Who are Lucas Secades and Julia Thieffry?
Lucas and Julia are the co-founders of Tulipal, a Belgian medtech start-up that innovates in menstrual hygiene. They are currently designing a portable menstrual cup cleaner. In cooperation with a group of users, Tulipal has developed an ecological device that allows the cup to be cleaned efficiently anywhere and at any time. In parallel, the start-up tries to demystify and break the taboos surrounding menstruation by organising actions on social networks. Their long-term mission is to make menstruation easier, healthier and more environmentally friendly.
Why does your product qualify as an innovation?
The menstrual hygiene sector is a field that has been sorely lacking in innovation for the past hundred years. Even though there are some emerging reusable products on the market, Julia and Lucas quickly realised that there were many barriers that prevented people from taking the step towards the menstrual cup as alternative. Through a process of research and development, they wanted to target these issues and realised that the difficulty lay mainly in maintaining such reusable protection. It can be complicated to clean a cup during the day, without a private sink. With their team of engineers, they have developed this portable cleaner to tackle this mental burden and allow those menstruating to be able to use it anywhere and feel more comfortable with this protection.
What do you want to achieve in the long run?
The cleaner is the first solution to try and turn this market into a sustainable sector. We have a very active research, development and innovation department which aims to propose other solutions for reusable protection. We also offer products that aim to demystify menstruation including books on myths and taboos, a guide to menstruation for dummies and a veritable encyclopedia of almost 150 pages on menstruation-related syndromes, existing protection and the perception of menstruation around the world.
How is your company contributing to the ecological transition?
The menstrual hygiene sector has traditionally been a hyper-waste generating sector with the use of tampons and sanitary towels. Tulipal wants to transform this into a sustainable sector by offering products that are reusable, sustainable, developed with an eco-design methodology and produced locally.
To what extent has your project had an impact in the Brussels-Capital Region?
First of all, everything is developed in-house. It is very important to us to keep all the research and development in Brussels in order to promote MedTech and FemTech in the capital. Moreover, we have several strategic partners in Brussels: Innoviris, hub.brussels and the Start Lab. Most of the production, assembly and supply chain also takes place in Brussels. We assemble our products in sheltered workshops for example. Although our product is intended for sale beyond Belgium, it is a solution that will initially benefit the people of Brussels. All our social innovation projects, our actions to demystify menstruation and combat menstrual insecurity take place in the Brussels region.
What do you like about your work?
What we like most is the fact that this project touches on two values that are close to our hearts: the ecological transition and gender equality. The fact that you feel like you are making a change and having a really positive impact is also very rewarding. When you launch a project of any kind, the multidisciplinary aspect is also very interesting. We are involved in research and development, innovation, marketing, business, intellectual production and administration. It's really challenging and satisfying.
What was your background before Tulipal?
Julia studied bioengineering for 5 years at the ULB. As soon as she had handed in her thesis, she started the Tulipal venture. Lucas, on the other hand, studied for four years at the ULB to become an engineer. He then spent a year in the aerospace industry and began a master's degree in industrial and technological management. Currently, he is also a professor in industrial design at La Cambre.