autistic male with headphones on smiling to camera
11 Apr

Community Spotlight - Paddy's Pickup

Q&A with Sarah & Paddy

This month we caught up with Canberra mum and business entrepreneur, Sarah McPhillips, and her autistic son Paddy about their businesses Matriarch Hair Salon and Paddy’s PickUp.

Q1. Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and Paddy? 

Pete and I have 4 boys, 2 each. Tom, Paddy (twins) and Declan is 20 and Callum is 24. They are all either working, studying or both and when our other boys finished school, it was a tense time to work out what Paddy would do for so many hours that we had always filled with school. What were his options? Who would offer him a go? What were his strengths? What was going to allow us to continue to work in our own careers and support the other boys too? The answer seemed to be, use our own hairdressing salon as a means of setting up a business for him, and so Paddy's Pickup was born.

Q2. Sarah, you own Matriarch Hair Salon, which provides meaningful employment opportunities and social inclusion for all abilities. Tell us how this is helping bridge the employment gap for those with a disability. How would you encourage other businesses to do the same?

It is so important to be able to provide an opportunity for these young people, not only for them, but it provides hope and prospect to their families as well. I knew we weren’t the only family out there who were worried and at a loss, so the more businesses can do to think outside the square, the better. It is all our responsibilities as a community and as businesses to make the basic right of having employment and being able to support yourself, a no brainer.  

Q3. Paddy’s PickUp, we just love this business for so many reasons, tell our readers where the business idea came from and the services it offers. And what is Paddy’s role in the business?

Paddy's PickUp is a service which allows Paddy (with his support worker) to collect, wash, dry and return laundry to local businesses around Canberra. As I mentioned before, it was out of necessity to create something for our son. There is no long list of options for special needs kids leaving school and its quite often left up to the family to create something in line with their interests and abilities. As Paddy’s autism and other intellectual disabilities give him the need to follow step by step instructions, work within a structured sequential way of doing things, the structure of the laundry for our salon seemed a perfect match. Paddy looks after our salon, a doctors surgery, a football club and is soon looking to take on another beauty salon and physio.

Q4. What are the aspirations for Paddy’s PickUp? What’s next? 

We would love for other young people to cycle through Paddy's PickUp for work experience and possibly employment in the future. The family and his supports obviously do the driving and help him with his work, but we are starting to get a little stretched. We will probably need to expand his workshop, previously our garage, to allow for another few washing machines and dryers. Covid has been a real pain, as we would have liked to engage some of his school friends to come and get some experience and socialise.

Q5. What has been the most rewarding aspect of Paddy’s PickUp? 

To see Paddy have the same opportunities as his brothers to be independent, financially secure and to have a purpose in life to get up everyday and be a functioning, active member of our society. It was a lovely moment when my husband remarked that “Paddy’s work shirts are on the line” and we both stopped for a moment and reflected on how lucky we are that he is not only owning a work shirt, but it also is covered in his own name and logo. Amazing!

Q6. You were recently featured on Mark Bouris' new show Survive and Thrive - what was it like to be mentored by Mark? What were the biggest roadblocks he helped you with? 

Incredible to say the least. Just to have access to someone like Mark’s business mind and acumen was an absolute privilege. The biggest takeaways I had were if you’re too busy doing the everyday, you lack the clarity and space to really think about where you want your business to go. Its ok to work on your business as well as in it. I think as small business owners, we tend to think everything ends with us. It's worth the time to put in systems and procedures so that if you step out of the business, it can still tick along without you.

Q7. Where can our readers access this show to see all the wonderful work you and Paddy are doing? 

You can catch the episode on Mark Bouris YouTube channel, but if you live in Canberra you may be lucky enough to see Paddy out and about doing his work where he would be happy to give you a high five!

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