Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

Five years post headship and five years into working for myself and running my own business the language being used about what I do, and the language I use about myself is changing.

‘Entrepreneur’ is a new label for me:

a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

But I think I like it and can own it!

I have had lots of conversations in the last few months about what I do, how I got started and how it is going. People are genuinely curious and on the most part very supportive of my new-ish venture.

When I re-framed myself from being a teacher/ headteacher I had a lot of coaching and did a lot of reflection on how I was going to start referring to myself. My succinct introduction is currently that I am a Leadership Development Consultant, Coach and Trainer. Parallel to that I am the Co-Founder and Director of Diverse Educators.

I do not often include the fact that I am a small business owner, that I own a Limited Company, that I am a Company Director. And I am reflecting on why that is. My current stance is that in education business is often a dirty word and feels at odds with the moral imperative and servant leadership that brings many of us into the profession. We do it for love, not money.

I think this is one of the tensions that emerged from the academisation roll out and how academies/ MATs are perceived compared to maintained schools and localities. The criticism is often that academies are too corporate and they are run as business not schools, but the reality is that a school is a business, with a budget, with KPIs and the most impactful ones I have worked in have been well-oiled machines where the business serves all of the community, all of the stakeholders.

With the current climate in education we are seeing a mass exodus of teachers and leaders. I support so many Headteachers who are burnt out and who are planning their exit strategy. I also connect with many middle and senior leaders who have started a side hustle to supplement their salary, to keep their flame lit with where their passion is or who are thinking longer term about working part-time or having more of a portfolio career. The ones that worry me are the teachers who have only been in the school system for a few years who are planning to leave already.

I didn’t come into teaching to leave, to have a second career. I worked hard and progressed for twenty years, but I became disillusioned with some of my employers. I left headship to influence the system and contribute to the profession from a different angle as I felt handcuffed in what I could say and do.

I didn’t co-found #WomenEd and #DiverseEd to make a career and get paid for what I had done as a volunteer for nearly a decade. But as I explored my Ikigai I realised that I could get paid for what I enjoyed, what I cared about and what I was good at so I moved from doing coaching, mentoring and women in leadership training for free on a Saturday, to being paid to do it Monday-Friday. I thought initially #DiverseEd would continue as a side hustle, a passion project, a voluntary contribution but my network had other ideas!

So I guess I became an educational entrepreneur by default instead of my intent. I came through the backdoor, or the side door not the front door, into my new career chapter. And to be honest I have been working it out, making it up, as I go for the last five years!

There are two conversations in my past that still stay with me and get replayed a lot as reminders:

Conversation 1:

My ex once commented on how hard I worked, how many hours I did, and he could not get his head around the fact that as I worked harder and did longer hours that I did not get paid more. In his corporate world he would have received bonuses and been paid over time for going above and beyond for his employer.

Conversation 2:

On my first day of trading, my first day of working for myself, a friend and mentor rang me up to gift me some wisdom from her own journey. She told me to remember that moving forwards I was a “business woman doing education, not an educator doing business”. Thank you Diana Osagie for this nugget, it is a helpful reminder I go back to regularly.

Both conversations continue to guide me, to remind me and to hold me to account.

Being brought up by two self-employed parents, I didn’t perhaps appreciate the exposure I got to thinking about the world of work as a small business owner. For two decades I worked for others, I had a boss, I had a paycheck, but I was often unfulfilled and frustrated.

Perhaps the freelancing, independent, business owner chapter was always my path. I just needed to realise and embrace it.