Stephannie Addo is what you would call a ‘serial entrepreneur’. Not only does she strive to succeed at achieving her own business and life goals, she is on a mission to inspire and council other women to pursue their own dreams by overcoming the fears that may be holding them back. As a business coach, Stephannie offers consultation services to start and expand businesses or to help clientele succeed at cost-effectively branding themselves in their niche. As a wife and mother, she is an Autism Advocate and also the Director of Champions For Autism which she started after her son was diagnosed with Autism. Let’s find out more about Stephannie and how she is inspiring others one day at time.
- Where were you 6 months after college?
I actually had to drop out of college during my junior year. I already had my business and was expanding. Also at that time, due to my son having Autism, he needed more of my attention to take him to therapies and things of that nature. So I made the ultimate decision to drop out. As luck would have it due to my wonderful strides in my business, and making a great impact in my community through my daycare program, and after school program, I received my Honorary Doctorates Degree, which was a huge honor, since I have been servicing my community for 10 years.
- You are a serial entrepreneur, how do you stay on top of things while managing your personal life?
My husband and I do a great job with balancing the children. He is very supportive in my business ventures, and helps me out anyway that he can. I also make sure to schedule things, so that I do not get overwhelmed. Last but not least I have a great morning routine, where I wake up earlier than everyone in the house and spend some “me time” . I pray, meditate, and read my Bible. Doing these things on a daily basis helps to keep me grounded.
- How important is it that parents set time a side to be a part of their children’s education?
It is vital that parents set aside time to spend with their children. In my life, my children are a priority. This is the main reason why I became an entrepreneur, to set time that works for me. I did not want to have to ask a boss, if I can take off to see my child get an award, or if they are sick. I wanted to ensure that I can be there for my children. I do realize that every parent does not have that option, but what I would suggest is to at least set aside 1 weekend a month for your children. Schedule it in your planner, as if you are scheduling everything else that you think is a priority in your life, then once you schedule it, stick to it. Children grow up fast, I would like to ensure that I am there to see it and create memories.
- Tell me about your organization Champs for Autism.
Champs For Autism is an organization geared towards opening a private school for children with Autism in the Bronx. At this time the Bronx has the highest rate of school age children with disabilities, but the lowest amount of services. This private school that I will be opening will be geared towards working class families. At this time there are no private schools geared towards the average working class families for children with Autism. A typically developing child has the option of going to a public or a private school. A child with a disability has only 1 option in NYC and that is public school, because all of the private schools are over 80k a year. I do not feel that just because you have a child with Autism, your options of education should be limited. Children with Autism can learn and be productive citizens if they are given the right tools to learn.
- How has your child inspire you in life?
My son has been a huge inspiration in my life from birth. Thanks to him I found my love of entrepreneurship, the first business I opened was because of him. Through his diagnosis I found my passion, I also learned how to advocate to get services for him. He showed me that the doctors are not always right, follow your heart and believe the report that God says to you. They told me he may not talk, or show love and affection, but he talks nonstop, and always gives me and my husband kisses. He shows a lot of love towards his siblings also.
- What are some of the stereotypes about autism you would like to put an end to?
Every child that has Autism is not the same. Autism is a huge spectrum with a wide range of symptoms. Please do not put children with Autism in a box, because many of the children with Autism are brilliant, they just see the world through a different lens. Last, stop telling parents that Autism comes from the parent not raising the child right, because that is false. It is a mental disability, many doctors do not know the source of why a child or an adult may have Autism. If you see a parent, or know a parent that has a child with Autism, what they need more is your support. They do not need criticism, or judgement. They need an ear to speak to someone, and encouraging words about their parenting, and their child.
- How can parents notice the signs of autism early?
They can reference Autism Speaks for a lengthy list of signs. My biggest sign for my son was no speech at the age of 18 myths. He did not make eye contact, or respond to his name. He hit all of the other milestones as a baby, but he did not hit the milestone of speech.
- We all stumble at some point of our lives, was there ever a time during the creation of Champs for Autism where you wanted to give up? What did you learn from it?
There were many times during the creation of Champs For Autism I wanted to give up. What I realized through all of my events for this organization is, there are families counting on me to make this dream a reality. Champs For Autism is much bigger than me, this will be a huge breakthrough for many parents of children with disabilities. When a dream is much bigger than yourself, you have no choice but to keep going, and see it all the way to the finish line.
- What does my freshman year of life means to you?
A To me “my freshman year of life” means when you finally step into your purpose, and you are ready to go after your calling. There are many roads to take in life but you have finally found the one that is the right fit for you. It is a scare journey because you are a freshman, but you are confident that this journey will count.
- What happened when you didn’t step outside your comfort zone?
Absolutely nothing, because inside of your comfort zone you are unable to grow. When I was in my comfort zone, I was scared of the unknown, I thought about what people will think if I failed, I also thought about what people will think if I succeed. It can be a double edge sword at times, because if you fail people will laugh at you, and if you succeed people will think you changed. When I got out of my comfort zone I said to myself “Who cares!” The reason is because, not trying at all is the worst thing you can do. I would rather live life without regret, then to die wondering “what if”. When you fail people can laugh at you, but it doesn’t matter because those are critics that will never leave their comfort zone, because they are too busy watching you. When you succeed people will think you changed, and it is true you will change. That is the point of success, if you don’t change, you will not see success. The people who are truly there for you will be there whether you succeed or fail because they genuinely love you. If you have to choose sides with a person, they should not be in your life.
- If you were to write a letter to your younger self about pursuing your dream what would you tell her?
I would tell my younger self to Dream Big! You can achieve the impossible, so dig deep and go for it.
IG @drstephspeaks @champsforautism