The brainchild of engineering students-turned-entrepreneurs Rajia Abdelaziz and Ray Hamilton, Invisawear jewelry is embedded with hidden Bluetooth technology that alerts up to five emergency contacts should you find yourself in need of help. The way it works is simple: If you’re in a jam, just double-click the back of the charm to instantly text your preprogrammed emergency contacts, complete with a link to a Google map of your exact location. A free 911 feature, if enabled, can even connect your contacts with the police.
The idea for Invisawear was born a little over three years ago, when Rajia, leaving the engineering lab late one night, was accosted by a carful of men, one of whom got out of the vehicle and pursued her on foot. In her panic, she was unable to operate her phone to call for help, though, fortunately, she managed to get to her car and drive away unharmed.
“We were talking after about how so many people aren’t so lucky, and we wanted to do something about it,” recalls Ray. “So we actually looked online for some safety devices and everything was a big, hideous panic button.”
Rajia’s 80-year-old grandmother had told her that she’d rather fall and not be able to get up than be caught dead wearing any of the panic buttons currently on the market, so Rajia certainly didn’t want to wear something like that either.
Handily, Rajia had a background in software development while Ray’s background was in hardware engineering, so the two of them set about designing a prettier panic button.
Part of a class project at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, about 30 miles north of Boston, their idea won an innovation challenge that funded the initial prototype. After two more years of development, Invisawear finally launched.
Five Very Thankful Customers
“We’ve been on the market for a little over a year now, and we've actually saved five lives this past year, so it’s been very exciting,” Ray says. In one particular case, Invisawear came to the rescue in an unanticipated way. Though the product was designed with the aim of preventing assaults, one user spun out on an icy highway and was badly injured in the ensuing crash. She couldn’t find her phone, and passersby who stopped to help soon found they were in a dead zone and unable to reach 911.
“Her aunt actually got her the keychain just two weeks prior. She kept pressing it over and over, saying, ‘Please, God, don’t die.’ Her dad got the alert and drove straight there. He got there in less than 10 minutes, at the same time as the police and the ambulance. Her whole family’s been our biggest supporters. They called all the local news stations and were like, ‘You guys need to know about this product,’ so we actually got some really great press coverage after that.”
The product currently comes in 12 variations that include necklaces, bracelets, keychains, unisex styles and matching pieces for layering, should the wearer desire a different, dressier look. Rose gold and black leather cord have recently been added to the lineup of traditional gold and silver. Starting at $129, Invisawear is available through the brand’s direct-to-consumer website as well as on Amazon and works anywhere in the US, though an update that will allow the app to function internationally as well is in the final testing stage.
A Close Partnership with Amazon
Invisawear began shipping its products in August 2018 and made Amazon part of its strategy from the start. A member of a program called Amazon Exclusives, Invisawear receives training and marketing support from Amazon and has even met with their executive team in Seattle.
“They think we’re one of the up-and-coming brands, so we love Amazon! We also use them for multichannel fulfillment, so all of our website orders actually get shipped out by Amazon, even if they don’t place the order on Amazon.com, because they can ship faster and cheaper than we can.”
Cin7’s integration with Amazon was one of the major reasons Invisawear chose Cin7: “We noticed that there weren’t a lot of alternatives that had that ability, and that’s one of the major things that we use.”
But that doesn’t mean that Invisawear’s inventory was as well-planned from the start. “To be honest, we didn’t have any sort of inventory management, other than Excel. It was very disorganized, and we were growing to a point where we needed to be able to keep track of things. We’ve got a lot of moving parts in different locations where we do assembly, and we’re also switching models. Before, we used to order all of our parts, then assemble them and then have product in stock, fully assembled. But now, we’re trying to switch to buying all of our raw materials in bulk and having them in stock, ready to go, just because the lead times will be a lot quicker. We’ve learned this past year that we always want to be ready for any sort of publicity or type of event that could help set the trajectory for our company,” he says, as with the sudden news coverage mentioned earlier.
Ray and Rajia were flying in from California on a redeye when it happened. “We got in at 9am and we got all these phone calls from all these news stations, saying, ‘We want to come do a story on you. We’ll be at your office in half an hour, and the story is going to air tonight at 6pm.’ We were panicked but, luckily, we were fully stocked with all of our inventory. But we always want to be prepared for something like that, especially as we go national and then international as well.”
Streamlined Manufacturing Processes
Cin7 has been instrumental in helping Invisawear prepare for such opportunities. After a couple of weeks of onboarding in May 2018, they were up and running with Cin7 by the beginning of June. “We’ve been loving it ever since. It's actually been really helpful to keep track of all of our production jobs. Certain little parts get used in the actual makeup of our products, so it helps us keep track of where the parts are moving, from one facility to another. It's been working really well so far.”
Locations include Invisawear’s headquarters in Lowell; manufacturing facilities in Chelmsford, the next town over; and jewelry suppliers in Rhode Island and Maryland. Before sending inventory to Amazon for distribution, which includes free two-day shipping, they put some aside to sell at the many events and trade shows they attend.
“After that news story aired, we sold out of four months’ worth of inventory in less than two weeks, then we were scrambling to get everything back in stock. We ended up taking a lot of back orders, and people had to wait two months to get their orders. They were emailing us all the time, saying, ‘Where’s my order? Why do I have to wait this long?’ So we don’t want that to happen again, and that’s another way Cin7 has helped us.
"One of the tools that we love is the Smart Buyer tool, because we’re growing very quickly and we want to be able to order all these raw materials, have them in stock, and control all of these moving parts so that we don’t have another incident where we run out of inventory and we’re scrambling to get everything back in stock again.”
As cofounder and chief technology officer, Ray wears many hats and appreciates the time savings that Cin7 provides. “I handle a lot of the technology design as well as operations. My main role recently is managing the supply chain and manufacturers, and then my partner is the CEO and cofounder, so we work alongside each other. We’re a small company, so we do both do more than just simple daily activities; every day is different in the startup world. I do customer support, I help out with different marketing strategies and meetings, finance as well. So just about everything!”
Having Cin7 in place has allowed the company to spend less time on admin tasks while supporting its overseas expansion. When Invisawear launches to more than 200 foreign territories in the coming weeks, it will work “just about everywhere. We’re looking to hire quite a few more people this next year to help out with customer support and tech support as we continue to get more users. We want to be able to offer the best customer service possible, so that’s one of the things that we’re looking to grow towards. We’re probably going to leverage Amazon for a lot of the shipping. We might also ship a lot of it directly from our warehouse to start. We’ll see how that goes.”