Since 7th grade, Khushbu Madhiwala had always wanted to be a dentist. But everything changed when she had the idea for Sudsy during her junior year at NC State.
Two years ago, Madhiwala was doing a lot of traveling and brought along travel-sized bottles of her favorite shampoo, conditioner and other products. But sometimes when she arrived at her destination, she was horrified to find that her travel-sized bottles burst or spilled within her bag because of the air pressure in the plane.
These experiences got her wondering, “Why isn’t there a way to bring your favorite products on a plane without them spilling?” From this, Madhiwala came up with the idea for Sudsy, a company that makes small, single-use, dehydrated tablets of your favorite shampoo, conditioner or toothpaste.
Although she was pre-dental, Madhiwala was also a biochemistry major in college and she said the chemistry classes she took helped her to develop her invention.
“When I was making the product, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I know the exact process to make soap,’” she said.
Since graduating in May, she has been able to sustain herself with the help of the Miller Fellowship, an NC State program that pays a $500 monthly stipend to help support aspiring entrepreneurs. Madhiwala was one of seven 2018 grads selected as Miller Fellows.
Megan Greer, Assistant Vice Provost and Managing Director of the entrepreneurship department at NC State said she met Madhiwala at NC State’s startup competition, the Lulu eGames, last spring, and believes the young entrepreneur has improved on her venture significantly since then.
“Khushbu has refined the vision for Sudsy over this past year and has made great progress as a result, while becoming more involved with the greater entrepreneurship community in Raleigh,” she said.
Part of this progress has been deciding what business model to use for her company, Madhiwala said.
Instead of building out her own brand and selling directly to consumers, Madhiwala plans to license her product to larger companies with an established customer base and distribution.
Madhiwala and her patent attorney have done a patent search and her product will be patent pending by the end of December.
As of now, Madhiwala has received interest from three large consumer packaged goods companies. One of which is possibly interested in testing the Sudsy product further.
In October, Madhiwala presented Sudsy at the Startup Summit at NC State’s James B. Hunt Library, where she asked for $250K in convertible debt.
Despite not receiving any offers at the Shark Tank-style pitch competition, she has kept in touch with the investors who served as judges at the event and they have advised her on what future steps she should take. They all favored a licensing approach, in part because of the large expenses needed to launch and sell a consumer product.
Although these investors have given her advice, Madhiwala worries that male investors — all four judges at the Startup Summit were male — don’t understand the product like women do.
“There were a few investors who asked, ‘What’s wrong with hotel soap?’” she said. “A lot of men don’t care what soaps they use, but women do care. A lot of women don’t even think of hotel soap because we don’t ever use it.”
As of now, Madhiwala is not actively seeking investors, but if she were, she said she would most likely look for a woman-led investment firm that understands the problem Sudsy is trying to solve.
Although she is well on her way to becoming a successful entrepreneur her family still asks about dental school.
“Even to this day,” she said, “My parents will still ask, ‘Is dental school still in the picture at all?’”