Few of us would have the courage to start a business in the grips of a pandemic. Add to that caring for a severely disabled son and you would be forgiven for thinking it was anything but a recipe for success. Well in Louise Gartland’s case you would be entirely wrong.
Since starting her business ‘Louise’s Sensory Boxes’ IN 2020 Louise Gartland, from Drumaness has been inundated with orders and now she’s looking to expand her business into export markets.
It was the feeling of total isolation that sparked the idea for the business. While carers would be coming into the house to look after her wheelchair bound son Rory, when shielding was imposed Louise wasn’t able to leave the house at all
“Because I wasn’t able to go anywhere it had a detrimental effect on my mental health and in turn affected the family as a whole. I knew I had to do something positive to lift my mood so I started to think about what I could do to give me a focus and this is where the business idea came from.”
After 20 years of working with adults with learning disabilities, Louise came up with the idea of creating sensory boxes filled with all sorts of stimulating items and tailored to each child’s individual sensory needs – and that’s how ‘Louise’s Sensory Boxes’ came about.
“Riley is registered blind and is deaf, so he needs a lot of sensory input. I came up with the idea of providing affordable sensory toys and products for children who need them,” Louise says.
“As a special needs mum, I find that if you go online to find sensory toys, they are hugely expensive.
“I’ve spent four years buying stuff for Riley and I have a good idea of the things that aren’t necessarily what you would define as a sensory product, but will provide a similar sensory experience.
“I tailor my boxes to the individual child and take the time to define their sensory needs to determine what type of things would help them. For example tactile items or fidget stuff to help with concentration and children who are hyperactive, or visually stimulating items such as light-up toys, calming products or growing products for a darkened room. There are so many sensory needs out there.”
Louise sells mostly through her Facebook page and word of mouth recommendations.
“I put up a post on Shop Ireland not knowing the level of response to expect In the run-up to Christmas I had 285 orders. I had to turn people away,” she says.
At an early stage Louise contacted the Go For It programme and was put in touch with Down Business Centre Business Adviser Joan O’Hara. Louise says that the support and advice provided gave her the impetus to get the business up and running.
“Joan helped me see what I needed to concentrate on first – and one of the first things I did was go and see an accountant and get the business registered,” she says.
“I was a bit apprehensive because I had absolutely no business experience, just an idea. But Joan reassured me that it was a good idea and together a developed a Business Plan.
“Joan helped me massively and continues to be available for guidance should I need it, she’s great at introducing me to the best people to help with a particular issue”
More recently, Louise has got her mum involved in the business , branching out into making tactile and fidget cushions which are suitable for dementia patients and people with ADHD, autism and anxiety.
“Some days I really do wonder how I got from making my first box to where I am now. I really have come so far”.
Commenting on her work with Louise, Joan O’Hara said
“We were delighted to be able to support Louise in the start-up stage of her business. Louise had an idea that was very personal to her and something she was extremely passionate about sharing with other parents.
“We helped Louise develop a Business Plan and that gave her the confidence and know-how to bring her idea to the market. We focused on defining her products, financial forecasting, as well as helping her tap into social media marketing opportunities for generating sales.
“It’s great to see Louise doing so well and delivering products that really make a difference in support a child’s development through sensor play”.
To find out more about Louise’s Sensory Boxes visit
For information on the Go For It Programme please contact Joan O’Hara
Tel: 02844616416 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org