The SensiPal you see today started off very differently, just a few short months ago! We didn't intend on starting a small business or even a website in the beginning. In fact, I found my original notes from November of 2017 and laughed! They were such low expectations, mixed in with notes for our homeschool co-op classes and grocery lists and Christmas lists. They were an afterthought, something I'd get to one day. If I'd only known those hasty notes were just a tiny spark that was about to explode!
Let's back up to October of 2017. Elijah (you can read his blog post "High Functioning Awesome-ism!" here) was unofficially diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. I went into his yearly check-up with a list of issues we'd been experiencing. I had done the research, poring over Google hits at 3:00 am. I was confident he had Sensory Processing Disorder. I already knew what the pediatrician was going to say. We were already trying different "sensory diet" activities at home, but I assumed he would be referred for occupational therapy, at least. After the pediatrician patiently listened to me list out the issues, she asked a few questions. "How is he with routine? How does he handle changes in plans? Does he make friends easily? Can he hold a conversation?" I answered the questions, thinking, "What do these have to do with anything? I'm here for sensory issues! He can't wear clothes. He can't stand messes. He hears things in his head. HE. EATS. PAPER!" Surely her questions didn't have anything to do with anything.
...But then she said, "You probably already know what I'm going to say." I nodded my head, thinking to myself, "Yep. SPD." I almost didn't listen to her go on. But then she hit me with a ton of bricks by saying, "I have NO DOUBT he has High Functioning Autism." Excuse me?!
At one time, I had briefly considered the spectrum. I even mentioned it to a few people but quickly brushed it off. He doesn't have autism. My sister's kids. They have autism. We know that. How could he possibly be on the same spectrum. It wasn't fair. Not unfair to us, but to people like my sister and countless others that have it SO MUCH harder than us. Surely my smart albeit quirky boy and his struggles couldn't be compared to the wearisome, draining work that is everyday for others on the severe end of the spectrum. But the words were spoken and I went into game plan mode.
I of course went home and immediately starting Googling HFA. It was amazing. Because I hadn't considered it before, I hadn't researched it. But the more I read about it, the more I started to understand Elijah. It was like a whole window was opened to his mind! So many questions I didn't even realize I had were answered. I know some do not like the puzzle piece as a symbol for autism , but for us it is incredibly accurate. We had found the missing piece!
Elijah started occupational therapy, but we quickly realized it wasn't quite right for him. His therapist was great with him and he enjoyed it, but he wasn't getting anything we weren't already doing at home. What OT did though was plant the seed for SensiPal! Elijah and I talked about some of the equipment like body socks and weighted blankets available at OT. We began researching it online...and were apalled by the prices! $350 for a blanket?! Surely these items shouldn't cost that much?! I had basic sewing skills, so I attempted to make a few things. They turned out great. Elijah and I decided we could make a few items and sell them at craft shows or maybe on Etsy. Perhaps even a few word-of-mouth private orders. His therapist found out what we were planning and asked us to make a weighted blanket for a client. Our first order!
Things QUICKLY took off after that! We started selling on Etsy while gathering ideas for other items. We ran into a roadblock when we realized we could only sell handmade items through Etsy. Every time we talked to someone about our ideas, their first question was, "Are you online? Do you have a website? Where can we find you?" So it was obvious our next step should be a website.
In January 2018, we opened our website. Elijah claimed his title of CEO of SensiPal. I spent countless hours poring over the internet to find therapy and sensory items at reasonable prices. By the end of the month, things were already taking off. Fulfilling orders was a part-time job. All of the items started taking over space, and soon we had a tiny warehouse in our upstairs playroom. I realized this was going to be more than a hobby. I registered with the state, and SensiPal became an official business. We don't make much profit, and consider ourselves more of a ministry than a business. We are even considering becoming a non-profit in the future!
We are truly humbled by how fast things have taken off in the last four months. It's been a whirlwind for sure. There is an obvious need for these items and companies are charging ridiculous prices because (some) people will pay them. We don't think that is fair, and we're going to continue riding this wave as long as it will carry us! We'd love to grow even more. We have HUGE plans to start another business locally and hope to charge ahead with that in the next year. We love meeting and talking to customers from all over the country. The experience has been great for Elijah. He has really learned social skills and gone out of his comfort zone to talk to people. If you met him at any of our recent shows, you probably saw that he's a GREAT salesman!
We are always open to new ideas and products! If there is something you have a need for or would like to see at a more affordable price, let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We'll do our best to find or make just about anything!
Thank you to everyone that has supported our accidental business. We look forward to what the future will bring!