Starting a business requires a ton of motivation, which is exciting at first, but soon the reality sets in. It also means you’re responsible for all your decisions and for tackling whatever challenges arise along the way. But the outcome always turns out to be fruitful. Especially when your objective is to serve the people and the planet. 

Sandra Medina and Luisa Javier, are the co-founders of Wayakit, a compact waterless refresher spray for clothes. The duo created this formula while pursuing Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KSA. 

They found a way to effectively wash clothes without the use of excessive water or harmful chemicals. Wayakit is the first multi-purpose on-the-go laundry spray for travelers. is created with no harmful chemicals and is 100% organic, leaving your skin and fabric unharmed.

We reached out to the team with questions about their successful startup. We knew their insight and advice would be invaluable to thousands of ambitious members, looking to define success on their terms, but looking for a little guidance along the way.

Q. What is your morning routine currently like?

Sandra: I’m trying to wake up every day at 5, I’m trying to meditate in the morning. It’s been hard since I’m finalizing my Ph.D. I’m trying to stay calm and not be stressed out while keeping a balance.

Luisa: I try to exercise every morning. After sending my son to school, I relax with my coffee, pray, and make my goals for the day. I try to take an hour in the morning to relax before I start my day.

Q. When you were kids, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Sandra: I wanted to work in a candy Factory because my dad had a store that also sold various candies. One day he took me to a candy factory to show me the process of creating the delicacies. It was a fascinating experience. Along with my curiosity, I grew an interest in Chemical Engineering.

Luisa: I wanted to be an Astronaut. I loved math since my childhood, but in high school, it changed to Chemistry and Biology. I got a full scholarship in Mexico to study Industrial Engineering. It taught me business and how to work in a corporation.

Q. What do you love about Saudi Arabia?

Luisa: Coming here has been one of the best decisions of my life. Though I lived in France, and the UK, the Arab culture here is similar to the Latina culture. I had the warmest welcome coming to the country, and it was great meeting people from different cultures. We think we are so different, but we have a lot of similarities with this land. 

Sandra: People make you feel included in every celebration. My professor offered me to join the university here at KAUST. It was hard convincing my family to study abroad since I never had to travel for work or education. Later my husband joined me at the university, and now we are living to the fullest. It was worth the shot.

Q. You were the Taqadam accelerator winner and also won the People’s Choice award beating 200 startups in the region. How did you feel having your hard work recognized?

Sandra: It was a fascinating experience. It was six months of hard work. The team was under pressure, but we did a great job together. It got us the initial funds and we used it wisely in the company. We were able to recover the funds. We traveled, engaged with the community, and strived hard to make things work. 

Luisa: Our takeaway from experience so far is to enjoy the journey. You never know if it will work or not, so just enjoy the process. Our product was already a hit, so I think they saw our commitment to the business. We won the People’s Choice Award because the community knew us, and they loved us as a team. 

Q. You closed more than half a million Riyals (SAR 562,875) round of funding from Indiegogo. What do you think the investors loved about your product?

Luisa: They found this product a need. It was efficient, organic, and portable. There was no such product in the market, and it has the potential to expand globally.

Sandra: We interviewed 150 people in the community to learn about their problems, their laundry habits, how often they travel, etc. It gave us an idea of who our consumers were. It was easier to do the market research because, at KAUST, you will find a culturally diverse community. 

Q. Making an environment-friendly product has always been difficult and expensive. How difficult is it to compete with established ‘organic’ competitors in terms of production cost?  

Luisa: You need money to make a product cheaper. Organic companies can lower the price if they have the proper investment. Sometimes natural products can be inexpensive, but the process might be pricey. You can’t go super crazy with the price because you have to keep the buyer in mind. 

Q. You see the potential of Wayakit as an organic and instant cleaner. So, does the company have plans to expand outside the Kingdom? And if yes, what is your timeline to go international?   

Sandra: We are already selling in Mexico since it is also the top 5 travel destinations. We also have a point of manufacturing company there. We are also shipping in Colombia. The Indiegogo campaign got the attention of people around the world. We got a great distributor for Hong Kong and Taiwan airports. We are opening a point in the US soon. We are majorly concentrating on Saudi because we see great potential here. We also provide services for businesses and hotels. 

Luisa: We offer shipment internationally on our website. So it’s accessible to everyone around the world. 

Q. How did you find the right balance between pursuing Ph.D., your private life, and running a business?

Sandra: Our team is fantastic. We are five wonders spread around the world, and we are working great together. The key is to trust your members. 

Luisa: I have already co-founded another company in Mexico. The first time I was an entrepreneur, I was scared. People will always complain, be happy or unsatisfied. It’s all part of the business. You can’t let that affect you. I have learned to live with that kind of stress. Greatest entrepreneurs keep it calm in chaotic situations. Like Sandra said before, enjoy the process. We tend to make our problem so big by thinking about it, but once you think clearly, you know it’s not that big. Nobody is perfect. 

Our child psychologist recommended that I spend 20 minutes with my son every day. To shut everything off and give your attention to them, even if it’s for a short while. I enjoy him being around me when I’m working. He now grows with my goals.

Q. If any, what challenges have you experienced as a woman during your overall career?

Sandra: In the professional experience I have had, I think women are so concerned about their image and their first impressions of their colleagues or supervisors. In my case, I work in the oil industry, which is a male-dominated sector, and I have to be in the same field. I know men there try to assume everything based on our outfits and presence, whether we are too feminine or too uptight. They won’t take you seriously in both cases. Men come to you and say, “No, don’t do this; it might be hard for you.” But I say no because I want to learn. I believe in saying ‘YES, I can do it.’ Even if you don’t know how to do it, just jump on it and learn. We need to stop worrying about what other people think about us. Let your work speak for you, and be confident. 

Luisa: I love wearing my heels and dresses at work. Michele Obama said that as women, we are always under pressure about our image and the outfit for the day. Obama never had to care about his appearance, and nobody cared about what kind of suit he was wearing. As the First Lady, a team would work on her makeup and outfit because each detail mattered to people. That takes a lot of energy. That’s something only a woman has to face. 

I wanted to be a working mom, but society makes you feel guilty about not attending to your kid and not being a stay-at-home mom. Nobody judges a man for being a parent, but a mother is questioned for making such choices. 

I met with a lot of friends who had working moms, and they said it made no difference to them because they love their parents no matter what. It makes them independent and passionate. Also, kids learn from examples and not just through words. I want my kids to be ambitious too, and I think a woman can be present with their child whether you work or not.

Q. Creating a business from scratch can be scary. How did you overcome fears, challenges, and setbacks?

Sandra: It all starts with a lack of options. It came to us when we were traveling for a conference, and all we had was our flight-worn clothes or to buy new clothes. But it was already late, and we didn’t have an option. We chose not to pay for the expensive laundry service at the hotel. We took this gap of service and started brainstorming ideas. Our plan wasn’t to run to the lab and start mixing things. We wanted to research the market first and then understand the problems of people. We focused on details about the product. Then after we had enough information, we went to the lab. Then we had technical issues such as quality differences with different formulas. They didn’t turn out great. But with the support of our team, we tested different suppliers and their formulas, and we were able to get the right mixture. Chemicals differ from place to place. It was all a game of patience. 

Luisa: It was all in the experiments with different formulas. It’s just like cooking. To get the same taste for the recipe, you will have to mix different methods to reach the satisfaction level. It’s also fun because you remember this as you move forward in your journey.

Q. As scientists, you have developed a toxic-free product that is gentle on the clothes. What do you think about the chemical we apply to our skin every day? What’s your take on the organic products in the market?

Luisa: As scientists, we have to communicate with people that not everything natural can be right for you. Even natural components can be toxic if used in the wrong concentration. Some synthetic products are right for you, but some are bad. Wayakit could reach 99% as a natural product, but we cannot put that because it irritates your skin. We have to educate people that nothing can be 100% natural. We had to devise the right concentration for Wayakit, so it doesn’t destroy clothes or irritate your skin. 

Sandra: I like cosmetics companies that research and create products that don’t damage your skin. I see products with labels such as no parabens, no silicons, or other toxic outcomes. But some ingredients are proven to be non-toxic. People need to research the elements and not panic. As a consumer, we should check the labels. Brands will try to sell you anything that says ‘natural’.

Q. Greta Thunberg, a young activist, said, “Time is much shorter than we think. Failure means disaster. The grown-ups have failed us.”. Being environment scientists yourself, what impact is climate change going to have on the coming generation?

Sandra: I’m very concerned about climate change. But significant modifications should take place with industries and companies. Consumers need to stop buying such products, so they stop selling. The consumer should make sure the packaging is lighter than the product itself. As entrepreneurs, we need to keep in mind the green environment.

Luisa: There are other factors too. In business, not everyone has the luxury to spend a lot of money on bio-friendly products. Because they cost a lot of money and sometimes plastic seems the cheaper option and takes less time, taking into account that consumers won’t buy your expensive product. Consumers also need to support green startups to help them produce better environmental products.

Q. In your research program, are there any other exciting projects that can be brought as a successful product in the market? 

Sandra: In my case, I work with oil wastewater. We are creating technology to remove organic contaminants, which are difficult to remove the traditional way. It is a new tool, but we are still validating it. We are also looking for different biotechnology formulations in the medical field. 

Q. What do you do when you’re not at work?

Luisa: I grow bacteria, so I’m not even free on the weekends. Those babies need a check from time to time. In my free time, I play with my son and also do hula dances and pollination dances. It’s a hobby, but I have been dancing for 17 years! I do teach little girls to dance too. 

Sandra: On weekends, we work on our startup and Ph.D. I like to hang out with friends, but lately, I have been loving spending quiet time at home with my husband, reading a book, or listening to music.