You’ve already heard all about Viita, but do you know who’s behind this innovation? Who started it all over seven years ago? Meet Raquel Tulk, an entrepreneur from Québec who chose to stand for women struggling with urinary incontinence and accidental leakage.
Raquel, tell us about how you came up with Viita?
“I studied fashion marketing at LaSalle College, where the final year project consists in designing and creating a fashion business from scratch, then presenting it to a jury for assessment. My idea to design underwear that prevents bladder leakage and helps manage incontinence came during a family dinner. My aunt, a practising gynecologist, told me about the countless women of all ages she met who complained about bladder leakage and the utter lack of any satisfactory solutions on the market. In fact, I got upset when I realized that the only options they had to effectively absorb leakage were sanitary pads or disposable briefs. These included women in their thirties who suffer from incontinence after giving birth, or female athletes who want a comfortable, dignified and affordable solution to deal with bladder leakage during physical effort. In short, I was appalled! That’s when I floated my idea to my peers: let’s create washable, comfortable, stylish and absorbent underwear!”
You won first place thanks to your project! What happened next?
“At the end of the year, after winning first place, we believed in our idea so much that we decided to make it happen! We spent the following two years working hard to perfect the absorbent technology through trial and error, and conducting market tests thanks to student loans. We also partnered with a laboratory and designed our brand image. That’s when I had the opportunity to present my invention on ICI Radio-Canada Télé’s “Dans l’œil du dragon” (Québec’s version of “Dragon’s Den”). Ms. Danièle Henkel saw potential in my business and took me under her wing.”
What would be your advice to women with bladder leakage?
Not to ignore the issue. That it is not a problem, it is part of life.
Being a woman is not easy, especially in this day and age, with social media bombarding us with images of unrealistic looking models and making us think we need to act and look a certain way. I want to tell all these women that I am by their side, I want to help them demystify this taboo, and tell them that I am trying my hardest for them. I would also like to tell them that I know it is hard to make a change in what we are used to (disposable products) but that Viita will help them to feel more confident and more comfortable.
That’s when your business really took off!
“Absolutely! We signed our first deal with the Jean Coutu Group, who had exclusive rights over our product for a year. We then worked with several other banners across Québec and soon expanded throughout Canada. Today, our products are available nationwide and even in the United States. I’m extremely proud of this achievement!”
What’s in store for Viita?
“Viita is a line of underwear featuring an exceptional absorbent technology that has the potential to prove useful in a growing number of applications. I’d love to design a complete range of products for pregnant and postpartum women, another for athletes, and so on. Our current products, the cotton and spandex Viita Comfort, are designed for all women looking for an everyday option. However, there are lots of opportunities to specialize.”
What’s your vision for women in the business world?
“Women still have plenty of work to do in this regard. We live in a world in which social media permeate almost every aspect of our lives. We’re constantly bombarded with images of the ideal woman and the perfect body. I’m so tired of women wanting to fit into the same mould! I want us to celebrate our difference and uniqueness. I want Viita to celebrate women in all their beauty. Ms. Henkel’s support has also influenced me considerably in this regard, as she is much more experienced than me and a seasoned entrepreneur. She inspires me to push my limits, follow my instincts and respect myself as a woman. I’m so lucky to have such an accomplished mentor! Whenever I’m asked what it takes to succeed, my best advice is to get a mentor!”
Where do you see Viita in five years?
“I’m definitely planning to expand Viita internationally, especially in less developed regions where women don’t have easy access to feminine hygiene products. As our products are reusable and durable, they would be a very attractive and economical option for them. I also want Viita to be attached to a social cause: the beauty of our products is that it makes life easier and more convenient for those suffering from incontinence or bladder leakage. I really want to use Viita to help women and make sure they get the most out of it.”
That’s the profile of a woman who wants to do good and believes the well-being of both men and women is vitally important. Viita has a bright future ahead. Thank you very much, Raquel!