Meta Auden formed Spectra Sensory Clothing to meet the needs for specialist clothing for
children and adults on the autistic spectrum.
The mother of two was a welfare rights worker prior to starting her shop. She says she has had a “very varied career path” having gained a degree in Politics and History aged 40, worked for Women Together For Peace and was an active member of the Women’s Coalition.
Find out more about Meta and Spectra Sensory Clothing
Tell us a bit about your business?
My business is about providing clothing and other products for those on the Autistic Spectrum. Many people on the spectrum have sensory issues and one of these is clothing. They are sensitive to certain fabrics, seams, labels, and buttons.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I have a daughter on the spectrum and attended a lot of groups with other mothers and carers. I heard a lot of stories of how getting their children to school in the mornings was a nightmare. One of the things they mentioned was socks. They were the first things we sold.
Who/What inspired you to start your business?
My daughter. I also had done two programmes with Women in Business and I think that they gave me the confidence to have a go.
Who is your target market?
My target market would be mothers/parents with a child on the autistic spectrum. Children with autism also grow up to be adults on spectrum, so we cater for all
What gap in the market does your business fill?
We provide a range of products that no one else is currently providing in Northern Ireland. We are constantly evaluating what is needed to make someone’s life easier. We are the only one offering fully elasticated school trousers up to age 17/18. We also design and made the shirts. We do the seamless socks and tieless shoelaces as it is hard to get Velcro fastening shoes in large sizes.
Have you received any significant funding for your business?
We are mainly self-funded as we have not received any direct investment at present. We did use Innovation Vouchers from Invest NI. They also helped us to get to the Autism Show in London by paying 50% of costs.
Who are your main competitors and what do you think sets your company apart from them?
Probably M&S, they did bring out a uniform in the same year that I started thinking about mine 2016.
The fact that I have a child on spectrum helps as I can empathise with some of what parents are going through.
What is your vision for the company over the next few years?
My vision is to move to bigger premises, purely due to the volume of stock we carry. I would like to train and employ at least six young people on the autistic spectrum who would be able to manufacture some of our products in house and offer a more bespoke service.
What are the main achievements of the company so far?
My main achievements have been the feedback I have received from our customers. We also have an online retailer in England, who sells our products under the Spectra name. We won two awards in January 2019, one for best start-up and one for Innovation
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far?
If there is some part of business that is not your forte and you do not know a lot about it, be it accounting, social media, whatever, pay someone who does. Also get proper processes in place from beginning.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a business?
I would say, go for it, but you do need a lot more than passion for your product to sell. Make sure you have done your homework. Look for your USP (Unique Selling Point). Don’t take on premises until you need to.
Find out more about Spectra Sensory’s general clothing and uniform options at spectrasensoryclothing.co.uk