When Stephanie Weiss started university, a biomedical engineering degree seemed, for most other people, a random choice. But for the Moria College graduate, it was a well-thought-out plan.
“I always liked math, and I wanted to do something that made a physical difference in the world,” she said The AJN.
She knew that she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. Which is exactly what she’s working towards with her start-up Arula, which prints external breast prostheses for women who have had single or double mastectomies.
Just a few weeks after Weiss founded the company, she flew to San Francisco to participate in Y Combinator, one of the top startup programs in the world. Although Arula did not advance to the next stage of the program, it was the only Australian company to receive a grant for the most promising startup.
Back home, Weiss made it through a program called Start Mate, received investment money again, and was awarded an $80,000 grant as a successful recipient of the Boosting Female Founders Initiative.
Weiss created the product—which is Medicare rebated—patented it and began the testing process.
Stating that about 40 percent of women do not get reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy, Weiss emphasized that customization is a huge part of the product.
“It’s a unique design so women don’t feel like they have to settle for something that ‘sort of’ fits. Rather, they have something that fits their size and makes them feel comfortable.
Weiss also focuses on the ‘lightness’ of the prosthetic, ensuring that it feels as natural as possible.
“I’ve been able to research incredible medical innovations, and I think it’s such an underserved area… It just seemed like such a simple product. [to create]. We live in a world where prosthetics work with the brain – arms and legs and things like that. And yet, in this area, there hasn’t been that much innovation in the last 20 or 30 years,” she said, explaining that a breast prosthesis simply goes into a woman’s bra – there are no ‘mechanisms’ behind it.
She also noted that for women who can’t have reconstructive surgery — some are too skinny, too young or too old — they’ve lost a part of themselves that she wants to give back. It is an issue that originates even from women’s fashion.
“The way women’s fashion works, it always accounts for breasts. So, many of the women have to throw out so many clothes. I remember one woman saying her dream was just to wear a wrap dress again. It’s a way to tangibly change someone’s life.”
While Weiss is still in the testing phase, she hopes to get to market by next year.
To find out more, visit arula.com.au
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