Catching up with our AXA Startup Angel winner 2023: Intotum

Starting up

4 March 2024

The AXA Startup Angel competition is back for 2024, and what better way to kick things off than to catch up with one of our previous winners, Hanan Tantush of Intotum.

Hanan impressed the judges last year with her innovative startup business, Intotum, which focuses on designing adaptable clothing for members of the disabled community. Hanan was inspired to start her own business after her seeing her Grandad struggle to find comfortable and fashionable clothing when he had to learn to adapt to life with a stoma and urostomy bag, following his third battle from cancer. 

We caught up with Hanan to find out what she’s been up to since winning the competition and ask if she had any advice for any would-be entrants! 

Hi Hanan! Why is a competition like AXA Startup Angel so important for businesses like yours?

When you've got a business idea, it's hard to take it from an idea to a reality. Especially when it's not, for example, a big-tech idea or something that's going to revolutionise engineering. There’s a lot of opportunities out there for those big ‘changing-the-world’ kind of ideas, but it can be harder to find people that want to support action that can help the community. So that's why I really like AXA Startup Angel – they want ideas that make a difference and help people. 

That’s what Intotum is all about, it's about helping the disabled community by providing access to adaptive, fashionable clothing. I really like the fact that you guys wanted to champion small businesses and ideas! It's important as a small business to find that support network. 

Looking back, what do you think it was about your entry that made you successful?

Probably my honesty. It wasn't a very overly edited video. It was very much just me talking to the camera. I think when people read ‘pitch video’, they assume that it's got to be a big production… when really you just need to show the truth of what you're trying to do. I think that’s what helped us. I really know my work and my field and work hard within the disabled community to create effective clothing. 

Since winning, what have you used the £25,000 prize money for?

Most excitingly, I used it for our London Fashion Week show! We showed our designs at London Fashion Week on the 17th of February in the Cumberland Hotel, Marble Arch! So, I've been creating the new collection for that. It's our first ready-to-wear collection.

I've also been setting up our website and our Instagram and things to basically prepare us for launch in May!

Looking back at the mentoring sessions, how did they go and what did you feel you learned?

I found them all really helpful.

With Raphael, we really went through my business plan, and it really helped me to set up what my next step should be, and the route I want to take my business down! 

And then I found my session with Henry and Ian so helpful. It was amazing. We talked through my plans and my financials and exactly how a business works. I found it super helpful getting their advice because they had been in the same position I had, in that we’re both trying to run product businesses. So that was beyond helpful.

Looking back when you first entered the competition, how did you find the entry process and did it actually teach you anything about your own business?

I found it really simple, which was good because there's a lot of competitions and funding opportunities that ask for a whole lot of info. With AXA Startup Angel, it's an idea. That's the point of the competition, you’ve got an idea and you want to make a difference. You just have to show what difference that is.

The entry askes for simple answers and a business summary – so I was able to come up with what it is that’s at the core of my business.

Following on from that, is there any advice you’d give to people looking to enter the competition this year?

If you have an idea, it doesn't matter what stage it’s at! If you're on the fence, absolutely apply! Even if you don't win this competition, you can make useful connections. I made so many connections at that final event and met so many great people that are in my network!

What would you say has been your biggest achievement since winning?

My biggest achievement is London Fashion Week! But I’m really proud of the fact that I'm even at this point! I feel like with Fashion Week, it's the point you feel you're going to get to in like…10 years. Considering I only graduated in July, I'm feeling quite proud of myself for that, and how much I've managed to achieve in such a short amount of time. 

Running a business can be hard, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

I know it's corny, but it’s wanting to make a difference. To be honest, I’d say I only do what I do because I'm angry at the world. I say you've got to be. You've got to be passionate about it. I think that's what shone through in my application. It's got to be something that you want to fix in the world. And it could be something simple, you know. Like, you're angry at your morning coffee…or it could be you're angry at the whole fashion system like me.

And there's so many barriers to being a small business. You see all these big conglomerates and you're like, “how on earth am I going to make it?” But there are support networks out there like AXA Startup Angel that can make that difference.

When budgets are tight, how do you make money go further? Do you have any tips?

Personally, I’d say budgeting. I always try to figure out what each project's going to cost me. If I have a photo shoot, how much am I going to assign to that? What can I try and get for free? Is there someone that can sponsor a venue? It’s things like that. Can you pull on your network or connections? Try get that support, because people do want to support you! Stretch everything you can! I personally don't pay myself, so that I can put all my money into the business and work my part-time job. 

Looking at entrepreneurs and business owners or even people you know in your own life, is there anyone who inspires you?

My talks with Ian and Henry from BOSH! were super inspiring. At the time, I was feeling very confused about certain things. I plan to hire people into the business and didn’t know the best routes to take with that. And these were all things that they’d done before and shared their insights on. And then, of course they’ve managed to build such a successful business! Like, you can’t really go anywhere without seeing something BOSH! They’re everywhere! 

As a startup, what resources did you use? Particularly in the early days? 

I think a lot of people would say to read startup books and so on. But I’d say the best resource is other business owners. I’ve interned quite a lot. I worked for small business owners, people working with adaptive fashion, people working in the fashion industry etc. And that was mostly how I learned. From seeing how they operated their business. As well as seeing the kind of things that went wrong for them, to prevent that happening in my business. I think the best way to learn is to learn from other people. You can't always figure it all out from a book. 

Has there been any challenges that you've faced that you've had to overcome?

I think there's always problems in running a small business. I think the biggest thing has been to make sure its malleable. I've had to consistently rethink the business, the plans and the goals. My long-term goals always stay the same, but how I get there changes every two weeks! And so, I think the biggest challenge is being able to accept that things aren't always going to go the way you planned. And so have a backup, and a second backup! 

I know we've touched on Fashion Week, but what is next for you in 2024?

So, obviously Fashion Week was really exciting! And then we’ll also be doing a big campaign shoot in April, which I'm really looking forward to. We're going to be doing an open casting for that as well!  We’re wanting people from the disabled community to get involved and really show what Intotum is for. And then we’ll be launching in May this year. We're really excited for that. It's going to be the first launch of our ready to wear collection. You'll be able to buy it off the website, so that’s really exciting!

Learn more about our other 2023 winner, Sistren, here. 

The AXA Startup Angel competition is back for 2024 and on the lookout for this year’s winning startup business idea. With £25,000 of business funding and mentoring sessions from our Startup Angels up for grabs, this could be your chance to turn your dream business idea into a reality. 

To learn more about AXA Startup Angel visit the AXA Startup business hub at


Business funding made easier with AXA Startup Angel

At AXA, we're committed to helping small businesses achieve their full potential. That's why we created the AXA Startup Angel competition, which helps support two new businesses every year with £25,000 funding, mentoring from business experts and business insurance too, so we can help set you up for success.