Imperial startup developing flushable menstrual pads wins Mayor’s competition


WithLula branded box and smartphone app

An Imperial team who are creating 'zero-waste' menstrual products has won the Mayor of London’s Entrepreneur Competition.

WithLula, founded by Imperial alumni Olivia Ahn and Aaron Koshy, won £20,000 at the competition for their flushable and biodegradable sanitary pads.

I congratulate WithLula on their success. Their product is an innovative concept and I look forward to seeing this project develop in the future Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

In a bid to combat the environmental impact of disposable sanitary products, the team has engineered a material that is stable during use at body temperature, but which disintegrates upon contact with cool water, allowing them to be flushed down the toilet safely.

The pads will initially be sold through their website, but WithLula are also developing a machine learning app that will allow users to track their menstrual cycle and which would allow a personalised selection of pads, and eventually tampons, to be delivered directly to their door when needed.

Aaron Koshy, co-founder, said: “We recognise that the needs of a teenager who has just started her period will be different to someone who is approaching menopause. When we started, we talked to anyone and everyone who would talk to us about their periods, from athletes, to working mums, to trans men. We know that we need to be able to adapt and change to our customer’s needs. That’s why personalisation is so important to us.”

Plastic rubbish on a beach
Flushing disposable sanitary products means they can end up polluting rivers and beaches

Alongside the flushable disposable pads, the team also plans to develop reusable menstrual products that they intend to sell at cost price, as part of their ambitions to ensure that anyone can access affordable menstrual hygiene products.  

In 2017 WithLula were named winners of Imperial Enterprise Lab's pioneering entrepreneurship programme for women entrepreneurs, WE Innovate  (formerly known as the Althea-Imperial Programme). 

Green solutions

The Mayor’s annual Entrepreneur Competition brings the city’s most innovative student teams to City Hall to pitch their green business ideas. Entrants were tasked with finding a solution to key environmental challenges facing the capital, before pitching to a panel of judges at City Hall which included Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy.

Olivia and Aaron
Olivia and Aaron

Imperial was strongly represented at this year's competition. WithLula were one of three Imperial-led teams including Gridplug London - a device which allows users to let the grid manage their appliances and save energy, and Liveli - a new service for landlords which installs energy-saving measures in rental properties while increasing the value of homes. A fourth team led by LSE, Musa X, also has an Imperial co-founder. They are making sustainable textiles using waste from bananas,

City Hall will provide ongoing mentoring for all the finalists to help them develop their ideas and take their businesses to market

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I congratulate WithLula on their success. Their product is an innovative concept and I look forward to seeing this project develop in the future.”

Aaron added: “We’re so excited to have won the Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition.  With the £20,000 funding we’ll be able to start small-scale manufacturing and have the product available for Londoners by the end of the year through our website. We can’t wait to work with the team at City Hall to get our business off the ground.”



Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications Division

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