Teigan Margetts: “Teach your children to take personal responsibility”

You really should never underestimate the power of kids. It’s all well and good to say ‘oh, share, that’s the right thing to do,’ but when they’re shown, through a beautiful story they can relate to, the reasons why they need to do it, they can really take on different perspectives and create change. Aspart […]

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You really should never underestimate the power of kids. It’s all well and good to say ‘oh, share, that’s the right thing to do,’ but when they’re shown, through a beautiful story they can relate to, the reasons why they need to do it, they can really take on different perspectives and create change.

Aspart of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Teigan Margetts.

Teigan Margetts is the co-founder of children’s book publishing startup, Ethicool Books. Ethicool creates magical and heartwarming kids’ books about the world’s big issues — and then inspires children to create change. Covering everything from climate change to mental health, and equality to animal extinction, Ethicool’s beautiful stories help parents, grandparents and educators everywhere make story time not just education, but meaningful for children aged 0–8.

Founded after Teigan unexpectedly lost her mum when her son was just five weeks old, Ethicool began as a way to honor 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.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

IfI think back to what I loved and what I was good at when I was young, I was always a prolific writer and storyteller. My family home is littered with books I wrote and illustrated from when I first learnt to use a pen. I LOVED essay writing (possibly the only person that ever did) and I always used journaling and poetry as a catharsis. When I got in massive trouble for wagging school at age 15 and was grounded for literally a whole year, instead of sulking I wrote a poem about it.

Interestingly though, I didn’t choose writing as a profession — I think, like many others, I was encouraged to choose a more ‘stable’ career path and I ended up as an accountant. This started what can only be described as the most disastrous frog-hop of a corporate career. I somehow changed from accountant to investment manager, to recruiter, to HR consultant, to marketer, all within the space of a decade. I also got laid off three times. I think that was a message.

Randomly one day, a friend asked me to write a blog post for her business. I did it and I was HOOKED. I decided on that very day that writing was my passion and my calling and that I was going to make it my career no matter what.

Once I decided to write, things snowballed quite quickly and I was able to secure a number of ongoing copywriting clients, many of whom I still have today. I love writing — always will — but like many, when I became a parent I looked around and I wasn’t quite sure if the world I inhabited was the one I wanted my children to inherit. This evolution in me, coupled with losing my mum when my son was very young, made me realize that I wanted to write, but not just for business purposes. And if I wanted to create lasting and holistic change, the best audience were the ones with the power to do something — children!

Ethicool Books was born out of the idea that, for a number of issues like climate change, the next generation may well be all we have to adopt solutions on a broader scale.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

We sell our books exclusively online at the moment, which we thought was fine — everyone uses the internet in 2020, right? Somehow though, a lovely grandma (who lives in our town!) heard about us and then found our address through our local community. She then wrote us a letter saying she wanted to buy some books and that, given that we are social distancing due to Covid-19, could we please drop them at her house and she would leave cash in the letterbox.

And we did just that! We’re currently expanding to bookstores nationally and we hope to better cater to non-internet users in the future.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t want to say this is ‘funny’ because beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder when it comes to illustrations, but a few of the illustrators we were trialing in the beginning certainly had a different idea from us on what ‘magical’ children’s illustrations should look like.

There’s a meme floating around somewhere that has an image of a horse with lots of detail and color on the right-hand side, and a stick figure on the left. The saying underneath is ‘When your client asks you to do something for half the budget.’ That meme is so true — when it comes to illustrators, if you expect the world, you do need to be prepared to invest that.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

We like to think that we’re making an impact with a number of our books, and we’ve begun to get feedback that confirms the same, which is exciting.

For example, one of our books, Tom’s Tears, talks about why it’s ok for boys to cry, but also why society often doesn’t look so kindly on this. I’ve had mums contact me and say that they wanted to have that exact conversation with their sons, but they had no idea how. It’s amazing that the books are enabling this.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Sure! We’ve donated a number of our books to schools, especially some in underprivileged areas. One of our books in particular, Simon and the Sad Salad, discusses what can happen when some kids have less than others in school. The moral of the story is that we should always share if we can.

We had one teacher contact us and say that the book encouraged this exact behavior! Apparently a number of kids started sharing their lunch at lunchtime on that particular day. It was amazing!

You really should never underestimate the power of kids. It’s all well and good to say ‘oh, share, that’s the right thing to do,’ but when they’re shown, through a beautiful story they can relate to, the reasons why they need to do it, they can really take on different perspectives and create change.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

There sure are! As below:

  1. Read to your children. Children are one-third of our population, but all of our future. Through reading, they’ll learn to love words, which will in turn teach them to love knowledge. With knowledge comes the ability to understand how to make the world a better place.
  2. Teach your children to take personal responsibility. One of the key themes in all of our books is personal responsibility or the idea that the world’s issues are not just someone’s problem, but everyone’s problem to solve. Through teaching this, you’ll empower your children to believe they can make a change.
  3. Lead by example. One of the reasons we started Ethicool is because we were quite disillusioned by some of the world’s current leaders and their lack of action on a number of issues. If you want your children to grow up to lead, show them how. Be the person you want them to become and live your values.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership, to me, is inspiring others to create lasting and impactful change, and leaving the world that bit better than when you entered it.

This can really be epitomized by some of the current incredible leaders we have, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jacinda Ardern. They’re forging new paths, saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done, but in an empathetic way that takes the future of the planet into account.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I will answer this for my first business, which was as a freelance writer. Fortunately, I got to learn a lot of the ‘hard’ lessons there before moving on to Ethicool!

  1. You will make mistakes: When I first started out as a freelance writer, I made a typo in an article a client published and I was so mortified, I gave it to them for free. After a time though, I realized that everyone makes mistakes — you simply have to acknowledge them, learn from them, and move on.
  2. Family matters: I dearly loved my first business as a writer, and I love Ethicool more so. But at the end of the day, family matters. I make time for my children every day and am unapologetic about spending every Friday with them.
  3. Balance is everything: Besides running Ethicool, I also take three ballet classes a week, and try to do yoga every other day. My husband and I are also keen travelers, so we still try to get away when we can. It’s tempting to put everything into your business, but balance matters. Doing other things gives me the energy to be more productive in the time I do allocate to working.
  4. It’s hard: I see countless ads on social media advertising that spruik ‘the one thing’ that will make you successful. There’s never just one thing. It’s lots of things, and most of all, it’s hard, relentless work. You love it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.
  5. Outsource, if you can: You can be a jack of all trades, but it will likely mean you won’t do anything well. We made the strategic decision with Ethicool to outsource a number of things early, so we could spend more time focusing on our strengths within the business. I’d recommend to do this early and often — wasting time trying to do something you don’t understand or won’t be good at will lose you more money than outsourcing ever will.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For me, a famous quote by scientist Gus Speth comes to mind when answering this:

‘I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. But I was wrong.

The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy. And to deal with those we need a cultural transformation.’

The movement I’d like to inspire would be one where each and every one of us aspired to make the world a better place. As I see it, we’ve had solutions to a lot of our problems for a long time. For example, we’ve got all the tools we need to slow or even reverse climate change, we simply all just need to support them.

I’d love my children to grow up in a world where everyone around them wants better and does better in respect to these types of issues — a world where selfishness, greed and apathy don’t get in the way of positive change. This is exactly the type of movement we’re hoping to inspire with Ethicool.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Sure. I love, from Idowu Koyenikan:

‘You just can’t let life happen to you, you have to make life happen.’

This describes both my approach to the world, and what I want all Ethicool kids to believe — that they can go out there and make a better life happen.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Michelle Obama is currently doing a read along on PBS Kids. It would be everything for us for one of our books to grace her story time.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Here, on Instagram, here on Facebook, or by signing up to join our Ethicool community here.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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