Thank you for sitting down with us today! Can you tell us what inspired you to start your side hustle?
It all started when schools were locked down. I was at the end of my maternity leave, and I didn't have any plans to go back into the classroom straightaway. I thought, you know what, I'm going to help out! I'm going to offer a free 30-minute English lesson on Facebook Live every day until schools reopen.
I made this little advert and shared it on Facebook and it just went viral over the course of that weekend.
On that first Monday morning that schools were closed, 2,500 people came to my first Facebook Live session. It was actually the first Live I’d ever done in my life, so I was far from a pro at it. I just sort of dived in, there was no fancy technology, my whiteboard was a clipboard that I'd attached to a lamp with a bit of garden twine.
What made you decide to take this from a passion project into a full-time business?
I really enjoyed teaching the topics that I like and in a way that was my own. So I thought, I have to turn this into a business. I've got 60,000 people watching me wondering what I’m going to do next.
So I set up Holly's Classroom that I run weekly during term time, with live and interactive English lessons on grammar and creative writing. They are fast-paced lessons, where you have 10 seconds to come up with an answer and off we go! It's very vibrant and upbeat and they're really well attended by people all over the world.
I still put out a lot of free content and I do workshops, live storytelling and am now a contributor for The Week Junior magazine and a host on the Teachers Talk Radio show.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting this?
The fact that I feel like I'm carving out my dream job. I think I'd be foolish to divert off this trajectory.
I’ve also been so fortunate to have received a thank you letter from the Prime Minister for helping support homeschooling families from across the world. I won the Points of Light Award and I also got to switch on the Leighton Buzzard Christmas lights which was a huge honour!
There has also been so much good that has come from this. I give free class passes for disadvantaged kids (I’ve given away almost 250 free classes since September 2021) and I set up a charity appeal for gift-condition, second-hand children’s books.
For Christmas 2021 we distributed over 1000 books to disadvantaged, vulnerable and deserving kids.
Tips on how to start your business:
If you had three pieces of advice for people looking to start their own side hustle, what would they be?
Get your friends and family on board to share on their social media what it is you're starting and build up a community that way. That's how it started for me. I just shared that I was going to host this live lesson on Monday morning for anyone who was interested and needed some help. And everyone shared it and it went viral. So that’s definitely my top tip – get your friends and family on board.
Next, don't be too hard on yourself. It does take time. I’ve been doing this for nearly three years and I still get things wrong. Success and getting things wrong I think go hand-in-hand.
My last tip would be to just go for it! If you don't you'll look back and wonder if you missed your opportunity to turn your side hustle idea into the career of a lifetime.
What were the three biggest challenges you had when deciding to start Holly’s Classroom?
To start with, it was knowing where my strengths and weaknesses were. I had to accept that I wasn't very good at finances. So you know, I couldn't do that by myself. This is where Rachel from Blue Leaf Accounting has been so amazing and she introduced me to Mettle.
You have to look at what your skills are and things that you can't do. Then you've got to be prepared to find help or let other people advise you.
Everything I do is out on social media for anyone to see. The challenge was sometimes just putting yourself out there for people to criticise but instead choosing to listen to the majority of people who are usually very nice and have good things to say.
And number three is, don't give up when you have a bad month!