James Dyson Award: The Award that Got Us Started

I wouldn’t say we stumbled into this, exactly, but it did all start with an unexpected trip! 

We had tossed the idea around of starting a company before entering this international competition, but it wasn’t until the looming deadline of the JDA approached that we got in gear and figured out just what we were making.

In preparation for the award, we made prototypes and conducted primary research – having Robin directly testing our prototypes and collecting survey responses from 100 folks online. We asked people to draw the shape of their pain. We got amazing feedback where people had taken the time to circle and draw over an image of the human body where they experience menstrual pain the most. We saw lots of ovals over the lower abdomen, lower back, and breasts, and painful streaks shooting down the legs. Folks said they’d take a hot bath or shower or use a hot water bottle and curl up on the couch, as a primary method for relieving the pain. 

From there on, we knew that an easy to use, wearable, reusable heat pack that was soft and comfortable against the skin, and shaped for the lower abdomen, just above the uterus, was the place to start.

 

 

Part of the challenge for me was in building the heat packs on time. We were doing a lot of experimentation then (still are!) and it was a bit touch and go before the deadline. Trying to produce reliable packets that took on this new data-driven shape was a challenge. But it pushed our team and technology forward, and luckily, we managed to produce great examples and filled them with heat-carrying liquids for testing. 

At the 11th hour, just before submitting, we still didn’t have a name we loved. Katherine was working away on our graphics, tossing ideas around. “Undies, underwear, undue pain, undo the pain, what about UNDU!”.

The name stuck, we won the Canadian National James Dyson Award, and found ourselves unexpectedly presenting our work in front of the entire Canadian division of Dyson Canada, in Toronto.  

To say we fell into this would be an overstatement. We all thought there was a really important problem that needed addressing. Winning the JDA only solidified our idea and gave us the confidence to proceed into the unknown, together. 

It’s been a wild journey and we are so excited to now be sharing it with you!

Thank you for your inspiration and support,

Charlie & Team Undu

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