When junior doctor Wendy Minks encountered the recurring problem of patients with nosebleeds, she devised Rhinamite – a nose clip specially designed to deal with the issue. Now, thanks to Design Council Spark, the 2016 awardee is well on the way to bringing it to market – for use not just in hospitals, but in schools and on the sports pitch, too. Minks shares her thoughts on Spark, the secret to success and why it’s so important to think outside the box.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that junior doctor and mother-of-two Wendy Minks might have enough to do. But Minks – who is training in maxillofacial surgery (which specialises in the mouth, jaws, face and neck) – has been devoting her spare time to Rhinamite, a nose clip she has designed to help with the treatment of nosebleeds.

Since becoming a finalist in 2016 on Spark, Design Council’s product innovation support programme and fund, Minks has been more determined than ever to make her idea a commercial success. “Spark was what I needed to move my project forward,” she says. “It was so exciting.”

And with this year’s Spark Home Innovation Challenge – for applicants who have a bright idea for independent living – she is further incentivised. After all, it was her wish to help vulnerable patients that inspired Rhinamite in the first place.

Feel the pinch

“During my years of training in the local hospital, people were often admitted to A&E for nosebleeds, particularly children and the elderly. I was dealing with them at least once a week,” she explains.

Minks’ experience told her that the majority of these bleeds could have been stopped with a ten-minute pinch to the nose. “But with the A&E department so busy, there wasn’t a member of staff who could carry this through,” she explains.

Rhinamite

If the nosebleed was severe, the patient was treated with a complicated nose-pack, which was uncomfortable and often necessitated a couple of nights’ stay in a ward. “It upset me because it seemed like a problem with a potentially simple solution,” says Minks.

So she began sketching designs for a device that would simultaneously pinch the nose while also applying a cooling device. “Anecdotally, everyone likes to cool a nosebleed,” she explains. “If you constrict the vessels, you close down blood to the area.”

Nose to the grindstone

A product designer worked up a prototype from Minks’ sketches and, when her local MP tweeted about Spark, she applied, reached the finals and secured herself a place on the 16-week programme, plus a £15,000 grant.

Minks – who has no design background – was immediately struck by the extent of product design expertise available to her on the programme through one-to-one mentoring and workshops: “It was a privilege to learn the concept of design-led thinking,” she says. “Spark allowed me to apply this to the development of my product, which brought it on in leaps and bounds.”

Over the 16 weeks, Minks went through five different design prototypes. What started “big and clunky” with an ice pack that had to be kept in the freezer eventually ended up as a small plastic nose clip with inbuilt cooling gel pads that could be used both at home and in a hospital. “Often the most successful people were those brave enough to take on all the advice, scrap what they’d done and try again,” she smiles.

But that wasn’t all. The Spark programme also opened Minks’ eyes to Rhinamite’s potential market. “People leapt on the fact this would be a great product for use in contact sports, where nosebleeds are a problem, particularly for children,” she says.

Encouraged, she began to consider making it work for people in different fields: “Spark really helped me develop it into a more far-reaching product idea.”

Sweet smell of success

The design prototype may be ready, though Rhinamite is not yet available to buy. “It’s possible to develop products alongside another profession, but it takes time,” Minks explains. “But I’m determined to bring it to market within the year. The plan is to address the sports market, then children’s nosebleeds and then let it filter through to healthcare that way.”

Rhinamite in action

And though it’s not yet on the shelves, feedback is already positive. “Many people, especially parents and those looking after the elderly, tell me this is exactly what they’re looking for, which has spurred me on,” says Minks. 

With a staggering 15 per cent of nosebleed sufferers in the UK seeking hospital treatment to stop them, Minks certainly has potential to change people’s lives with Rhinamite. And she doesn’t hesitate to credit the Design Council Spark programme for her remarkable journey so far.

“My advice to others is to apply to this brilliantly designed programme,” she concludes. “Immerse yourself in the development process and see what Spark can do for your product idea. It has certainly introduced me to a whole new way of thinking.”

Got an idea that could change people’s lives? Apply now.

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Find out more and apply to Design Council Spark: The Home Innovation Challenge.

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