How I Became An Accidental Entrepreneur

This is a guest post by Sarah Barrett of A Mom’s Guide to School Fundraising.

I’m a planner by nature, and love when things go according to my plan.

But sometimes, as a parent, that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes you have to toss the plan out the window and jump into something with both feet.

When my older daughter started elementary school I didn’t know what life would be like as an “elementary mom”. It felt a lot like high school and left me wondering where I would fit in.

I was plucked from the crowd by a very involved parent who thought I’d be perfect to run the school’s annual silent auction fundraiser. I was so honored, but my husband saw through the “snow job” and said, “They want you to work for free.” I didn’t care. I had found my place in the school.

For a few years, I honed my skills and got to be a pretty good fundraiser.

It wasn’t what I set out to do, and it certainly wasn’t on my list. But it fit me perfectly. I learned as I went, and made mistakes along the way. But by allowing myself to be open to something – even if it wasn’t what I thought I was looking for, I created a new identity for myself. I got auction items. People knew me at the school as The Get Girl. I had no shame. I would even put on a costume if it meant I could get another great item. Fear and embarrassment were not an option!

As I talked to parents at other schools, I learned that many parents didn’t know HOW to fundraise. People started asking me how to do it, and viewed me as someone to go to when they had questions. I thought, these couldn’t be the only parents looking for guidance, so I used my knowledge and experience to write a book about school fundraising.

My passion for fundraising wasn’t something I grew up with. It came from being in the moment, wanting to support my daughter’s school, and wanting to find a place where I fit in. Being open to the experience instead of checking it off a list made all the difference in the world.

Now, I’m helping parents across the country do more for their kids’ schools by raising money and awareness. I know I’m not curing cancer, but maybe there’s a kid out there who loves science and because his or her parents helped fundraise for their school, they got to have a fantastic science teacher who encouraged them and sparked their curiosity. Maybe that student will grow up to find a cure.

Knowing that my efforts are helping others gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. I didn’t set out on this journey to make a ton of money. I ended up on this journey, quite accidentally … because someone thought I should do something. And while the streams of money aren’t flowing strongly just yet, they’re rising every day.

Finding that thing that you’re passionate about, that thing that sparks a business idea isn’t always easy. But if you take a chance and jump in without expectation or hesitation, you may just become an accidental entrepreneur. I did.

About the Author

Sarah Barrett is a mom, a former teacher with an MA in education, and a small business owner who traded in her full-time career to dedicate her time and energy to fundraising for her neighborhood school. She has just published her first book, A Mom’s Guide to School Fundraising, which is available on Kindle or paperback through Amazon. 

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26 Comments

  1. Melody

    I LOVE this book! I bought it immediately to help our school with their fundraising efforts and my only regrets are that I didn’t buy it in nov and I didn’t buy 10 of them to hand out to the team. Thank you for putting all of this awesome information in 1 place!

    Blessings,

    Melody Bockleman
    owner of privatelabelinsider.com and President of PTA at an awesome Montessori school!

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      OMG, Melody! Thank you so much!! I’d be happy to get you physical copies too! The great thing about fundraising is that it’s a year-round thing! I’d love for you to give us a review too on Amazon, if you feel up to it! Thanks so much for the compliments! You made my day!!

      Reply
  2. Darla Arni

    Great post Sarah! I feel very much the same way but I am a lousy fundraiser. I have found that my skills as a speaker, author, coach have been valuable at our school and in my child’s life because I can discuss issues without alienating others, see common ground in the situation and be an example of service without having to be in the spotlght. As a former teacher, Girl Scout Leader, former perennial homeroom mother, and for the last few years, school board member I appreciate your article; it made me feel that my years of service while trying to grow my business are not in vain! You go girl!! TMM forever!

    Reply
  3. Natasha

    What a wonderful heartfelt post, Sarah! You fell into it by accident, but look what a difference you are making now. And not just locally! You are an inspiration. Congrats!

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Thanks Natasha!!! I appreciate it!! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Kemi

    It’s raining here Sarah, but as I read this, I got all warm and toasty on the inside – as my son starts elementary next year, I’m thankful I already have a great resource waiting for me to tap into. Truly inspiring!

    I couldn’t agree more with the following statements:

    “I know I’m not curing cancer, but maybe there’s a kid out there who loves science and because his or her parents helped fundraise for their school, they got to have a fantastic science teacher who encouraged them and sparked their curiosity. Maybe that student will grow up to find a cure.”

    “Finding that thing that you’re passionate about, that thing that sparks a business idea isn’t always easy. But if you take a chance and jump in without expectation or hesitation,…”

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Thanks Kemi! I hope my book can and will be a great resource for you!! Hope the weather clears up soon!!

      Reply
  5. Tamsen Horton

    Sarah,
    Thank you for being present for your daughter and then following the path that opened up for you. My husband teaches 6th grade and it is parents like you that make life for everyone involved with children amazing! Thank you for taking your experience and making it positive and then being able to share it with others. We’re getting books for the parents group at my husband’s school.

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Thank you, Tamsen! I hope the parent group enjoys the book and finds many useful ideas! Thank your husband for me as well. Being a teacher is not an easy job, but being able to inspire kids to have a love of learning makes all the late nights grading papers worth it! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Sarah

    Sarah, you are such an inspiration! First, as a mom myself with a child that goes to a school where fundraising literally keeps the doors open, your mission and business are very important to me. Thank YOU for helping others give children the opportunities they otherwise may not have – like a good education!

    Second, the way that you have embraced this calling and turned it into a business and then just plain out ignited yourself and others is so so so awesome to see! Go Sarah!!!!

    xoxo

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Aw, Sarah!! Thank you!! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your words!! #gratitude

      Reply
  7. Sandy Dell

    Very inspiring story — “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life”. Sounds like you found your place in the world. Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply
  8. karen

    You got me teared up…

    “I know I’m not curing cancer, but maybe there’s a kid out there who loves science and because his or her parents helped fundraise for their school, they got to have a fantastic science teacher who encouraged them and sparked their curiosity. Maybe that student will grow up to find a cure.”

    That’s a statement that no one can argue.

    Sadly, many parents don’t take fundraising for schools seriously. But the fact of the matter is, schools can ALWAYS use extra money. And why wouldn’t you help? It’s your child’s education!

    Kudos to you for getting involved in your daughter’s school’s fundraising efforts. But even bigger credit goes to you for writing about it and helping others who might not know how to start.

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Thank you, Karen! Didn’t mean to get you teary eyed! I feel so proud to be able to help parents raise money for their schools, but the book can also help with Girl/Boy Scouts, soccer team fundraising and orchestra too! I hope parents know that this book can help with ANY kind of fundraising!

      Reply
  9. Dana Tremblay

    Hey Sarah!! So awesome to read your post as I also consider myself an “accidental ntrepreneur” and when I saw your title, my breath caught a little. “There are MORE of us!!” I exclaimed (in my own head.. lol). LOVE LOVE LOVE that women dedicated to their communities who start as volunteers are becoming business owners. I will definately promote you on my website as well and grow the community that much larger. YAY for moms who ROCK it out!!!

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Thanks Dana!! I’m so glad to know we are not alone in this!! Thanks for sharing with everyone you know…you so totally rock!

      Reply
  10. Amyli McDaniel

    Sarah: Thanks for sharing your story- very inspiring.

    Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Do Something Every Day That Scares You.”

    I have been challenging myself to do this for the past 10 years. I look for little things that both scare me and also excite me. Just this one thing on my to do list has opened doors to amazing friendships, activities, experiences and business ventures.

    Best of luck with your new book! As a mother of 2 in elementary school, fundraising is a hot topic that I know will resonate with many!!

    Amyli McDaniel

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Thanks so much Amyli! Eleanor Roosevelt was a wise woman! It’s very hard to ry scary things every day, but I think it’s great to push yourself to do it! Great things happen when we scare ourselves a little bit! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Reply
  11. Ellen Zimmerman

    What you’re doing is so important, Sarah! I was part of a team that did a huge fundraiser for the band when our daughters were in high school — and we had to make up all the steps as we went. Your guide would surely have saved us hours and hours. What a great contribution to parents everywhere 🙂

    Reply
    • Sarah Barrett

      Thanks Ellen!! It is my hope to save parents time and energy (and hopefully help them make a lot of money) and not have to reinvent the wheel!! Wish I could have saved you some time! 😉

      Reply
  12. Carley Knobloch

    Sarah!! So proud of you and the book! You’re providing such valuable knowledge for parents. Xoxo c

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Isn’t it so awesome, Carley? I knew you’d be proud of her! 🙂

      Reply

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