MEET Apoorva McIntosh: Apoorva McIntosh is an inspiration to many. Her deep desire to make the world a better place for as many survivors of domestic violence and other forms of abuse as she can in her lifetime, inspired the creation of LADV Foundation (Life After Domestic Violence). She wears a myriad of hats, including Founder & President of LADV Foundation, author, public speaker, model, life coach, fine artist, fashion designer and most importantly, mother of an amazing ﬁve-year-old boy.
WMI: Where did you grow up and what was life like for you as a kid?
AM: I was born in India. But, have been living the life of a nomad. I did part of my growing up in India, England and Germany. Recently, I have been growing up in America. I must admit – the best part of my growing up was/is in America. And I absolutely mean it in a positive way. There is something called the cross-fit camp of life. I have been in one! I Learned too much, too quickly. I have turned 180 degrees around from who I was four years ago. And I am loving it!
Life was a mess growing up as a child. I hated being a kid. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I wasn’t a minority. So, I decided to stop feeling special, stopped asking God why me and stopped feeling like God’s step-child. Life sucked as a child, and I now call it a “so what!” A not-so-nice childhood helped me develop a theory; what doesn’t kill you makes you depressed for a while, but once you get over it, it makes you indestructible.
WMI: Tell us what you were doing before you launched the LADV Foundation.
AM: I was busy dealing with a difficult marriage and depression (You can see how the “messy life” pattern continues). Which eventually led to divorce, single parenthood and poverty.
All that chaos happened in the first half (four years) of being in America.
Then I spent the second half (four years) in research and study of human mind, human behavior, characteristics of abuser and victim, why abuse happens to some people and why abuse can run from generation-to-generation. I also studied how to stop abuse, causes of depression, addictions, self destructive habits and how to replace bad habits with good habits (void theory). Other areas I focused on are how to communicate with difficult people and what can we do to have a successful, happy, healthy and fulfilling life despite of what the past may have been like. The list is endless.
I have also added NLP and life coaching to my study areas. This additional study and experience helps me to help the survivors of abuse more effectively.
WMI: When and why did you start the LADV Foundation?
AM: I formed the Foundation in May of 2013. I saw a tremendous need for it. It was like one of those “Aha!” moments after I got my life together. Surprisingly, over the last four years while I was studying various subjects to help myself, I came across countless numbers of women who were abused or who witnessed abuse. After getting to know them, I saw that they were still hurting within. Most of them were dealing with one thing or another – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, various addictions, co- dependency, denial, attraction to one abusive relationship after another or children following in their footsteps by walking into dangerous relationships or resorting to drugs. Some still harbored a lot of hatred and resentment toward their abuser, others still wished/wanted to be back in the abusive relationship.
With my personal experience and the knowledge I have accumulated and continue to accumulate, I have come to understand why this happens. Therefore, I decided to do something about it. I brought together a great team of advisors and committee members, who also saw the need for our work, and combined this with my deep desire to help the survivors of abuse. These advisors and committee members helped me bring LADV Foundation to life.
WMI: Give us an overview of the services you provide through LADV Foundation.
AM: One word to describe our programs is “knowledge”. Knowledge is power. Our programs are based on the knowledge of “Why, How and What.” Why physical and/or emotional abuse happens to some of us. Why we might be prone to future abusive relationships even if we do get out of one for now. Once abused women understand the why, we teach them the how – namely how they can prevent the abuse from happening to them and/or their children again.
Once abused women understand the how, we teach them the what. This involves teaching them what they can do to heal from the trauma (PTSD) and what they can do to build self confidence and self-esteem. We also work with the women to help them develop professionally, build communication skills, healthy boundaries and healthy relationships. Other strengths we give the women is the ability to make sound financial decisions, create a pleasant and impressive self image, develop healthy habits and build an overall happy, successful and fulfilling life.
Through our communication program, we also teach men how to communicate effectively with women as well as teach women how to communicate effectively with men to have a healthy relationship and to reduce escalation or situational violence.
WMI: Prevention is a beautiful thing! Please share a few key signs that alert a woman or man to the fact that they are dating an abuser (or a potential initiator of domestic violence)?
AM: Signs of abuse include one person trying to control another. This includes control of finances, on who you should and should not talk to, where you can and cannot go, where you should work or not work, who you can call and/or text or email. Abusers also try to gain control in the bedroom. The alarming part about it is that in most cases, abuse happens gradually.
Another sign of abuse is a gradual destruction of self-confidence/self-esteem by putting another person down constantly. Constant reminders that a partner cannot do anything right on their own is another sign of abuse. Eventually, the abused partner starts believing the abusive messages to be the facts. My book “Why Don’t You Just Leave?” outlines the signs of an abusive relationship, cycle of violence, how it starts and where it ends up. Some women don’t make it out alive once they are in an abusive relationship. Therefore, recognizing the signs at an early stage is extremely crucial.
WMI: Do you offer programs for kids of abused or abusive parents? If so, what services are offered during the programs?
AM: Currently, we don’t have programs for children of abuse. However, we are working on a program as we recognize the importance of it. We did learn that the survivors of abuse suffer from PTSD. Whether it be men, women or children. Therefore, we are working on programs for men and children as well.
AM: Extremely important! Research shows that the majority of women are unable to leave an abusive relationship or end up going back after they leave, because of lack of financial independence. One of our programs, Single Parent’s Fund provides financial literacy and stability to the domestic violence survivors who are unable to cope with daily expenses due to legal debt, or other unfortunate circumstances.
WMI: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, please share with us a bit of history about another business you owned.
AM: I have always been an entrepreneur. I started a fashion business when I was 25 years old and ended up exporting to some great fashion houses in Germany, England and in the US. I became very successful within a year. Next thing I knew, I was doing fashion shows along with the giants of the industry. Compared to them, I was a brand new baby. I was the youngest fashion designer chosen to be on the mentor board of an international fashion institute. My role was to conduct yearly lectures in my field of expertise to guide the upcoming fashion designers. I somehow managed to win two awards for my work. Things just happened, without expectations, without planning. I just had the drive and the dream. The rest came along on its own.
WMI: A lot has been said about start-up funding. Where did you find the funding to get your foundation off the ground?
AM: I fortunately had enough savings to lay the bricks of the foundation. Subsequently, God took over and I started meeting some absolutely phenomenal people who gave me a break on their fees, some of them completely donated their time and expertise, some donated money despite of the fact that their contribution was not tax deductible at that time. As a brand new start-up, we were not qualified as 501(c)3 at that point. Now we are a fully functional non-profit with a 501(c)3 status through United Charitable Programs. I was blown away by the generosity of those who I didn’t even know too well. I am amazed by this incredible team of people God has assembled to move the foundation forward. My attorney said to me years ago while we were waiting for the trial, “You are not in a trap! You are in a great country and you will see that.” She was right.
WMI: What has been the toughest thing to learn about owning a business?
AM: Finding the right team that sees your vision as clearly as you do and is as passionate about the goals as you are. Every business needs a great team. You can have a great product and great services but without a great team, your company’s growth will not reach to its full potential; it might even fail.
WMI: What has been the most rewarding part of owning a business?
AM: Gratification from the fact that I have the ability to impact lives with what I do. Also, owning a business forces me to think outside the box. Another great part is that I actually love working. In my experience, working 18-20 hours a day wouldn’t tire a person out if the person worked in a field they were passionate about and had a deep knowledge about. Then, life flows even if there are challenges.
WMI: Social media networks, press releases, interviews, etc. provide a myriad of marketing opportunities. Share three to four specific marketing strategies/action steps you have found to be most effective at getting you exposure for your foundation and its services.
AM: In my experience, “word of mouth” is definitely the best advertisement any organization or product can get. Other than that, I’d say Facebook is one of the most powerful ways of reaching out to an ocean of people. LinkedIn and Twitter are also great marketing platforms.
WMI: To keep your business or foundation going, you have to generate cash inflow. Tell us about two to three effective cash inflow generating strategies you’ve found effective.
AM: We apply various means and strategies. First of all by keeping the operating/ admin costs low. We have several amazing volunteers, and we are always looking for more. The less we spend on overhead, the more we have for our programs and our Single Parent’s Fund.
We also have a Membership Program through which you can become a member of LADV Foundation and contribute each month, quarterly or yearly. We also have “Sponsor A Program and Change Lives”, through which an organization or an individual can adopt one or more of our programs. Additionally, we do fundraisers to create awareness on who we are, what we do and how we do it in order to help the survivors of abuse.
WMI: Who inspired you to go after your dreams when you were a child? How is this person still positively impacting your life today?
AM: Actually, it’s a funny question, in an ironic way. I didn’t have anyone who inspired me to go after my dreams. Instead, I think the reverse psychology was the reason for my dreams and success. What I mean by that is – my mother always told me that I was ugly, useless and good for nothing. The ugly part got me into modeling and I ended up modeling for a lot of big brands and magazines. I never was and never will be ugly. The good for nothing turned me into a successful fashion designer. The reverse psychology seems to work really well for me. Being in an abusive marriage turned me into a research and study junkie which helped me find answers to many questions I had. Being nearly killed, helped teach me the meaning of life.
I was also fascinated by three women while growing up – Madonna, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. I admired different qualities in each one of them. I actually drew an incredible portrait of Diana when I was about 17-18 years old. The entire portrait was created with alphabets only, no lines what so ever. My glamour world, collections and dressing sense were inspired by Madonna. My desire to help others definitely stemmed from Mother Teresa, and I have always aimed for the poise, humility and personality of Princess Diana. I think, I tuned out to be a mix of the three.
WMI: What’s next for Apoorva? Where do you see yourself and the LADV Foundation two to three years from now?
AM: The next step for me is to re-establish my fashion business. My fashion business model will be useful for providing job opportunities for the survivors of domestic abuse. My vision for LADV Foundation is to go nationwide within the next 2-3 years, and eventually, teach our programs internationally.
You can visit Apoorva McIntosh online at http://ladvfoundation.org/.
You can purchase her book, Why Don’t You Just Leave, at http://www.shop.rsplaunchpad.com/Why-Dont-You-Just-Leave-by-Apoorva-McIntosh-rsp-leave.htm