The plans for Starfish have really been fast-tracked due to both need and circumstance. If you’re wondering what the future holds then you can find out more and get the story behind the story.
I’ve been pretty fortunate to be able to always do what I was interested in and loved. One thing led to another until I found myself with the most gorgeous little Educational Shop, Consultancy and Tutoring service in Kiama with the most wonderful staff and incredibly supportive and encouraging community.
One thing has yet again, led to another. A little sooner than I had planned, finance-wise. The dilemma was if we didn’t take the lease next door when it came up then it was likely it wouldn’t have been available when we were ready.
You might wonder what the plans are for the new store and what direction Starfish is going in, so I figured I might do some thinking aloud (on my keyboard hahaha) and share so everyone can be a part of it.
At the moment this is a rough “skeletal outline” of where Starfish is heading and what we hope it will look like.
- Making our store accessible because we believe in Inclusion and Equity and that everyone matters
*wheelchair access will be via a portable ramp into our Sensory & Specialised Store. Not ideal I know, but it is a step in the right direction given our buildings are heritage listed.
Yes, I have been to Kiama Council and spoken with the Heritage office in Sydney, too. It may be possible to do something more permanent but the cost is prohibitive for a small business. It upsets me that our store is not accessible at present. It is difficult when our store is packed to the rafters as well. Taking over the space next door will also help no doubt.
*The space next door will be far more suitable for those who find stores overwhelming or challenging to the senses.
The whole two stores will be carpeted, as soft furnishings reduce noise.
We won’t have any music playing in the Sensory & Specialist Store.
There will be no fluorescent lighting, products with flashing lights won’t be turned on (unless requested for demonstrations) and other products can be turned off if need be.
The Sensory & Specialist Store will not be crowded. Whilst our existing store will be open to one and all as per usual, the Sensory & Specialist store will not be freely open to all. People browsing or killing time, or coming into Starfish “for a play” won’t actually have access to that part of our store. I’m afraid we do regularly have people send their children up to starfish unsupervised whilst they enjoy a leisurely lunch. Having an overcrowded space is not helpful for families with disabilities. They need space and time, without pressure. We will be trialling a lockable gate (sort of like a pool fence gate) in the doorway that joins the two store. It will have a friendly sign explaining that the Sensory & Specialist Store is for our customers and families, so they can try things (with the help of our staff) in order for them to make the best informed choices when they purchase. This also means that families need not worry about their child who is “a runner” as they will be safe in that area.
- Ensuring our products can be seen and touched, tried and tested by our customers because we believe that helping people make the best choice for them with the money they have is important
*as much as possible we will have our products out on display so people can actually try them so they can choose the best option for them.
- Providing great service and a sense of belonging because we believe whilst online is big people still want relationship, a pleasant experience and to know, like and trust who they’re purchasing from
*our staff have a team meeting every Monday morning to touch base, follow matters up and fine tune our service
*our staff, including me, attend as much training as I can afford and that we can possibly manage time-wise. Right now, Enya is signed up for two courses on Autism. Erin is signed up for regular NDIS training. And, I am doing a Cert 4 in disability studies as well as a Degree in Neuroscience (with a view to do further post grad studies looking at a more wholistic approach to learning difficulties – as I already have a M.Ed: Special Education). The next short course I want to do is one on a research backed Social Skills program.
*we currently have Maddi (a young person with an intellectual disability) doing work experience. This is a good thing for Maddi and for Starfish. We believe in employment opportunities for all. We are very hopeful, with gentle support and good communication that Maddi’s hours will increase and it might become a paid position.
*the goal staff-wise is to have Ez and Enya (I’d be lost without them), Maddi and one other full time employee. Being able to provide rewarding jobs for locals in a fun and safe environment that nurtures individuals and helps them be the best they can be is actually pretty cool.
- Having the best range of products because we believe people would prefer to shop as much as they can from us, and it will help us continue to grow
*we recently made a decision to stop stocking “junky things that break” even if there is a demand. We only want to stock things that last and are quality. We test just about everything ourselves – for quality, safety, practicality. We figure if people are after cheap stuff for a sensory or fidget box and price is the primary consideration then they can go to K Mart or the Reject Shop (or somewhere similar).
*we are constantly searching and sourcing the best possible products so we can have what people need. It saves our customers time, but it also means we stay afloat and will grow.
*we attend trade fairs, we talk to our suppliers and suggest products, we search both locally and overseas
*we pick the brains of all our local therapists and specialist teachers. Thank heavens they like us! In fact, we often ask them to trial products for us.
*we have started making our own products, to ensure we have the best possible quality and design eg our body socks and lycra swings are second to none!!!!
*we are sourcing more and more products from China – a more extensive range of swings, products that we cant seem to get in Australia, portable swing stand frames, bubble tubes etc.
*we intend to have more products for teachers, home schoolers and speech therapists, too.
- Move to a much larger premises – where we can have plenty of parking, proper access at all times, on-site storage (for easy & quick access to items) and a sensory room/space that would be available for use.
- Increase our own range of product lines so we can provide even more exclusivity, quality and reliability of supply
- Provide workshops for parents and teachers
- Provide an improved tutoring space (I want more room hahaha) and possibly more tutors so people don’t have to wait for 6months for a vacancy
We would not be here, where we are right now, about to take yet another huge financial commitment without all your support. Every time you like, comment or share something of ours on social media and Every time you make a purchase with us or recommend us to another – it helps keep us afloat and helps us grow. It helps us employ staff and create a better store for everyone.
Hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea, the general direction of where we are heading. Come on the ride with us, the invite is open to watch on, enjoy and be a part of it.
If you have suggestions, I’d welcome your thoughts.