By Melissa Grant
When Berwick mum Caitlin Edgerton needed to buy a sensory chew toy for her son she couldn’t find anything locally.
She had to resort to giving her son random household items to chew as they waited for the delivery of sensory toys she had ordered online.
Around that time, Caitlin was keen to get back to work but wasn’t sure how to make it happen as a mum with two autistic children.
It was then that she had her lightbulb moment and Sensory Poodle was born.
In February last year, Caitlin and her mum, Vicki Brown, launched the online business which is all about making it easier for parents to find sensory toys and tools for their kids.
“The idea of it was to serve the local community so people have somewhere to pick stuff up urgently… and they didn’t have to order online and wait for postage,” Caitlin explained.
“But it sort of blew up beyond that pretty quickly.”
Last year, Caitlin and Vicki processed more than 3500 orders.
Caitlin estimates Sensory Poodle is now getting about 22 orders a day. The most popular items are large jellyfish sensory lamps, emotional regulation tools and ‘chewies’.
The business has grown so quickly that Caitlin and Vicki are already looking to get a warehouse.
“Hopefully we will get a warehouse base or something soon because we’ve taken over my mother’s five-bedroom house – there is stuff everywhere,” Caitlin said.
Sensory Poodle caters to the needs of kids who are neurodiverse and those who are gifted.
They are needs that Caitlin is familiar with – her son Lincoln, 6, has autism and is also gifted, while her daughter Evie, 4, is autistic.
Caitlin is also familiar with the stress parents of special needs kids experience when they can’t quickly get their hands on sensory toys and tools.
“With pick-ups I will message people.. if it’s a chewy toy or something I can tell is urgent I will message them and say ‘hey you can come and get it in half an hour if you need it’ and we’ve had people do that,” she said.
“A huge goal of ours is to be able to provide that because when I was looking for that for my son it just wasn’t around and I sort of had to find random things around the house or pay for express shipping in the hope it would come in time.
“A lot of neurodiverse kids are really struggling, so having that locally we are hoping it can alleviate some of the stress for the parents.”
For Caitlin, Sensory Poodle has also alleviated the stress of trying to earn an income while juggling motherhood.
“It was definitely an end goal to be able to work from home and work around the kids because I obviously can’t go into a typical job with my kids’ needs,” Caitlin said.
“If I have a typical job it’s not that easy to say ‘hey I’ve got to go home and sort this out’. So it does make life a lot easier and I can work around my kids’ therapies and schools and all that sort of stuff.”
Caitlin tries to make herself available to customers as much as possible, often working into the night.
And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“We’ve had really good feedback about quality of our stuff and customer service. I do try to go above and beyond because I do know what it’s like for parents of kids with special needs,” she said.