LLB Law and LPC graduate Temini has harnessed her passion for reducing plastic waste and enhancing female wellbeing in the creation of her start-up Eiia, providing sustainable alternatives to support feminine care.

How it started...

It all started when I saw an article of a supermarket in Thailand. I was intrigued by the way banana fibre was being used as packaging for fruit and vegetables. As someone who has always been fascinated by the power of plants when it comes to diet and personal care products, I was instantly captivated by the use of plant matter as packaging instead of the masses of non-recyclable plastic you usually see on offer.

I started to research the ways banana fibre could be used to create a number of products and explore the specialised production process involved in extracting the fibre from the banana stem to yield a usable material. It was clear to me that the end result offered a wealth of sustainable alternatives to everyday products, and I made it my mission to find out as much about it as I could.

Inspired to create something of my own using banana fibre, I arranged a meeting with Entrepreneur-in-Residence James Cracknell from the Essex Startups team. At our first meeting I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I talked through everything I’d found out about the material and James asked the key questions needed to get me to focus beyond the material and consider my personal goals, values, and life experiences in order to narrow down the most appropriate idea to pursue. He sent me some resources later on which I used to create my prospective business idea. The foundations of Eiia then began to form.

Business development...

Female wellness is the core aim of Eiia. Over the years I have experienced both physical and emotional struggles relating to my menstrual cycle, as many women do. The starting point for Eiia was the creation of a sanitary towel using the banana stem fibre. I commissioned a manual poly-lever machine to extract the material, a variant to cotton, in order to make the absorbent core of the pad. I also sourced samples of banana fibre pads from India, reviewed patents on sanitary towel making with natural resources and took courses in non-woven material production in Belgium.

After further discussions with James regarding scalability and viability, I began making connections with manufacturing companies to explore the possibilities of mass production. Due to the specialist equipment required to extract banana stem fibres, and the time implications involved in the process, this was initially very challenging. However, I found that new white label companies able to manufacture non-woven materials made from plant fibres began to enter the market, as the demand for sustainable product alternatives increases.

Alongside the sanitary towels, I began to research the entire menstrual cycle and the variety of symptoms that can be experienced at the four different stages. I completed a diploma in nutrition and herbal product making to gain a deeper understanding of how diet can impact a woman’s cycle. I also explored ancient remedies from my Nigerian heritage that have been handed down through generations to aid premenstrual symptoms. Gathering all of this information led me to consider other products that could complement the sanitary towels and inspired me to develop a menstrual support tea using herbs associated with pain relief.

Throughout this period of product development, I worked closely with Essex Startups and took as many opportunities as I could to participate in workshops and to pitch for investment. I took part in the Summer Bootcamp, after which I worked with the team to create my business plan. This process allowed me to successfully apply for a Start-up Visa as an international student, and to compete in the Big Pitch event where I was awarded my first investment of £1,000. I then went on to be awarded £3,000 of Seedcorn funding and a Santander Microfinance Grant of £3,000. Finally, in 2022, I participated in the evolve Accelerator Programme and was awarded £3,000 (funded by Santander Universities) at the final pitch event. This funding has been pivotal in my product development process by allowing me to purchase specialist equipment and register the necessary trademarks.

How it’s going…

Things are going well but I am finding it difficult to maintain a good work/life balance, particularly when emersed in the research process. I am learning the importance of taking time to look after myself because it is 100% necessary to prosper. If my health suffers, so does my business - especially at such an early stage where I must wear all the hats to stay afloat. It’s not something that comes easy to me, and I can find myself feeling guilty whenever I’m out socialising, or taking any time off because I see it as time I could be spending working towards achieving my goals. Ultimately, I am working towards more self-acceptance and discipline. There’s nothing quite like knowing how you work best, creating a schedule unique to you then sticking to it.

My core focus is on creating a strong brand that offers a viable alternative that is not only sustainable but also aligns with our current consumer lifestyle. I am keen to emphasise wellbeing for women operating in a masculine world, making it clear that self-care and life for many women is different and as a society we need to encourage a shift away from the one-size-fits-all model.

What’s next…

A product specification document is now in progress for the sanitary towels, which will enable me to pursue the production of prototypes for testing.

I have recently completed lab testing for my menstrual support tea and I am now collating consumer feedback ahead of it’s launch. Quality control is extremely important to me and ensuring that key ingredients, such as hibiscus leaves, ginger, and chamomile flowers, reach the consumer in optimal condition has been a time-consuming process.

I have created a vulva balm too, and I’m currently working on creating the most sustainable packaging design for it ahead of its testing. I also have five other products in development, so I will be staging a phased launch as each is finalised.

The products will be available to buy directly from my website, where I contribute to a blog offering guidance about female wellness and living sustainably.

Words of wisdom…

You don’t have to be 100% ready to start, just take it one step at a time and you will learn as you go. There is never going to be a perfect time, and waiting will cost you time, finances, and a community to form a relationship with.

If you’re working with Essex Startups, you’re already on the right track! I have received endless support from the team and have had the pleasure of being invited to participate in panel discussions to share my experiences of starting a business with the next generation of potential entrepreneurs. I am so grateful for their support and endorsement that I will always do what I can to give back.

Find out more

If you have a potential business idea, or are interested in developing your business skills, find out more about the training, events and support Essex Startups offers to current students and recent graduates.