Elaine Tan Comeau is a school teacher through and through - the sort who says "my heart is in my classroom" and truly means it.
But this month, as many of her Burnaby school district colleagues settle into a new school year, Comeau is taking business calls and making shipments - trading black boards for board rooms, at least temporarily.
Comeau is the inventor of a children's product called Easy Daysies - a magnetic, visual organizer that helps children keep track of their daily routine and responsibilities.
Necessity is usually the mother of invention and Easy Daysies is no exception: the original product was created in her elementary classroom to help students with knowing what was coming next - creating stability and a sense of responsibility.
When parents started noticing how well it worked, Comeau was happy to provide them with one for home.
"It started in my classroom, but I had so many parents over the first eight years of my teaching career say 'Wow, I need to make that at home,'" she said. "I love teaching and I love my kids - so I just made them for them. I was glad to see how well it worked for them."
All that time, Comeau made them for free for her students, never thinking of it as a "product" but simply as an extension of her classroom teaching.
But as she continued to hear back praise from the parents, and seeing how well it worked with the students, the light bulb eventually went on.
"I thought 'well, maybe I should make this into something,'" she said.
She carried out research to see if there were other products already filling that niche - there weren't. But the academic research showed that children as young as preschool age benefit from visual reminders and constant routines that can be depended on.
She then spent a few years creating prototypes based on the original she'd used in her classroom, until she got it just right. She saved up money for the business venture by selling crafts.
Meanwhile, she was still a teacher by day and a busy mom by night - with three young children, including a newborn. The business effort took place after the kids were in bed, sometimes till 2 or 3 a.m.
"It was literally off my kitchen table. I made my first batch and, word of mouth, it sold out in a month. My wonderful husband made me a website - he didn't have experience at that - and we just went from there."
Soon, local stores were carrying the product - over time, the number continued to grow as stores across the country slowly picked up Easy Daysies for their shelves.
Then, just over a year ago, they took Easy Daysies to the Canadian Toy Show.
While there, other inventors told them about Dragon's Den - a CBC show in which entrepreneurs present their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists, hoping to make a deal to help them grow their project.
"Everyone said 'you need to get bigger - go on Dragon's Den.'"
The couple flew home and decided to look into it, despite the fact that it films in Ontario.
"My husband googled Dragon's Den and then he looks at me and says, 'They're going to be here (in Vancouver) this Saturday for nationwide auditions."
It was a moment of serendipity that they couldn't ignore.
So they quickly created their pitch and, that weekend, showed up with Easy Daysies in hand.
"We auditioned in front of producers - that was probably the most nerve-wracking moment of my life. They had six weeks of auditions ahead of them and they said they would only give a call back to those who were invited to the show . I knew which day it should be and we got the call that morning."
They were matched up with a producer, who helped them prepare and explained the process in full.
"There was no guarantee we would be on the TV show. Even if we got a deal, if it was boring it wouldn't necessarily air."
While the financial deal is valuable, the exposure that being on the popular show would bring was even more critical.
"Every inventor wants that exposure," she said.
A few weeks later, the whole family was in Toronto and - despite the time change, sleepy children, bouts of bronchitis and plenty of nerves - Comeau says the whole family "did so great."
"I will always remember my son, who's four, going up those stairs and he looks at me and says 'Mommy, I'm not scared of dragons!'"
The children helped with the presentation and Comeau made her pitch.
While some proposals on the show don't garner even a single offer, Comeau ended up getting deal proposals from every investor on the panel, sparking a bidding war.
"We were told we'd be in front of them for two minutes up to 45 minutes at most, In the end, we were in there for 48 minutes," she said.
She struck a deal with two investors - Jim Treliving and Kevin O'Leary.
The business growth began within minutes of the episode airing, and has continued ever since.
"When it aired last September, the producers told us to monitor our website traffic to see what happened - it started airing at 4 p.m. on the east coast, and right away we saw a spike in traffic. At one point, it was 12 hits per second and the orders were coming in province by province as it aired across the country. It was huge."
And the numbers don't lie. The first year she sold Easy Daysies, gross sales were $12,000; their most recent quarter totalled $100,000 in sales. The product is in toy shops around the country and now at Chapters locations throughout Canada, on top of the direct sales from the website. She's also expanded the product line into other visual products aimed at helping children learn and be independent - like re-stickable images that show a child what kind of clothing is in a particular drawer.
With success like that, Comeau knows the time is coming where she'll have to decide whether to continue pursuing the business or return to her Burnaby classroom when her leave of absence ends.
"I love teaching, I really, really do - I love to be in the classroom. That's where my heart is. It's hard to imagine not being there," she said. "On the other hand, this is great too - and I'm with my kids.
"Having my kids see that you can be creative and make a dream come true, and that it's worth it to work hard at something - that's so valuable to me, too."
And hearing feedback from other parents - many of them busy working parents themselves - is huge reward in itself.
"When someone emails you to say 'this has made our day so much better, our family loves it' that's wonderful," she said.
Though making Easy Daysies is not quite the same as standing in front of a classroom, at the end of the day she's still pursuing the passion that started her on the road to becoming a teacher: helping children learn.
The last few years for Comeau has proven that the old maxim - do you what you love and success will follow - is certainly true even in modern business.
To check out Easy Daysies, and to see a clip of the Dragon's Den episode on which Comeau appeared, see www.easydaysies. com.