How It All Began...
It seemed like a normal Thursday evening. I was at an awards ceremony with a few friends and classmates and before I knew it, it was around 9 pm. Tired from working all day I decided it was time for me to head home. I thought about asking a friend to walk with me to my car, but I was parked less than a block away and we were in an area that seemed fairly safe. Not wanting to bother anyone, I decided I’d be fine walking alone back to my car. I told myself that I was just being paranoid because I watch the news and 20/20 way too much...I was wrong.
As I was about half-way between my car and the event, a car full of guys drove by. One of them rolled down the window and yelled an inappropriate comment. Disgusted, I rolled my eyes and continued walking. That’s when the car stopped and one of the guys started to get out. My phone was right in my hand but during a situation like that there unfortunately isn’t enough time to unlock it, let alone dial 9-1-1 or call someone close by. I ran to the car as fast as I could, locked my doors, and drove away as quickly as possible. Although I was safe, I couldn’t help thinking about all the other women who sadly can’t say the same. In that moment I promised myself that I was going to do everything in my power to make sure no woman (or man) ever feels as helpless as I did that night.
The idea behind invisaWear was conceived a few months earlier. Ray (invisaWear’s CTO / Co-Founder) and I were still in college studying Engineering. I was President of the Society of Women Engineers chapter and I noticed that as it got dark out our attendance continued to decrease. Worried that members didn’t like attending the meetings any more, I started surveying them to see why they weren’t attending anymore. The answer was almost unanimous: since the time had changed and it got darker outside earlier in the day, no one felt safe walking back to the meeting location after making it safely to their dorm. At first, I didn’t really get it. Why not just buy pepper spray I asked? Everyone looked at me like I had four heads. What if someone grabs your pepper spray and tries to use it against you, they asked.
It wasn’t until a month later that I realized what the girls had meant. I was at the Apple store getting my phone serviced when a stranger picked up my pepper spray and almost pressed it. He said he wanted to “test if it actually worked”. This grown adult, wanted to “test” my pepper spray. Now that I understood the girl’s concerns, I decided to search for a more discreet safety device but all I could find was big, ugly panic buttons – similar to the ones that my 80-year-old grandmother refuses to wear. There had to be a better solution! Dedicated to find a better way to protect ourselves and our loved ones, Ray and I decided to start working on a more discreet safety device as our senior year capstone project and thus invisaWear was born!
Photograph above: Ray Hamilton, invisaWear CTO/Co-Founder, Rajia Abdelaziz, invisaWear CEO/Co-Founder, and Ande Lyons, invisaWear Mentor