A Retford-based paramedic, whose life changed when her young son was diagnosed with autism and severe learning difficulties, is hoping to use her experiences to support others after launching a new start-up business dedicated to exploring sensory play.
Kim Wolverson launched Sensory Wonder after witnessing first-hand how sensory play can assist with childhood development. She began researching the different types of equipment that are used to help children explore their surroundings through touch, sound, sight, taste and smell, and she quickly realised how sensory play can assist with childhood development, particularly for children with mental and physical disabilities.
Having seen personally the positive impact upon her own son, Kim began looking at ways of purchasing sensory toys that could be used at home. She quickly discovered that specialist equipment could cost hundreds of pounds per item, and although some companies offered the chance for families to rent equipment for a short period of time, there was nowhere locally providing the service.
Kim decided to trial the idea, renting equipment from a provider based 50 miles away, and teamed up with a local childminder to test her ideas. After seeing how children responded to the specialist sensory equipment, Kim decided to use her newly discovered passion for sensory play. She decided to put her ideas into practice and set about exploring ways of making sensory equipment more accessible to local families.
To help her in her mission, Kim called upon Launchpad, a unique business support programme designed to help new entrepreneurs to build and grow their start-up ideas, and she began making plans to launch her own business.
Working with Bassetlaw District Council, Kim spent time researching her ideas further and took part in a number of free workshops helping her to understand the finances of running a business. With plans to run sensory play sessions herself, she also spent time learning about how to comply with health and safety regulations, as well as harnessing social media to help others understand the positive impact sensory play can have on children.
Today, Kim continues to balance her time between working the gruelling 12-hour shifts as a paramedic and spending time building and growing her new business. The driven entrepreneur has also launched a regular sensory play workshop in Ollerton and Manton, and she is hoping to add other regular workshops in the future.
Kim Wolverson, founder, Sensory Wonder, said:
“If you’d asked me a few years ago whether I’d ever run my own business, I’d have laughed at you. My background has always been in the healthcare industry, and until I became interested in sensory play, I’d never thought about running a business.
Having used sensory play with my son and seeing him react so positively to the experience made me realise that I wasn’t alone, and when I realised there was nowhere to experience sensory play locally, or even to use the equipment at home, I decided to do something about it and contacted Launchpad for help.
Working with Launchpad has given me the confidence to believe in myself and my business idea. I’m hoping to expand the number of play sessions I host each month, as well as purchase additional equipment. My dream is to run more sessions and even find a permanent home for the business, but at the moment, I feel incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved and seeing the positive impact my sensory play equipment is having upon young children.”
Fiona Humpage, business adviser, Launchpad, said:
“Like many people, Kim didn’t initially set out to run a business, she wanted to help her son. But the more she delved into the world of sensory play, the more she realised that she wasn’t alone. After reaching out to Launchpad to develop her business plans, Kim also successfully received a grant from Bassetlaw District Council, which she was able to use to invest in additional pieces of sensory play equipment.
Kim knew that for her business to succeed she would need to explore different ways of generating income. The combination offering equipment for hire as well as creating sensory play experiences means that she’s built a solid foundation upon which to grow her business, and I am looking forward to seeing how Kim’s business will develop in the future.”
Launchpad is a business support programme for new businesses. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within South Yorkshire and The Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting their own business or looking for help to achieve business growth.