Like many entrepreneurs, Mapy Chavez Askins launched her nonprofit in response to an unmet need. In her case, that need was centered around autism. She saw a significant gap in the services provided and the services required, especially for Spanish-speaking families. Chavez Askins, originally from Peru, has a PhD from Columbia in behavior analysis and the education of children with autism. She’s passionate about helping autistic children, so she stepped in to fill that gap.
Chavez Askins, 51, launched Alcanzando in 2008. Her goal: to provide a resource for Spanish-speaking parents of children with autism. Over the last 13 years, Alcanzando has reached more than 6,000 families in the United States, Latin America, South America and Spain.
Even after so much success, Chavez Askins still runs into the same question. “You have a PhD from Columbia?” people ask her. “Why don’t you go get a job with a big charity? You’ll make 10 times what you make running Alcanzando.” But Chavez Askins shakes her head. She doesn’t want to compromise, she tells them. She won’t follow someone else’s rules. “As an entrepreneur, I have the freedom to do what I really want to do. I get to follow my own dreams.”
Yet following her own dreams is a lot more work than most people realize. “Everybody thinks I’m out sailing on my boat every day,” Chavez Askins says. She laughs. She hasn’t seen a boat in years.
“A lot of people have the erroneous idea that as an entrepreneur you get to take time off whenever you want. No, as an entrepreneur it means that I’m having dinner and I’m jotting down the things I have to do tonight. I go on vacation, and I have to say, ‘Hold on. I’ll be right back. I have to return a call.’”
Chavez Askins believes the four-hour work week is a myth. “I bought the book, I have it somewhere,” she says. “But entrepreneurs have to know that you’re purposefully putting yourself in a position where it’s a lot of work. Don’t go in thinking it’s going to be easy or that it won’t take a lot.”
But for Chavez Askins, the rewards of her work justify the long hours and the late nights. She has a list of success stories from grateful parents, many of whom tell of children transformed through patience, dedication and the resources Alcanzando provides. “If I worked for a company, if I took the safe route, I wouldn’t have that,” she says. “Making a thousand calls during vacation, working on my to-do lists during dinners—it’s all worth it. I don’t want to wake up 10 years from now saying. ‘I wanted to do this, but I didn’t.’”