Episode 6 – Impacting Thousands with Rocky Biasi

In this episode of The Teacherpreneur podcast, we speak with Rocky Biasi of Human Connections. Rocky shares the story that led him from the corporate world to the classroom and ultimately into the establishment of his own business Human Connections.

Listen to the episode below

Transcript Below;

Speaker 1:
Welcome to the Teacherpreneur Podcast with your host Jarrod Robinson. Follow along as we help you leverage your skills and knowledge as a teacher to generate extra income. Join the online community now at www.theteacherpreneur.com.

Jarrod:
All right, hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the teacherpreneur podcast. And as always, it’s a pleasure to have you here, and I’m really excited today because I’m welcomed by my good friend, Rocky Biasi, How are you?

Rocky Biasi:
Hey good day Jarrod. I’m really well, thanks. It’s great to be here with you.

Jarrod:
Yeah, nice. So I’m excited to talk to you because you are one of these people that have gone through this transition at one stage from working in a school setting as a teacher and evolving from there to being a business owner. And it’s certainly not something that happened overnight, but in looking back, there’s some really big lessons that you’ve probably got along that journey. So do you just want to start by letting us know, how did your teaching career begin and in what sort of capacity where you’re working?

Rocky Biasi:
Right. Yes, Jarrod. So it’s a big long story, but I want to try to make it as brief as I can, because it’s not the typical story that you hear. I didn’t go to school and then go to uni and then get back into teaching at school. I actually, even though I did teaching for work experience when I was in year 10, a 16-year-old back in the early 80s. Back in the day, things were radically different. I’d finished them and the careers counsellor and the head of year said to me, “So son, you want to be a teacher?” And I said, “Yes, sir.” They said “We think that you’re going to struggle in year 11 and 12 and in senior school, and maybe you should go out and get a job.” And then I said, “But I don’t know what I want to do.” And they said, “You’ve done well in commerce. Maybe you should get a job in the bank.”

Rocky Biasi:
So there it is. I actually left school as a 16 year old to go and work in the bank. Would you believe? And I hated it and left when I was 19, but was lost. And I say to people, I was lost until I was 30 and I didn’t know what to do, but my parents, good Italian immigrants, they had a fruit and veggie shop. And I thought I’ll open up a shop at a sports store because I was into sport and we struggled and managed to be able to make a living out of that for 10 years.

Rocky Biasi:
But it wasn’t until my late twenties where I had a bit of a midlife crisis. And I remember saying to my wife, “Is this what I’m meant to be doing in my fifties?” And I’m 55 in October this year. And she said, well, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “Look, I don’t know, but when I was a kid, I thought about teaching.” And she said, “Well if that’s going to make you happy. You should do that.” And I said, “No, but I’m not good enough or smart enough to be a teacher.” Because that’s how I was programmed when I was a 16 year old.

Jarrod:
Unbelievable.

Rocky Biasi:
Yeah. And so it wasn’t until I was 30 that I actually went in as a mature age student to start my education degree. But because I had some mental health issues, I had post traumatic stress. My dad passed away suddenly three days before my 18th birthday and whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t diagnosed or recognised, especially back in the day. We weren’t that savvy about mental health.

Rocky Biasi:
I found myself in a counselor’s office and saw her once a week for six months. And so in my second year of my teaching degree, I then was doing counselling for myself personally. And that actually got me into studying counselling. So then I was doing my teaching degree by day, my counselling degree by night. And so when I started teaching in the late nineties in a high school out here in Western Sydney, I was in the humanities. I was in a Catholic school. So I taught religion and history and English. In the senior school I would teach a subject called society and culture. I was a pastoral care coordinator. So for the head of year. And then I spent some time as a school counsellor also. So that’s just a little bit about how I got there.

Jarrod:
Yeah. You’re right. It is a different journey to the typical went to school, went to uni now I’m back in school scenario. And I think there are… How many of those previous experiences might’ve played into where you are now without you really thinking about it, like the fact that you work in you said a fruit and vegetable shop and manages sports store as well. And how many of those sort of flowed through to the environment that you’re in? Do you ever think about those other opportunities that led to where you are now?

Rocky Biasi:
Oh, absolutely because then I did leave teaching and I’ve been running my own business now since 2008. And still teaching, but not in the classroom, so to speak. My brother he’s an executive with Coca Cola [inaudible 00:05:00] here in Australia. And he’s very much in corporate world, but I think I took some of the entrepreneurial spirit. My parents had, they were immigrants that came out from Italy after the Second World War. With that wave of immigration and actually not far from new Jarrod, they arrived in [inaudible 00:05:19] Shepherdson I think. Is that where you were from?

Jarrod:
Yeah. That’s where I grew up.

Rocky Biasi:
And I always look at them and it was remarkable because they weren’t educated in the home country, but were illiterate when they got here and that they had this entrepreneurial spirit and they ended up opening up and owning and running their own fruit shop. And I still remember my parents joking because in the early years, I remember my mum saying to me that this lady came in and said, “Can I have a cabbage?” And my mum got her a Cadbury chocolate or vice versa or something. So it’s remarkable how they were able to make it work, their work ethic, their entrepreneurial spirit. And I do think I got some of that from them for sure.

Jarrod:
For sure. Yeah. That’s a fascinating story of journey to the space that you are at and you taught for a period of time and throughout this. This longing to maybe help people at a higher level and more. More so than just in the people that you’re working with, sort of started to become apparent. And a lot of the people that we work with and talk with are in a similar space. They might be in a classroom or working with people, but they’re doing something on the side and they’re seeing the impact that that has on the people that they’re working with. And they want to be able to do more of that. So when did you sort of realise that, Hey, what did that even start like to begin with? What were you doing something of outside of your normal teaching? And when did you make that transition of thinking I should start to do this because it’s more impactful and rewardful.

Rocky Biasi:
Yeah. So as I explained there, I was doing a double degree, one in counselling and one in education. And whilst I was teaching, I would see people, obviously not part of the school, but in my private counselling practise. And I still remember back in the day, because I didn’t know what to charge. I’d charge $50, would you believe for a counselling session until my clinical supervisor said to me, “People pay more for a haircut or to go to the hair dress.”

Rocky Biasi:
And so that’s how I started. I would see people, seeing them for counselling one on one sessions, and I would just feel more and more, Jarrod, I was really there because I wanted to work with the kids. I wasn’t so much a subject expert or was really passionate around my subject. But I was very much passionate about wellbeing, mental health, which was sort of tied in with my counselling stuff. And so I wanted to start spreading that message more. I wanted to teach what I was passionate about much more than the set curriculum that I was asked to teach in the classroom. And so that’s what really led me, it was my individual counselling sessions and being able to reach more people and teaching the stuff that I was passionate about.

Jarrod:
Yeah. I think you’re not alone. There’s a lot of teachers who get into it because they’re really interested in working with students and the actual vehicle they have is the classroom to do that with. But they might be at that sort of [inaudible 00:08:43] where they think I’d like to be able to do this. And just an example might be maybe they coach, or they work with students in sporting context and they really would like to be able to do that more often. And they sort of just, they do it alongside their teaching. So that big jump, what was that like? Was it a little bit scary to be like, I’m going to move away from this comfortable, safe environment of a job and teaching and I’m going to start to tackle my own thing on head?

Rocky Biasi:
No, it wasn’t a little bit scary, it was frightening. I didn’t know how to do it or what to do. Jarrod, you’re a hundred percent right. Because we go in and run wellbeing sessions for students in schools. And I’ve run a training that most people know me for the accidental counsellor, all over the place. I have teachers come to those workshops or they see us present to students. They often say, “I want to do what you’re doing, or I want to do something similar.” I hear that all the time and it was frightening. And they would ask me, “How did you do that? How did you transition?” And I would say to them, “It wasn’t easy, and I really took the slow, slow way and that was asking my school principal, if I could go part time.”

Rocky Biasi:
So I would have one day a week when I was working on the business and at school four days a week. And she was really great to support me with that. And then I actually did that for two years part time. And then I left and started doing casual teaching work and I was a school counsellor three days a week. And I was working on the business for two days a week. So for the first four years, I was just part time in my business because we have a mortgage to pay. We have nothing. We had no money, no nothing to start this. So really the slow way of doing it. And slowly, slowly part time. And then eventually the business grew to a point where I thought, more comfortable and still scary, but more comfortable to actually go full time. And we went full time in 2010 [inaudible 00:11:01].

Jarrod:
Nice. Yeah and that doesn’t necessarily have to be the goal if you’re listening and think, well I don’t necessarily want to be full time on my own business, but just the journey of having something that works in tandem with the thing that you’re doing day to day. So while teaching, and then having something else on the side that you could be enthusiastic about and dive into with all your energy. But if you’re constantly thinking I would wish I could be doing more of this rather than the day to day, that’s not necessarily, that’s not a bad thing. I think teachers have this tendency that once they start, that’s what they are stuck with doing, and they start to resent it and they feel a bit better towards their job. Would you agree that you should probably chase after the thing that gives you passion as much as possible?

Rocky Biasi:
100%, Jarrod, 100%. I can’t agree with you more. I just think, life is short, and you need to give that passion and that creativity and outlet and burying it and suppressing it is just, I don’t think good for our mental or physical health. So looking at ways of giving it an outlet and a release is really important. And also, I think Jarrod, it doesn’t have to be an either or thinking. It’s like I’m either teaching full time or I’m actually doing what I’m passionate about full time. It doesn’t have to be either or. It could be that you’re doing, like you said, both-

Jarrod:
A bit of a side hustle. Right. For sure. For me, it started off as an accidental side hustle. This wasn’t something I was very aware of, but I started to really realise that that was a thing that I felt like I had a lot of impact with and that was working with teachers to upskill them about how to use technology. And then I started to realise that’s where I was really, I love the impact quote, reach that that had. So at some point in time, stepping away from face to face teaching, it made sense because I could have more impact.

Jarrod:
So realise that there’s different levels of this. It could start side hustle and stay there, like many of the people that we work with. It’s just another way that they outlet, give to the world. But you could take it to the extreme, not the extreme, but the extent of doing it full time like Rocky does. So what would be your greatest piece of advice… I think we sort of drop some thoughts here, but if someone was in that space around, I’d love to do this. What would you say to them?

Rocky Biasi:
My biggest regret was you’ve been a massive help for me in my business, Jarrod. And I was working with other coaches or mentors around because I was really good at what I was good at which was the mental health side of things and teaching that and the whole teaching around mental health [inaudible 00:00:13:59], that’s what I’m an expert in. I wasn’t an expert in business or business growth or marketing, and all of that stuff was not really my area of expertise. And so you can play around with that. And I did, and we were able to sort of get things going, but if you could get someone who has actually done it before and model what they do, and someone who’s actually done it successfully, they’ve got a proven track record. And that can just save so much time and money and it’s really about picking the right people to Jarrod, because before I was able to catch up and start working with you, I had other people who were helping me out and it was costing me a bomb in the business so sometimes it’s about getting the right-

Jarrod:
Some of the steps that other people have done for you ahead of time.

Rocky Biasi:
Say that again.

Jarrod:
You don’t have to start from scratch, there’s lessons to be learned from other people.

Rocky Biasi:
Yes, absolutely there is. Yeah. And you can leverage that. And I just think it saves a lot of time and a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of heartache to. We would try to do things and because we didn’t know what we were doing, it was actually costing us so much more money. So to get the right type of expertise, just to point you in the right direction is really the big thing I think.

Jarrod:
Yeah. Do you remember that very first time that you generated some funds or monetary success out of the things that you did outside of your job? Do you remember that moment where you got paid for something else?

Rocky Biasi:
Oh yeah, sure do.

Jarrod:
It’s quite an amazing feeling, isn’t it?

Rocky Biasi:
Yeah, it really is. And it was important for me too, because my wife had just lost her job. And when you’re a teacher, I mean, you’re running a mortgage and you’ve only got a single income and you’re a teacher. Teachers don’t get paid that well, Jarrod. So we were struggling financially with a really big mortgage and at the second income that my wife was bringing in, wasn’t there anymore. And so that was really helpful for us financially. It was really great because I was able to do what I loved. So it just ticked a lot of boxes.

Jarrod:
For sure. And it’s even more, maybe important in the current climate where there’s a lot of uncertainty. We’ve got people, teachers’ contracts not being renewed and people are not sure about whether they’re teaching or whatever. There is a lot of bankable skills and assets that teachers have that they could deploy into the current climate that are not necessarily connected to their work at a school. And that might be starting off very small, doing something else. Maybe you can work online and you could teach English to someone virtually, or maybe it’s like what Rocky has done and you produce a product that people can purchase in like a workshop setting or whatever that may be, but there’s lots of other roads than just the classroom. And if you feel that you’ve got things to share then I think Rocky has a good case to show that how powerful that can be, because just give me some of the numbers, Rocky. You guys get to work with thousands of people every year.

Rocky Biasi:
Yes. So we’ve actually worked out that it’s been about 10,000 teachers and others in accidental counsellor. Thousands and thousands of students also because we work with entire year groups. So it’s wonderful to have that type of reach. And just to go back to Jarrod, there was this… Not that I want to be giving financial advice, because I’m not a financial expert, but someone taught me once the value of multiple streams of income. And I think that’s a really powerful concept, is to not just be getting income or being paid by one source. And I think that’s what you’re talking about-

Jarrod:
Yeah, you can leverage the skills that we all have in multiple ways. And if you’ve only deployed it in one way, then there’s other ways that you could make use of those skills that you’ve already got. And I love what you mentioned about impact in the thousands of people that you’ve reached. And none of that would have happened if you hadn’t of put your head out there and took those first steps on being that sort of entrepreneur and I would say teacherpreneur in the world and it’s only been positive things. So a lot of things that hold people back is this idea that they have to be a teacher and stuck in the classroom. And I’m just want to say that Rocky is another example of someone who was shown that he’s far more impactful outside of the classroom than in it.

Rocky Biasi:
Yeah. Thank you mate. And it’s been wonderful for us and it’s helped us in so many different ways and people still say to me often, so you’re not teaching. And I go, yeah, I am, but I’m not teaching… And they’re, you’re not teaching in a school. Well, yeah. Actually, sometimes I do go into schools and I’m teaching, but I’m actually delivering staff [inaudible 00:19:03] development or student wellbeing, but I’m not employed as a regular full time teacher in the classroom.

Jarrod:
Yeah no. Amazing stuff. So love it. If people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best spot?

Rocky Biasi:
Oh, good question mate. Probably Twitter, I would say @rockybiasi

Jarrod:
Brilliant. Yeah. Thank you so much for jumping on the podcast and sharing your journey. It’s a real treat to hear someone who’s taken their skills and deployed them and use it in a way that impacts the world.

Rocky Biasi:
Great. Thanks for having me Jarrod.

Jarrod:
Speak soon.

Rocky Biasi:
Bye.