We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

She Came up With a Device to Keep Hotel Workers Safer. Warby Parker's Co-Founder Weighs In on How to Take the Startup to the Next Level

1 0 0

To mark its 40th anniversary, Inc. is matching 40 aspiring founders with 40 experienced mentors in the Founders Project. The most recent mentor-mentee pair each have a mission to improve lives: Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of Waby Parker and Yasmine Mustafa, founder of ROAR for Good.

Neil Blumenthal co-founded Warby Parker in 2010 with a dual purpose: bring down the cost of prescription eyewear for consumers, and outfit glasses to the billion people worldwide who lack access to them. The company, with a valuation of $1.75 billion, has distributed five million pairs through its Buy a Pair Give a Pair Program. Blumenthal credits that social mission for motivating both the leadership team and the company's 1,800-plus employees.

When Inc. asked Blumenthal to mentor a startup entrepreneur he had one requirement: that person must also be driven to use their business for a noble cause. He chose Yasmine Mustafa, whose family brought her to the U.S. from Kuwait as a refugee during the Persian Gulf War. In 2013 Mustafa launched ROAR for Good in Philadelphia. The company aims to protect women from violence with a wearable panic button that sets off an alarm and alerts preselected contacts to the user's location so they can send help.

That first iteration of ROAR for Good was business-to-consumer. Then in 2018 the company pivoted to a business-to-business model, developing a system for deployment in hotels. Its new end users are housekeeping staff--mostly immigrants and women of color, many of whom don't speak English. More than half of housekeepers have been sexually harassed or assaulted, often by guests, research shows. Mustafa, who for a decade worked low-paying hotel and restaurant jobs, recognized first-hand the severity of the problem.

Mustafa hopes to leverage legislation mandating panic buttons for housekeeping staffs that has bubbled up in cities like Chicago and Seattle. New Jersey, in June, became the first state to pass a panic button law. ROAR for Good, which has seven employees and has raised several million dollars, recently started selling. To improve the lives of tens of thousands of disadvantaged women she asked Blumenthal's advice on sales and fundraising.

Here are edited excerpts from their first conversation.

Blumenthal: Tell me a little bit about who your customers are.

Mustafa: General managers of hotels. We are also going after hotel management companies, which own hundreds or even thousands of properties. Getting to them provides us opportunities to scale. And then we are going after the brands themselves. It's made fundraising harder. When investors ask me about the sales process I've been trying to think how to talk about it in a way that doesn't sound convoluted. I feel like it turns some of them off.

Blumenthal: It probably does turn them off. The challenge of simplifying a process like a........

© Inc.com