Congratulations to Veronica Crafton, Owner of Amazingly Uplifted. Veronica’s mission is to support children, educators and families through school consulting and in-home therapy. She shares her story with us in the interview below.
WN: Tell us your background and how that motivated you to launch Amazingly Uplifted.
VC: In 2006 I fell in love with children with autism while working at Emory’s Autism Preschool in Atlanta, GA. Two years later I became a teacher for students with autism and severe behaviors. By 2013 I recognized flaws in our education system, particularly how some students did not receive effective support from their previous classroom. I’d just won teacher of the year and knew my talents weren’t to be contained in one classroom. I applied for a teacher trainer position but was encouraged to take a more administrative position — a position that I absolutely did not want!
As it turns out, being rejected for the trainer position was the best thing that happened to me because that’s when I decided to quit. I left my teaching career, closed on a house and started a business on the same day. Sounds crazy, but I knew everything would work out and it has. We have continuously grown every year and year 5 is on track to be the biggest year yet!
I was also motivated to leave because I knew children with autism needed more support at school and at home. I’ve seen how much support families need. I’ve been working with families privately in addition to my full time job since 2007 and even lived with an autism family for a year and a half while in grad school. Children with autism are often FAR more capable than we give them credit for. Our name, Amazingly Uplifted, describes how the children I’ve encountered inspire me as an educator. They are amazing and keep me uplifted every single day!
WN: What kind of feedback have you received from schools?
VC: Our teachers mean the world to us and their feedback has been encouraging. They have been very appreciative of the support we’ve provided in their classrooms and often request that we return the following school year. Please feel free to head over to our website to see some of their testimonials!
WN: What type of competition do you face in the Atlanta area – and how do you stand out?
VC: There are several companies that provide the same services as AU. As cliche as it may sound, I don’t consider them to be competition. Autism is a spectrum disorder. That means that children are affected by autism in a variety of ways and no two children are just alike. The spectrum also refers to families. Just like children are different, families are different and may have different needs. The other businesses may be able to meet the needs of some families that another can not and with the current prevalence of autism (1 in every 59 children according to the CDC) we need as many providers as possible.
Amazingly Uplifted does have some unique qualities that separate us from other service providers. We presume competence for every child that we encounter. We understand that just because 1 child may not be able to communicate in the way we are accustomed to doesn’t equate a lack of intellect. An inability to speak does not equate to an inability to understand. The treatment plans and goals that we set for our clients focus on skills that lead to independence.
Part of our success in schools has been the ability to relate to the classroom teacher. All of our consultants have worked in the classroom either as a teacher or role that supports teachers. This builds trust with the educators we serve because they know we can identify with the challenges they face. The plans we develop for classroom and behavior management are often plans that we used and know to be effective not only from our education but from our experience in the classroom. There are also very few companies that offer classroom coaching after professional developments. This type of wrap-around service helps teachers implement what they’ve learned immediately due to the direct support they receive from one of our consultants shortly after the training.
WN: How do you plan to use the grant money?
VC: The first thing we would do with the grant money is use $1,000 to start a scholarship initiative for families that can not afford in-home therapy for their child with autism.
Should I win the year-end Amber Grant, part of the $10,000 would cover approximately seven months of office space. Having seven months of free office space would allow us to save funds to insure sustainability. The remaining funds would go directly to materials needed for the children that would receive our services in the clinic (.i.e. sensory items, toys, educational games, etc.).
The clinic would be used for multiple purposes. Aside from providing one-on-one support for children we will be able to facilitate social skills groups as well as parent training. Social skills groups are essential in assisting children with autism learn appropriate play skills and social pragmatics. Unfortunately it is difficult to capture authentic opportunities to practice these skills. Having a designated and controlled environment will significantly help us serve our children more comprehensively.
Having a clinic would also give parents an opportunity to connect with other parents. Despite how skilled and experienced professionals are, parents learn the most from other parents. We want to create a space that is just as supportive for parents as it is for children. We will offer parent trainings and reach out to our mental health partners to facilitate individual, group and family therapy.
WN: What advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.
VC: 1. Use your job to build your value and habits. If your job offers training courses, take them. If they offer to pay for certifications or degrees that would benefit you, take advantage. It’s also important to build your habits. Get that report in early, train a new hire, get in a management position, turn things in on time, keep your appointments, and work with integrity. Many people say, “Well if I were working for myself I would care more and get my work done.” While this is true to some extent it’s important to remember that you do what you practice and correcting poor habits is harder than learning something new. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!
2. Learning what not to do is sometimes just as important as learning what to do. Find people who are doing it the right way AND the wrong way so that you don’t make those same mistakes. Research people who have failed, find out what they did, and don’t do that. It will save time and money!
3. Speaking of money…SAVE SAVE SAVE. Entrepreneurship is really sexy these days. Some people will try to convince you that you aren’t serious about your dream if you aren’t willing to quit your job today. Wrong! Take as much time as you need to save money for your household and business. Risk will always be there but there are some things you can avoid by having a financial plan. I saved for six years and I’m glad I did! To this day I have not borrowed a single penny and plan on keeping by business debt free.
3. Mentorship is essential. Obviously you should find someone in your field but don’t be afraid to have multiple mentors for different areas of your life. The sooner you learn balance the better because entrepreneurship is all consuming. You don’t want to end up despising what you once loved because of burn out.
4. We are women and we are powerful. We can do absolutely anything. Don’t doubt yourself because you are capable and the world needs everything you have to offer. You and your gifts are valuable so please share them!
*A huge thank you and congratulations to Veronica for taking the time for our interview. We’re already reviewing applications for the June Amber Grant, so if you’re interested in applying, please take a look at our application.