Category Archives for Side Hustle Success Story

Success Stories: Tim Ulbrich Completed His Personal Finance Book in 6 Months – And Sold 700 Copies in 6 Weeks

About Timothy: Timothy is a pharmacist and founder of He works full-time as an Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Associate Dean of Workforce Development and Practice Advancement at Northeast Ohio Medical University. After Timothy and his wife paid off $200,000 in non-mortgage debt, he created a successful blog to help other pharmacists with personal finance. His big goal was to write a personal finance book for pharmacists.

How He Used Alex’s Side Hustle Coaching Services: After working with Alex, Timothy was able to set his priorities and focus on completing his book, Seven Figure Pharmacist. He also gained the confidence he needed to successfully promote his book, increased his understanding of social media platforms and developed a strategic marketing plan. Timothy also became more accountable and learned how to challenge himself by thinking critically about his goals and ideas.

Results: Timothy and his co-author, Tim Church, were able to finish writing their book in six months. Timothy gained confidence in his product and is now comfortable selling his book by engaging with his audience using social media. He and his co-author developed a marketing plan that allowed them to sell 800 copies in six weeks.



When Timothy first started writing his book, one of his big challenges was staying focused and prioritizing.

“I had to get through the mental block of getting the writing finished and sorting through my priorities.”

He also needed someone to keep him accountable to the tasks he needed to complete in order to finish his book.

Hear Timothy talk about how Alex helped him to stay focused and complete his book.

After he found his focus, he knew he needed to piece together a marketing and promotion plan that fit his brand and accomplished his goals.


Before Timothy started working with Alex, he knew he had great content for his book—he just didn’t feel confident about selling it.

“Six months ago, I never would have felt comfortable jumping on a Facebook live video to engage with my audience with little preparation. Now, I am fine with that.” Hear Timothy’s dramatic shift in mindset as he gained confidence and an understanding of social media platforms.

By working with Alex, he discovered that a grassroots approach to selling and marketing was right for his brand.


Before working with Alex, Timothy struggled to determine the true value of the information contained in his book. Now, he feels comfortable holding true to his book’s value and has confidence in what it is really worth.

Based on that value, Alex helped Timothy to develop and refine his marketing approach.

Timothy and his co-author created a website, drove traffic to the site and used Facebook, the blog and speaking engagements to connect with their audience.

“Alex helped me to see the power of that approach and helped me to maximize what worked.”

Hear Timothy discuss the highlights of his coaching experience with Alex.


Timothy connected with Alex during weekly meetings and throughout the week to talk through book content and his progress on his “to-do” list. These calls reminded him to stick to his prioritized list of tasks and helped him realign his priorities as needed.

Alex helped Timothy to think critically about his priorities and plans by asking challenging questions—and these questions ultimately trained Timothy to think on his own.

Hear Timothy discuss how Alex was a coach, not just a cheerleader.


As a solopreneur, Timothy initially had some reservations about coaching and believed that he could accomplish his goals on his own.

Now, he sees the benefit of Alex’s input, experience and feedback—especially when it came to his marketing plan.

Learning about what worked for Alex—and what didn’t—helped Timothy craft an effective marketing approach.

Hear Timothy describe his coaching experience.


Because he also works a full-time job, Timothy found that he was often making decisions quickly for efficiency’s sake. Working with Alex helped him to thoroughly vet his decisions and get feedback from trusted sources.

Ultimately, working with Alex helped Timothy to move his idea forward and create a better end product.

Hear Timothy discuss how Alex helped him to create a better end product.


Although Timothy had some initial reservations about coaching, he described the experience as “enlightening.”

“I felt like Alex was opening doors to a world I knew nothing about.”

Hear Timothy give his “10 Second Pitch” for Alex’s coaching services.

If you are ready to start or grow your side hustle business and achieve amazing results, contact Alex for a free consultation.

How Multiple Investments in This Young Pharmacist’s Future Created Freedom

After graduating from pharmacy school in 2009 and working in pharmacy for several years, Christine Tsakiris couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t on the right path.

She spent one year of her eight-year pharmacy career in managed care and the rest of the time working a hospital setting. Despite trying out two different work settings, she still felt like her job wasn’t right for her.

Although she enjoyed being a pharmacist, Christine found that she was encountering patients after they were already sick and experiencing critical health issues—and she believed that she could use her education and expertise in a different way to help patients.

“I was at the hospital interviewing an amputee patient for his medical record, and he had the trifecta—diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. I could tell he had given up on taking care of himself,” she said. “I felt like I was on the wrong end of medical care; I wanted to be more proactive and work on the preventative side.”

After taking a close look at her lifestyle and finances, Christine determined that she needed to cut expenses and generate passive income to provide the cushion she needed to pursue her dream.

To cut expenses, Christine made the decision to sell her home and pay down her debt. She also spent time working on personal growth.

“I looked at my life and the things that were holding me back personally and professionally,” Christine said. “I also got into the mindset that if I want to change something in my life, I can.”

Creating passive income

Around the same time that Christine began to consider a different career path, she heard about investing in oil wells from a friend. She learned that when an oil company drills a new well, the company provides a portion of the funding and obtains the rest of the money directly from investors.

She began learning more about the oil industry by doing research online and reading books such as Investing in Oil and Gas: The ABCs of DPPs. For example, she learned that investing is typically done by the acre and each acre costs a few thousand dollars, depending on the specific site.

She also learned that investing in oil wells before drilling begins is riskier, but cheaper. That’s because the company can’t be 100 percent sure that they will hit oil before they actually drill. And, although some people invest millions of dollars into oil wells, she learned that you only need $10,000 to $20,000 to get started.

After extensive risk analysis and research, she decided that this was the passive income venture that she was looking for.

So, Christine created Sirikast Energy LLC as a vehicle to allow her to invest in oil leases. To get her start, she used some of the savings she accumulated while pulling down a pharmacist’s salary.

Although she put about 20-30 hours per week into her passive income business while she was learning about the oil industry, Christine now describes her investments as “set-it-and-forget-it.” She invested in a few wells, completed the initial paperwork and now receives monthly revenue checks. Christine said she also has the option to invest in more wells when she is ready to grow her business.

“Passive income will involve time upfront, but I didn’t want to spend time on it on an ongoing basis,” she said.

The results

Christine is now debt-free at age 34. She quit her full-time pharmacy job in March 2017 and is putting her time to good use by pursuing her passions.

Because she enjoys writing about things that interest her such as health policy and history, she is putting a blog together and has started a Twitter account. She also is working with children at the American Heart Association’s Halle Heart Children’s Museum to teach them about their heart, circulatory system and how to be healthy.

Although she said her passive income isn’t anywhere close to her pharmacist’s salary, it enabled her to leave her full-time job and pursue a career that is meaningful to her. And, she realized that she didn’t need her pharmacist’s salary to survive.

“We make awesome money as pharmacists, but we don’t need as much as we think,” she said. “After I started focusing on cutting expenses, eliminating debt and living within my means, my life got a lot easier.”

When asked to compare her life now to her life five years ago, Christine says she’s “100 times happier.”

“I was placing a lot of value on the amount of money in my bank account, and I was miserable,” she said. “I was working all the time and I didn’t know what I was working for.”

She said that going through her work and lifestyle transition has led her to feel more in control of her life and career. As an entrepreneur, she learned to work through self-doubt and perfectionist tendencies that almost every business owner struggles with at some point.

And she has no regrets about her journey.

“I wouldn’t change a thing, because it got me to where I am today,” Christine said.

She said she also learned a valuable lesson about relying on herself and taking ownership of her life.

“You can’t rely on a company or anyone else to create a perfect job for you,” Christine said. “You need to take ownership of your life. If you’re not happy, you need to value yourself enough to live the way you want.”

Ultimately, Christine said she believes that your mind is your biggest asset—but it can also be your biggest downfall. As a big believer in positive thinking, she says that success or failure all comes down to your thoughts.

“If you are resourceful enough to create the life you want, you can be much happier,” she said. “If you want something, imagine it; then, do it. Don’t be afraid.”

How One Pharmacist Published a Book—and Sold 700 Copies in 6 Weeks

Timothy Ulbrich is a pharmacist who had a big goal.

After working with his wife to pay off $200,000 in non-mortgage debt and creating a successful blog at, Timothy knew that he wanted to share his message about personal finance with more pharmacists.

He started talking to lots of pharmacists and found out that, despite earning a six-figure income, many needed help managing their finances. He consistently heard pharmacists say, “I am living paycheck to paycheck.”

Timothy always says that he is a pharmacist by day and a financial nerd by night. Plus, he has a ton of personal experience with paying off debt and working toward financial freedom.

He could relate to what these pharmacists were feeling.

So, he decided to write a book.

His book, he decided, would be unlike any other personal finance book on the market. It would provide quality personal finance advice tailored specifically to pharmacists.

It would be exactly what pharmacy schools were NOT teaching.

And, it would focus on one of the things that resonated most with the readers of his blog: one of his most successful posts, entitled My Top 10 Financial Mistakes.

By his own admission, Timothy made some mistakes with money.

He wanted to prevent people from making the same mistakes that he did, and he figured that this book would be a great way to do it.

And that’s how the idea for Tim’s new book, Seven Figure Pharmacist, was born.

Setting a Goal

Timothy and his co-author, Tim Church, who is a pharmacist at the West Palm Beach VA, started outlining the book in summer 2016.

He and his co-author tag teamed the project and decided to emphasize the pharmacist perspective by including stories that are relevant to pharmacists.

They finished writing the book in six months (which Timothy said he would not recommend—a year or 18 months would have been much more comfortable considering that has a full-time job as an Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Associate Dean of Workforce Development and Practice Advancement at Northeast Ohio Medical University).

Because of his full-time job, the rigorous writing schedule was tough to stick to at times. But Tim got through it by creating a prioritized list of tasks and staying accountable.

Creating a Buzz

Timothy hired me as a coach to help him through the complex task of writing his book and figuring out the best way to promote it.

Because Timothy and his co-author decided to self-publish the book, they also needed to come up with a marketing and promotion plan.

Ultimately, Timothy and his co-author decided to take a grassroots approach to marketing because it seemed right for their audience and their brand. Eventually, Timothy began to see the power of that approach and began to maximize the tactics that were working well.

Timothy learned how to use social media platforms for optimal marketing, created a website, drove traffic to it, started a blog and booked speaking engagements.

His coaching experience helped him to prioritize more efficiently and to make the best possible decisions—which he believes led to a better end product.

Most importantly, Timothy grew more confident in his product and became more comfortable with selling it.

At first, he didn’t feel comfortable jumping on a Facebook live video and engaging with his audience with little preparation. Now, he is fine with it because he understands that video is more engaging for his target market than reading a blog post.

Also, Timothy understands the true worth of his book.

As part of their review process, Timothy and his co-author created a group of 50 pharmacists to give them feedback on the content, title and promotion plan.

One of Timothy’s former students was a part of that group. After reviewing one of the chapters, she told Timothy that she took a specific action based on what she read.

Timothy said hearing this news provided him with the assurance that the book was truly valuable and achieve its intended purpose, which motivated him to continue with the project when the going got tough.

The Final Product

Timothy and his co-author did a pre-launch in March 2017 and officially released the book on April 17, 2017. They sold more than 700 copies in the first six weeks.

They also went on the road to four Ohio colleges and the Ohio state pharmacy convention to promote the book—which they jokingly called their “Book Launch Tour.”

Timothy said he is hearing great stories about how the book has helped people relieve stress in their lives. He’s even had people tell him that they are taking the book on vacation with them.

As word starts to spread about the book, Timothy and his co-author plan to reach out to pharmacy schools about incorporating the book into their curriculum.

To find out how to order your copy of Timothy’s book, visit For more personal finance advice for pharmacists, you can also check out Timothy’s blog at

Tim and Tim are gracious enough to allow any reader from The Happy PharmD to get 15% off the price of any package. Just use the coupon code BARKER on their page.

Achieving financial freedom is a great goal for any pharmacist to have. If you want to learn more about how you and other pharmacists can create their best life and achieve career satisfaction and financial freedom, check out my website,

How Three Preceptors Used Their Experience to Help Pharmacists Obtain Residencies

Brandon Dyson is a board-certified, residency-trained pharmacist. He’s also a preceptor.

In March 2016, Brandon and fellow pharmacist Sam Oh launched a website,, which helps pharmacy students and practicing pharmacists by providing them with information and tools to become better pharmacists.

Among other things, the website offers a blog, professional development information and cheat sheets.

But as residency season 2016 approached, Brandon noticed a demand for information about the residency process.

Sure, he received questions from his followers, but he also received questions from his students. And many of them sounded terrified.

Brandon said that he remembered feeling that way, too.

When he thought back to his own experience as a prospective resident, he knew that there was a huge market for this information.

Statistics from the ASHP Resident Matching program show that of the 5,438 residents who participated in the matching program in 2016, 1,817 were not placed.

It can be tough to land any residency, Brandon thought, let alone the residency you really want. And he wanted to find a way to help students achieve their goals.

Writing the Book

After validating his idea with a test blog and an email to his followers, he decided to work with Sam to write a book.

Brandon and Sam’s goal was to write down all the things that they wished they would have known when they were applying for residencies and to share all the lessons they learned.

So, Brandon and Sam began outlining.

But because they were both balancing full-time jobs and families, they weren’t making progress as quickly as they hoped.

Instead of waiting until their book was finished to get feedback, they offered an incomplete version of their book to their email subscribers at a very low price. Much to their surprise, about 15 people purchased the book.

Selling these few initial copies helped the pair to become more motivated; they knew that they had to meet certain deadlines in order to provide these buyers with content in advance of important events in the residency timeline.

Although Brandon and Oh were excited to complete the book, they knew that they were going to need some extra help. They brought in Stephanie Kujawski, another residency-trained pharmacist and preceptor who is a frequent contributor to their website.

The three authors found that their writing styles were very compatible, which helped to establish continuity and flow throughout the book.

Another benefit of having three authors was that there was a higher chance that another author would be interested in writing about a topic you didn’t particularly like.

“Sam was super into writing about how the match actually works, but I didn’t want to touch it,” Brandon said. “It helped to have someone else available to write that part.”

Publishing the Book

After months of work, they digitally published their book, Mastering the Match: How to Secure a Pharmacy Residency, in March 2017.

They presold the book to a select audience at a discount, but missed the 2017 residency season. However, this allowed Brandon, Sam and Stephanie to incorporate the valuable feedback they received into the digital edition in time for the 2018 residency rush.

“The book will tell you how to make yourself the most attractive candidate you can be,” Brandon said. “Obviously, we can’t guarantee a match, but prospective residents will feel a lot better after reading it.”

Achieving the Goal

Brandon’s main goal is to help students feel less confused and more confident going into the residency process. He wants students to feel like they can accomplish their goal of landing a residency—and that they are worthy of the opportunity.

Brandon said that what makes the book especially valuable is the perspective of the authors. All three authors have been through the residency process and ended up matching with their No. 1 ranked program. They all ended up working at the residency facility after their program was complete and are now preceptors.

The book also focuses on common mistakes that prospective residents make, such as not answering questions, failing to ask questions about the program and choosing the wrong topic for their presentation.

“You have one chance to make a first impression, and you are going up against 100 people for two or three residency slots,” Brandon said. “You really have to shine and put your best foot forward.”

Although the book is geared toward P1 – P4 students, the chapters on interviewing, presentations and cheat sheets on interview questions could benefit almost anyone.

Some schools are great at preparing students for residency and others are not, Brandon said. His book is intended to help fill these gaps and help students to stand out.

“Everyone has research and a publication on their CV and everyone’s GPA is above 3.5,” Brandon said. “All residency candidates look the same on paper, so you need to stand out by being yourself.”

And Brandon’s book aims to give prospective residents the confidence to be comfortable doing just that.

If you are thinking about residency, Mastering the Match: How to Secure a Pharmacy Residency is the book for you. If you are looking to express yourself and do something you love while still pursuing a career in pharmacy, check out my conference on non-traditional pharmacy career paths.

How One Pharmacist Became a Holistic Health Coach and Herbalist

When she was in pharmacy school at St. John’s University in Queens, Marina Buksov was very happy with her studies and excited to become a pharmacist. Then, something changed.

As she was considering her options after pharmacy school graduation, she started to feel nervous because none of them appealed to her.

After deciding not to pursue several fellowships, Marina accepted a full-time offer from a small, local pharmacy where she already worked. Unfortunately, that offer fell through because the owners decided to sell the pharmacy.

She started looking for random jobs and eventually ended up at a natural pharmacy. She had always been interested in herbal and holistic medicine, so this job was a good fit for her.

“My philosophy is to do no harm and start with the least harmful treatment and go up from there,” she said. “I use lifestyle, diet and herbal remedies whenever possible.”

An Early Interest

Marina said that she has been interested in holistic medicine ever since high school. When she went to the doctor for her own medical issues, she was shocked by how many medications her doctors wanted to prescribe.

But it wasn’t until her pediatrician took the time to counsel her about her diet that all her issues finally went away.

After taking alternative medicine courses as part of obtaining her pharmacy degree, Marina decided that she wanted to obtain additional training in using natural remedies and nutrition to help her patients.

She took a course at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in clinical nutrition and began studying at Arbor Vitae Traditional School of Herbalism in New York.

She also started her own health and wellness business, Raw Fork, to help her share her knowledge through blogging, offering health coaching services and selling holistic health products. On the site, she offers some of her own herbal tea blends to treat conditions including low-functioning immune system, sleep problems, cough and stress.

Promoting Wellness

Although Marina believes in promoting wellness through the use of natural and holistic remedies, her pharmacy school training has taught her that pharmaceutical medications can save lives, especially in emergency situations.

However, she believes that many chronic conditions don’t have to be treated with medication. Allergies and autoimmune disorders are a few examples of conditions that can be treated safely and holistically.

After all, herbs have been used to treat medical problems for centuries, Marina said. In fact, she noted that 70 percent of today’s medications—or the ideas for them—come from herbal remedies.

But perhaps most importantly, Marina said she helps her patients get in touch with their bodies and find a connection to their own healing.

“Patients can listen to doctors, pharmacists, health coaches and herbalists, but healing really starts with self-care,” she said.

Herbal medicine also is about connecting to the land, she said, and is much more intricate than finding one solution for an individual health problem. When it comes to using herbal remedies, her advice is always “start low, go slow.”

Many health problems can be traced to harmful behaviors or foods that people in our society routinely consume—and they can’t be solved with capsules that come from strange places, she said.

“People need to get to know their medicine,” Marina said. “In herbalism, the taste, texture and feel are very important.”

Making the Transition

In order to make time to pursue her passion of holistic healing, Marina had to transition from full-time to part-time pharmacy work. And because Marina lives in Brooklyn, earning enough to keep pace with the high cost of living was a big factor to consider.

Thanks to the many self-improvement books and tapes Marina has read and listened to over the years, she said she didn’t hear the fear of failure; instead, she made a plan.

She calculated her expenses and figured that she could try working part-time for six months or a year. If things weren’t working out, she could always pick up an extra pharmacy shift or two and fall back on her savings in an emergency.

Although Marina knew she was choosing a non-traditional pharmacy path, she found inspiration in her close friend and fellow St. John’s pharmacy graduate, Christina Tarantola.

Christina, along with pharmacist Adam Martin, created The Fit Pharmacists, which offers holistic and lifestyle coaching for clients and teaches pharmacists how to include nutrition and alternative medicine into their practice.

With Christina leading the way, Marina knew that she could make a difference for her patients by providing holistic pharmacy services.

Making a Difference

Marina went from feeling frustrated with her pharmacy career options to feeling like she could really make a difference for her patients.

Before finding her niche in holistic pharmacy, Marina said she felt like her actions were dictated by the prescriptions doctors wrote and the medications that insurance covered. And she often didn’t agree with either.

Now, Marina feels like she can make a difference for her clients because they actually listen to her—not their doctor or insurance company. She said that her pharmacy degree combined with her knowledge of herbs and education in nutrition helps her to understand the full spectrum of health.

She plans to continue making a difference by working on her business website, cultivating her list of online followers, teaching online and local courses, and reaching out to more people to promote the benefits of herbal medicine.

She also plans to explore herbalism as it relates to female health and fertility. She has met many women in the field of holistic medicine and is considering the possibly of opening a birthing and nutrition center in upstate New York for women and babies.

For more inspiring stories about pharmacists who are creating the careers and lives that they want, visit our success stories here.

How a Pharmacist Can Write a Children’s Book

Note from Alex: 
This is a guest post from Thomai Dion, PharmD. I first met her months ago thru her website, performed an interview with her on my podcast Pharmacy Life Radio and learned about she quit pharmacy to spend time with her family and pursue her dream of becoming a published author. She recently told me how she published multiple books on Amazon and her website, and knew others would be interested how to publish their own books. My recommendation, take notes! 

My name is Thomai and I’m a mom and pharmacist with many interests. I enjoy participating in a slew of activities, from writing to gardening, running to painting. One of the things that I enjoy doing the most (although admittedly never anticipated embarking on before having kids) is creating children’s science books. Since becoming a mom and discovering how inspiring it is to witness my own little one’s natural inclination to learn, I’ve created my “Think-A-Lot-Tots” science book series for babies, toddlers and kids, all of which can be found on Amazon. These books began as a way to teach my child about the world around him and have since expanded into an entire collection revolving around biology, chemistry and medicine. How does one even approach trying to teach biology to a baby, though? Aren’t topics like chemistry all about molecular structures, complicated facts and an onslaught of numbers? I would argue that although this is perhaps the perception of “science”, it is not actually its definition.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines science as “the state of knowing” and a “department of systematized knowledge as an object of study.” In other words, science isn’t strictly limited to numbers, facts and figures; rather, it’s a process by which we learn. Childhood in and of itself can also be considered a learning process; every teachable moment, each experienced one at a time, allows us to understand our world. What’s more is that the beautifully one-worded inquiry of “Why” that is so often asked by the youngest of children is actually the foundation to all learning and, in turn, all of science. Children are perfectly positioned to learn, submerged in the process of science and education throughout their growing years and overall childhood. With this in mind, it is not about “if” we can teach science to babies, toddlers and children, but rather, “how”. Understanding this makes the idea of creating a children’s science book much less intimidating and also highlights how valuable a resource like my Think-A-Lot-Tots collection can be.

If you have an interest in creatively sharing your science background in hopes of exciting and inspiring a little one out there then you’ll enjoy the rest of this post! Here I outline the 5 steps I’ve developed and routinely apply while writing my “Think-A-Lot-Tots” series. I’m going to use my recently released book “Counting Atoms and Elements 1 Through 10” as an example. First and foremost, let’s start with the most important aspect of wanting to write a book for kids:

1. Write because you like to write.

When we envision ourselves as an author, there’s always the inkling of hope that perhaps everyone in the history of everyone will be absolutely smitten with our work because, clearly, it is amazing. And your work may truly be amazing, but the possibility of stardom should not be why you start writing and cannot be why you continue. The best way to embark on writing (or with any project) is because you simply enjoy doing it. Do it because you are passionate about it. Do it because of the difference it could make for a family, for the impact it could have on a child’s willingness and curiosity to learn. Whatever you do though, don’t do it just for the money.

2. Identify a foundational topic of learning that all children are taught.

And I don’t mean one that is necessarily science-related. Children learn about basic concepts first such as colors, shapes and numbers. For my “Counting Atoms and Elements” book, I chose to focus on numbers and counting as my foundation.

3. Draw a connection between that foundational topic of learning and a scientific concept.

You have a basic idea of what you’d like your book to focus on! Great! How do we tie that to science, though? We’ll have to think about how concepts are introduced to children and, in turn, how they are taught. For example, children learn to recognize articles of clothing through pictures, vocabulary and the experience of dressing (shirt, pants, socks, shoes, etc.). A similar strategy is also employed when teaching about, say, shapes. We identify shapes within our everyday objects alongside pictures and words (circle, square, triangle, etc.). We may also playfully “search” for them during our daily routines, (a circle sign, a triangle roof) allowing the child to “experience” the concept of shapes too. In both of these examples, the overarching teaching strategy is drawing connections! Make the scientific concept you have in mind relatable to what the child may already be experiencing and learning. For “Counting Atoms and Elements”, I decided to correlate each of the numbers 1 through 10 with the quantity of protons, neutrons and electrons found within an atom. I use simple pictures, basic scientific vocabulary and allow the child to “experience” the topic of numbers / concept of atoms by counting each and every proton, neutron and electron throughout my book.

4. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

You’ve identified your book’s foundational topic and you’ve drawn a connection between said topic and the science you’d like to further teach. Excellent! Now do it again. And again. And again. Splice out examples throughout your book so that the same connection is made over and over for the reader. In my “Think-A-Lot-Tots: The Animal Cell” book as well as “The Neuron”, I name each and every part of the cell in a similar way while drawing analogies between that “part” and an item the child may already be familiar with. (The dendrites within a neuron look like little trees; the myelin sheath is like a necklace). For “Counting Atoms and Elements”, I repeat the same cadence with each number introduced. “This atom has 1 proton, 1 neutron, and 1 electron. It is Hydrogen! This atom has 2 protons, 2 neutrons, and 2 electrons.” Etc.

5. Simple sentences and colorful illustrations.

Just because I may be writing about something scientifically complex does not mean it must be taught in a complicated way. To clarify further – My “Think-A-Lot-Tots” books do not strive to make an expert of the reader; rather, they work to introduce an idea and potentially spark an interest for more learning as the child grows. As a result, my books are a starting point to learning and my writing is simple. My sentences are succinct with only one or two present per page. I still make a point to include scientific vocabulary, though. My toddler learned the word “mitochondria” at 3-years-old through my books and I couldn’t have been more proud as he exclaimed it repeatedly while running through our kitchen. (We are still working on “inside voices”, but at the same time I won’t argue if he wants to loudly sing about the endoplasmic reticulum or nucleus). For “Counting Atoms and Elements”, I name each element within the periodic table from 1 to 10 (Hydrogen, Helium, etc.). It’s important to keep concepts as basic and understandable as possible, but it’s also important to include key scientific vocabulary and build upon that learning whenever the opportunity presents itself.

And there you have it! My 5 key takeaways to effectively writing your own children’s science book!

Thomai Dion is a pharmacist and mother to (soon-to-be) two inquisitive and analytical thinkers. She obtained her doctorate from the University of Rhode Island and believes it is never too early to start learning.

“Think-A-Lot-Tots: Counting Atoms and Elements 1 Through 10” is now available online at along with her other books within her collection. To learn more about Thomai’s work and to stay updated on the latest news, you can visit her website and sign up for her newsletter. You can also reach out to Thomai at tdthesciencemom[at]gmail[dot]com and follow with her through social media:


How This Pharmacist Started in Real Estate and Renting Properties

NOTE FROM ALEX: This is a guest post from Sonia Amin, PharmD. Sonia was a part of my class Side Hustle Fast Track for Pharmacists and shared with our class how she started her side income of renting and real estate. I'm a sucker for learning more about investment strategies, so I asked her to share her story here! Enjoy!

The term real estate investing can either give the sentiment of a road to great wealth or it could bring feelings of apprehension and uncertainty. For me, it was quite the latter. However, after eight years of my husband and I, being landlords, I can say, although it has been quite stressful at times, there is money to be made and the long-term goal of having passive income is a reality that can be accomplished by anyone willing to put the work in!

How It All Began

My journey into real estate investing was one initially, not by choice. Funny enough, one of our first rental properties, was actually the home my husband lived in prior to us getting married. The home was purchased towards the end of the market peaking and we would have taken a severe loss had we sold it when we were looking to relocate.

It was quite devastating to watch the value of that home go from $200,000 to $250,000 all the way down to $60,000 at one point.

Talk about a great time to buy an investment property!

Why do I bother to mention this unfortunate situation? It's the reality we all can face when it comes to the uncertainty of the real estate market, the stock market, or anything in life, for that matter. We cannot control things that are out of our power. But we can control how we decide to approach and deal with things like this.

Looking At the Whole Picture

With real estate investing, being pragmatic in how a property is evaluated and planning for the ups and downs of the market are essential. And I won't pretend that's all I do.

I mean, I pray a lot.

I mean, A LOT!

That property was obviously not purchased with the intent of renting it out. However, from that time on, I have learned so much of what to look for in a property and evaluating it based on the current market along with looking at it for what it could be in case the market fluctuates, whether up or down.

The Current Approach

Since then, we have added a couple more rental properties to our portfolio. Now, when I look at potential investments, I evaluate them quite differently. I will do a return on investment (ROI) calculation looking at the potential of it being a flip (this can be more difficult to find and being a conservative investor, I'm not as willing to take larger risks) or a rental property.

The main difference between a possible flip and a potential rental is that more money and time may be needed to update a property to be flip-worthy, versus, typically minor renovations can be done to have the home rented out quickly. This would also just depend on your area and what typical buyers and renters are looking for.

In the area we normally do our investment search in, homes that sell quickly are move-in ready with granite counters, updated fixtures, stainless steel appliances, and have nice curb appeal. However, when getting a property ready to be rented, those things are all great if they are already in place, but putting money into granite counters, high-end appliances, or things of that sort is typically unnecessary - at least in the area we choose to purchase in.

I add that disclaimer because every market is different and the more time you spend looking at houses and seeing which ones sell/rent and for what price, you'll be able to come up with your own evaluations.

Of course, renters would also like nice fixtures and upgraded appliances, but they are many times more willing to forego those perks for their temporary residence. They may be more focused on the layout of the home, how spacious it feels, whether the backyard will work for their children, etc. Basically, is it a nice, clean home, in a good location that meets their needs?

Managing the Day to Day

More recently, I have taken a step back from looking into additional real estate as much. I am a mom with two little ones and they are my heart and focus these days. I still manage our rental properties in that I handle the day to day issues such as maintenance requests, showing the property to get it rented, meeting with contractors, or even working on minor maintenance issues myself.

Typically, a handyman is hired for most jobs but there are times that I know it's something simple that I can take care of myself. For example, we received a letter last week from the HOA of a home we own regarding the appearance of the garage. Admittedly, it was looking a bit rusty.

Luckily, this home is only about 5 minutes from where I live so it's convenient enough for me to go and fix it myself. I sanded down all the areas that had rusted and sprayed a new coat of paint on.

Good as new!

Something I would encourage those who think of themselves as not the "handy" type, is that there is so much information on the internet to help you. It's quite possible to learn how to do things that normally would require a professional. Specifically, my favorite thing to use is YouTube. It's one thing to read about how to fix a garbage disposal that's jammed, but another to see someone do it in a quick video! Then, you can decide if it's something you want to/can do yourself or if it's something you rather have a professional do.

There are several factors that could play a role in whether you hire a professional. The work could be dangerous, too difficult to do, or you simply don't have the time to get it done.

Another reason I like to do my own research is that I like to have a baseline knowledge of the issue when speaking to the contractor. This way they know that they aren't talking to someone who is completely clueless.

For example, if an air conditioner is running but the air blowing is not actually cool air; there could be a variety of reasons this happens. Doing my own research and having that knowledge beforehand is a good way to make sure whoever you are speaking with has narrowed down the issue to the few things you found as well. Of course, they are the professional, and they may just as well find something completely different, but it doesn't hurt to do your own research.

Want to Learn More?

If you happen to be interested in dabbling in the real estate market, there are a plethora of books available that help the beginner investor. One such book is The Million Dollar Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller. This book gives clear steps as well as checklists and charts that can be easily used and implemented.

In addition, a great resource I highly recommend is There, you will find an entire community of people willing to help answer questions and a wealth of information for any stage you are at. If you have a question, it's more than likely been asked and answered on their forum.

It's a Long-Term Goal

Now having gone through the ups and downs of being a landlord, I still would like to purchase a few more investments at the right time. As I mentioned, the long-term potential to have passive income is phenomenal.

It does take time, patience, and perseverance just like anything worthwhile. And there can be quite a bit of competition depending on your region of the country. You may also find a decrease in the number of homes available now compared to months/years past. However, I am always keeping my eyes and ears open for the next gem to pop up. You just never know when the right rental property might present itself.


Sonia Amin, PharmD, received her B.S. degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition and PharmD from the University of Florida. She then completed an ambulatory care residency and received her teaching certification. Dr. Amin has worked in academia, ambulatory care pharmacy, and community pharmacy. She currently works as a MTM Pharmacist and is dedicated to helping people live healthy lives.