Based on recent studies, an estimated 1 in 70 people in Australia are on the autism spectrum. Research shows that early intervention and inclusive educational settings are crucial in supporting the development and wellbeing of children with autism and related conditions.
Autism Inclusion is a training and consulting service that empowers Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) centres to effectively support children with diverse learning needs.
Business Owner Gerdamari van der Watt has more than a decade’s experience in supporting children on the autism spectrum. She transfers her knowledge into daily practise through tailored training, coaching and mentoring programs.
What year did you or will you complete NEIS?
In July 2020 – July 2021
What motivated you to start your own business?
Feeling ready for a change, I resigned from permanent employment just before Covid-19 hit, and job opportunities were very limited at the time. Family, friends, and colleagues encouraged me to consider starting my own business. Although I knew I had the knowledge, skills, and experience to train and support early childhood educators, I never considered myself a businesswoman, and had no experience in running a small business.
How did you find out about the NEIS program?
Word of mouth. A family member’s friend spoke highly of the program, and suggested I look into it. I contacted Business Foundations and straight away realised how much I needed the advice and guidance offered by this program. From the first phone call, I could hear these people were experts in their field, and I knew I’d be in good hands!
What was the most valuable information you learned in the NEIS training?
How crucial planning is, and the power of a well written business plan! The intensive 3-week training was extremely valuable, and the structured, step-by-step framework enabled me to develop a detailed business plan while learning everything I needed to know about business goals, market research, marketing & promotion, legal requirements, business operations, and financials.
What services and/or products do you provide?
My business is called Autism Inclusion – a training and consulting service for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) centres. I provide training, mentoring, and coaching to childcare educators to build their knowledge, skills, and confidence in supporting children with autism, or related conditions. Government funding allows eligible ECEC centres to work closely with us for a few months to receive intensive training and ongoing support.
What challenges have you had to face since starting your business? How have you overcome these challenges?
The Covid-19 pandemic brough a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, unexpected changes, and a ‘new normal’ that nobody was prepared for. The childcare sector experienced huge challenges, and therefore most potential clients had other priorities in 2020 – staff training or capacity building was pushed to the back burner for a while.
I utilised these quiet months by focusing on networking and marketing, promoting virtual training and consulting, investing in my own professional development, and creating content and resources. Once the sector was ready to open their doors, these investments started to pay off!
What have been some of the highlights of operating your own business?
Developing and growing personally and professionally. Having your own business creates opportunity to meet, and work alongside people from a range of sectors and industries – people I would never have met while working for an employer. Another highlight would be the flexibility! Most of my training sessions are offered in the evenings, and being my own boss, allows me to adjust my workhours more easily.
What is the one piece of advice you can give to others thinking about starting their own business?
Don’t just jump in without a detailed business plan that clarifies who you are, where you’re heading, how you’ll achieve this, and who you have around you to support you.
““The knowledge and confidence I gained, especially during those first 3 weeks of the program, was life changing to someone who had no idea where to start.”
Find out if you may be eligible to apply for New Business Assistance with NEIS.
Ackowledgement Of Country
Business Foundations acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.
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