A team of men and women are sitting around a table, leaning in closely to look at a tablet on girl is holding. They are a team working on a new business idea.

Small Business IT Solutions: AVA School Solutions, a Seed Spot Success Story

7 Mar 2017 by Isabel Ticlo

As a startup “born in a garage," Insight understands what it’s like to start small. That’s why we support new endeavors with communication technologies and small business IT solutions. We were excited to recently be introduced to AVA School Solutions. Started by entrepreneur Danna Evans, AVA is a young software company that’s now flourishing from its startup relationship with Seed Spot. We were curious about how the company was created and Evan's experience as a female business owner in the tech space.

From ideation to implementation

In 2016, AVA School Solutions was established as a mobile-friendly health screening management system schools can easily implement to eliminate paperwork, save time and increase accuracy. This innovative, cloud-based software has already been implemented in nine schools — and it all started with a simple idea developed and molded by Evans.

Evans is a 1990 alumni of the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism. Post-graduation, she started living in a world of tight deadlines and rushed projects, working for a print agency that pushed the boundaries of advertising. In 1996, she became a certified teacher from the University of California, Irvine, and is still teaching in classrooms today. However, there was a short break when she stepped back from teaching to care for her three children. It was during this hiatus that she started helping schools conduct hearing and vision screenings.

“I’ve always been interested in early detection and, as a teacher, I’ve always cared about how kids show up to class,” says Evans. “Kids who can’t see or hear show up in a way that effects their self-esteem — they think that they’re incapable of learning when in reality they have a legitimate impairment that needs to be addressed. My son had a speech condition when he was young, but because we were able to detect it so early, he never had any issues around it. But I see kids who are struggling because they didn’t receive a screening early. In reality, one in four kids will have a vision or hearing condition that interferes with their learning and well being. I think my real heart and passion is in making sure those kids have the leg up they deserve.”

So Evans went to Seed Spot with a small idea for an education program in her back pocket. She attended the five-day women’s week where she connected with other startup enthusiasts and participated in informational seminars. On day three, she listened to guest speaker Heidi Jannenga from WebPT talk about how she successfully created an automated documentation process for physical therapists.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I wish she could automate health screenings for schools as well’,” says Evans. “When I asked Heidi if she’d do it, she turned, looked at me and said — ‘Why don’t you?’”

That was the turning point for Evans — a moment of clarity when she realized that she could pioneer a software company specific to her passion: hearing and vision screenings. Once she built her team and developed a pilot program, AVA School Solutions was born.

A graphic depiction of file forms all dirty and old, next to clean, clear app icons. There is also a statement that says "AVA makes screenings matter. Because identification is one thing, but intervention is everything."

Being a woman in a software company

“I have to say, it’s very flattering to contribute to this industry in any way — especially as a woman,” exclaims Evans. “I have a funny story about that actually. When we were having our first team meeting with the development team, they asked us what language we should use. Granted, now I know they were talking about JavaScript and code, but at that time I said ‘I think English would be a good start.’”

Although slightly embarrassed, Evans saw that moment as a pure and honest display of the fact that she had different strengths and weakness to contribute to the team. While code wasn’t her strong suit, she was dedicated to being both a leader and collaborator, and steering the program to success.

We all start from the bottom; we only become experts through continued practice. From that meeting on, Evans invested in learning more about how she could help her team succeed and partnered with specialists who could supply the expertise she needed to fill technical gaps.

Evans goes on to express how things slowly fell into place, “The first year, I think I had a headache the entire year. Every day I was learning something new. It felt a little overwhelming, but I was lucky to have great contacts along the way who collaborated with me and helped me get to where I am today.”

Now, AVA has expanded to include two products: All things E.Q. (Emotional Quotient) a digital character education program for schools that has increased student engagement and decreased student discipline referrals and All Things Vision & Hearing, the app and dashboard that assist schools with their yearly vision and hearing screenings.

When asked about how it feels to be a woman pioneering a software company, acting as it’s marketer, social advocate, influencer and CEO, Evans replied, “Yes, I’m excited to be a female entrepreneur in the technology industry, but I feel like it’s way more about my whole team.”

Five women stand together smiling. They are wearing AVA School Solutions T-shirts that say "All Things E.Q (Emotional Quotient) the Discovery of You".

In the end, it was the collaboration and communication between Evans and her teammates that helped AVA School Solutions take off and continue to grow.

Small business success stories

Part of the way in which Insight supports these new businesses and others — like yours — is to offer complimentary educational resources like these:

Insight also develops meaningful connections with clients through communication technologies. Looking for a partner to help you integrate scalable, customized solutions into your existing business so that your team can easily collaborate anytime, anywhere? Be sure to explore some of our offerings that will help you expand your reach.

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