Stephanie Monty is working on a two-year project to produce ‘designer’ stoma bags, and takes her inspiration from tattoos and nice underwear.
Bowel & Cancer Research teams up with Stephanie to add style to stomas
Stephanie Monty is using her engineering design skills to come up with new stoma bags which propel the clinical pouch into the realms of fashion.
Her company, Ostique, has won a two-year £320,000 grant from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to develop a whole range of new stoma products.
The charity Bowel & Cancer Research was a co-applicant for the Innovate grant and is leading on all aspects of patient involvement for 18 months, including testing the prototypes with volunteers before they go into production.
Stephanie, 29, was inspired to launch Ostique by her two brothers and her dad, all of whom suffer from Crohn’s disease and face the possibility of having to live with a stoma in future.
“When I looked into what having a stoma meant, I thought surely a fabric bag stuck on with adhesive can’t be all that’s out there. It really inspired me to think differently,” said Stephanie who studied Design and Engineering at Brunel University.
“Because I was immersed in the design world where we are focused on service to the customer, I thought, well, the customer is right here at home and this isn’t what my brothers would want.”
She addressed the design of stoma products in her final-year design project at Brunel in 2015 and founded her company Ostique in 2017.
The first designs of her new stoma bags were baked in her oven at home. She is now working with the Cambridge Design Partnership.
Stephanie and her team have come up with a working prototype (minimum viable product), made of silicone. The many designs vary in style, colour and shape. They use innovative adhesives to reduce skin inflammation. They include embossed stoma covers which can be matched to the wearer’s skin.
“I took my inspiration from nice underwear and tattoo artwork,” said Stephanie. “The aim was to come up with a product which isn’t an embarrassment. It can be worn for up to six hours for swimming, on the beach, in the gym or during intimacy. It must be sweat-proof, waterproof, leak-proof and even sun-cream-proof.
“I’m not saying that other products out there are bad. There are, however, unmet patient needs and I believe that, with this project, we can come up with something revolutionary.”
There are an estimated 200,000 ostomates in the UK. Many have had surgery for bowel cancer and other bowel disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
“The depression, anxiety and isolation experienced by many ostomates is very real – going to the beach and baring all is something which many don’t do,” said Stephanie. She expects her new stomas products to be available in 2022.
PPI Lead at Bowel & Cancer Research, Lesley Booth – an ostomate herself – is delighted that the charity is involved in the project.
“Our unique position of supporting bowel-related research means that we are able to tailor the PPI to help the development team and do our bit to make sure that the end product is as good for ostomates as it can possibly be.”
Stephanie received mentoring from the University of Birmingham’s business incubator the BizzInn. Whilst at the BizzInn, she was introduced to the ERDF-funded Medical Device Testing and Evaluation Centre (MD-TEC) and the NIHR Trauma Management MIC, both based at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which will provide support for the testing and commercialisation of the product.