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With the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community, I feel unsafe traveling in public alone. And anti-Asian hate crimes are growing at an alarming rate. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 339% in 2021. Cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles , a man arrested in New York City for committing crimes against seven women who were identified as part of the AAPI community. In the span of two hours, he violently punched, elbowed and shoved Asian women ranging from 19 to 57 years old.
I can’t stop the wave of xenophobia sweeping through our country on my own, but I can be more aware of my own surroundings and take measures to protect myself.
As I re-enter the world after periods of isolation, I’m working on being more aware of my own personal safety. “Noting your surroundings and making critical adjustments is the single most important thing to do when traveling alone in public,” Josh Katz, Krav Maga instructor and principal of 419 Strategy, shared with me. “If you’re listening to your phone while traveling, make sure the volume isn’t too high, and use only one earbud. And finally, if you find yourself on a dimly lit street: Take out the ear buds, turn on your phone’s flashlight and pay full attention to your safety. feel unsafe, but it ties up your hands and distracts you from your surroundings. Your friend is not going to help you, but your senses and your instincts can.
Heeding Katz ‘advice, I was researching ways to feel safer when I stumbled across Roq Innovation, the makers of Headlightz Beanies and Headbands, named one of O magazine’s favorite things in 2021.
“As someone who enjoyed running in the evening when my kids were in bed, safety was top-of-mind for me,” says Raquel Graham, CEO and founder of Roq Innovation. “I needed a light to see where I was going, not a headlamp.”
The compact Headlightz Headband is hands-free and features an innovative bright white LED light that is lightweight, removable and rechargeable. Choose one of three brightness levels, and the battery will last between about 1.75 and 8 hours. It’s super easy to recharge (or loose cords), comfortable and soft and also fits my kids as well as myself. It comes in a number of colors. Most importantly it increases your visibility – you can see where you are and where you are going.
“My mom is 76 years old and lives alone,” Graham says. “She’s of Asian descent, and it’s mind-boggling and frightening the level of hate we are experiencing right now.
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Here are three lessons Raquel Graham has learned in building her game-changing invention and company:
“I solved problems that made my life easier”
Graham’s company started in 2014 for the experiment. “My kids refused to wear scarves during cold Chicago winters,” she says. “So I created a prototype for my kids that they loved. I had other parents stopping to ask me where I got that scarf. That’s when I knew I had to take it to market.”
Graham created that first product, NEKZ, with no retail or manufacturing experience. Her first account was Follett, who helped get her products into NCAA schools across the country.
After finding success with NEKZ, she founded her company Roq Innovation and hasn’t stopped inventing since then. “My biggest advice is to solve problems that will make your life easier,” Graham says. “Because if it makes your life easier, you can solve problems for a whole segment of individuals.”
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Image Credit: LX Management
“I relentlessly studied Home Shopping Network before being on it”
Graham has been on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) successfully for six years and has been one of the longest-standing Black-owned businesses featured on the network. But her success didn’t happen overnight. She relentlessly studied and watched HSN so she was ready before she was on it.
“I am obsessed with products and how they can make our lives better,” Graham says. “I watched everything I could on HSN, studying the segments and formats, and I thought about the story I would tell with my own products.”
She remembers cold-emailing HSN and never heard back that very first time. Graham was ready, because he had been preparing for this moment all along. “You have to be ready to go when the call comes. And if you are putting in the work, the call will come.”
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“I have left money on the table”
Finally, one of the biggest lessons Graham learned is that when to walk away from opportunities. “While there is growing support from retailers to support Black-owned businesses, the reality is that we cannot fulfill these orders,” Graham says. “We don’t have access to the funding needed. When two big retailers come knocking at the same time, I don’t have the funding to supply the product in such large quantities. “
Graham hopes that more retailers will work directly with banks and help provide small business owners. “That’s the kind of allyship we need to see more of. If you see Black-owned businesses leaving money on the table, don’t just let them walk away. Help build the solution with them.”
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