Valerie Aprahamian is a prolific entrepreneur who wears many hats: she is an accomplished author, public speaker, teacher, coach, mentor, and most importantly, a parent and an advocate for special education who is the founder of Advocates 4 Angels. Her company supports and protects parents of children with special needs and developmental disorders through their Individual Education Programs (IEPs).
As the mother of a special needs child herself, Valerie’s daughter, Chanel was diagnosed with autism and a disorder that caused seizures when she was just three years of age in 1994. Valerie brought her daughter to a team of pediatric neurologists at UCLA who revealed that Chanel would never succeed in school due to not being able to talk, read or write and would have to learn in a limited educational environment. Valerie, not wanting to accept this for her daughter, sought a better situation for her and that very day, she began her advocacy for special education.
She found a fellow mom of a special needs child who helped coach her, and through their work together, she got Chanel the care and attention she needed at school to live up to the potential she knew she had. Soon, other moms were asking her for help to do the same.
“I met another mom—she lived three blocks away from me and became one of my best friends. She had a son the same age as Chanel, and she was a little further along the road than me,” said Valerie. “She started mentoring me and showing the law to me. Once that door opened, I took off.”
Due to her persistence, Valerie’s daughter Chanel was the first student with autism to learn in a general education classroom. This was a huge step in the middle of the 1990s, when public schools were still finding their way around implementing a fully robust special education program without relinquishing students into an expensive private education program.
Chanel graduated from high school, with honors, 14 years later.
The journey to entrepreneurship
Years earlier, Valerie never would have imagined herself as an entrepreneur. She was a carefree artist who did yoga and was an avid painter.
Upon learning about Chanel’s diagnosis, she completely switched gears. Valerie devoted all of her time to learning about special education law and realized just how broken the system was. She discovered that not only did parents not know their rights, but it also violated them. With this knowledge and the informal help she was giving to parents like her, she decided to turn her passion into a business.
Unfortunately, Valerie’s other daughter, Jessica, passed away in 2006 after battling bipolar disorder. Jessica was one of her biggest advocates and was all for the work that she did for the kids.
“How I really got through the grief and the pain of that was to continue with my giving and my working with parents and my working for the kids,” said Valerie. “Jessica’s passing really propelled me and skyrocketed me to a different level of my mission and it occupied all my time.”
Twenty-two years after establishing Advocates 4 Angels, Valerie’s business is still going strong, as she has attended over 4,000 IEPs to help other parents prepare their special needs children to be more independent and successful by graduating high school and becoming more self-sufficient in life. Her services are specifically around offering consultations to other parents to understand the rights of their special needs children.
“Your child deserves an education. Your child deserves everything children are entitled to under federal law. And that's what you have the right to ask for, fight for, and demand for your child,” said Valerie. “Never give up on your child.”
Every child has a right to reach their full potential
Valerie emphasized that parents of special needs children have so much power and authority through the federal law. She stresses not allowing our broken system to discriminate against your child—they have potential, and they deserve to reach that potential, just like a neuro-typical child.
“Your child has potential and we're going to make sure they reach it. That's our goal,” Valerie said. “We're not going to put limits on them; we're going to make sure they get all the help they need. That's every mom’s question when the doctors tell you the diagnosis: ‘What’s going to happen to my child? How far are they going to go; how far can they go?’”
The Keap experience
In 2016, Valerie’s business coach realized she needed a very important tool, as her email list and referral lists were growing and her social media accounts were starting to receive a lot more attention. Advocates 4 Angels also has a monthly webinar hosted by judges and attorneys that she has built out and does a round table each month. Taking all of this into consideration, her coach suggested a CRM would be useful.
Valerie became an Infusionsoft by Keap customer in September of 2018 and liked the idea of a robust product with automation usage. Infusionsoft helped her grow her audience and expand her reach even further, taking her business from a local level to a global level, never losing focus of her mission.
“I used Keap and Infusionsoft to reach as many parents as I possibly can to coach and empower them to help their child in special education,” said Valerie. “My email list keeps growing and growing and growing, and to have that ability in Infusionsoft is so huge because there are so many different things that I’m doing.”
The CRM also has helped Valerie build her online business, as it filters her monthly memberships into her sales page and accounting records.
“It's a one-stop shop and has all the pieces you need,” said Valerie. “As I got familiar with it, I realized how it’s so much better. If you can condense some of it in one place, that’s really beneficial.”
The automation feature has helped Valerie up her webinar game, as she has been able to make minor tweaks to it instead of having to create it all over again each time. This saves tons of time and expenses, helping her team focus on building out different campaigns. It has also helped with the consultation scheduling within her membership, keeping it organized with no further integrations.
At the end of the day, it’s streamlining the business and creating more efficiency that allows Valerie to focus on what matters. Ever since Chanel’s diagnosis, Valerie has helped countless parents of special needs children advocate for their kids.
“We should never give up on them,” Valerie said. “Because when we fight for their potential—they reach it. Chanel and hundreds of other children are proof.”