When Lisa Compton, president and CEO of SensoryCritters.com, first came to the Northeast Indiana SBDC in July of 2006, she was seeking financing assistance for her small business, which designs and manufactures weighted clothing and other products that provide a calming influence to individuals with autism and/or sensory processing disorders and help them with concentration. Business Advisor Karen VanGorder guided her through some difficult financial times and worked with her through the planning and growth stages of her firm. With the support and guidance of the NE ISBDC, SensoryCritters.com was able to nearly double its sales from 2006 to 2007, and to open a new retail store in November 2007.
Another milestone came in December 2007, when SensoryCritters.com formed a partnership with Easter Seals Arc of Northeast Indiana to sew and ship its products out of Arc’s sewing center in Fort Wayne. SensoryCritters.com went this route after local seamstresses could not keep up with the growing demand for its products. Easter Seals Arc of Northeast Indiana is an organization whose mission is “to create solutions that change lives of children and adults with disabilities or other special needs and their families.” Arc provides a wide range of services to thousands of area individuals, many who have autism and/or sensory processing disorders.
“It’s rewarding to bring together two organizations whose goal is to help people with special needs to partner on these projects,” Ms. Compton said, observing that some of the Arc clients who are involved in manufacturing the items for SensoryCritters.com could also benefit from their use. She said the projects also help the Arc clients by keeping them productive and earning a salary for their services. “It’s a win-win situation for all of us,” Ms. Compton said. As a result of the new partnership with Arc, SensoryCritters.com has been able to expand its product line, which has grown to include 16 exclusive weighted products.
In the fall of 2007, Ms. Compton began working with Mary Popovich of the NE ISBDC on marketing strategies. Through their collaboration, the SBDC created and distributed news releases to help SensoryCritters.com publicize its partnership with Easter Seals Arc, as well as its new retail store and other milestones. The publicity generated by thenews releases has gained significant media coverage, including articles in the statewide e-mail publication Inside Indiana Business, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and other prominent media, “and the greatest part of all is that families who truly need our services and products have found out about us through Mary’s assistance,” according to Ms. Compton. She said as a result of publicity from the recent news releases, walk-in traffic to the SensoryCritters.com store “has increased tremendously.” Ms. Compton anticipates this year’s sales to far exceed last year’s; she said sales in January and February of this year were up 204 percent, and she expects March sales totals will be even better. To help accommodate the growing business, Ms. Compton’s husband, Bob Compton, is now working full time for the firm.
After being referred by SBDC Business Advisor Ola DeGabriele, who specializes in international trade, SensoryCritters.com recently was chosen as one of two NE ISBDC clients to receive an international marketing plan created by business students from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).