New Roots Stories: Tackling Air Pollution through Design
28 March 2023 - Impact Hub London

Air pollution is responsible for 4.2 million deaths annually, with each human taking in the equivalent of a credit card of microplastic contamination a week. To counter this alarming issue, Falilat Omodudu has tapped into her experience in design as a women’s clothing designer and her master’s in material futures at Central St.Martin’s to craft recyclable, pollution-absorbing tiles and ceramics.

In 2022, Falilat enrolled in New Roots, our business support programme for aspiring entrepreneurs from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. New Roots offer bespoke 1:1 mentorship, peer-to-peer sessions, and workshops, powered by GoDaddy. The programme assists local entrepreneurs in Camden and Islington, providing them with entrepreneurial knowledge, training, and the tools they need to achieve success.

Falilat is halfway through the programme and taking advantage of peer-to-peer mentorship, training, and support to advance her business, In the Air.

We spoke with Falilat to hear more about In the Air and her journey thus far with New Roots.

What drove you to build a business that focuses on air pollution?

I was inspired by The Blue Economy by Gunter Pauli, which pushes regenerative ecosystems for a better world. The book articulates how you don’t need to invent a whole new thing to make a difference – a small change based on a simple idea is all it takes. In thinking about my business, I recognised that there are so many components to sustainability, from the social and environmental concerns, that it can feel quite overwhelming. I decided to use my design skills to combat air pollution, and in turn, help my community. 

In the Air is an expansion of my graduate project from my master’s degree, where I created tiles that can absorb pollutants and then change colours when they reach their maximum capacity. Once the tiles are full, they can be smashed up and recycled as floor or kitchen tiles.

Apart from the environmental advantages, the social side of In the Air is equally important to me, as it is mostly low-income individuals whose health suffers the most due to climate change. By cleaning the air, we’re paving the way to healthier societies and a healthier planet for everyone.

What were the difficulties you encountered with your business concept before you joined the program?

I struggled to find a source of funding for a studio and also lacked the know-how to put together a website, not knowing what content I should include as my ideas were quite complex. Taking part in New Roots has helped me refine the scope of my project, as well as my presentation skills, gain more understanding of the market and learn how to apply for grants.

What has been the influence of New Roots up to now?

Before joining New Roots, I had obtained my master’s with my business idea, but I was confused about how to put it into practice and start my own business.

Working with Sarah and Virginia, the programme advisors, helped me to clarify my business idea and understand what needed to be done to make my business come to life. Learning how to create a business plan at the beginning of this process, and having a mentor who helps me plan and implements each stage of this journey, is invaluable.

On top of the technical business advice, New Roots has reminded me of the importance of my work and helped rebuild my confidence, which I had lost while working on my master’s. As a woman of colour, the loss of confidence and imposter syndrome is something I’ve struggled with, but receiving the support and guidance from the New Roots team has made a world of difference.