Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center Success Story: ZUNI Learning Tree, LLC
ZUNI Learning Tree is an education technology company founded by CEO Tina McCord along with a group of passionate educators and administrators who saw the need to simplify learning for teachers, families, and students.
They sought to develop one platform in which to add content and inspire students via online learning. Another aspiration was to allow a central location for teachers to access resources with the ultimate goal of the platform being to raise student achievement. ZUNI’s team of five employees searches the internet and populates the platform with thousands of free and open educational resources.
McCord worked closely with Rebecca Todd, innovation consultant for Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), during the creation of the business. Todd referred McCord to the Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) for assistance with her System for Award Management (SAM) registration as well as her Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification. McCord’s company became an Arkansas PTAC client in February 2020.
After four previous unsuccessful application attempts, they were notified in June 2020 that they were awarded their first government contract. McCord mentioned the prior attempts to prove to others who may be seeking government contracts that persistence pays off. The contract in the amount of $199,856 is a Phase I award through the Department of Education and Institute of Education Sciences’ Small Business Innovation Research (DoED SBIR) program. This award will be used to develop an innovative digital tool, the CatchIt App.
The CatchIt App will inform fifth grade educators’ decisions about using free and open educational resources (OERs) to improve student math skills. The company will be integrating the CatchIt App into its existing K-12 online platform.
This is the first DoED SBIR award made to an Arkansas company since 2003.
“I had always thought of the certification process as a daunting task and, therefore, put it off. PTAC counselor Liz Russell made the process so quick and easy. I wish I would have found her earlier,” McCord said.
McCord also expressed her appreciation to Dr. Keith Lenz, an associate professor at the University of Central Arkansas and ZUNI Learning Tree Director of Research for his assistance while creating the company and for his ongoing involvement with ZUNI.
We express our congratulations to ZUNI Learning Tree and McCord on their recent contract and for providing a valuable tool during these challenging times for educators, parents, and students.