Last Saturday I had the pleasure of hosting my first sustainable travel workshop titled “5 Ways to be a Sustainable Traveler” at Studio.89, a non-profit fair trade cafe and Artademic Centre, offering free resources and event space to the community (I also kind of run the place...wink wink). We looked at easy and affordable solutions for travelers to make everyday activities, such as buying food and beverage, shopping, and choosing tours and accommodation, more sustainable. We reviewed topics such as the “green washing” that large chain hotels are guilty of, and the excessive use of packaging when buying products, food and beverage abroad. At the end of the workshop, a lovely older woman asked me a personal question about my safety abroad, and seemed very concerned for me as well. The topic always makes me a little emotional since I have unfortunately dealt with some very unsafe, uncomfortable and fearful moments in my adventures abroad. When she asked me what’s the first thing I do in a scary situation when my safety is threatened, I said I make a fuss. I speak loudly, sometimes yell, and ensure if anyone is in range, they can hear me. I’ve also experimented with safety devices, unbranded products that are commonly poorly named among the traveler community as “the rape whistle”. I thought this conversation, as most do, would tie in well with this week’s post and entrepreneur spotlight: ROBOCOPP. I was first introduced to this product by a lovely woman by the name of Jill Turner, the PR Director for this innovative little start-up based in San Francisco, California. How did I meet her? She found me through my blog! I thought it would totally be fitting to tell my network about this fantastic product since safe travel is something I 100% support, especially with this amazing movement right now of more independent women booking one-way tickets and taking off on their own. Unfortunately our world isn’t entirely safe yet, and products such as the Sound Grenade and ROBORanger from ROBOCOPP, are exactly what help young women like myself stay safe for an affordable price, and it's most definitely a product I can back 100%!
Take a look at my Q&A with Jill to learn more about this extremely innovative and empowering product, not just for travelers, but for individuals looking to stay safe in any unfortunate circumstance.
1. It's been quite some time since you've launched the Sound Grenade, ROBOCOPP's first product. How has the first year of business been?
The response to the first product we launched, the Sound Grenade, has been incredible. It appeals to so many demographics (young people, travelers, students, families) because people take it with them anywhere from their train commute to work, to a backpacking trip to Patagonia. Canadian outdoors-men and women are also big users!
It’s been so popular with students in particular, that the device has been adopted by over 100 college campuses in the U.S. and Canada. I thought you’d love this quote from a student from Quebec:
"It’s inexpensive, easy to use, safe, legal, and looks super cute! I also love how it’s called a “grenade”, that makes me feel super badass (like, Natasha Romanoff-level badass)" - Amelie
The device was featured on The TODAY Show with Kathie Lee Gifford (who called it a “Great, great idea”), as well as a handful of publications, everywhere from the Huffington Post to the Washington Post.
2. Is there a personal story behind your product?
There absolutely is. My CEO, Sam Mansen, was looking for something to make his younger sister safer on her college campus. He and his sister didn’t want to use pepper spray for a few reasons:
1. It requires you to confront an attacker, which a lot of people don’t want to do.
2. It can be used against you.
He wanted something non-violent, that could prevent a confrontation from happening in the first place. He gave her a personal alarm, which she loved, and her friends all started asking for them.
He was surprised to find upon further investigation, that although pepper spray, knives, and other small weapons are commonly thought of as the go-to for personal safety, that most people don't actually use their pepper spray.
After extensive academic research into crime deterrence, we found that a loud alarm was one of the best possible deterrents.
3. How do you recommend travelers pack and store their Sound Grenade to ensure it can be in close reach and ready to use when needed?
I love this question! The Sound Grenade comes with a carabiner, so you can clip it to your backpacks strap. That’s where I put it when I’m traveling, so it’s in reach. In my day to day, I have a classy black one clipped to the ring of my purse strap, so it’s right by my hand. And my CEO has one his keys. Since the device is TSA-friendly, it’s best to just keep it on your carry-on. Backpackers love this especially, since they don’t like checking their bags (and the alternatives like mace, knives, tasers are all illegal for carry-on). Plus it weighs less than 1oz, so it weighs less than a pack of gum.
4. How long does the battery last? Would you replace the battery when it dies or buy a new Sound Grenade?
We guarantee the battery under warranty for at least one year, but this type of battery will typically last up to 5 years on standby. The batteries are not replaceable; since it’s a safety-grade device, and your life may depend on it, the best thing to do is to replace the entire device after battery finally runs out.
We also have a pretty wonderful guarantee, in which we promise to replace your device free of charge, if you have used it in an emergency!
5. Do you have any crazy stories to share that customers may have shared with you recently?
We get user stories all the time, and it is the most rewarding part about making safety gear, by a long shot. Customers can use our website to upload their experiences personally, and they also email us regularly. Last month a University of California at Berkeley student emailed us, and she was ecstatic. She had just prevented a mugging outside a train station, when two men demanded her money and claimed they had a gun. She goes, “I immediately pull the SOUND GRENADE+ and they ran away!!!! I cannot believe it!!” Just thinking about how brave that was brings tears to my eyes every time.
6. What's next for ROBOCOPP?
Well, we actually are right in the middle of our biggest announcement yet. Our users have been asking since day one if the Sound Grenade also connects to emergency response or sends your location to loved ones, and we just released the new device that will do it all. It’s called the ROBORanger and it’s available for pre-order on Kickstarter at a 30% discount to the early birds 🐣 (sorry this is just the cutest emoji ever and I can’t not use it).
Two years ago, the technology didn't even exist to make this possible, so I'm exceedingly proud of my team, and excited to be introducing this innovation to the world!
YOU can help make travel safer by contributing to ROBOCOPP's ROBORanger KickStarter. You know I sure did! The campaign ends November 24th so... why not contribute right now?! (Wink).
Another thing I love about this product, as a partially female-owned company, they donate 10% of profits to social good organizations focused on social justice issues like human trafficking, domestic violence resource centers, and sexual assault prevention programs.
Have a traveler in your life? Well this may be the perfect holiday, birthday or graduation gift to show them you care without equipping them with Samurai swords or signing them up for karate classes.
Hint, hint mom...