April 2, 2009
Schoolware named Small Business of the Year
Tom Smith, executive director of Rural Enterprises introduced the Small Business of the Year winner at the Durant Chamber of Commerce banquet by saying,"It is an honor to introduce the small business of the year. We have all heard the story of Steve Jobs starting Apple Computer in his garage. Well, he has nothing on our small business of the year. Schoolware, Inc. was started at Kathy Robinson's kitchen table."
Robinson taught at Achille Public Schools for nine years when she left in 1999 to go back to school and earn a Master's Degree. A phone call from a software company prompted her to become an independent software sales representative. From her kitchen table, she partnered her company with other major publishers to be able to provide research based software to schools in southeast Oklahoma for the best value.
After the death of her husband in 2001, Robinson became the sole breadwinner for her family and later that year moved the business to an incubator office at REI.
In 2002 Schoolware, Inc. was named a finalist for Most Promising New Business by the Grace and Franklin Bernsen Foundation. An area in which Kathy expanded her staff was research and development for her own software. Schoolware's first software program took shape in 2006 with the launch of Math Facts Matter, a web-based math facts fluency program. Now three years later, more than 10,000 students in four states use this program everyday from school and home.
Robinson has been invited by the State Department of Education to speak at annual conferences including the 21st Century After School, Alternative Education, Elementary School Principals, Middle School Leaders, and the Oklahoma School Board Association. In 2007, she was invited by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to speak at their regional conference in Kansas City and again in 2008 in Oklahoma City.
She has recently added manufacturer as one of her job titles with the addition of her own line of custom learning manipulatives and workbooks. In addition, other workbooks are currently being developed to support the math facts program.
When she moved to REI, it was Robinson and one employee, her mother. "We at REI observed up close and personal as she took more and more space in the incubator and added more employees," Smith said. Kathy now has 17 sales reps working for her in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
Robinson was one of six women entrepreneurs chosen to sit at a round table discussion with the President of the United States last year.