Name: Allison Strickland, MEd, LAT, ATC
Organization: ATStudy Buddy | Shea Hawk Solutions LLC
Location: Iowa City, Iowa area
Education: Current PhD Student in Communications at Liberty University, MEd in Health and Kinesiology from UT-Tyler (2012), BA in Athletic Training (2010)
Certified since: 2010
Additional Certifications: Functional Movement Screening
As we kick-off the first in our National Athletic Training Month 2022 blog series on emerging settings in athletic training, I wanted to start off by highlighting myself – Allison, the owner of ATStudy Buddy. Even before starting my own business, I found myself on the emerging settings career path. Now, as an entrepreneur, I believe it’s important to educate others on what it really takes to start and grow your own business – even coming from a profession that doesn’t commonly enter the entrepreneurship world.
After working as a graduate assistant athletic trainer and the head athletic trainer at a large high school in the Chicago suburbs, I found myself without a job when my husband – who is also an athletic trainer – took a job as an Orthopedic Technician at a very large orthopedic private practice in Iowa City, Iowa. There are not many athletic training jobs available in our area, and no one was hiring at the time. Without Division I experience, it was unlikely I’d even be in the resume stack at the University of Iowa. So, I took a job at a local Curves as their general manager.
Yes, Curves. The old lady gym.
I kept looking for jobs and ended up taking a part-time position covering football and varsity events through a local physical therapy clinic. I drove all around Eastern Iowa to provide athletic training services for very small, rural schools. One school played 8-man football and another had a ‘stadium’ that backed up to a pig farm. Even though I kept looking for a full-time position, I was happy to at least be still on the sidelines.
In late 2014, my husband saw an online job posting for ImPACT, the concussion management software company. They had an opening in our area. I applied and was hired to be the Assistant Director of Global Support. I loved working at ImPACT, talking to other athletic trainers and sports medicine professionals all day. It was a Monday through Friday, 9-5 job that was still in within the profession. I was able to keep working part-time for the PT clinic as well. Eventually, I took on an additional role at ImPACT, working with the clinical education department. I fell in love with the CEU world and loved everything that went into developing courses and workshops.
However, after some changes at ImPACT that began in 2017, it became clear to me that it was time to leave. I ended up being headhunted, coincidentally. A start-up organization called Voxello, was looking for someone who had clinical education experience and customer support experience in the healthcare field. I took a chance and joined the company in late 2017. Voxello sells a product known as the noddle system, which helps patients who cannot move or speak use the nurse call button or a speech-generating tablet. While the product was amazing, poor leadership and the inability to raise funds from investors had me keeping an eye out for a new position.
While I was at ImPACT, I learned how to use a software called Salesforce. To those who are not familiar with it, Salesforce is a customer relationship management platform. It’s challenging to truly describe the software to those who have never used it before, but I like to describe it as an EHR for businesses – but one that also manages your marketing, sales, and more. I took a job in mid-2018 as a Salesforce Developer, which is the job I’ve had since.
Sometime in 2016, just after I’d had my first son, a friend from high school asked me if I knew anything about building websites. At ImPACT, I’d learned how to use many different types of software. I thought I could probably build a basic website. What grew from that is my company, Shea Hawk Solutions LLC. I grew my little side-hustle into a steady stream of income by primarily working with healthcare providers (and some other industries here and there) to create websites, marketing materials, blog posts, and other copy, business plans, and my favorite – online continuing education courses.
What I want to emphasize about my little business is that it took a lot of work and didn’t grow overnight. I think many early entrepreneurs expect their business to take off quickly. In my first year, I made $250. Then the next year I made $4,000. Then $10,000. Then $30,000. Five years of hard work, getting my name out there and offering quality work that brought back repeat business and got me referrals is what it took to grow my business. In 2019, I had an idea that just wouldn’t go away. I kept seeing posts in athletic training-specific Facebook groups from students asking how certified ATs had passed the BOC. Over and over and over. I thought about how I had studied back in 2010. Homemade flashcards, a pen-and-paper quiz book, making outlines of my textbooks, reviewing old notes. With today’s technology, I knew there was a better way.
So I slowly started building ATStudy Buddy. The 2020 pandemic gave me time to truly put work into the site, and I was able to beta test it in 2021 with a group of students. After the BOC exam came and went, I sent out a survey. While the website was still very basic at the time – only 1 practice exam and study materials only for the cranial nerves – the feedback I got was amazing. The students saw the value in the site, and knowing what it could grow into, thought that others would be interested in it too. So I spent the rest of 2021 building the site you see today.
And it keeps growing. I hired another athletic trainer to help me and new content is added every week. It’s still early, but feedback from students and program directors continues to be positive. When I graduated in 2010, I thought I would be a high school AT forever. But that’s not what life had in the cards for me. You can make plans for days, but I’m a firm believer that we all end up in the place we’re supposed to be. I love working in this profession, even if it’s not the one I’d planned for myself.
On the NATA website, entrepreneurship isn’t listed, although there are resources available. If starting your own business is something you think you may be interested in someday, take a look at what the NATA has to offer. Talk to other athletic trainers in emerging settings. Your dream job might just be out there.
Happy Athletic Training Month!