Meet the AXA Startup Angel winners 2022: Muihood

Starting up

4 October 2022

For the second year in a row, the AXA Startup Angel competition has been searching for the best new startup business ideas across the UK.

The two best entries would then receive:

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

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

Meet Muihood

When Charlotte Yau looked at the UK skincare industry, she didn’t feel that her Chinese heritage was being fully represented. Looking to show that traditional Chinese medicine was more than just jade rollers on TikTok, she created Muihood to celebrate heritage beauty and champion the beauty rituals passed down for generations.

Hi Char! Can you explain your business idea to us?

Muihood is a skincare brand that’s rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). We really focus on the storytelling of what traditional Chinese medicine can do holistically. We want to make it more accessible so that, if someone has never used traditional Chinese medicine before, they can become more interested in learning about it and how it can help you. That’s our goal, to make TCM more fun.

How did the idea come about and what research has gone into the development of this idea?

It all started at the beginning of the pandemic. I wanted to really reconnect with my roots and my heritage after seeing a lot of the anti-Asian hate that we were seeing across the globe. It really made me reflect inwards and I wanted to understand why, growing up, I really neglected that part of myself and my identity. I wanted an outlet and Muihood was that outlet to celebrate Chinese culture and traditional Chinese medicine.

It was also an opportunity to change the narrative. At the time back in 2020, there was definitely a breakthrough for TCM in skincare but the narrative was really pigeonholed into just things like jade rollers and gua sha tutorials. Growing up with TCM from a young age, I really wanted to show that it’s much more than that. It’s herbal medicine, it’s acupuncture, it’s tai chi…

When I started doing research online I couldn’t find many other brands that were talking about it in this way so I thought it would be great to be the first ones to talk about it.

What does 'Muihood' mean? Where did that name come from?

It means ‘sisterhood’. When I was ideating and thinking of a name for the business I started thinking about what the brand represented and why it exists. Growing up in outside Oxford in a predominantly white neighbourhood, when I was in my teens and first exploring beauty and makeup I never felt represented. It was really hard to build confidence. My self-esteem was really low.

With myself and my friends now, none of us fit with that western beauty standard, so we really resonate with that feeling of ‘otherness’. With Muihood I wanted to change that and bring this sisterhood feeling to the brand. We want to celebrate heritage beauty and champion these rituals that come from our ancestors. So ‘Muihood’ is a blend of Chinese culture and my Britishness and the energy of celebrating a diverse sisterhood.

What inspired you to apply to AXA Startup Angel?

I first heard about AXA Startup Angel through a female-founder community called Babes on Waves. Someone posted a link to it and I thought it sounded really cool. I’ve never done a one-minute pitch before but I thought it’d be a good opportunity to practice my pitching skills.

From then on I thought there was nothing to lose and £25,000 sounds pretty sweet! I thought I’d give it a go and here we are!

What does £25,000 mean for your business? How will you use it?

The £25,000 is a real leg up for how the business can push forward next year. It’ll really help us because, as a product-based brand, product number two was always in the pipeline. Having that cash injection now means that we’ve got money to pay for clinical trials, which are quite costly, and also help us take the brand forwards through paid advertising.

Paid ads have been great for us to get the brand out there, generate brand awareness and gain new customers and followers, so now we can have a bucket of marketing spend that will help propel the brand forwards. So half the money will go towards product development and the other half will be used for advertising and marketing.

What have you found that has worked for you when it comes to marketing?

We’re a social-first business. Social has been the best platform for us to cut through the noise and working with influencers and content creators who support our brand values have been so helpful and a massive boost. Earlier this year we got Caroline Hirons to share it on her platform, which was a real milestone for us. It got the brand into a whole new audience.

There’s a real community aspect to what we can do on social media as well. It’s how we can connect with people who have dry skin and need a product that’ gentle enough and doesn’t break them out. Instagram and TikTok have been the biggest successes for us.

What do you want to get out of the mentoring sessions?

I’m really excited to get to speak to the Startup Angels. Each one of them has their own unique, individual speciality. With Sharmadean, her background is in beauty. She did WAH Nails, so being able to access her and her network would help us so much in terms of partnerships and branding. And then with BOSH!, we want to talk about how we speak to retailers, what sorts of questions should we be asking, how do you build those relationships. And with Raphael, his wealth of knowledge of being a business startup but also starting up as a person of colour. It is harder. So his knowledge of navigating all of this will be so helpful for sure.

You started out in marketing. What made you switch to skincare?

Beauty and skincare has always been my love since I was very young. It was ingrained in me from my mum when I was little. Cleansing is such a ritual that’s been embedded in my life since I was a kid. That’s why our first product is a cleansing balm. When I was 8 years old we went to Korea on holiday. We were on a tour of this ginseng factory and they were making skincare products and I was fascinated. But I never really had the idea to go and pursue it as a business at that point.

I’m also obsessed with brands. Marketing and brand and storytelling have always been things that I love learning about so I dedicated most of my career to social media, marketing and brand positioning. But after 2020 when I started experiencing anti-Asian hate following the pandemic, that’s when I started piecing the two areas together. I didn’t just want to create a skincare brand for the sake of creating a skincare brand, the whole thing that makes Muihood so different is how we’re changing the narrative of TCM in skincare and telling our brand story. 

What's the biggest challenge in starting a new business?

Being a one-woman band is so tough. My skillset is in marketing and branding, so in that area I feel confident. I know what I want the brand to be and how to market that. But there are areas that are totally new to me and the learning curve is so steep. For example operations. I’ve never managed manufacturers, logistics, so that’s been an interesting one. I want to scale and move with the momentum that we have already, and I guess that’s where the mentors will come in. Finding people in my network who can help me fill those gaps.

You said Muihaood has really been a one-woman team so far - how are you finding balancing everyday life with starting up your business?

It’s been tricky. When I used to work in my 9 to 5 there was a real easy disconnect between your work and your personal life. You clock off at 5 and that’s it. Now there isn’t really any ‘work life’, this is just my life now. So I’m able to manage my own time. One thing I’ve learned is that because I work by myself and for myself I don’t need to stick to the standard 9 to 5 hours. I can work when I’m most creative, and that could be 1am. By having that freedom to ebb and flow when I feel most productive I’ve learned to have a more healthy and balanced life.

It's your full-time concern now, so how did you know it was the right time to leave the 9 to 5 and make this your priority?

For me it was seeing the brand grow continuously. Seeing how far I was able to go while doing it part time made me think of how much further I could take it if it was my full-time job. Imagine what could I do with the extra hours, imagine what I could do with the extra creative mindset. I gave myself a timeline to see how it was going in a year, and when the year came I knew in my heart that I was ready to work on it full time. It was ready and it needed someone to dedicate themselves to the business full time to keep the momentum going.

You've spoken about combatting anti-Asian hate as a brand - how do you want Muihood to help tackle that?

Championing Asian voices is one of our brand pillars. So what we want to do to combat anti-Asian hate is to spread Asian joy.

We recently launched our podcast called Dear Self, which is about heroing and platforming Asian creators. Anyone in the Asian community who is doing something amazing can get involved. I interview them and share their story. The brand isn’t just about TCM and skincare it’s about celebrating Asian culture as a whole. There are things that connect us all, whether it’s growing up, our family traditions, the food we eat… so we’re celebrating that and spreading Asian joy where we can and sharing stories that aren’t often heard.

What are you most excited about over the next 12 months?

Now that we’ve got the product out there and people are using it, people are messaging me saying they love the product, their skin feels so good, and hearing customer feedback and how people are using the product is amazing. Hearing real stories and real review is what we’re hear for. Our mission is to help others look after their skin through TCM, so seeing it work is so exciting and quite surreal. It’s so cool.

Where do you hope your business will be 10 years from now?

Good question! I want the brand to increase our product range, naturally. I want to help people’s skin and answer their skin concerns. And in general, I want to change how people see traditional Chinese medicine. With TCM being such a holistic health and medical system, really pushing and sharing the education on that, whether we expand into events, wellness centres where people can have a full holistic treatment. You buy the products you need for your skin but you can see a TCM practitioner to understand what your body is saying too, you can come away with a diet plan… it can be huge.

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 winner, Team Repair, here.

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.