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July 20, 2020
How It All Started

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minute read

Before I tell you how Emma and myself ended up starting STAND and building Noti, it seems appropriate that I first tell you a little bit about what we do.

Our mission at STAND is to help people live their lives fearlessly! In basic terms - we want to remove fears that stop you from doing what you want to with your life.

This may seem like a big goal, but we’re big dreamers and we’ve got a plan to help us get there, starting with a product called Noti. But anyway, on to the story of how it all started.

Emma and I met at university, or more specifically on a university trip to China. This was an amazing opportunity and I made some great friends out there, including Emma. We came back the next semester into our final year of an Engineering masters and ended up working in a group project together. The class we were working together in was called professional studies, and it was based around expanding our skillset outside of the world of engineering.

The class revolved around a basic concept; come up with a product idea and build a business around it. This is a fairly broad task to be handed so we decided to first look for a big problem in our lives and try to solve it. We started off with lots of problems and ideas, but in the end there were two in particular that we just couldn’t pass.

For Emma, her problem was extremely closely related to what we’ve tried to do with STAND and Noti. In university we would regularly spend late nights in the library or at our friends’ houses, which would inevitably lead to a dark walk home. And even though Belfast is a pretty safe city (especially in the student area) Emma described an overwhelming sense of nervousness and insecurity (she speaks more about this here) when she would have to travel home at night by herself. It didn’t take long for us to find a trend in this that most of our peers shared these feelings.

As for me, my grandmother has, for the last six or seven years, worn a personal alarm. Well, when I say worn, she has only in the last two or three years really worn the fall button. This is because she absolutely HATES it! In fact, it got so bad that there had actually been a few occassions where she had been left on the ground for a few hours after a fall, because she was unable to get back up by herself or call for help. It was clear from the moment she was first given the alarm pendant that it was a sensible decision for her to wear it, so why wouldn’t she? Well really, why would she?! If you think about it, being handed a big ugly red button to wear which screams ‘I’M NOT OKAY TO BE BY MYSELF!’ can be extremely embarrassing, especially for a strong woman who is as proud as my grandmother.

Although these situations may seem to be at different ends of a scale, Emma and I saw a trend. People change their behaviour based on fear. Whether it was Emma taking a longer route home to avoid a dimly lit street, or my grandmother not moving from her chair because she was afraid she may fall and not be able to get back up. And to top it all off, devices that try to fix these problems are CRAP! They seemed barely functional to us and not just ugly, but in a lot of cases, embarassing; and what good is it if it isn’t being worn at all?

Putting these two together, we saw an opportunity where we could make something better than the fall alarms my grandmother hadn’t used and the rape alarms that Emma our other friends had never carried. We wanted to build something that would provide the peace of mind that people craved, without the embarrassment associated with a lot of safety devices. Actually, we wanted people to LOVE wearing our devices. Which is where our smart jewellery was born from.

So we were already really into the idea of helping people be a bit more fearless and do the things they love, but we wanted to dig a bit deeper into what we were getting into. This led to our first trip to Nexus; a charity that works with survivors of sexual assault. We spoke to other charities too, like Women’s Aid and the Lucy Faithful foundation who do equally brilliant work, but Nexus is the one I’ll always remember. I won’t go into detail but it was both shocking and terrifying to hear some of the stories the councellors had to tell us. Things that were happening just around the corner from where we were sat, just around the corner from where we lived.

It’s sometimes easy to remove yourself from what you see in the news about sexual assault cases, maybe it’s because we don’t want to think about such horrible things, or because we don’t want to believe that they happen so close to home, but our journey to Nexus brought things to our front door, and the front of our minds. We left with a new perspective and a new drive to help make things better. Needless to say, the university module got left in the dust and building STAND became our main focus.

After this trip, we did some more research and found there are a lot of similar situations where some type of fear motivates a different behaviour in people; causing them to change how they live. We see a few main areas where this happens, like young women and elderly people living alone, but also parents with young kids, people who do lone sports like hiking and cycling, and even lone workers. But we have decided to start with young women. Partly because of Emma’s first hand experience, and partly because we feel this is one of the most under represented of these segments.

Of course men and children (and countless other demographics and types of people) feel fear when they travel alone, but we’ve found a lot of evidence that shows these fears can be much more prevelant and more consistent in women - for example, this study on fear of crime and sexual assault.

We also used facebook advertising to test responses to a blog post of women's safety tips. The results showed that younger teens (13-17) had little interest in reading this type of content, but interest spiked around 18-24, then dropping off again with age. We think that this is because in our later teens we start to spend more time by ourselves or move away from home.

So, we still want to help as many people as possible life their lives fearlessly, but we’re starting here.

So rolling with this, we started our journey into making Noti. We know that a physical product can never fully fix a huge issue like this, and actually, we hope that some day Noti isn’t even needed, but for now we want to help and in our own way, help fix things in the long term. At the same time, we didn’t want to make just any product that seemed to help on the surface; like the cheap and cheerful plastic siren alarms that are passed out to young girls and never used. We want Noti to be one of your favourite pieces of jewellery that you love to wear because you feel safer wearing it and love how it looks.

If you want to follow along with our story and hear more about our journey of building Noti, make sure you subscribe to our mailing list for content like this and more Noti news and offers.

Ben Lindsay

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