A unique proposition

Charlotte Walsh (pictured below) is a medical engineer and founder of the Leeds-based firm who is committed to getting her product into hospitals across the country. “I’m passionate about the environment and reducing single item consumption but the actual ‘Aha moment’ was when I heard about a restaurant chain introducing paper straws and I just shuddered at the environmental impact,” Charlotte reflected. “I thought ‘oh no’, but I knew I could do something about that.

“After some research I found that no-one was manufacturing silicone straws in the UK and because of my background I knew it would be relatively easy to get some made. That said, it took around three months to get someone to agree to help produce them. After getting my ‘yes’, I worked with a producer to develop the product, ordered the first batch and the rest is history.

“The real USP with my straws is that they are medical grade silicone and can be used with hot and cold liquids, can go in dishwasher and can be cut to any required size.

Charlotte had the engineering and compliance know-how but was unsure about how to run a business and what was required legally to protect her product.

The first straw

“I first encountered NatWest in 2023 via a lady called Debbie Lewis who was speaking at an event,” Charlotte said. “She was so impressive and knowledgeable, specifically in terms of small businesses and spoke so passionately about the Accelerator hubs that I was convinced there and then that it was what I needed.

“Before I went into the hub, it’s safe to say I was a bit blind when it came to my finances. I couldn't quite understand why at the drop of a hat other business people could quote their turnover and other figures. It was because they had accountancy software, I do too now; FreeAgent (NatWest Group’s award-winning accounting software*) is incredible.

“The contacts at the hub also really helped me with some Intellectual Property (IP) issues through an IP lawyer who helped me with things like my logo and trademarks etc. The team at the hub in Leeds are also wonderful and have really helped highlight parts of my business that I need to work on.”

Amirah Darr, Enterprise Acceleration Manager said: "We supported Charlotte predominantly with one-to-one coaching and through our events which is where she was first introduced to the importance of IP. Following her visit to the US with the DBT, Charlotte praised the ‘60 second pitch’ structure she learnt on the Accelerator when engaging with retailers and customers. Charlotte has also been an active member in the Leeds community and a huge support to her fellow entrepreneurs. I’m looking forward to supporting her ambitions into new markets on this next cohort."

The contacts at the hub also really helped me with some Intellectual Property issues.

The final straw

Charlotte has built a steady online business for both individual and corporate customers but is keen to return to her medical roots and see her product replace the plastic straw in hospitals and the care sector.

“What I really want is to be able to provide hospitals with reusable straws but I’m a long way from that because there's quite a lot of work to do in implementing sterilisation units that would need to sit alongside the straws.

“Plastic straws are kind of omnipresent in hospitals because people have problems lifting a cup or using a cup and every person given a drink in a hospital is give it with a straw. Many people also need a straw to eat because of an injury or condition or because of treatment they are receiving.

“The healthcare industry is unique in that they're allowed to use the plastic straws because there isn't a suitable alternative. What I hope to provide is suitable alternative; a silicone straw and sterilisation system so that they are safe.”

“My plan is to branch into America and Australia. The goal is to provide a high-quality sustainable alternative into medical and care settings so that single-use plastics can be reduced.”

Accelerator hubs

Through our 13 Accelerator hubs NatWest Group supported over 1,300 entrepreneurs during 2023, offering access to business expertise and a community of like-minded.

Supporting UK enterprise in 2023 data taken from our '2023 Environmental, Social and Governance Disclosures Report', available on our Enterprise internet page

*Friendliest Software of the Year, Institute of Certified Bookkeepers Luca Awards 2023.

The material published on this page is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice, or used by consumers to make financial decision. Terms and conditions apply to any products or services mentioned.

scroll to top