Feb
28

From English Teacher To Publishing Entrepreneur

Up until seven years ago the last thing Kim Kleeman wanted was to be an entrepreneur. “I like sane hours. I like routine. I like knowing where my next paycheck is coming from. My father’s been an entrepreneur for 40 years: He’s owned delis, restaurants, and retail businesses. My mother always helped him. It was a hard life, hard on us kids, and not what I wanted for me and my family. So I married my college sweetheart and we both became teachers. It was wonderful.”

But when Kim’s eldest daughter, Casey, was just a few years old she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and everything changed. “Casey has five or six different doctors that she sees regularly, and every three months she goes for blood tests. When this started I thought: How am I going to take time off for all those appointments? Plus, our health insurance sucked. As teachers, my husband, Jay, and I were in an HMO and just managing the referrals was a full-time job.”

In order to care for her family The Kleeman’s decided to become entrepreneurs. In 2003, the couple founded Shakespeare Squared, an educational development company that employs an army of freelancers to write and edit materials such as textbooks, lesson plans, teacher guides, activity workbooks, and test-preparation materials.

Initially Shakespeare Squared was home-based business managed by Kim, while Jay continued his work as a high school teacher. But after her third child was born, Kim found herself trying to shush crying babies while on the phone with clients and waking in the middle of the night to a beeping fax machine. A couple of years ago, she moved to an office to keep her sanity.

It was an intimidating move involving $4,000 in overhead. So beforehand, she e-mailed editors at large publishers to introduce herself. Once she had eight projects lined up, she took the leap. She borrowed $5,500 from her father to cover the first month’s payroll for her two employees and planned to use extra office space as a tutoring center if it came to that. But, as new projects kept pouring in, it didn’t.

“We employ over 400 freelance writers. Most are former teachers but we pull from publishing, journalism, and other fields as well. We developed a writing test that covers everything from copyrighting to educational taboos, and prospective freelancers must earn at least a B plus. A nice plus with our business is the opportunity we can offer teachers for life beyond teaching. I really promote teachers in the classroom, but if the classroom just isn’t your thing and you’re still passionate about education, there is a place for you here.”

Shakespeare Squared, located in Glenview, Illinois now has a full-time staff of 20 and is branching out in new directions, publishing its own materials and offering an educational editing certification process. In five years’ time, the company has grown to over 3.0 million dollars in revenue.

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