The following is a guest interview from Teachable creator Teri Ijeoma. Teri started trading stocks 11 years ago to simply supplement her income. However, she was so successful with this side hustle that in 2017, she decided to quit her job, travel the world, and begin trading full-time. Teri now offers an online curriculum that shares her investing strategies with people all over the world. Currently, she is Teachable’s most successful creator to date. In honor of Teachable’s Creator Month, in which we celebrate and share the expertise of creators everywhere, Teri shares her thoughts on success as an online course creator and how she’s now taken her learnings to her new documentary, Trade and Travel Life.
“I thought that I would never teach online. I actually had a friend ask me one time if I would teach my class online, and I said no. I really enjoyed teaching people in person, so I just didn’t feel like I would have the same love for it if it wasn’t in person.
But I had actually been traveling for about four or five months and was trading by myself. The people I was traveling with asked me to teach them how to trade. We got a little work place in Thailand and I held my first class. I did a whole presentation and called it ‘Intro to the Stock Market.’
I remember teaching it to them in this small co-working room in Thailand at a small little boardroom table and just giving it all I had—and they loved it. The funny thing was: I actually really enjoyed it too. And I remember just feeling like, OK, I didn’t mind this so much—maybe I’ll teach that again. And so I ended up teaching another class in Thailand.
When I got home to Dallas, I taught another class and 71 people showed up. And I remember one of my friends from Thailand said I really should consider teaching and doing this online. Then, he sent me over a webinar from Danielle Leslie, and I remember watching the webinar and watching her talk about online courses and still feeling like, I don’t know about this.
Long story short, I re-engineered the webinar [from] Danielle Leslie. I didn’t realize that she used Teachable, [but] she was giving out as a gift a bonus for anyone who signed up for a class to sign up for Teachable. So that’s when I signed up and started using Teachable as well.”
“I think one really big learning moment was in the very beginning. I partnered with a friend to help me get the course up and going, and we were doing a 50/50 split the profit. He would take 50% upfront and then I would take 50%. But what I realized down the road was: Dang, my 50% would dwindle down as all the expenses would come out of my side. I was still having to teach the course and teach students. So I’m doing months and months of work on the back end. And he got to take his cut up front and be done after we first did the marketing or did the sales.
So I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a creator is always account for your expenses before you make any kind of splits of the profit. Take the expenses out first and then negotiate. In the future, I would never do a percentage deal for my course. And I know this might sound counterintuitive, but if it’s somebody who’s doing a project for me, whether that’s if they build a funnel, or they build graphics, or they helped me put together my webinar, I would pay them a flat fee, which we negotiate on the front end. And then let them do their work versus giving them a percentage of the sales.”
All in perspective
“Another big learning moment I would say is just managing expectations. When I was, was putting together my course, I used to motivate myself by saying: OK, once I finish this course, then everything will be finished. I’ll be able to live my best life and I won’t have to deal with it anymore. Sales will come in and they’ll just come in like clockwork. I’ll be able to live my best life.
But then once I started getting sales, people, it didn’t work out that way. I’d have to then manage sales calls. I had to teach students and manage students. I had to keep up with my social media so that more people could join the course. So I think I kind of sold myself short. And what ended up happening is, once I got the success of so many students joining the course, I wasn’t happy about it, because that wasn’t what I had expected.
My expectation, and what I had sold myself on, was the fact that I would be able to shake my hands of it and be done right after this course was finished. And, that wasn’t the truth.”
“So I think one other big learning experience or moment for me is: As a creator, you will always be creating, and you will always be in the course as it grows—you’ll just have different roles. And the first part, the build up, you’ll have the role of creator. Then as people start coming in, you’ll have the role of teacher, mentor, and manager because you’re managing all the systems and more probably customer service type of roles.
Then as the company gets bigger, and you have a team, then you really step into this entrepreneur, business manager role. I wish I could have told my younger self, not that it’s a bad thing, but just manage your expectations. You’re going to work really hard. Then maybe take some time off for yourself, because at this next level, it’s still a bit of more of work!”
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Creator to filmmaker
“My documentary [Trade and Travel Life] documents my move from Dallas to Puerto Rico. Earlier this summer in 2021, I moved to Puerto Rico so that I could better manage my business and then also better manage my lifestyle. I moved to this beautiful home on the beach—on the water. It just really leveled up everything and leveled up what I could expect from myself—like how I show up on a call.
But it also has been this huge inspiration for many of my friends and family that have come to visit. I think immediately they see the home, and they realize like their dreams are too small, They should dream bigger, think bigger. Most of them leave the house feeling so much more relaxed.
The reason why I did it is because I’ve had such a great journey over these last three years of: quitting my job, starting to travel all over the world, starting this new business, seeing the business grow, hiring teams, going from $65,000 in salary as a teacher to a million dollars in salary in 2019, and then a million dollars a month in salary from courses on trading in 2020. And then in 2021 [I was] focusing back on trading and making a million dollars in one day trading stocks.
This huge journey has happened in just three years since I quit in 2017. So in three and a half years, all of this has happened and I just realized that I didn’t really have that journey written down anywhere. And it’s still not completely captured.”
Building a documentary
“There are four major components that we included in the documentary. The first one talks about the behind the scenes of being a CEO. You see me filming a new series for YouTube, you see me doing a webinar for my Trade and Travel course, you see me just doing several things that are behind the scenes of running a business, you get to see what that life looks like. That’s episode one.
Then it goes into episode two, which is the the sacrifice. And really, it’s about the family and friends that I’m leaving behind as I have to move to Puerto Rico. I want people to think through: What are all the sacrifices that you’d have to make in order for your business to be successful?
Then we go into the community. So once I get to Puerto Rico, you start seeing all the other entrepreneurs around me and how we lift each other up. I want people to start thinking through: In my life and in my business, who is my community? Who’s going to surround me and help make sure that we are all successful together?
Then the final part of the documentary, episode four, is about the legacy. This is more aspirational. You see me getting settled into Puerto Rico. You get to see more of the house and what’s here. And in that part, I want people to start thinking through: What’s next? What legacy are they leaving behind? Who are they doing this for? What’s their why? And I’m hoping that people really just take those four pieces and start journaling out a path to success for themselves. What can their best life look like?”
Putting it out there
“For me, I sat on this content for so long. We had it all done all put together. But because I didn’t have some kind of pretty launch plan or pretty strategy for how to put it out, I just sat on it. Recently, when some friends came to me to do a podcast, I said, ‘I don’t really want to do a podcast right now. But I have this documentary that I’m just sitting on.’ Once I showed it to them, they were like, ‘Teri, this is so good. People need to see this.’ We then tried to figure out well, how will they see it?
So Trade and Travel students have been doing meetups across the country. They literally have 50 different meetups and meet in different cities and study together. I wanted to do a little tour and go visit their meetups, so the solution we came up with was: What if we just go to the different cities and block out a movie theater and let people come watch the documentary? So we did.
This past September, we booked out movie theaters and six cities. We were in Atlanta, Nashville, New York, Chicago, LA, and Dallas. We booked out theaters and sold out in every single city. People showed up to come watch the documentary and left so inspired. What was cool is we also got friends of mine who were also influencers and successful entrepreneurs as panelists to do discussions afterwards. It was the coolest movie screening and coolest experience ever.”
“Honestly, I just want to inspire everyone. I want to inspire creators who are thinking about building a course, entrepreneurs who are thinking about building a business, and people who are in their jobs and just feel stuck.
When I was assistant principal of an elementary school, to some people, that was the best job that they could ever hope for. But for me, I felt stuck. I felt like the walls were confining. I didn’t want to go to the same building every day. The administrative team never seemed to validate or support me. I always felt like I was doing something wrong. And every little thing they would nitpick, and I would cry every day in a bathroom.
So I just want to support anybody who is in a job where they feel like they don’t belong, anybody who’s in a season where they feel like there’s got to be something more but it’s just not there, anybody who is thinking about being an entrepreneur or a trader. I want all of my students and future students who have ever traded stocks to know that you can be successful.
They say that 95% of traders fail. And that’s true because a lot of it is not so much just knowing how to trade, but it’s also managing your emotions. A lot of people have a tough time with, but I do want them to see that there is success— you can be successful in trading. You can even be successful in just investing in general, being financially savvy, and having financial literacy.
I really hope to inspire everyone who gets a chance to see this young Black, Millennial woman out here making millions of dollars and doing something that her grandmother and grandparents would never have imagined.”
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The test-and-see method
“I really like problem solving. That’s why I’m actually a trader. I love being an investor because I get to think through what the stock is doing. I see where it’s going and I know my trading plan. I love the the ‘Did I do it right? Oh, I did it right, yes!’ successful feeling.
I think as a creator, we get to do a lot of that. I went to MIT and I’m a math and science junkie—I’m a STEM girl for sure—and we always got to do experiments. That’s what I’m looking for: experiments. And as a creator, you get to do the same thing. You think: “Let me just see if this launch thing works. I heard about this new thing on Facebook Live, let me just go see if it works. Oh, I heard about this five-day challenge or this email sequence. Let me just try it out and see if it works.”
And I think that’s my favorite part—the creative part, the test-and-see part of being a creator.”
To the next class of course creators
“I think my biggest advice is to start small and be OK starting small. I had that live event in Dallas and 71 people showed up. I told them in the event that I had an online course where I teach people how to invest in the stock market—just to see if anybody was interested. Two people signed up.
But I gave everything I had to those two people. I built out the slides. I taught them. We did the Zoom calls. I fully built out the curriculum—even to teach two people—because I wanted those two people to be successful.
That later grew to my first cohort in October of 2018, which had 30 people in it. I gave everything I had to those 30 people. Over 2019 I actually retaught my curriculum four different times. Every quarter, I would re-teach it, edit it, move things around, re-record, because I really wanted it to be great and perfect.
I think that’s the key: Just give everything you’ve got, even if it’s a small number of people. And those numbers will grow. Next, make sure that your students are also successful. My students are starting to make $1,000 in a day and we have $1,000 in a day club and over 2,000 of them have hit that $1,000 in a day club. Because when students are successful and they’re actually doing well, they share the course and spread it through word of mouth.
So if you can just really help your students be successful. That’s what’s going to take you to the next level.”
To watch Teri’s documentary, Trade and Travel Life, sign up for her Teachable course, where you’ll have access to an accompanying workbook, or subscribe to her YouTube channel to watch an episode each week as they’re released starting in November. And be sure to checkout Teri’s latest feature in Entrepreneur magazine.
—The previous is an edited version of an interview with Teri. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.