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SheSpark interviews Sandy Stein, president of Finders Key Purse,® about her new product line Finders KeepHer Safer,™ which was designed to help keep women safe whether they’re running on a trail or going on a date.
Your first product line was a clip you designed so women can easily find their keys (in what I call the “black hole” of handbags) based on a conversation you had with your deceased father in a dream. You don’t hear that every day! What about that dream was so powerful that you banked your career on it?
SS: It was actually my situation that made me decide to run with the idea. I was 53 with a 10- year-old son, Alex, when my husband no longer had his job. I was desperate to find a way to make money ($20K as a part time flight attendant did not pay the rent in LA). So I prayed for guidance and there was the idea. When Heaven talks, you better listen!
The dream was so clear to me that I knew it was meant to be. I fashioned a rough prototype of what I dreamed, slipped it onto my purse, and realized it was a great idea. As a shopper, I look for certain things before I purchase, so I checked to see if all those elements were in Finders Key Purse®—-fair price ($6.95) CHECK! Purpose (never dig for my keys again) CHECK! Cuteness (our first 18 designs were adorable) CHECK! Durability (wasn’t sure then but today we have wonderful quality for a long-lasting item) CHECK! So, I knew between the spiritual guidance, and my personal opinion of elements that make a product successful, that I had a winner.
You’ve sold millions of products since that dream and designed more products like purse hangers and fans. What prompted you to design the “Finders Keep HerSafer (TM) line?
SS: When I first started the business, it was all about Finders Key Purse®, a fashionable purse accessory that decorates the outside of a bag while preventing keys from falling to the bottom. After a few years, I realized that finding your keys instantly is not just a convenience, but a safety measure. When digging in your bag, or worse yet, dumping out your purse, you are distracted. Someone with bad intentions, can take that opportunity to grab your purse or worse!
That is when we started calling our product a safety item as well. It dawned on me that when I am out walking and wearing pants without pockets, that if I encounter any sort of a predator (human or animal) I would have nothing to defend myself with. So, I instantly decided to add pepper spray and panic alarms to our line. We ask, “what good is your safety device if it is at home or stuck at the bottom of your bag?”. Doing some research, we found shocking statistics that 1 out of 4 college women are sexually assaulted, and many of them had date rape drugs slipped into their drinks for that purpose.
Our new mission was now to help women stay safer, so we put Finders Key Purse®, our drink test, pepper spray, and a panic alarm in a clear vinyl bag that is allowed in all stadiums. We hoped to hook up with an organization that we could work with to share our product and mission, but so far that has not happened. It is not easy to talk about potential harm, as people don’t like to think about that, so we thought that the pretty Finders Key Purse® and the cute vinyl bag would offset the intensity of the idea of assaults.
I’m particularly intrigued with the drink safety kit you sell since sexual assault against an incapacitated woman is by far the most common form of sexual assault. How do women use it and which drugs does the kit test for?
SS: Our Drink Test tests for ketamine and GHB, the most common date rape drugs. In the kit we have 10 cards with 2 tests on each card. You just put a drop of your drink on the test card, and if that area turns blue, you know that your drink has been tampered with.
What is interesting is that the young women (college aged) in my office said they would be embarrassed to use one of the tests. I do remember when I was that age and probably would have thought the same thing, so we hope to make women more aware that this sort of thing does happen, and that testing to be safe is the smart thing to do. The card is the same size as a business card, but you can cut it in two so that each test could fit easily in a pant pocket, cell phone packet, bag, shoe, or even in your bra. Never leave your drink unattended, and certainly if you do, test the drink. It can happen to anyone.
Where can women buy your personal safety products? Where can retailers buy wholesale?
I love that you pitched Shark Tank. Forbes named you one of the top promising entrepreneurs that was turned down by the show. What did you learn from that experience?
That experience was so sad for me. I was one of 80 people picked out of about 30,000 applicants. I made my pitch in front of many people at Shark Tank and though I had a cold, I did OK. I didn’t do my best because my head was fuzzy. They told me to leave my giant purse that I was using as a prop and my giant Finders Key Purse® and they would call me that night for an air time. They called and cancelled me. That was tough. I am a spiritual person, so I figured there was a reason I was NOT supposed to be on the show, but I must tell you, I couldn’t figure out why. I was so terribly disappointed, but never gave up. I applied to be on a fun and funky show called West Texas Investors, an odd take on Shark Tank, and made it on that show. Not much came of that show, but anytime you can meet new people that you might never have had the chance to meet, you have a potential win on your hands.
What’s on the horizon for Alexx, Inc. and Sandy Stein?
It is interesting that most of my friends are retired, but I just keep coming up with ideas to help propel Alexx, Inc. to be a more well-known company so that we can get our mission of keeping women safer out to more people. Some of my ideas are a little “iffy”, but some are downright great! The implementation of the ideas is the hardest. Being creative is a wonderful trait, but not everyone sees the potential of my ideas as I do.
So what’s up for me? I am going to keep on keeping on till ???? And for Alexx, Inc, my second baby—-it is going to follow in my footsteps.