As London Fashion Week has just come to a close, we wanted to take the time in this episode to showcase some of the emerging talent that is working to make the fashion and beauty industry more inclusive and diverse. We caught up with some budding entrepreneurs who entered the Stelios awards last year. Carina, founder of Hands of Warriors, Laura, co-founder of Careaux and Jenny, founder of e-scent.
For more information about Carina's business, Hands of Warriors, head to: www.handsofwarriors.co.uk
You can also follow her business on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/handsofwarriors/about/
For more information about Laura's business Careaux, head to: https://www.careaux.com/
You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the handle: @careauxofficial
Want to know more about Jenny's business eScent? Head to https://www.escent.ai/
To follow her on social media go to:
Social media handles;
Interested in learning more about her work? You can read an article she wrote recently about eScent here: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/when-aromatherapy-meets-ai/
You can also check out here Churchill fellowship award here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/sites/default/files/report-documents/Tillotson%20J%20Report%202013%20Final.pdf
Interested in learning more about the Stelios Awards? Find out more here: https://www.leonardcheshire.org/what-we-do/working/employment-support-and-internships/awards-disabled-entrepreneurs
Don't forget to follow us: @LeonardCheshire
Carina: The fashion industry is symbolic of what’s happening on a wider scale in society with regards to disabled people. Such as there being a lack of role models.
Laura: Fashion is for everyone, no matter what. We shouldn’t be excluded based on anything.
Jenny: Hopefully you know we can work closer with the fashion industry to break down barriers and stigma. Many designers are talking about their own mental health now and the struggles they’ve had so yeah I’d very much like eScent to be part of that.
Cathy Lynch: Hello and welcome to The Disability Download. The Disability Download is bought to you by pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire. I’m Cathy Lynch.
Erin O’Reilly: And I’m Erin O’Reilly and on this podcast we respond to current topics, share stories and open conversations about disability.
Cathy Lynch: As London Fashion week has just come to a close, get it? We thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about all things fashion. A lot of the time in the news we see sustainability being talked about when it comes to fashion – which is so important in terms of the environment – but we don’t often hear about the many conversations around accessibility and disability representation. There are some really influential figures in the industry, like Sinead Burke, being recognised more and more, but on this episode we wanted to talk about some up and coming British talent who are actually creating new products designed by disabled people for disabled people.
Erin: Yeah as Cathy said often when we talk about inclusion and diversity in the industry we often talk about what’s not there, what’s missing and what more needs to be done. And I do think some steps have been made in the right direction recently, but there’s definitely a lot more that needs to be done when it comes to truly accessible fashion that’s available on the high street, and not just from adaptive ranges. So yeah for this episode we thought we would talk more about what is available and what people are doing to address these gaps. So I caught up with three entrepreneurs who were all actually entrants to our Stelios awards last year. So every year at Leonard Cheshire we work with the Stelios Foundation on like a Dragon’s Den style competition and that’s where disabled entrepreneurs can gain exposure for their businesses or social enterprises and even be awarded some funding as well. So last year there were actually quite a few entries that related to the fashion and beauty industry, so we thought it would be great opportunity just to get them on the podcast for this episode!
Cathy: So let’sgive them a listen. First up, Erin catches up with Carina, the founder of Hands of Warriors!
Erin: So Carina, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. You entered the Stelios awards with your business Hands of Warriors. So I was wondering if you could explain a bit about where the idea for the business came from and a bit about yourself as well?
Carina: Yeah sure, so I am a wheelchair user myself. I have Spina Bifida and M.E. and I thought about the idea of basically developing better wheelchair gloves that marry function ability with fashion. Because at the moment, that doesn’t seem to be available on the market. So, Hands of Warriors was developed just last year and actually it was originally developed just for women. But since I’ve started it I’ve actually developed it for men as well. And its wheelchair gloves that can be worn throughout the year no matter the conditions and I’m enjoying it!
Erin: So basically when you were developing the idea were you finding that when you were looking for gloves it was either that you were going for something that was fashionable and more to your taste or that you were having to choose something that was going to be more functional and just there wasn’t really a product out there that gave you both options?
Carina: That’s right yeah. So the wheelchair gloves on the market on the moment are very, quite masculine looking, quite bulky, mostly look sporty and they actually, I would say they actually still don’t last particularly long. And then if I look at what’s on the high street there’s the standard leather gloves, and they look nice, and they’re easy to go on try on, and there’s lots of choice, but they only last a few weeks if you’re a permanent wheelchair user like I am. So yeah, the idea was to try and get an in between product.
Erin: And had you chatted to other wheelchair users in the process and found that it was definitely something that other people were feeling the need for and wanting in their day to day lives as well?
Carina: Yeah, there was, it’s difficult to answer that because, as you know I’m sure, wheelchair users have different needs so it’s difficult to blanket all of them. But the ones that were active wheelchair users were particularly interested in this type of product. So that solidified my idea.
Erin: So do you feel at the moment then that disabled people are more often having to seek out adaptive ranges kind of outside of the high street rather than actually having their needs met and that’s something that you with your business you’re really trying to rectify and you know bring the two together?
Carina: Yeah absolutely. I don’t think I have ever bought anything on the high street that has been made for a wheelchair user. I can only think of businesses that are like Hands of Warriors, that have had personal experience of disability and decided I’m fed up of this, I need to do something about it and I’ll be the one to plug that hole in the market.
Erin: So how’s it been going then since you launched the product and your website?
Carina: I mean I am new to this, I have never been an entrepreneur before so it’s a steep learning curve. But I’m trying to just take it at my own pace and kind of just go with it. Last year was when the business was created and I did make some sales, which I was really happy about! But at the moment I think there’s a bit of a stumbling block because I don’t think man people know that we exist so that’s something that I’m continuously trying to rectify. But I think that’s kind of the nature of starting up a new business. That’s always the way!
Erin: Oh definitely, I think in the early stages it’s all about you know getting the name out there however you can and building kind of on that that slowly isn’t it?
Erin: So you know you’re in the really exciting early phases at the moment and developing the idea and you know spreading awareness, so thinking more long term, what are your main goals for the business?
Carina: In the long term, I would like Hands of Warriors to be the first company that wheelchair users think of when they need a new pair of gloves. And I want to really, ideally expand to be outside of the UK and that is possible because I’m only based online, so that is definitely possible. But obviously, I’ll have to do a lot of marketing on a bigger scale. And then I would really like to get these gloves in a high street store somewhere. On one of maybe the major fashion brands that could sell a line so that wheelchair users can just walk into a generic fashion shop and go and actually buy some gloves that have been specifically designed with them in mind.
Erin: So then kind of talking about high street fashion more generally, obviously like you say there is a glaring gap in the market for products like yours. Thinking on a wider scale do you think high street brands and luxury brands as well do you think they’re taking accessibility seriously enough given it’s 2020? Or do you feel like there’s a long way to go?
Carina: I think there’s still a long way to go if I’m honest, I think that there’s still a lot that can be done. There’s great scope within the field to really include us and I think disabled people actually are crying out to be included. I also think that the fashion industry is symbolic of what’s happening on a wider scale in society with regards to disabled people. Such as there being a lack of role models, such as there being a lack of investment in disabled people’s needs and also a lack of asking disabled people what it actually is that they want. It is very much a case of we don’t seem to really exist at the moment. So that is something that I would really like to see change this year.
Erin: So basically, you think there needs to be a much more open conversation, you know more people involved in the design process rather kind of from the outset rather than being an afterthought.
Carina: Yeah I think there needs to be much more inclusion and diversity in general, but disabled people must be part of that process. I mean there’s that quite famous slogan from the disabled people’s movement, nothing about us without us. That slogan is very relevant for what I’m trying to say about the fashion industry, which is that they need to be developing ideas and products with disabled people alongside them. So it needs to be including them at every point in the process and I think really that is the only way that they will succeed.
Erin: Well thanks so much for joining us carina, it sounds like you’ve got some really exciting things lined up, and hopefully like you say with 2020 we’ll see fashion becoming more inclusive and you know disability representation much more prominent. So we’re really excited to see how your business develops as part of that! Thanks so much.
Carina: Thank you very much.
Cathy: Next up, Erin chats to Laura, who founded luxury ethical womenswear brand Careaux, with her sister Rachel.
Erin: So Laura, thanks so much for joining us on the Disability Download today. You entered the Stelios awards with your business idea for Careaux. So can you just tell us a bit more about that and a bit about yourself and obviously where the idea for the business came from too?
Laura: Yeah of course. So my name’s Laura and I’m 31 from Manchester and I’m the co-founder of luxury ethical womenswear brand Careaux, with my sister Rachel. And I’m also Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador. I have cystic fibrosis and I’m currently on the waiting list for a double lung transplant since August 2018. So the idea came from about ten years ago when Rachel was 14. Her two favourite subjects were maths and art, and for her art GCSE she created a dress with our Nana who had been a dressmaker since she was 14. And during this process Rachel fell in love with how a dress was created. Alongside this as part of sisterly duties Rachel always used to steal my clothes. She would say borrow but it was definitely steal! But there was always something that she wanted to change as we were different size tops. She sometimes wanted sleeves or liked the top part of the dress but wanted a different part of the bottom. And she got thinking more about how each and every one of us is so different, but there wasn’t any clothing at the time that adapted to each and every one of us and it really got her thinking about it. And it was at that time when she had the lightbulb moment of the Careaux dress and then as soon as she told me the next morning it’s been our sole dream and focus ever since.
Erin: So how does the dress itself work then? You mentioned it’s to you know cater for all people of all shapes and sizes, so how does it do that?
Laura: Oh yes, so the Careaux dress is a brand-new concept and it’s got a hidden zip around the waist which allows the dress to completely separate into a top and a skirt, and then you can reattach them as well. So this allows the dress to have a different or same size top to bottom, so you could have a size 12 top and then a size 14 skirt, or a size 16 top and skirt. So it’s just exactly what your size is and then adapts to you, so it’s based on the waist size. So the tops and the skirts always match up for you. Because it’s got the zip and you can reattach and take them apart, you can also mix and match the tops and skirts to create different fabric, style and colour combinations as well.
Erin: And how do you think then that the design itself really benefits people in the disabled community?
Laura: Well we were doing research and I was looking at articles from, well what you were saying, like disabilities and stuff like that and we saw that it was almost 1 in 5 people that has disabilities, but the clothing didn’t reflect this. And the idea of the Careaux dress came from looking at how we felt when we tried dresses on. Like when we were younger and wanted to change something. Because with my Cystic Fibrosis I have like a bigger rib cage as well so finding dresses that fit me was really difficult and it was just so deflating and so disheartening. So we wanted to create a dress that you didn’t feel like you had to change yourself to fit into. So for like the disabled community as well and adapting to it, because it’s a two piece dress it’s easier to get on and off because you can take the top off or you can the skirt off without you know having to take it all off and manoeuvre yourself from that. Because we’ve got zips on the dress as well, you can also facilitate getting it on and off by using like, adding a longer puller onto the zip so it makes it a lot easier or you can change the side of the zip. So we were just looking at different ways just to make it easier cause we wanted the dress to be about the person wearing the dress, not like making it harder for people to, you know, look stylish. And we wanted to celebrate people in the dresses and anything that we can do to help that and showcase the people in the dress we wanted to do so. And also if anyone has any ideas about what we can add on to the dress or to make it easier for people then please do get in touch, because we always want to make it fully inclusive and adapting to every single person.
Erin: Oh brilliant! So obviously you mentioned things are kind of just getting started at the moment, looking ahead what are your goals for 2020 then in terms of growing the business and getting the idea out there?
Laura: Yeah so we did a kickstarter early last year in March through until May, and we were very, very lucky to be fully funded within three weeks. So we had the pre-order of the dresses, we had 42 dresses pre-ordered, so I think what we want to do now is goals for the future to scale Careaux both through our website and also through our b2b business, through our wholesaler, boutiques, online market places and department stores. And as I said before Careaux is about celebrating incredible role models, how they create choice and how they are creating choice for the better. And therefore it’s our dream to see more role models all across the world wearing our dresses and creating such positive change. We also want to collaborate with more charities because it’s something that we absolutely love to do and we want to give back as much as we can. And also push more for the fashion industry to become fully sustainable, diverse and inclusive as well, because we think there is still stuff to be done on that and we just want to do as much as we can to move it all forward. And we wanted to show as well that fashion is for everyone, no matter what. We shouldn’t be excluded based on anything and that’s why we wanted to make a dress that is about the person wearing the dress and a dress that fits to you as a person. It’s just all about you.
Erin: So with Careaux you obviously saw a gap in the market for you know this type of product, given that there wasn’t really something available and without it, it can make the shopping experience more difficult and less enjoyable. Generally then thinking more about fashion and beauty as a whole, do you think high streets brand and brands in general are taking accessibility seriously enough at the moment? Or do you think more needs to be done to make that more prominent?
Laura: I think that there’s been a lot of stuff recently and in the past couple of years that has really pushed for more inclusivity and adaptive fashion, and there’s lots of great brands coming through that are adaptive fashion and value accessibility to fashion. And I think not just in the fashion industry but the world in general we know that there’s so much more to do. And there has been amazing progress in the past few years but we still need to do a lot to have equality. And I think taking it seriously would mean for diversity and inclusion to be fashion. By this I mean not having separate adaptive clothing or accessible clothing, like petite, tall, but for this to be clothing as a whole, clothing that changes for each and every person that is your piece of clothing and your clothes to treasure throughout your life. And you don’t feel like you’re being excluded or like you’re different, for wearing other stuff, it just…the clothing adapts to you. And I think as well that there’s not only examples just in design but accessibility in terms of the shopping experience, and the shops and the venues and transport. And I came across a couple of examples as well. So someone that I read about, she’s called Monique Jarrett, and she’s the European champion in wheelchair dancing, she was saying like if she saw something in the shop window she would go inside and ask if they had disabled changing rooms and the response she got was like there isn’t. And she just felt really frustrated because even though in most places there’s a legal requirement, they do sometimes do the bare minimum. So sometimes they’d have a disabled toilet but they were upstairs with no lift. And I also came across this woman called Nancy Harris who’s an NHS counsellor. And she was saying that after her, well she has a disability and that she didn’t anticipate how tired she got while she was shopping and that there wasn’t many benches or places to rest in shops. And I think, even for things like that for us like a couple of seats or just making the changing rooms more accessible, I feel like it will open the world to a lot more people. People will, especially people with disabilities, will feel a lot more included in the shopping experience will be much better. And shopping isn’t just about fashion it’s like the emotional experience as well. I think if we have a really good experience then we do keep coming back to that place if you like the shop. I think just little tweaks and little things that can really really make a difference in everyone’s lives.
Erin: Oh definitely, so from what you’re saying it seems like there’s a lot that could be done throughout the whole shopping experience to just be more accessible and cater for more people. If you could pick one thing that you would like to see change or progress by the end of 2020 what would that be?
Laura: I think by the end of 2020 I would love to see the fashion industry keep pushing for sustainability but also one of my dreams is for the fashion industry to be fully inclusive and diverse. And it doesn’t matter the size, ethnicity, disability, background, everything, it should be completely inclusive. And so that every person can look in the shop, social media, magazines and see a role model that they can relate to. And as we love fashion so much and fashion has so much power to be a force for good we feel that it can really make a change and change the world for the better.
Erin: Yeah absolutely and I think it’s important you know that we continue having conversations about inclusion and diversity in fashion, and you know talking about products like yours, and designers and people that are really up and coming in the industry to make it more diverse and make it more inclusive. So thank you so much for joining us today and we’re really looking forward to how your business develops over the next year!
Laura: Thank you, it’s been great thank you.
Erin: Thank you!
Cathy: For our final interview, Erin speaks with Dr Jenny Tillotson, founder of eScent. Jenny was also actually a Stelios prize winner last year!
Erin: Jenny thanks so much for joining us on this episode of The Disability Download. Your business idea is called eScent; could you tell me a bit about yourself and where the idea kind of stemmed from?
Jenny: Thank you very much for inviting me it’s a real pleasure to talk to you. My background is actually in fashion and textiles. I did my first degree in fashion and communication and Central St Martins which led into a PHD at the Royal College of Art in interactive old factory services which is where I developed this interest in scent and wellbeing. And that kind of led into a career in wearable technology and academia at Central St Martins over a number of years actually in the field of kind of sensory design, sensory fashion. And it was there that really I got the idea although I have to say the actual idea stemmed from my PHD a the Royal College of Art. But I will actually preface this to say that I was actually diagnosed with bipolar in my sort of mid-twenties which is where I, from there I became particularly interested in wellbeing and finding new ways of managing my moods and helping me sleep and yeah. So that’s something I’ve sort of struggled with, the anxiety, so that was really very much where this idea of eScent came from. Also in addition to that I’m also married to a former fashion designer, he’s now not working, but he was the menswear designer for Thierry Mugler, in the very much in the early days. And he introduced me to science fiction so a lot of my ideas and my inspiration has come from science fiction contexts and references, particularly a story called Ubik by Philip K. Dick which is about creating this kind of personalised bubble, mystical bubble of magic that creates a kind of reality in a can and changes your mood. So that was actually the key to where the idea for eScent came from. So yeah I’m also a fellow for the Royal Society of the Arts, I’m also a Churchill fellow which is a major part of where I am now and how the research has developed, and the business! So that sort of gives you a snapshot of me I guess!
Erin: Perfect, so eScent itself then you kind of mentioned that it’s like wearable technology can you talk me through what it actually is and how it works and kind of how it all came to fruition?
Jenny: Yeah so eScent is a wearable device which can be embedded into jewellery, into fabrics, which is where I did the PHD in textiles looking into new ways of delivering fragrances in fabrics initially. So it was sort of going beyond scratch and sniff and it was clear that I needed technology and hardware. So I was looking at drug delivery systems and micropumps and all these sort of small devices that dispense fragrances and putting them in to textiles. So it was clear that I needed some hardware! So this has evolved over the years with various prototypes that I created at Central St Martins and more recently in the business. So in a nutshell, eScent, it’s a wearable AI powered scent technology platform and it’s revolutionising how we leverage our sense of smell, which of course is a very important sense but it’s the least, it’s the one that people consider the least important of the senses. In fact it’s one of the oldest senses, it’s one of the most primitive senses and the most evocative sense. So I’m very much targeting the sense of smell and perfume. And what we’re doing as a business is really reinventing the fragrance experience. So the idea being that we’re giving the consumer the ability to create their own customised, low solvent, as I’m looking at cleaner fragrances, and it’s creating this scent bubble around the person’s head, the halo of the head if you like, which is where the inspiration has come from Sci-fi. The Phillip K Dick book. And this scent bubble, which is delivered by the eScent device, wearable technology, is triggered by context. So it’s triggered by your mood, depending how you’re feeling, it’s triggered by voice, so you know different mood in your voice. It may be slightly high for example, or low or anxious or sad. It can also be triggered by music, it can be triggered by for example a playlist on Spotify or whatever it might be; or location, it could be triggered by calendar depending on an interview for example or it can certainly be triggered by sleep patterns or even the weather. So what we’ve done is we’ve filed patents, so we’ve actually got five patents in this field. Four of them were from my early work at Central St Martins, when I was an academic, and more recently we published last year in February 2019 a much more sort of advanced, technical patent which is to do with this sort of AI powered, scent technology platform; and that really is looking at a fragrance dispenser that can be worn close to the nose that’s triggered by, for example, your smartphone, your smartwatch, and it releases scent, or any kind of liquid actually but let’s just focus on scent, perfume in response to the context. For example if you’re feeling anxious, so I sometimes suffer from social anxiety so sometimes I get extremely anxious public speaking or at meetings or whatever. But if I had my own personalised scent delivery system that’s embedded in my clothing, hidden, you know I’m talking about in buttons and jewellery, and it’s triggered by my mood and it’s releasing for example neroli or lavender or whatever it might be that’s personalised to me, because of course fragrances are all subjective and you know everyone like’s different things, everyone reacts to different fragrances. And then the idea being that obviously my mood is enhanced or you know I reduce anxiety levels and then I can feel better. You know so that’s it really, the idea’s very much come from learning how to manage my own moods. And it builds on my Churchill fellowship, so I spent quite a few years ago working on Churchill fellowship and I went to the States to explore this concept and speak to psychiatrists and psychologists. And the Churchill fellowship was called sensory fashion and the idea being that it was looking at new ways of stress management to basically reduce a bipolar relapse, which is what I’m doing with scent, so that I can try and avoid the ups and downs, through scent. Not treat it, but to actually just avoid, so yeah.
Erin: So essentially it’s something that combines fashion and obviously scent but also technology kind of all in one so it can change someone’s experience…
Jenny: Yeah absolutely yeah so it’s enhancing experiences through scent but on a personal level. So I use scent diffusors, I’ve got one on at the moment, and it’s fantastic and I’ll you know change the different fragrances depending on my mood. But of course it’s not wearable, I can’t take it away with me, it’s not triggered to the context in which I’m being able to use it of course. So that’s the idea, very much personalised fragrances and bringing in these different areas together – technology, wellness, fashion and of course beauty tech as well. This is basically a beauty tech device that’s reliant on fashion and design and fragrance chemistry and even the future of low solvent fragrances, yeah. Many different aspects!
Erin: And you mentioned it can be worn kind of in different ways, so it could be on a button, could it also be like a necklace or something like that so people have the option to kind of choose?
Jenny: Yep, absolutely they have the option. Because it’s a perfume and scent delivery system it’s normally worn near the nose, so it could be embedded in the collar, ultimately when it’s small enough embedded into spectacles, into earrings but at the moment we’re just really focusing on buttons and brooches and necklaces so then it targets the scent towards the nose. And its interface is in a smartwatch, the smartwatch or connected devices. But yeah you know there are other applications as well; it could be in your socks it could be other parts of your body and releasing a different liquid. It could be insect repellent, it could be human pheromones, it could be a whole range of things.
Erin: Obviously it’s quite you know like a technical and complex product in terms of how you needed to develop it with all the research ahead of time and kind of what you’ve been doing over the years. So how are things going with it at the moment, have you done like lots of testing with different people and where’s kind of the business at?
Jenny: So we’ve created a whole range of different prototypes and done some user testing and user experience studies with Goldsmith’s University and quite a few studies with Judge Business School. Just fairly low key at this stage because we still need to perfect certain aspects of the fragrance release mechanism, and I’m also looking at applying for grants as well on the med tech side as well. So there’s certainly an interest through the neuroscience department, neuroscience community I’m a member of Cambridge Neuroscience as well, so that we can actually create, perfect, the technology so we can do some proper user testing and ultimately get the CE marking and get this out there. But yeah that’s kind of in the future so we’re not at that stage yet. We’re still having to perfect certain aspects of the fragrance technology because it is, as you say, quite complex and quite ambitious
Erin: And you mentioned for every person the scent is going to be different in some way because it’s very personal. So will it be if someone wants a product that they’ll work with you to develop the scent that they’d like and see how it works?
Jenny: Exactly yeah. So the business model will be looking at a sort of subscription based business model, fragrance business model. So the idea being that the cartridges will be the fragrance juice if you like, and of course if you’re going to be in the sort of wellness and aromatherapy space, you’d need to know what fragrances work for you and then you can experiment. But yeah we’re certainly looking at corporate partnerships as well and this could work very very easily with designer fragrances. And the idea being that it’s bridging the gap between the fashion industry and fragrance. So creating a new business reality. So yeah there’s two different ways that this could go and we’re exploring both of them. But ultimately it will be a subscription-based service with all these different low solvent fragrances as well. That’s really important because fragrance is on demand, there’s less need to have the ethanol, the solvents, which of course a bottle of perfume between 70 and 90% of that is ethanol. So we’re cutting down on that, you don’t need so much because it’s releasing scent on demand only when you need it.
Erin: So this is definitely something that I’ve not necessarily heard of before, kind of thinking more generally do you think that there is a big gap in the market at the moment for this type of technology and…
Jenny: Absolutely yeah I do believe so, you know certainly there’s been an interest with it, the idea being that this is going to be an AI powered module that’s integrated into your smart jewellery and you know it brings new experiences! You know people are using fragrances and they’re going to department stores, retailers and going to sniff bars these sort of things. You know that’s very much on a larger scale, this is very personalised; this is bringing intelligent fragrance to the person so they can experience it on many different levels but triggered by different experience as well. Whether it could be sound, as I said, or you know mood, but yeah it’s really bringing experiencing fragrance on a completely different level, but on a personal level as well.
Erin: So what would your hopes be then in terms of the fashion and beauty industry in terms of actually integrating experience led fashion into the mainstream market more than maybe people seeing it as like a niche thing?
Jenny: Yeah I mean I can see that you know they’ll be certainly with the brands I can see there will be some interest, and certainly through speaking to people there has been a lot of interest in this. But also for the whole sort of mental health and how we can find ways of reducing.
Erin: Yeah so obviously scent’s a big thing in terms of you know like you say for the mental health perspective, so you’ve found that’s something that’s really kind of helped you?
Jenny: Absolutely, yeah I use scent just for sort of general wellbeing so I can see that that’s sort of on a user experience that will be of huge interest, certainly for enhancing experiences. You know because scent is direct, it goes straight to the limbic system and there’s not a huge amount of evidence of fragrances for aromatherapy but there’s enough.
Erin: Sounds like there’s a lot of exciting things coming up and things that you’re working on; where would you like things to be then sort of this time next year looking forward?
Jenny: So haha what we’re doing is finishing the technology and then ultimately I’ll be looking to rebrand the product and give it a new name, and then launch it into, ultimately into a range of different markets. So it will be the wellbeing, because I’m personally interested in that, and our patents in the field are also including sort of voice sensitive triggered devices so that will be one of the markets. But also how it will go into the whole personalised AI powered beauty tech market, so yeah speaking to investors at the moment and taking that forward. So yeah I can see, whether it’s year it’ll more likely 18 months before we get a product onto the market realistically with the relaunch and everything. So that’s where I’d like to be yeah in 12 to 18 months; but I’m really really keen to work more on the mental health side of it as well. I’m starting up kind of a mental health neurodivergence project, just because I struggled so much. So that’s a mental health awareness project that I’m calling Stigma and Style, so I’m looking into that, which builds on my Churchill fellowship, so yeah I’m really keen to work on that, alongside the development of eScent and then hopefully you know we can work closer with the fashion industry to breakdown barriers and stigma. Many designers are talking about their own mental health now and the struggles they’ve had so yeah I’d very much like eScent to be part of that I guess (laughs)
Erin: And are there any designers then in particular that might come to mind that you would kind of wanna talk to about this idea then?
Jenny: I mean just off the top of my head, you know people that have been speaking about it recently, there’s Virgil Abloh for example, I know that John Galliano has talked a bit about work related stress, so yeah those two come to mind. Certainly there are models that have talked about their mental health. I’ve done some work in the past with Caroline Meyer, Professor Caroline Meyer when she was at London College of Fashion, we’ve written a paper together. So yeah ultimately in the future I very much hope to work much closer with people like that; even my past tutors and various people who have struggled, unfortunately I lost a friend to suicide recently, so that was very upsetting. So yeah I’d really like this work to go towards suicide prevention and opening the conversation.
Erin: Well it certainly sounds like it’s a very exciting product and one that could definitely make an impact so we’re looking forward to following your journey over the next couple of years!
Jenny: Oh that’s fantastic, yeah, great!
Erin: Thank you so much for joining us today Jenny!
Jenny: It’s a pleasure, it was really nice to talk to you. Thank you!
Erin: Thank you!
Cathy: So there’s some really interesting conversations and products which I hope has sort of broadened people’s horizons about what’s out there. And I think it also speaks volumes about the calibre of entrepreneurs who enter the Stelios Awards and the fantastic ideas that are being developed to create more inclusive societies for disabled people.
Erin: Yeah so if you do want to check out any of the businesses in more detail we will post links to all the businesses in our show notes as well as some more information about the Stelios awards in case anyone’s interested in maybe entering. Applications will be opening around summertime so if you’re a budding entrepreneur definitely check it out!
Cathy: Yeah definitely do. And if you know of any cool disabled entrepreneurs you think we should know about and interview definitely let us know by either tweeting to @LeonardCheshire or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin: And, as always, please remember to like, share and subscribe to our podcast!
Cathy: I’m Cathy
Erin: And I’m Erin
Both: And this has been The Disability Download.