Tina McCord is the founder of ZUNI Learning Tree, an online learning portal for students, teachers, districts and parents, recently won the InnovatHER pitch contest at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub and earned an opportunity to pitch in Washington D.C. in 2016.
McCord, who also is an alum of the Venture Center’s Pre-Accelerator program, recently took time to respond to six questions about being an entrepreneur.
TB&P: What was your first job and what did you learn?
McCord: My family bought the local diner “Eagles Drive-In” in Vilonia when I was in the 9th grade. I learned not to eat so many cheeseburgers and French fries. Really, I learned that I loved to work and really enjoyed working with people. It mattered to me that we made the best hamburgers and the best food. I didn’t realize it then, but quality mattered to me. It mattered to my mom and dad as well. That must be where I got it from.
TB&P: What book had the biggest impact on you?
McCord: There have been many. I was 19 when I was in Hawaii and chanced upon a book called “14 Lessons in Yogi Philosophy.” What I remembered most was how important it was to breathe and to quiet the mind. Yep, breathing is necessary for entrepreneuring. Stop and take a really deep breath right now. Go ahead and take another just for backup! Who knew that 25 years later I would find myself teaching yoga classes. It’s what I do to remember to breathe deeply, very deeply. The other was “Illusions” by Richard Bach. It is filled with thought-provoking little tidbits that made me question how I was viewing things at different times in my life. I like books that challenge the mind to grow with simple quotes and tidbits.
TB&P: What do you like about Arkansas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem?
McCord: That we have one. When I started 3 and a half years ago there was no Venture Center or Innovation Hub or The Hive. It was difficult to find assistance, especially with a tech company. From the beginning, I’ve felt that ZUNI Learning Tree would extend throughout the nation but to grow that large in a new field requires connecting to people who know more than I do. The entrepreneurial ecosystem makes it easier for us novice tech companies to reach out and find answers or learn what the right questions are to ask. The interconnectedness is wonderful and empowering.
TB&P: What are your top three pieces of advice for other women entrepreneurs?
McCord: Support each other in any way you can. It’s imperative and necessary for our growth and success. Connect, connect, connect! Trust your intuition. Intuition is a woman’s compass. It can be easy to lose sight of trusting our intuition and to think we need to trust others advice instead. Other’s advice can and is important in assisting us in growing, but ultimately we have to sync it with our intuition.
TB&P: What are your top five apps or tools to help with productivity?
McCord: Actually, I use ZUNI a lot because it is packed with “how-to” videos and cool multi-media tools. I like, Yesware, still looking for the right CRM, I prefer MS Office over Google tools, I use Word & Excel extensively. Lately, with all the pitches I’ve become a fan of Keynote. I really like the UW underground weather app. I just look forward to when it is going to show cooler temperatures. Today there are so many good apps and productivity tools. I encourage people to just try a few.
TB&P: What advice would you give to new startups or entrepreneurs?
McCord: Join the preflight at Venture Center. Make your 3D model at the Innovation Hub. Check out all of the co-working spaces and connect with other entrepreneurs. Check out SCORE, they are too are an awesome resource.
One of the things I enjoy most is hearing about the many ideas people are coming up with every day. It is both humbling and inspirational. We are a community of geniuses. But most important is have faith. If you are moved or inspired from that great place of inspiration which I once heard as defined by the infusion of the spirit then follow it all the way through.
Know that it may not be an easy journey but that regardless you will come out changed and hopefully grateful that you took the risk and tried. Ask yourself every day, if I were on my deathbed is this something I will reflect on and be happy to have made the sacrifices I’ve made, worked as hard as I’ve worked and grown as I’ve had to grow to get to the next step. If the answer is yes, keep on going. If not, then perhaps it is time to pivot and see what else moves you.
Many times the going has been tough and I’ve asked myself if I really wanted to continue and then I would hear from a teacher or walk into a school and a teacher would say, “thank you” ZUNI gives me my life back. That was exactly what ZUNI was about and so I would gain the strength to learn the next level of knowledge necessary to move ZUNI to the next level for the next set of teachers.
Have faith, be willing to grow, trust your intuition, connect with others and follow through …