Quinn Fitzgerald and Sara de Zarraga are co-founders of Flare Jewelry, an early stage startup working out of the Harvard iLab that’s developing technologically enhanced jewelry meant to help prevent sexual assault. The two met at Harvard Business School and have been working on the venture since last March. Not only do they plan to make a product that will leave antiquated and ineffective tools in the dust, but they also want to empower women without making them compromise their personal styles.
“We asked each other, ‘What problems do we really care about?’ and sexual assault became an apparent answer,” de Zarraga told us of Flare Jewelry’s founding. “We’ve both had personal experience with this issue, and there are people we know who have had their own experiences, too.”
Working with survivors, the Flare Jewelry team was able to zero in on specific features that would best serve people in compromising situations. According to de Zarraga, their technology will take a three-pronged approach to helping users.
“There’s something that helps them immediately, something that calls for backup and something that can help after the fact with collecting evidence,” she said. The specific features include an alarm (which is “really loud”) and texts that are automatically sent to phone contacts of your choice to tell them your GPS location, as well as a recording feature that will capture audio evidence in case you need it later – the legality of which the team said they’re still exploring.
Flare Jewelry is hunkering down in the Harvard iLab this summer to finish prototyping its product. With a team of engineers from MIT, they’ll be ironing out the technical details while ensuring it’s still aesthetically pleasing enough to wear everyday. And whenever they wrap up development, they plan to enlist the help of college students and professionals for product testing.
“It will be a modular piece that can be put in bracelets or necklaces,” Fitzgerald shared. “Right now, it’s too big for a ring, but that’s an eventual hope.”
The technical component is meant to be discreet, so it doesn’t impact the look of a piece of jewelry, so no one else can tell it’s there and so users don’t have to wear the same accessory every day. “The modular component keeps it versatile and discreet, so no two styles look alike,” de Zagarra said.
Flare Jewelry is first designed with college-aged women and young professionals in mind. However, the duo sees other potential user demographics, such as people with disabilities, children, the elderly and travelers. They also anticipate parents and partners of target users to purchase safety-equipped jewelry for their loved ones.
The company has been bootstrapping so far, participating in competitions to fund it along the way. For example, they just won first place at the Outside The Box Festival Interactive Awards last week.
As Flare Jewelry looks ahead, it intends to take a socially conscious approach while handling its revenue. “We realize we won’t stop sexual assault from happening,” Fitzgerald said. “But we want to work together to create a culture against it, so we’re donating part of our proceeds to fund education prevention programs. We want to be part of the solution every way we can be.”