Entrepeneur Spotlight: Alana Bennett
Inspiration can come in many forms – in a person, in an experience, maybe a speech or a feeling. The way that a person shapes their dreams and goals is a special and unique process, and one that is hard to put a finger on. But one thing is sure – for Alana Bennet, founder and CEO of TECpark, her inspiration came from a place of love and compassion, which she fosters in her business day in and day out.
Alana is the mother of two children, ages 13 and 8. Alana and her husband Steven, co-owner and CIO of TECpark, have lived in Mebane for 10 years. In 2016, their youngest son Ryan was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and since then the family has worked to create inclusive and interactive environments for their boys to grow up in together. Alana recognized that personal development would happen differently for each of her boys, but that their development did not have to be separated. This, coupled with the lack of accommodating of neurodivergent needs and inclusive education across the country, sparked the idea that is TECpark today.
TECpark is an event and recreation facility that focuses on creating innovative opportunities for participants of all ages and abilities. The facility features adapted activities and an inclusive environment that takes a play-based approach to participant-initiated and instructor-supported learning for neurodiverse needs. Individuals with ADHD, Autism, Down’s Syndrome, physical disabilities, learning and/or social and emotional differences can access the TECpark model in multiple ways. With a network of staff, board members, therapists, volunteers, and more, TECpark is a safe space that both encourages education through activity and play and provides a relaxing atmosphere for parents and caregivers to engage in their participant’s journeys.
“TECpark is a place where acceptance and fun are a priority; where different is great; and where parents can relate to other caregivers that have children with unique needs,” as is said on the website. In 2018, Alana and her husband came up with the idea to create the event space and had plans to launch the facility in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic paused momentum. In 2021, business was mainly done at pop ups held at local area parks and community facilities, up until the official facility opening on July 11th of this year. Though pop-up activities will continue to be a part of the TECpark experience, fun, life skill development, and social development opportunities are open at the main facility and at scheduled events through Central North Carolina schools.
The Bennetts are true examples of entrepreneurship when it comes to starting a business. Both Alana and Steven have several years of caregiver training experience, through anything from classes and seminars to real-life experiences. Alana recognized the need in Burlington for a facility dedicated to inclusive education and “sensory fun,” as she puts it, and found a way to put her training and passions into work that would benefit the community around her. Through her business, she has found families who have had similar experiences to hers and her boys and did so in a way that shows personal development takes form in unique, individual, and encouraging ways.
The community that TECpark has created is a strong one, and one that can be seen in every inch of the facility – from the wide-open dance floor to the interactive games to the visual supports for non-verbal communication. And just like any entrepreneurial venture, the hope is the business will be able to expand to impact as many lives as possible. Alana hopes to seek out interns and volunteers interested in special education, such as internships through the surrounding colleges and universities, as well as become an asset for surrounding schools in the Burlington and Alamance County area.
TECpark is a space where any person – any age, any ability, any difference – is celebrated, and where learning is made to be fun. It is a place where, just like Alana shaped her dreams and goals in a special and unique process, others can find a way too.
Be sure to look for upcoming events at TECpark! The schedule for activities can be found on the main website and on social media. Stay connected through their channels below:
Isabella DeLaGarza, EYOS Fellow
425 S. Lexington Ave.
Burlington, NC 27215