BASED IN: NEW YORK
Champs For Autism offers an innovative approach to decrease the separation between society and the social acceptance of Autism. We do this by creating platforms where children with and without disabilities can learn and grow from each other, in recreational playful environments. We believe that in order to effectively decrease the separation we have to start with our children, because the children are the future. If we embed these values at an early age, we will see significant changes in society and Autism in the future. Champs For Autism overall goal is to open an affordable private school for children with Autism in the NYC area, that will include many inclusion programs.
How did your past experiences help you get to where you are today?
I like to say that God created my path for where I am today. Since the second grade I have always wanted to be a teacher, for a general education classroom, but God had different plans. My very first volunteer position was at an early intervention program for children with special needs ages 2-4 yrs old at the age of 14. My last semester of high school I did a full time internship as an assistant teacher at Bellevue Hospital, working with special needs children that were in a specialized program within the public school system. My first job towards teaching I worked as an assistant teacher to special needs adults. All of these things lead up to the birth of my son Jacob, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 18 moths. God was shaping me to be able to care for him through all of the professional experience I had prior to his birth. When I had Jacob I found my purpose, and that was to make changes for people with Autism. Through the birth of my son, Champs For Autism was born. I found great passion in helping people with special needs. They have amazing talents, and gifts to show the world, and I am honored to be used as a vessel to create platforms for their gifts.
Is entrepreneurship something that anyone can tackle? What is the most important thing to consider?
Everyone has gifts and talents that they should learn how to develop. Entrepreneurship is not something anyone should tackle lightly. Many people get confused in thinking that entrepreneurship is easy, and they feed into the idea of being their own boss. The reality is in the beginning as an entrepreneur, you are overworked and underpaid. It can go on for 3-5 yrs until you may turn your first profit. If you have a passionate entrepreneur spirt, it does not feel like you are working. Every day you wake up, it feels as if you are that much closer to reaching your dream. An entrepreneur is a person that sees a need, and makes a solution. Their purpose is much bigger than themselves, so they will work long and hard to make sure the need is met. The most important thing to consider in entrepreneurship is knowing your purpose. What need are you trying to fulfill, and is that need something you are passionate about. If you are getting into entrepreneurship as a way to get rich quick, it is not the field for you. No entrepreneur becomes a millionaire overnight, it takes many nights of failure, to become an overnight sensation. Be very clear about what you are passionate about, and go for it.
Is it important to dream big? What is the big dream for your business?
It is important to dream big, a mentor of mine says to reach for the moon, so if you fail you will land among the stars! It is important for your dream to be so big that it scares you! It is more important to work relentlessly towards it! My big dream for Champs For Autism, is for it to be nationwide, and have chapters across the United States.
Is it important to have mentors and mentor other people? Why?
It is imperative that entrepreneurs have mentors, especially mentors that are exactly where they see themselves in the future. Mentors are people that have created the path before you, so they can show you how to better navigate the pitfalls, or better yet show you how to avoid them. My mentors, has help me to grow so much faster, then when I was doing it all by myself. I went 8 yrs in entrepreneurship without a mentor. That was a huge mistake that I paid for dearly. I made many costly mistakes that could have been avoided, had I sought out a mentor in the beginning, of my journey. Mentors are what I like to call your guardian angels in entrepreneurship.
Did you look for funding in the past?
Yes, I have looked for funding in the past, and I continue to look for funding in the future. Children with Autism needs are very high, and it does take a lot of funding to be able to provide services and equipment they need in order to make adequate progress. Most of our funding comes from donations.
Why do you think that female owned businesses are a VERY small percentage (that has not been growing) of businesses that get funded by venture capital? What can we do to change that?
Venture capitalist look for many different things when funding a business, and it can be many different reasons why female owned business are the least to get funded. I believe one way to get around it, is if female owned businesses got together and started their own venture capitalist firm, geared towards helping other female entrepreneurs. It is a great way to reach back and help someone else move forward in their business, and it is also a great way for that female entrepreneur investor to create an additional stream of revenue for herself.