderful profession.
However, teaching can also take over your life. It’s a highly stressful job and I used to spend around 10 hours at school every day, and then go home and continue with planning or marking in the evenings and weekends. School holidays were a time to catch up on marking and to plan ahead. It was impossible to switch off from teaching; I was constantly thinking about the children and what they needed.
In 2015, my partner and I both desperately needed a year-long career break. We both handed in our notice and travelled the world. This gave us some much-needed perspective to readdress our focus. We couldn’t imagine dropping back into the same lives. We knew we wanted to combine his skills as an accountant with my educational background and start a business together.
We did a huge amount of research on subscription box businesses, as well as reflecting on our own interests and what we enjoy learning about. We agreed that our shared passion is history and decided to create history-based subscription boxes for children aged 7-11. We actually developed our business idea before we’d even returned home from our travels!
People closest to us were very supportive, although I’m not sure everyone understood what we were doing until they saw the first samples! I love my new career path. Every day is different and it just doesn’t feel like work.
I became a Mum a year after starting the business and I love that I was able to fit work around my son. It has made me especially grateful that I could spend quality time with him, then catch up on work when he was asleep, rather than having to go back to teaching and feeling exhausted and overworked when I saw him.
The early days of our venture involved a roller-coaster of emotion. We had nerves: What were we doing? Would anyone be interested in our idea? Could we make it work? But as time went on, we gained confidence as it all started coming together. We had highs of excitement at each new stepping stone, from getting our logo finalised, seeing the first book in print, to winning our first award. We often look back and can’t quite believe we did it!
These days, our main challenge is around how to best grow the business, which in itself is exciting! We have so many ideas and the biggest challenge is finding the time to get everything done. Similar to teaching, we work long hours and never quite switch off but it’s different when it’s your own business. You feel in control.
My advice to anyone considering a change in direction, do your research and think about your interests and strengths, do what you love. Life is too short to be unhappy in your work!
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