Yasmine Mustafa immigrated to South Philadelphia from Kuwait at age 8, during the height of the Persian Gulf War. Forced to work under-the-table jobs for meager pay in her youth, Mustafa, a 2006 Temple graduate, quickly grew a desire to be her own boss.
The transition to American life was an abrupt and shocking experience, Mustafa said.
“We were extracted out of Kuwait once Saddam invaded,” Mustafa said. “The transition was jarring because it was very different and unexpected – we were told we had an hour to pack two bags. It was a culture shock.”
Mustafa said she knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur in the U.S. She found her inspiration in the form of a six-month solo trip across South America.
“One thing that kept happening every place that I went is I kept meeting women that had been attacked or assaulted,” Mustafa said. “A week after I came back, a woman was raped a block from my apartment, and a light bulb went off.”
After returning from her trek, Mustafa founded ROAR for Good, a company that advocates female empowerment by distributing wearable self-defense apparatuses. Mustafa’s creative business expertise recently landed ROAR $25,000 in funding from the Philadelphia-based idea incubator DreamIt Ventures.
Mustafa’s entrepreneurial desires eventually led her to an internship with Philadelphia marketing firm Team and a Dream through Temple, where she learned skills that would later allow her to release her first startup project, 123 Linkit. Linkit is a WordPress plugin that scans a blog for product keywords and then links those words to the appropriate product’s website. Mustafa taught herself to code after she was forced to sell Linkit, due to problems with the software developers.
Through Team and a Dream, Mustafa met fellow startup-savant and ROAR for Good co-founder Anthony Gold, who shares Mustafa’s passion for women’s rights.
“One of the things that a lot of people don’t appreciate is how awful the statistics really are,” Gold said, “ … and when you start looking at that, you realize these self-defense devices [for women] don’t work so well, because there’s the fear that the women could be overpowered and the device used against her.”
ROAR for Good’s device consists of two parts: a wearable jewelry piece and a smartphone app. The jewelry clip has a button that lights up and sounds an alarm when pressed. A Bluetooth stack built into the device then communicates with the user’s phone wirelessly to call the authorities and send automated distress texts to family and friends.
ROAR’s phone application uses crowd source data to alert users of potential street harassment in real time. Similar to technology used in traffic-tracking applications, the app allows users to report areas where street harassment and cat-calling is common, and then sends push notifications to future users in that area.
In addition to the device itself, ROAR for Good also offers a service called Virtual Bodygaurd. The service – which is tied directly to Google Maps’ interface – calculates the amount of time it should take a user to reach a specific destination, and sends out an automatic distress text if the user does not reach their destination within a set time limit.
Charlotte Wells, a senior Spanish major and women’s studies minor at Temple, said that interning at ROAR for Good has allowed her to pursue goals of empowering women while learning valuable business skills.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity to learn about building a startup, especially one regarding women’s rights,” Wells said. “Seeing the different components of building a business and the different components of pitching yourself, I think that’s been the most beneficial – seeing the impact that I’m having.”
To further her mission in the fight for female empowerment, Mustafa will donate a portion of the proceeds from every wearable ROAR device sold to nonprofit organizations that host educational programs on healthy relationships, respect and consent for women.
Mustafa plans to start crowdfunding campaigns to support ROAR in the near future, and frequently gives presentations to college sororities and fraternities to raise awareness of ROAR for Good.
ROAR for Good is currently seeking interns. When all is said and done, the ROAR team’s goals lie far beyond company profits.
“We like to say we don’t measure success by how much money we make, we measure success by the number of lives we touch,” Gold said. “Our focus with ROAR for Good is the idea that we’ll know that we’re successful when we know there’s no longer a need for these kinds of self-defense devices.”
Eamon Dreisbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.