Teigan Margetts is the Co-Founder of children’s book publishing startup, Ethicool Books. Ethicool publish dreamy kids’ picture story books about the world’s big issues that inspire children to create change. Covering everything from climate change to mental health, Ethicool’s books help parents, grandparents and educators everywhere make story time not just special, but meaningful.
Founded after Teigan unexpectedly lost her mum when her son was just five weeks old, Ethicool began as a way to honour Teigan’s mum’s monumental contribution as a much-loved school teacher who always believed in the power of the next generation. Yet as the business has grown, it has become a powerful tool to start the conversations we all know we need to have – before it’s too late.
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
As I alluded to above, the spark that really ignited my desire to start Ethicool was losing my mum. When I was writing her eulogy, I think for the first time ever I started to question what I would want people to say if they were writing one for me. Given that I have two children, and especially after last summer’s horrific bushfires, I felt like I couldn’t – wouldn’t – leave the world not having made a significant positive impact.
Although I believe that our generation is doing what we can to address issues such as climate change, global poverty and even the scrounge of depression and anxiety that plagues us, I don’t think we’re doing enough. What I’d like to see is a significant mindset shift in how we address these things, with more people taking personal responsibility for making a positive change. What better way to start than to inspire our little ones to take up the cause!
If I’m being honest though, my entrepreneurial journey started way before Ethicool. I’ve been running my own business as a freelance journalist and copywriter for four years now, after deciding I just couldn’t pretend to be a corporate slave I mean employee any longer when I was five months pregnant with my first son.
That decision was sparked by the fact that I never once felt comfortable, happy or fulfilled in a corporate job, despite having nearly ten different roles in different companies for the best part of a decade. From almost day one, I felt like I didn’t fit in and that questioning the status quo, which is something I always did, was not something any employer ever wanted. In my disastrous corporate career, I managed to get made redundant three times and I was not once promoted! I think it was a sign.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?
I’m not sure if I had just one turning point, as my frustration and feelings of being deeply unfulfilled built up over the course of a decade. But if I did have to pinpoint just one point in time, I would say that it was my final job as an employee. I (regrettably) had taken a job with the now-defunct company Acquire Learning, whom have since been prosecuted in court for rorting taxpayer funding for VET courses.
Seeing the highly unethical practices there, and seeing the founders blatantly not care as long as they made money, made me fundamentally question how business was conducted. I had a very strong feeling then that the system was broken, and that the only way to fix it was to start a business myself and always stay true to my values and my desire to make the world a better place.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
Back yourself. If you’re passionate and talented, you’ll make it.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Resilience: This is super important! You’ll fail again and again, but you have to learn to not take things personally, and pick yourself up and keep going.
- Learning agility: Failing is never a problem as an entrepreneur, but not learning from your mistakes is. Every time something doesn’t go the way you envisioned, make sure you reflect on what you could have done differently.
- Self-motivation: When you work for yourself, there’s no-one forcing you to do what’s required – you have to find that motivation within yourself.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
She’s not necessarily a businesswoman in the traditional sense, but if I ever need a dose of inspiration I go and watch a video of US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s an inspiration in every way to me: super intelligent and articulate, young and willing to challenge just about everything and everyone who has come before her to make the world a better place.
What was the best advice that you have been given?
To just “own it.” If I look back, I think the reason I didn’t start a business earlier was because I lacked confidence. Once I discovered that, everything was easier.
What do you think your key to success has been?
Going back to the traits I mentioned, I think it’s been the ability to keep trying and to learn from my mistakes. I suppose a healthy dose of business acumen has also helped.
How have you personally measured your success?
Two things I think, by how satisfied I am with the work I do and the impact I have, and also my ability to provide for my family. Ultimately, if you love what you do but you can’t have at least some element of financial stability, it is difficult to maintain. It’s about striking a balance between your passion and a sustainable business, both in a good-for-the-planet sense, and a basic financial sense.
Outsource the skill or learn the skill?
It depends what it is. For example, I’m a journalist so I have a natural writing ability. This means that other types of writing isn’t too difficult for me and it makes sense for me to invest a bit of time learning what to do.
But if it was something that lay entirely outside my skillset, for example accounting, then it makes sense to outsource it. Learning it would take too long and honestly, I’d never excel at it so from a business perspective it would be nonsensical to try and learn. The ROI on my time just wouldn’t be there.
How do you generate new ideas?
I always generate new ideas when I’m doing completely new things! For example, every week I try to take my little ones to a new place, whether it be for short bushwalk or to a new garden or historical site. Seeing and doing new things really inspires me.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I’m a very values-based person and I always felt that as an employee, I was compromising on my values by doing one thing or another. As an entrepreneur, I never have to do that. I’m free to live my values and genuinely and honestly try to make the world a better place.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I feel that “now is the time to be alive” in the sense that there’s so many successful, sustainable businesses challenging the status quo and doing things differently. One such business for me would be shoe startup Allbirds. Their whole supply chain (and approach) is sustainable and they’ve sold literally millions of their shoes. If we had more businesses like this, the world would be a better place.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
My children are really young at the moment (aged 1 and 4), so honestly I’d love to see them, and all of their little friends, grow up with a sense that theirs will be the generation that changes things. I’d love to see an Ethicool book in every household in the world, with millions of important conversations had and little superheroes created.
Beyond that, I’m not much into material things, so I simply hope that the world can be a positive trajectory from a climate and equality perspective and that the people around me are happy and healthy.
Who are the women around you that allow you to thrive?
My mum. I really miss her.