Rajia Abdelaziz is the co-founder and CEO of invisaWear, a hardware startup company based in Lowell, MA. invisaWear designs and manufactures smart jewelry and accessories that double as safety devices. Each necklace, keychain, bracelet, fitness band, and scrunchie made by the company includes a built-in panic button intended for dangerous situations. Upon pressing the button, the device sends a message to five emergency contacts telling them your location and that you are in danger. You can also choose to alert 911.
Abdelaziz formed the idea for the product after a scary encounter she had as a computer science student at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. A group of men harassed her one night as she made her way to her car. She managed to get away unscathed, but the encounter shook her. When she searched online for safety devices, she found that all the choices were unattractive and cumbersome. “It made no sense to me why all these companies were marketing them to young women, or women of any age,” she said.
invisaWear began as a class project with her friend and classmate, Ray Hamilton, the company’s co-founder and CTO. Google offered Abdelaziz a position after she completed her degree, but both she and Hamilton chose to devote themselves full-time to invisaWear.
According to Abdelaziz, local accelerator programs, including UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker® program and Entrepreneurship For All, were essential to the company’s development and success. “I honestly don’t think invisaWear would be where it is today had we not attended those accelerators,” Abdelaziz said. “Every single one that we attended had a different role in helping us be as successful as we are today.”
The access to knowledgeable mentorship was particularly helpful. “One of the things I always tell entrepreneurs is to learn from other peoples’ mistakes,” she said. “Every single one of our mentors has over 30 years of experience in their industry and they’re extremely successful, but they’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. Listening to their experiences has helped us avoid many of those common mistakes that founders make.”
Abdelaziz advises entrepreneurs to pay attention to feedback from customers. Such feedback helped her and Hamilton design their products to suit their customers’ needs. “It’s not about what you want,” she said. “It’s about what your paying customers want.”
These days, invisaWear products are made at Accutronics Inc., a manufacturer in Chelmsford, MA. Partnering with Accutronics allowed invisaWear to supply jobs to the community and stay closely involved in the manufacturing process. “Why go overseas if we’re fortunate enough to have some amazing facilities in our area as well?” she asks.
invisaWear is now collaborating with ADT Security Services to add extra security features for their products. “When Ray and I started invisaWear, our goal was to really protect as many women as possible,” Abdelaziz said. “So to work with ADT, who has millions of customers, is going to allow us to protect people all around the country.”
In this video, she discusses her experience with crowdfunding, the unexpected customer feedback she and her co-founder received, and her advice for entrepreneurs who are looking to find a good manufacturing partner.
Read more about Rajia Abdelaziz here.