Aaron is a Biomedical Engineering & Innovation Design Engineering graduate of Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. Aaron is also the co-founder of WithLula, this year’s winner of the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Award. Here Aaron tells us more about his time studying in London and working full-time on WithLula since graduating.
Why did you choose to study Biomedical Engineering & Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art?
Imperial College is a hotpot of students, cultures, and technology. It was the perfect place for me to explore what I wanted to do during my bachelors, and then further exploring my niche in my masters.
Why did you choose to study in London?
I did my last two years of schooling outside of London and loved coming into this massive hub of a city. From restaurants, to libraries and museums, London is a place that has something for everyone. If I had to choose again, I wouldn’t choose anywhere else!
What did you enjoy most during your time as a student in London?
The perks of being in a metropolitan city. I grew up in the middle-east, where getting books or even electronics were always an incredibly long and expensive process. Being the first to try new services, or get new products is a perk that I take for granted now. I never need to wait more than a day to get a book delivered through my door.
Did you work during your studies?
I did several internships from financial services to advertisement, during my holidays. This was not only a great opportunity to grow out the skillsets in my CV but also to better understand what and where I would want to work when I left university.
How would you describe London in three words?
Colourful, Packed, Purposeful.
Congratulations on winning this year’s Mayor’s Entrepreneur Award! Can you tell us a bit about your invention?
WithLula provides the markets first safely flushable and biodegradable sanitary products. Redesigned to be silent, secure, and sustainable.
WithLula started as an exploration into environmental waste but talking to my co-founder, Olivia, I soon understood that the problem was so much more than just waste. The whole journey was confusing and complicated, and we thought that we could make a simpler more enjoyable period for all.
Our vision at WithLula is to make menstrual health and hygiene accessible to anyone, anywhere.
How has your university supported you with the development of your project?
Imperial College London has been invaluable with their help and advice, even now that my co-founder and I have graduated. We initially went through the WEInnovate 2017 competition, which gave us the starting capital to take the leap. The Enterprise Lab at Imperial has supported us with masterclasses and mentorship, as well as through the Imperial Venture Mentoring Scheme which connects their start-ups with advisors and investors who bring expert feedback and advice.
The university has also sponsored my Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, which means I can stay in the UK and continue to work on my start-up. Their services and staff have been one of the strongest driving forces for our success.
Have you drawn on any wider support within London to develop your project?
London is full of amazing people and opportunities – especially for a start-up. We are part of the A2i programme, part funded by London South Bank University and the European Development fund, due to our low carbon initiatives. Several of our mentors live or work nearby, making it possible to meet and get advice. It is a hub for events, programmes, and competition which makes it a great place to take the leap if you do want to work or start your own company.
Do you have any international partners?
WithLula is currently a tight group of three, with each of us are concentrating on core parts of the company. I am heading the product development and customer experience, my co-founder Olivia, a junior doctor, is heading the medical research and branding whilst Angad, our team member based in Mumbai, India, is leading our R&D team as we collaborate with a research textile institute.
We are building a socially responsible company as our foundation, as our vision is to make menstrual health and hygiene accessible to anyone, anywhere. We are working with the Indian government to develop low-cost, fast-drying reusable pads to be provided not only in developing countries but also in the UK, tackling period poverty globally as well as locally.
What are your plans after the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition?
We were incredibly fortunate to win the prize and excited at the opportunity that it gives us. With the prize money, we are going to complete our patent protection, to start commercial production, and start selling directly to customers through our website. We have exciting plans and concepts in the pipeline and cannot wait to take the next step in our journey!
Do you have any advice for other students thinking about studying in London?
London can be expensive but as a student, there are several subsidies from travel to cinemas! It’s an incredible place to study and learn, especially for the formative years during university where you will be figuring out what you want to do.