I am pretty excited for this post, so let’s jump right in. The first time I heard about ROAR, a fashionable safety wearable made to empower women (to put things simply), I was first, very thankful that someone had come up with this, and second, knew instantly I’d be a customer. When I realized that this project was coming out of Philly, you guys know it was all over.
Yasmine Mustafa is ROAR’s co-founder & CEO, and we first connected on Twitter. We’ve been emailing back and forth for a number of months now (I won’t divulge the exact number for both of our sakes, Yasmine!), and with ROAR’s launch on the horizon (aka, today), I decided to bring back one of my old features and interview this Philly lady you’ll love. Ladies, if you ever walk alone in this city, you’re going to want to read this.
Tell me a little about your history – where did you grow up, go to school, what were you working on before ROAR?
I was born in Kuwait City, Kuwait and I moved to Philadelphia when I was 8. In my recent TEDxPhiladelphia talk, I told the story of how I cheated the birth lottery. To make it short, we were in the midst of the Persian Gulf War in 1990, when two men from the US embassy came to collect us from a bomb shelter because my little brother had just been born in Philly two months prior.
I went to high school in a little town twenty minutes west of King of Prussia called Royersford, and three different colleges – first at Montgomery County Community College (I put myself through school and it was cheaper to get my associates here), then Drexel for a brief stint (as in one trimester – it was too expensive) and I completed my Bacholer’s Degree at Temple University.
Before ROAR for Good, I was keeping busy with first software venture called 123LinkIt. We helped bloggers make money from what they were already doing. In addition, I’m the co-leader of Girl Develop It Philadelphia, which I brought to the city while teaching myself how to code to effectively run my startup at the time.
How did you get the inspiration for ROAR? Was there an a-ha moment?
I got the inspiration after a 6-month solo trek I took across South America two years ago. I met a lot of locals and travelers, and everywhere I went, I would hear stories of times women had been attacked, assaulted or harassed.
One week after I came back to Philly, a woman was out feeding her meter when she was grabbed from behind, dragged into an alley, beaten, and brutally raped. It happened one block from my apartment and it was at that moment ROAR for Good was born.
You product seems to stand out from other things on the market because it combines the technology of an alert system with actual in-the-moment deterrents. I’m sure this took extra work – what made you decide to incorporate both?
We talked to police and self defense instructors and asked them what would work best in terms of a deterrent that can’t be used against the wearer. That’s one of the key elements we wanted to focus on – existing self-defense tools double as weapons and we learned women are afraid they’ll be overpowered and their own device would be used against them. We also found that existing solutions were focused on messaging for help once something has happened or after it happened. Part of our mission is to reduce assaults; we wanted to take a preemptive approach.
Another deterrent is the education piece. We don’t just want to sell products, we want to truly make a difference. To that end, we’re taking a percentage of proceeds and investing them in non-profits that teach young children about empathy and healthy relationships. These programs have been proven to increase consent and reduce violence. This is other fundamental piece of the business and another approach we’re taking to diminishing attacks in the first place.
For us, the most important thing is getting results and our goal there is to empower women to live their lives boldly and without fear – in the short term with the safety jewelry and in the long term with the educational programs.
We like to say we’re truly successful when our product is no longer needed. Until we get to that point, we’d love to partner with a popular jewelry maker, embed the device into clothing, and expand to other styles and colors.
When can we get our hands on one?!
Today on Indiegogo! Indiegogo is a crowdfunding platform that allows the community to place preorders for a product they’ll receive later in time. The benefit is they get it a steep discount (we’re offering ours at 40% off) and we can use the funds from the preorders to finish manufacturing.
And because I can’t let you off without this question: what are some of your favorite things in Philly?
Oh, I love this question. Let’s start with restaurants – my favorite happy hour place right now is White Dog (3420 Sansom Street). The beet salad, burger, and hummus are excellent. I also really like Sampan (124 South 13th Street) and Indeblue (205 South 13th Street). I love Greek food and Kanella (757 South Front Street) is my go-to restaurant for any celebrations. I’ve been at High Street (308 Market Street) a few times lately and their dishes are always great. For brunch, I love Ants Pants Café (2212 South Street) and Café Lift (428 North 13th Street). Café La Maude (816 North 4th Street) is really good too (I just noticed I like cafes for brunch, now I know).
I love running on the Schuylkill river trail and my favorite neighborhood right now is mine – I moved to Fitler Square in July and I don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s full of lovely side streets, parks, cozy cafes, and new restaurants I can’t wait to visit.
Thank you, Yasmine, for the awesome interview, and for creating something so important for so many women. If you’re interested, pick up the first ROAR product today on Indiegogo. Have a great week! xx