Translating deep knowledge and expertise in a scientific field into a successful business is not an easy undertaking, even if you have identified a significant opportunity in the marketplace. Tara Zeller, with degrees in psychology, applied behavior analysis (ABA) and management, recognized the challenges facing career seekers in the behavioral sciences, particularly for college psychology majors and others in the social science field. In response, two and a half years ago she pivoted AppleTree Connection, a clinical ABA company, to a career and leadership organization dedicated to preparing and connecting entry level practitioners with meaningful treatment roles and leadership positions. From the beginning, Zeller sought assistance from the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF), and its government contracting affiliate the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center at UCF (FPTAC at UCF), and their help has paid off for her.
Under Zeller’s guidance, AppleTree Connection has evolved into a leader amongst providers of training and mentoring for Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) specialists. RBTs, once certified, work in schools, clinics, and privately with individual clients to provide life-changing behavior support and therapy for various diagnoses such as: autism spectrum disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities, or traumatic brain injuries. Certification based upon an exam given by a professional oversight organization is mandatory to practice as an RBT. “We are a quality provider,” explains Zeller. “We are hands on and accessible. We train, mentor, and empower and really like to work with our students to help them uncover their passion and guide them to finding work that is meaningful to them.”
“I sought out the services of the FSBDC and FPTAC because I started my company on my own,” recalls Zeller. “I needed support with the business strategy side of things. It started with a strategic business plan seminar, then to working with Steve South (FSBDC consultant and FPTAC manager) who coached me on running a business. As a solopreneur, you wear all the hats, so it was meaningful to have Steve’s assistance and someone like him to turn to who could guide me in the ways of a business owner. It’s been great, really great.”
“Since I’ve been working with the FSBDC and PTAC, the major changes I have seen in my business start with me as a now confident CEO and business owner,” remarks Zeller. Her confidence was exhibited prominently when she pivoted her clinical ABA business to create a UCF-branded RBT Certification Course that prepares students to become RBTs and places RBTs with employers; an attractive career pathway for UCF graduates seeking a meaningful career and making an impact in their communities.
To her credit, Zeller and her team developed the program and have been teaching the classes since inception with outstanding results: The UCF RBT Program (Zeller’s program) was recognized as the #1 training provider in the country and AppleTree Connections itself ranks as the #3 provider by the Behavior Analysts Certification Board (BACB) based upon its student’s RBT Exam success rate. Building upon that success, she is looking to expand, add instructors, partner with other universities, and duplicate the model throughout the U.S.
“My advice for a business owner considering working with the FSBDC or FPTAC is: Do not hesitate. Go for it,” Zeller concludes. “The services that they offer are truly invaluable.”
For information about AppleTree Connection, please visit https://www.appletreeconnection.com/.