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Julia DeNey: Winner of the 2024 Great Companies International Women Entrepreneur Award

Name: Julia DeNey

Business Name: Sense-ational You

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts , USA

Establishment (Year): 2020

Category: Retail

Profession/ Specialty: Adaptive Fashion Design

Social Media: LinkedIn

Company Detail:

Sense-ational You specializes in creating adaptive apparel for autistic children with sensory regulation needs, enabling them to thrive in various settings. Sensory challenges can lead to difficulties in focus and learning, as well as disruptive behaviors. Sense-ational You addresses this issue through clothing designed with hidden functionality, allowing children to feel confident and be themselves. The apparel is free of sensory irritants like tags and bulky seams, and many items incorporate sensory tools, such as compression and sound-reducing features, helping children remain regulated wherever they are.

The company was founded by Julia DeNey, a Cornell University graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Design and minors in Business and Human Development. Julia's experience as a special education para exposed her to the unmet clothing and environmental adaptation needs of neurodivergent students. This insight led her to leverage her expertise to devise a solution.

Unique Selling Proposition or Competitive Advantage:

Sense-ational You stands out by offering clothing that incorporates essential sensory tools into stylish garments. Innovations include the first hoodie with a sound-reducing hood for children sensitive to noise and a unique compression-lined shirt for proprioceptive input. Additionally, the clothing features built-in fidgets and is designed to promote independence through magnetic closures and elastic waistbands, aiding children with fine motor skill challenges. Sense-ational You is the sole brand addressing neurodivergent children's needs to this extent while maintaining sensory-friendly and fashionable designs.

Challenges Faced During the Journey:

Julia's initial challenge was the risk associated with the variety of garment options produced for the first launch. She aimed to provide color and sensory feature choices, leading to a substantial inventory for a new small business. The less-than-perfect launch resulted in excess inventory, prompting Julia to tap into her network and seek new connections for guidance. She learned the value of starting with a few signature products to better gauge customer feedback. To address these challenges, Julia left teaching to concentrate on Sense-ational You, engaged in entrepreneurship communities, expanded her network, and outsourced services like SEO and email marketing. She also enhanced her presence in autism-focused social media and sought advertising on disability platforms. Julia's approach to overcoming these obstacles involves building relationships with therapists and parents, focusing on strategic decision-making and brand loyalty.

Advice for Women Entrepreneurs:

Julia advises women entrepreneurs to persist and have faith in their abilities. Overcoming failures and dead ends is a critical part of entrepreneurship. It's crucial to remember the driving force behind starting a business and to let that passion guide all actions. Building a solid response to skeptics, especially from older generations who might favor traditional corporate paths, can turn doubt into support. Additionally, finding supportive communities, either online or in-person, is invaluable for referrals, advice, and camaraderie. The support of fellow entrepreneurs, even from different industries, can be a significant asset in navigating the entrepreneurial journey.



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