Gravenhurst woman starts up online store to help special-needs kids, families

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By Brent Cooper

Natalie Edwards of Gravenhurst may have started Canada’s first online store for toys and tools geared for special-needs kids and families.

Natalie Edwards has launched My Special Toolbox, an e-store that offers toys and therapeutic tools for those with autism, ADHD, and anyone challenged with sensory integration, speech/communication skills, and fine and gross motor development.

Edwards, who is a licensed applied behaviour analysis therapist, has been working as a private contractor for a Barrie company, helping area families with special-needs children. She said that during her work she would routinely order toys and other therapeutic tools from companies outside Canada to help her and the families, with many of the tools coming from online companies based in the United States.

There was all the charges with bringing them in, she said. I thought there was a need for special-needs products here and sometimes parents don’t have the time to source out those kinds of products. And there are some products that can be so expensive. There are some flash cards that can cost up to $500 a box, she said.

She said there was a lull in her work she was on-call a great deal of the time and she thought last September the time would be right for her to look into starting an online store in Canada.

There isnt a Canadian website right now that I am aware of that offers tools for all different types of disabilities, she said. I am really excited to be kind of the first site.

Coupled with her experience in the special-needs field, Edwards garnered experience by enrolling in the YWCA Young Womens Entrepreneurship program, which she said helped her develop her business greatly.

I went in with my idea in the back of my mind. It was a one-week course and they really helped me get (the business) up and going. They hooked me up with a mentorship program as well, and it was super valuable experience, she said.

The website went online on Nov. 7, offering a series of tools and toys in the form of communication tool boxes that can be customized, weighted blankets, vests, chewable jewelry, and a variety of oversized sensory equipment. The e-store also provides families with links to federal and provincial funding resources to help parents navigate the path to special-needs funding.

She said buying the items in bulk rather than one piece at a time has resulted in wholesale discounts from her suppliers that she can pass onto consumers.

After only a few weeks in operation, Edwards said the response has been greater than she expected.

Its been going really good. I havent marketed as much as I think I really could have, and I have been so busy that I am almost thinking I may need to cut back on my therapy, if not entirely, she said with a laugh.

For more information on My Special Toolbox, visit the website at , email Edwards at or call 705- 205-0485.

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