From Teacher to Founder, Moving an Innovative Solution Forward

Allison Atkins has an extensive background in education teaching, coaching and as a district administrator, and she is currently a faculty member at Arizona State University. While studying as a doctoral student at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, she met fellow student Emerald Ochonogor. Together they discussed the helpfulness of having a version of the Pre-referral Intervention Manual as an app which has now turned into the creation of their venture, The Help in Hand App.

The Help in Hand App provides educational support to teachers in the classroom so that they can individualize instruction. The innovative app gives teachers targeted interventions for customized support, whether the student is at more advanced levels, has special education needs, or are at a foundational level. It can also be used by families at home, offering parents assistance when it comes time to help get homework done. When a teacher needs to use an intervention to help a student, the app will allow teachers to quickly and easily pull up the recommend standard to provide additional instruction.

Transition from teacher to founder

As an instructor in the engineering building on ASU’s Tempe campus, she passed by a variety of flyers every day. After seeing the same ASU E+I flyer stating “Bring Your Idea to Life” for weeks, she decided to look into the Venture Devil program. Venture Devils support those actively working toward the development of a venture by engaging mentors, offering venture development space, and may give founders direct access to funding opportunities. Emerald and Allison brought their idea to Venture Devil’s the date of the application deadline and were able to embed themselves in the program and find value in its resources. Working with the Venture Devils resources, they refined their idea, created a pitch, and in 2018, Help In Hand App won $1,000 in funds from an eSeed Award on Venture Devil’s Demo Day.

Building from home

Venture Devils opened the door to many resources available through ASU. Through her partnership with Venture Devils, she connected with Peoria Forward, which she says has a special place in her heart since she grew up in the West Valley. Allison has been rooted in the West Valley for over thirty years, remembering when it was just farmland with little development. In the West Valley, there is a unique opportunity to connect with a multitude of resources. She was able to develop an actual business out of all the resources they had received. Peoria Forward connected them with people they should know, helped them focus on goals, and pushed them into specific action.

Allison is also a community organizer of 1 Million Cups Phoenix West Valley, which serves entrepreneurs in communities through free weekly meetings. 1 Million Cups is a resource she has found invaluable. Through the weekly meetings, she’s able to have a community of entrepreneurs to talk with, allowing her new access to other resources through that network. She feels very appreciative and has been giving back through her role as an organizer to support her community in Peoria.

Words of Wisdom

She wants others not to be afraid to actualize their ideas. She recommends, “One, take advantage of resources that are offered to you, even if they don’t turn out to be an exact fit for your current needs, they may turn out to lead you to something supportive and two, if you have an idea, take it seriously.” She added, “For some people risk is a big concern, realistically I can make room for my idea, I can have my nine to five job and also work on a project that will eventually become more consuming”.

Growing in 2020

The Help in App team is currently developing its MVP with plans to launch it early in 2020. The MVP is a website that will validate a need for the product to be in the app format.

In her community, she plans to continue to connect with people who don’t yet identify as entrepreneurial. She finds it essential to keep welcoming others and to create a supportive space that makes people feel welcome. If you are interested in learning more from Allison Atkins, come to connect with her at an upcoming 1 Million Cups Phoenix West Valley. Allison is an organizer for the weekly event for entrepreneurs at Office Evolution Peoria


Peoria Forward is a strategic partnership between the City of Peoria and ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation drawing on the combined strengths and expertise of the City of Peoria and Arizona State University Entrepreneurship + Innovation, this strategic partnership places tools, training, and resources in the hands of our leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators to build a self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystem in the west valley. Peoria Forward is an opportunity for the citizens of Peoria to shape a high-impact vision of the future of our City through entrepreneurship.

This article is part of a series of blogs amplifying the wisdom and words of West Valley innovators and entrepreneurial leaders building the ecosystem.

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