Claudine Miles and Kimberlie Milton, Restore More Consultants
Claudine Miles and Kimberlie Milton are friends and experienced educators, who met while working at the same school in Atlanta, Georgia. After a 10-year stint at a top charter school, Claudine was beginning to feel burned out. With the encouragement of now-business partner Kimberlie, Claudine created Restore More Consultants, an education-forward consulting firm rooted in expanding restorative practices, anti-racism, and social-emotional health.
Episode 7 – Claudine Miles and Kimberlie Milton, Restore More Consultants
[00:00:00] Sanjay Parekh: Welcome to the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. I’m your host, Sanjay Parekh. Throughout my career I’ve had side hustles, some of which turned into real businesses, but first and foremost: I’m a serial technology entrepreneur.
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Every week, I sit down with business founders at various stages of their side hustle to small business journey. These entrepreneurs are pushing the envelope while keeping their values. Keep listening for conversation, context, and camaraderie.
[00:0:54] Claudine Miles and Kimberlie Milton are friends and experienced educators. They met working at the same school in Atlanta, Georgia. After a 10-year stint at a top charter school, Claudine was feeling burnt out. With the encouragement of now-business partner Kimberlie, Claudine launched Restore More Consultants, an education-forward consulting practice rooted in expanding restorative practices, anti-racism, and social-emotional health. Today on the show, I chat with Claudine and Kimberlie about how they decided to leave the school system and branch out into consulting, how the pandemic sped up their business’ growth, and how they plan to grow and scale Restore More. Stay tuned!
Claudine, Kimberlie, welcome to the podcast. I'm super excited to have you all here.
[00:01:39] Kimberlie Milton: Thank you for having us in this space, Sanjay. We are so happy to be here.
[00:01:45] Sanjay Parekh: Okay, I would love to hear from each of you a little bit about your background and where you come from, where you were born and raised education, those kinds of things. Kimberlie, do you want to start?
[00:01:56] Kimberlie Milton: I'm Kimberlie Milton. I was born in Mississippi and I grew up in Mississippi for a little while. My father was actually in the Army, so I was a little bit of an Army brat. We traveled to some extravagant places like Hamburg, Germany, where I went to school internationally. I attended Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, proud HBCU, The Jackson State.
And then at that moment, I was a chemistry major and I was doing some volunteer work at a daycare center or a kids' afterschool center on the campus. And I recognized I like working with the kids. This is fun.
So, I started picking up education classes on top of my chemistry classes, and I did graduate with a bachelor's in chemistry, but I ended up applying for Teach for America because that experience within that space just felt so good.
And so, joined Teach for America. That's how I landed here in Atlanta, Georgia and worked there for a while within the education sector. And then through that time, I was able to have the great opportunity to meet Claudine Miles. And then from there we developed a very strong relationship, a strong bond, sisterhood friendship.
And then together, we created Restore More.
[00:03:21] Sanjay Parekh: That's awesome. Claudine, let's hear a little bit about your background.
[00:03:25] Claudine Miles: Hey, everybody Claudine Miles here. The other half of Restore More. I am originally from East Providence, Rhode Island, super proud townie here. So, if you are from Rhode Island you know what I mean, and if not know that's the high school in East Providence. It is a very small town, but a very close-knit community that I love deeply. My mother came to this country when she was nine from Cape Verde, and so education has always been a strong hold in my life and ultimately my saving grace.
So, when I was 18 I automatically assumed college was a requirement. My mom had me tricked at a very young age. I was like, oh, we're not all going? My mom said this was just the next step. She fooled me! Got it. When I realized she fooled me, I decided to go to the farthest place I could go. So, I went to see another HBCU, The Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, and while she didn't initially love that decision because of the distance, I think we both grew to understand how pivotal that particular institution was in my growth.
I learned so much about the beautiful history of black people that starts so much longer before slavery and enslaved men, and so I credit what I learned there to being such a big part of my story. I didn't know I wanted to be a teacher. I knew I wanted to talk forever. I wanted to be a journalist and anywhere I had ever traveled as a youth, you could find me with some sort of microphone representation trying to report news that wasn't newsworthy. My mother grew very tired of it. But when I went to college, I majored in journalism, but then the recession was hitting and I got freaked out and I was like, oh, no one's getting jobs. I need to think a little more strategically. And I had been substitute teaching in the local school system there, Hampton City Schools, just to make extra money that I needed to be able to have to get books and do things. And I just fell in love with it. And so, when Teach for America came to my campus, I was like, I want to learn more about this because I didn't major in education, I majored in English.
And so, I thought, okay, I could potentially get a teaching job. Love writing, I love kids, this could work. And so, I got accepted into Teach for America and moved to Atlanta and started teaching at the same school as Kim. But then from there established a gifted program because the school had never had one.
And so built that out to support our high flyers and then ultimately transitioned to an Assistant Principal and started the Restorative Practice Program. I spent 10 years at the school that I was placed at and just loved all of it. The kids, the family, the staff, it was such a part of forming who I was, not only as a person, but as an educator, as a career woman, and so, just grateful to every step in that journey.
[00:06:07] Sanjay Parekh: You guys got together. You met and you decided to start a thing outside of teaching, like how did that happen? How did you, how did the conversation about hey, do you want to leave this place and do something else? Who started that between the two of you?
[00:06:24] Claudine Miles: That's kind of how it went. I started that. So, I had come to a really clear resolution in the fall of 2017 that I was going to end my tenure at this particular school. It had been 10 years, I was feeling the itch and ultimately I was burnt out. I was exhausted. I had a company phone that rang as early as 4:00 AM and rang as late as 11:00 PM.
It started with like bus breakdowns and issues, which were problems we needed to be aware of. And it consisted of teacher call-outs, parent concerns, academic concerns, behavior concerns, and it was just all-encompassing. And I had just become a mom. And while maybe before I didn't know how to advocate for myself, set boundaries and take time for self-care, having a child made that glaringly apparent. Like, oh no, you need to keep this thing alive and breathing. You cannot keep him alive and live the way you were living. It was actually not healthy for you, either. That's why you are barely alive.
And through that, honestly, like, epiphany and having a conversation with my beloved mother who really gave me that grace to say, I know that graduating college and landing the dream job was so important for you, but that doesn't have to be the end of your story and you can do what you do anywhere.
I almost needed to hear that, because I thought I would retire there, honestly. And so, once my mommy gave me permission to run free. Isn't that funny? I was literally 30 years old with my own child, but I needed to hear that it would be okay, because so much of my identity was built up in, you're an Assistant Principal at this prestigious school and y'all won charter school of the year, and you're a boss here. What are you when all of that goes?
But I went to Kim as my best friend, godmother of my child, and I said, Kim, I got this idea. I think I want to build a business that allows us to do this restorative practice work outside of these four walls. What if we could help kids around the country? But she was like, I like what you're saying, say more. And that's literally been the right hand of my own, like literally I can't do much without Kim.
At this point we like to joke, and say that is my business wife, because we are essentially married. There are decisions I cannot make without her and I don't want to. Steve Jobs talks a lot about his first fan, so to speak, or his right-hand man, and it was Wozniak who liked to play behind the scenes, but really helped take the ideas out of his head and make them pretty and digestible for other people.
Kim is my proud Wozniak, and I could not have built this without someone saying, I see what your vision is, and I believe in that. Especially when it was as cloudy and murky as it was, cause all I said was, I want to do what I do over here, everywhere. She was like, I could see that. Let's do that.
[00:09:15] Sanjay Parekh: So Kimberlie, what was it that Claudine said that was like, okay, this is not crazy to do this.
[00:09:22] Kimberlie Milton: To be honest, at the beginning, I too was in a place where I was also feeling the overwhelmingness of it all. But having been in that space too, like, can we do something on our own? I don't really feel like we have a lot of examples. But when she came to me and she was talking about it and then, I just know her, anything she puts her mind to, it's going to be something.
So you could either get on.
[00:09:51] Sanjay Parekh: Did you worry at all about the downside? What if this didn't work?
[00:09:59] Kimberlie Milton: No, no. Once I came on board, it was almost like she's responsible for me in a way. But I always felt like there was something. Even to a point, and to your point, I was still part-time for a while. Claudine was full-time starting in 2018. And I was still part-time with Restore More and still doing my full-time work at the place that we were at before. So, it got to a certain point because she, like I told you before, she's the face, she's the voice, she has the vision for it all.
I'm the one who kind of puts it together, help our aesthetics, help keep the systems running and I love that part of it. And we actually got to a place in 2020, where we were starting to pick up so much work once the pandemic hit—because people were recognizing how important being socially well and mentally well, and anti-racist was so important—that people were reaching out to us please help us, please help us. So much so that I was supposed to transition full time, like, December 2020. I told Claudine in July 2020, two weeks I'm coming. I'm quitting my job and I'm coming to Restore More full-time in two weeks.
She said oh, okay. Wasn't prepared for that. But we going to make it work. And to be honest with you, it was what was supposed to happen during that time. Because ever since we made that transition, that both of us can be fully present for this thing that we created, that we essentially birthed from Sunday meetings, to Starbucks meetings, to meeting up at random networking events, talking to everyone and anyone who would listen. We finally got to a point where it was really starting to rock and roll and we haven't looked back since.
[00:12:09] Sanjay Parekh: So, it sounds like, and this seems to be a common theme with a lot of companies that have started around this time, is that the pandemic, and have survived at least, the pandemic really accelerated growth for y'all. There are some additional things that happen along the way, right? Like, a lot of these things around social justice that have happened that are not related to the pandemic, but happened to coincide timing wise. But it sounds like the pandemic actually helped accelerate things for y'all. Is that true?
[00:12:38] Claudine Miles: Absolutely. The pandemic, some of the social justice issues that were playing out on TV while people were home all day, heightened the immediate need for what we do. And Restore More sits at this intersection of teacher wellness, restorative practices, anti-racism and social-emotional learning.
And if you've listened to any commentator of schools in the last two years, you've heard, the social-emotional health of those in schools is not well. Whether it's the kids, the principals, the parents, the teachers. It's hard. And we try to partner with schools and wrap our arms around them and love them and give them tools and skill sets and strategies and just make it easy, because their work is so challenging, and I know because I've lived it, right?
So how can we give them bite-size strategies that they can literally implement tomorrow and tools that they can prank before they leave the building that have an impact in the classroom tomorrow? It's been really exciting, but I would say for us, the pandemic has been the catalyst to all of our growth and success.
And to Kim's point, I was absolutely freaked out when she told me I'm coming in two weeks, because I'm a planner and our plan was December. I'm so grateful that Kim took that risk and had the foresight to recognize this is the time, because we would not have been able to handle the amount of work we were receiving if she had not come on full time, and that's a big part of why we were also able to scale and grow.
[00:14:06] Sanjay Parekh: Let's talk about why you were worried about that. Were you worried about that when she—I understand you're a planner and it was a surprise—but were you worried about it because you felt like you didn't have the revenue to support both of you financially? Or was it something else that was concerning you?
[00:14:26] Claudine Miles: Nope, that was absolutely it. I think one of the things entrepreneurs don't talk about enough is the weight that comes with the work of sitting in that founder's seat. There is a serious weight and gravity that comes with it.
And I've heard so many entrepreneurs talk about it on podcasts, but you don't really know until it's you and you're in the seat and you feel the feelings. And if I'm being transparent, we had just started paying ourselves, like an equitable, respectable salary, still not where we were when we left our last job, but we were paying ourselves a respectable salary.
So, to go from paying someone a part-time rate, to now you're full-time, and I didn't have the foresight to know what was going to continue to come. It scared me. But in the same token, I was not going to ask my best friend and colleague to stay somewhere where she did not see her value. I was not going to ask someone to sit somewhere that was ultimately like chipping away at their mental wellbeing.
And most importantly, I believed in what we did. As scared as I was, I was like, it will work out. We might have to hustle, but it will work out.
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[00:16:05] Sanjay Parekh: So, let's talk about the business itself. You all do, essentially, consulting to these schools. Is that the main revenue driver? Or have you guys thought about, because here's one of the challenges with consulting is that, and you all realize this, is that it's really limited based on how many hours of the day you have, right?
Because you’re revenue-constrained based on the hours that you have and the people that you have and the only way to grow for most consulting organizations is add more people. Have you guys thought about this and if so, how do you think about how do you expand revenue over time? And are you thinking about delivering products or services or something that can scale better and well beyond the two of you, as well as everybody that you have in the company right now?
[00:16:48] Claudine Miles: Absolutely. In my seat, my core focus ultimately is revenue, sales, growth of the company, overall relationship management. And so, for me, it's again, having strategy to what we do. While we do partner with schools and train their staff or work with their parents, we also build curriculums so that if we cannot reach you at your school specifically, you can still have access to our content.
We do Restorative Practice Circles Training, but not every school will have access to that. If there's a teacher, an educator, a youth worker that wants that skillset, they could go to our website, pay for our online course, and get that skillset. They can then purchase Circle Scripts that are culturally relevant that allow them to take this practice into their classroom without, again, having to do all of the heavy work. Our thought when we design things is, how do we make the lives of kids better by making teachers' jobs easier?
We very much design for the teachers that we were, and we have been really conscious about developing multiple streams of revenue. So, we have masterclasses, we have courses on self-care we have courses on scaling and leveling up your revenue to six figures.
And because of that, what's great is, there are other pathways to building our revenue. But I will transparently say that the bulk of our sales come through our trainings and services and it's because we've done a really good job of building out a business model that has different offerings and different price points for the people that we serve.
Sometimes our contracts are six figures. And one of the things I think we've also been smart about is, we recognize the time of two people is always going to be limited to how many hours they're awake. So, we've intentionally and strategically built out a team of 30 contracted facilitators that we work with that support our work.
So, if Claudine or Kim can't be present, that's okay. We've got amazing, vetted facilitators who are trained in this work and could offer a parent a session or could offer a live virtual session. And so, we're continuing to just think about strategy and ultimately, where do we need to be as the leaders of this thing to grow it?
[00:19:03] Sanjay Parekh: In thinking about revenue—I think this is going to be an interesting topic for our listeners—you started out doing just services, right? And now you've got these things that people can basically self-serve and just buy and you’re getting revenue. What is the split that you're at right now in terms of revenue from those sales of where you're actually involved versus self-serve? And is that something that you look to have more revenue from self-serve over time and less from the consulting side? Or is it good where it is now?
[00:19:36] Kimberlie Milton: I was going to say we're probably, really honestly, around 80/20. 80 of sales, 20 with like our online products. Our online products, this is the other thing that we're super proud of. We do have things that are tiered in pricing. We do have freebies as well as things that are below $50. So right now, some of those products are probably generating about 20% of our revenue. But to be honest with you, last year, that was like 10%, the year before that, it was zero.
So, we recognize that we are growing in that space and yeah, the intention is, we are just two people who may not always have the bandwidth to be the awesome in-person facilitators that we want to be. However, we are constantly thinking about, how can we package this? How can we grow it? How can we offer it in a way that we may not be present?
So, we, too, in our growing phase, are researching, like what are the other products that individuals are into? What are the other avenues that we're interested in helping people to be well? So this is a part of that leveling up process. Once you don't necessarily worry about payroll, well, once you are worrying about payroll, you're like, okay, how can I sustain this?
And that's like the next level of thinking that you have to engage in, because it's fun this year, but can we sustain that 80/20? Probably not. So, each year, if we can tick away at that, we feel like we're definitely on track. We're still babies.
[00:21:14] Sanjay Parekh: Do you think you're going to go to some place, like 50/50, where half of the revenue is coming from the self-serve? Or like what number feels right to y'all?
[00:21:25] Claudine Miles: I think what we're doing currently is like incrementally trying to grow in that space. And if I'm being honest, there are so many more levers we can push, like, we can take some of our revenue generated and put it into marketing some of our products better, getting more advertisements for some of our products, partnering with other networks so that those things take more of the forefront.
But I think it's honestly our in-person training that has built up our credibility, our word of mouth, that has gotten us many of our referrals. But as we grow, I absolutely see our products and services branches eventually outpacing the training part. Because we're very strategic about thinking, where do we want to be in 10 years?
What does that look like? Are we best positioned to do this forever? I'm a mom of a young child and I have very strict boundaries around what amount of time he gets with mommy and what I'm doing on my evenings. And I hold those because I saw him not getting those things in the past when I was overworked and burnt out and tired.
And so, we're just not going to go backwards. The the goal is to eventually get to a place where, again, the products outpace the services. But I do believe the service work is most impactful. So, it is work that I love to do. Because it's me teaching, it's Kim teaching.
[00:22:48] Sanjay Parekh: One last question for y'all. In starting this business up, it's daunting, right? There's so much that you can do. There have to be some tools that you're like, man, if these tools did not exist, this would have been so much harder. What are those tools that have just been critical for y'all to be able to be successful in this? Can be software. It can be hardware, it can be anything.
[00:23:12] Claudine Miles: I just have two quick ones and these are not the only two, but they're just super simple and practical. If you are newly starting out, a lot of people joke and say oh, you don't need a business plan anymore. But I really enjoyed making a business plan.
It was actually one of our first activities when we had no idea what we should be doing. Again, we're experts in our fields, not in business. And so, I was like, we should do this because this is what I hear people do. But I really value that experience because we did not have the foresight to ask ourselves the questions that a seasoned entrepreneur would, to vet the idea and a quality business plan allows you to do that and think of all the things.
And so, it's also a really cool document to go back and look at as your thing actualizes because you'll find that you pivoted and you changed, but that was a pivotal document in helping us gather everything in our heads and dump it out on paper.
And I do believe that is a critical step when you're trying to build something, because in the beginning it only makes sense to you, friends. It only makes sense to you. And so, the more you are able to get it down and see it on
paper, the more real it becomes. But also, the more salient it becomes for others.
And then the second, when I think about what tool was most pivotal in my growth was a business coach. It is an incredibly sound investment. Any entrepreneur that I admire and seek counsel from, they all have coaches, and I was like, oh! I should have one of those too, huh? And the second I was able to have access to an amazing coach named Jimmy Starnes.
He helped me to think about business, with his 40 years of experience. So, to have that framing over conundrums that I would come to him with was so powerful and he ultimately gave us the strategy to land our first client, which is always the hardest, cause the strategy we were applying was foolish.
We researched all the principals in Georgia and I emailed all of them and all their counselors and all their assistant principals. And no one emailed me back and I was like, I wonder why?
[00:25:09] Sanjay Parekh: And so, what was the strategy instead, then?
[00:25:12] Claudine Miles: Well, that's foolish. They don't know you. They're not going to answer your cold email.
What you should do is go to three people who know the quality of your work, that already you have a relationship with, that trust you, and know what you can do, and you pitch them at a discounted rate and you solve a problem that they have, and then you gather testimonials.
You do the best work you ever did, and you ask for referrals and use those testimonials as your soundboard to grow. And we did that and we have been fortunate with clients ever since. So, it was like so simple, so practical, but I was like, that's why you're here. Huh? Business coach, check.
[00:25:49] Sanjay Parekh: Well worth every penny you've paid for that. Kimberlie, what about you? Any tools or tricks that you'd like to share?
[00:25:56] Kimberlie Milton: I'd definitely say operationally on the operation side, Dubsado is a customer relations management program that has saved my operational butt. It’s also like a HoneyBook, as a customer relationship management tool.
I love them. It is a platform where you can take care of all those backend operational things for businesses. You can schedule meetings, you can create contracts, you can send canned emails to remind them about things, you can send emails for discounts. They are put into a portal so you can follow your clients and their journey.
You can create workflows so that it automatically does it for you. And it has QuickBooks integration, Zoom integration, and the reason why it's saved my operation butt it's because I was doing all that stuff individually on several different platforms. So, I was creating contracts in Google Docs, converting them, trying to make them signable, and then sending canned emails in five or six different platforms.
And once we got to a point where we had more than five clients to manage, it just became overwhelming. So now we probably manage, there's probably about 40 clients in the queue that are in some point or another. Whether it's off-boarding, we're meeting with them, or we're in process with them, and I would never have been able to do that with that a customer management tool on the back end for the operation aspect. Because it is a lot to keep up with and you shouldn't keep up with it in your head. And our other resource, I would say in conjunction with Claudine said, is creating a customer journey map.
It was very important to us to talk through, what is the process for a client that will make them want to work with us? So really defining that out, defining those key moments, those key touch points throughout that process and making sure that we're taking assessment of that process. Is it working? Do our clients like it? Are they giving us feedback on anything else? And making sure that we're refining that process over time, but really creating that customer journey, so we know exactly how our clients flow.
[00:28:25] Sanjay Parekh: That's awesome. That's awesome. I've never heard of Dupsado before, but I'm going to have to check it out. Okay. Last thing our listeners that might want to come and find you, where can they find you all?
[00:28:36] Claudine Miles: They can find us at our website, which is WeRestoreMore.com. Again, WeRestoreMore.com and we would love your support over on Instagram, which is where we are the most active, and we're on any and all social media platforms @WeRestoreMore, but would love your follow in that space.
Know that we are getting ready to launch some things in the next 60 days that are really exciting. So, if you are looking to grow and scale your business, we'll be launching a masterclass series that we did last year with another consultant firm, and it's all about growing your impact to that six-figure mark and doing that consistently.
And so, I'm excited to share what we did live now in like a package version that's a little bit cleaner for folks to watch after. And then we're also launching a restoration journal. And so, I think about the healing center journey that I had to walk to get to a healthy place, to be able to bet on myself and dream.
And so, we've created a 30-day guide of healing that an individual could walk through. By doing daily affirmations, there are guided meditations it's linked to, there are adult coloring pages for mindfulness, and there's a meal tracker, and guided questions. It's a self-care plan within there that you can build out for yourself.
It's all the things that I had to do to get emotionally well, to be able to build this uber-successful soon-to-be seven-figure business. So, I want to be able to allow folks insight into some of those actions that helped me and hope that it's just as fruitful for others, because I know what it is to be broken and down.
But I want to remind folks you can recover from that, and what you have in you is just so incredibly big, so don't be afraid to dream.
[00:30:23] Sanjay Parekh: That’s awesome. Well, Claudine, Kimberlie, this has been great having y’all on the podcast. Thanks so much for coming.
[00:34:15] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com.
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I’m your host, Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter at @sanjay or on my website at sanjayparekh.com.