Meet the AXA Startup Angel winners 2023: Intotum

Starting up

14 August 2023

For the third year running, AXA has been scouring the UK to find the best new startup business ideas in our AXA Startup Angel competition.

The two winning entries receive:

  • £25,000 of business funding to get their ideas up and running
  • Mentoring from AXA’s Startup Angels: Sharmadean Reid of The Stack World; Raphael Sofoluke of The UK Black Business Show and UK Black Business Week; and Ian Theasby & Henry Firth of BOSH!
  • Business insurance for one year

The judging is done, so it’s time to meet the winning startup businesses!

Meet Intotum

After her normally well-dressed grandfather had trouble finding clothes that suited him post-stoma surgery, Hanan Tantush realised that there was a lack of comfortable, stylish, and affordable fashion for people with disabilities.

With a mission to ensure that everyone can find clothes that they feel good in, Hanan created Intotum, an adaptive fashion brand. Currently, she works as a solo-founder and is hoping to launch her first range for sale by Easter of 2024.

Hi Hanan! In your own words, can you explain Intotum to us?

It's a clothing brand for people with disabilities that creates functional, stylish clothing that can work with your disability through hidden functions.  I create clothing that looks like everybody else’s but provides that extra support and comfort you may need with your disability.

What kind of research has gone into this? I imagine there's quite a lot.

I've been working on this particular range for about a year, but I've been working on adaptive fashion for three to four years, so it's all been a long development process – I’ve been learning as I design.

For this collection, I've worked with charity organisations, members from the disabled community, carers, and physiotherapists. Basically, everybody within the community who interacts with clothing daily so I can see what functions they would need and how I can improve that interaction for them.

Am I right in thinking your application said you were starting with wheelchair users?

Yes, I started with wheelchair users because you really have to start from scratch since everything fits differently for a seated user. Clothing is actually only made to be stood in, so it's all cut and all the patterns are made only thinking about when you’re standing up and that's what you see on a runway.

So, I really had to go back to the start with clothing for wheelchair users and create my own custom patterns. I started there because it's kind of the bigger task and I wanted to start where it's more difficult.

What inspired you to apply for the AXA Startup Angel competition?

I think that Intotum is a really necessary business endeavour. I think all the feedback I've had from everybody is that they want this. So, I was looking for how can I get some funding for it because it's not something I could fund myself, but I want to make adaptive fashion mainstream. When I found Startup Angel and saw AXA and the Evening Standard, I was like, “OK, this is clearly a reputable competition” and the application process wasn't really difficult. A lot of funding applications want you to go through a lot of stages and business plans and I wasn't quite at that stage yet but with Startup Angel, I felt like I could express myself easily.

Thinking back to the awards night, how did it feel when your name was called out as one of our big winners?

It felt really shocking to be honest. I thought that I wasn't going to win anything or that the only thing I really had a chance of was a runner up or the People's Choice.

When they started talking about “this winner is trying to look at diversity and inclusion” I thought “Oh – could it be?” And then they said my name! I was really shocked and trying not to cry. My sister was crying though!

What does £25,000 in funding mean for your business? Do you have any ideas on how you're going to use it?

It means a lot for my business. It means I can get to where I want to get a lot faster, and it means my projected timelines become a lot more realistic. I'm hoping to spend the money on production and testing to get me to a viable product.

But I'm also hoping to do a fashion show. I think that would be a great use of the money because there is no real disability visibility within fashion. So, I'm hoping to use the money to either fund an event or space at a fashion show.

What do you think you're going to get out of the mentoring sessions? Is there one in particular you are excited to speak with?

I'm excited for the mentoring sessions because my background is fashion, so anything I know about business is basically what I learned at GCSE and as I’ve grown Intotum. Everything I've done has kind of been based on instinct and learning on the job. So, I'm really excited to speak to experts and find out the mistakes I shouldn't make.

I want to find out the hurdles they went through so I can try and not go through those. I'm really excited to work with Sharmadean because she's such a big voice in getting women into business and I want to hear her perspective.

What’s your vision for Intotum for the next 12 months?

I'm hoping to expand my product range and options so I can make it more of a customisable service that can really encompass people's different specific needs. I'm also hoping to officially launch because everything I've done at the moment has been custom orders, developing the range and testing with different charities.

And what do you think will be your biggest challenge over the next year?

I think my biggest challenge is going to be trying to figure out production. I've worked in fashion but I've never taken my own product to production. So, it's going to be an entirely new process for me. It's definitely going to be a learning curve so I'm excited and nervous at the same time.

You've been talking about doing custom orders already. Have you been getting feedback?

A lot of what I do is user centred design and so it all changes based on all the feedback I get. I don't have the lived experience of a physical disability so everything I do is to interpret people's lived experience into my designs. I take on all feedback because the whole adaptive design process is really about developing and creating as you learn.

What does your grandad think about being the inspiration?

He's really proud of it. He's not into fashion himself. He always says that. But he really likes what I'm doing and he's really proud of it.

You've just graduated and now you've won this big prize. You're killing it. What's your secret for success?

I would say it's just constantly believing in myself. I never stop working. I'm very, very motivated because I really believe in what I do and I'm also a little bit angry at the fashion industry at the same time. So, it makes me really motivated to keep pushing and breaking down these barriers, getting the funding and pushing the business as far as I can. I really want to be able to make a difference.

It sounds like you're doing it all yourself right now. How are you balancing everything being a solo founder?

I'd say a lot of lack of sleep and a lot of hard work! I turn to my family quite a lot, especially my sister- she's my main problem solver. I'm always calling her when something goes wrong. A lot of it is just myself though and trying to be highly organised. I live on a lot of checklists and a very intense calendar.

I try to create long term plans and I have mind maps around my house with all the goals for this year and then I figure out ways I can achieve them. I've already managed to complete a lot of this year's mind map!

So, you’ve started with adaptive fashion for wheelchair users - do you have any ideas for what you'd like to tackle next?

I want to look at different segments within fashion such as occasionwear and sleepwear. At the moment, I've started with what I see as a basic, staple wardrobe but I want to look at more niche pieces.

I’m thinking about trench coats or blazers, prom dresses. Things that you might only buy once, but they still make a real difference if you're able to buy it specifically for you. So that's what I think I want to tackle next.

I met a wheelchair tennis player that struggled so much to find a prom dress for her that in the end her parents had to pay to have a custom one made.  I just feel like that's a cost that people don't normally go through and I want to facilitate it so that other people don't have to.

The name Intotum - what was the inspiration for that? Where did that come from?

It's Latin for “everybody” and so it came from this idea of “fashion for everybody” as my tagline says. I'm trying to create this space that can encompass everybody because adaptive fashion doesn't necessarily mean it can only be worn by people with disabilities either.

There's a lot of people with conditions such as arthritis which is not often classed as a disability but easy functionalities on clothing would help a lot of people with arthritis. And there's a lot of people within the disabled community that don't call themselves disabled, but they would like adaptive fashion. That's why it's called adaptive because it works around you and works for you.

So, I really like the notion of everybody being included in these designs and that's why I picked Intotum as a name.

We'll be following Intotum's progress over the next year, keep an eye on Business Guardian Angel for more about Intotum and the next stage of their journey.

For more about AXA Startup Angel and to follow this year’s winners on their journeys, head over to the AXA Startup Angel hub at

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

All links are checked and valid at time of publishing, 14 August 2023.

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