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  • Writer's pictureAshish Bhatia

Empowering womens' safety with a simple accessory

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

FC'22 Member Gracie

Life in the Big City

In my first year in NYU’s Business, Technology, and Entrepreneurship program, I knew I wanted to try and start a venture with a product I could see myself using in my everyday life. I very often forget to grab my pepper spray before leaving home, only to later find myself wishing that I had it. I resonate with the fact that women often feel unsafe walking in a crowded city, especially by themselves. I knew I could come up with a solution to remember my pepper spray by pairing it with a popular hair accessory. Claw clips are one of the biggest trends right now and in the past couple of years have resurged in popularity after being a staple in the 90s.

For the past 2 years, I have pursued social media both for fun and as a career. I enjoy creating entertaining content for others and have amassed almost 2 million followers. I have also expanded to Instagram and YouTube and created advertisements for brands across the platforms. Every time I have posted a claw clip tutorial on TikTok it has gone viral, which solidified its popularity for me. Specifically, this content did well because I used an extra large clip and used to have very long hair. I was helping other people with long hair use the clips because the traditional way to use a claw clip did not work. Now, I want to share with my followers a new solutions utilizing clips.

Is your pepper spray buried in a bag?

One of the most popular self-defense tools is pepper spray; however, it is often inconvenient to access, whether it is in your pocket or falls to the bottom of your tote bag. Two summers ago, I was going on my regular walk around my neighborhood with my sister while wearing a claw clip. I found that I could never remember to grab my pepper spray before leaving the house. The idea dawned on me, and it just made sense that a claw clip and pepper spray could be combined. Essential self-defense tools must be combined with items that women will never forget and habitually use. When I go on a walk or exercise my hair needs to be pulled back so I know by combining clips and pepper spray it will result in me always having my pepper spray with me and overall feeling safer and more prepared. Even if this venture does not work out, the idea of combining hair accessories with self-defense, whether it be pepper spray, alarms, or trackers- is something I see as the future of safety.

Once I joined the Founders Challenge, I felt super motivated and inspired to act on my idea. I immediately went to Target and got some mini M&Ms so I could make a low-fidelity prototype to show the concept. I envisioned the pepper spray in the middle of the two claws that could be pushed up when needed.

Prototyping with some help from Fiverr

I went to Washington Square Park and interviewed 6 women about self-defense and hair accessories. Out of 6 women, 4 use claw clips, and 5 carry pepper spray. One girl even said, “I can’t leave the house without a claw clip.” They expressed that self-defense tools are important because they are young women in the city, “often take public transportation,” “there’s lots of crime,” “anything can happen,” and “there are creepy people.” Their main concerns with my design were that the pepper spray would go off accidentally, would fall out, or be too heavy.

Through the Founders Challenge, I was recommended to Fiverr and 99 designs to get a 3D model. One person recommended I use perfume at first, so I could easily test the product and not worry about actually spraying the pepper spray. I liked the suggestions that this doesn't have to just be a single product and that I could eventually expand to other accessories for self-defense.

I reached out to people on Fiverr to create a 3D prototype for me. I ended up hiring two people and went back and forth with them through multiple revisions before being satisfied with the prototypes. It took 11 days for them to complete the 3D model, and I lost a little motivation because I was impatient.

Founder Challenge - keeps me on track

Right now, I have just completed the online training to use the 3D printers at the Brooklyn Makerspace, and the next step is to do the in-person training. Then, I will print my prototypes and test them for feedback. I plan to ask girls to wear the clip and watch their hand positions when they remove it to make sure that pushing the spray up from the bottom makes sense. This venture matters to me because I’m a young woman, new to the city from a small island in South Carolina, and want to ensure that women feel safe in the often unsafe city. ____ was a guest speaker during BTE class, and he asked us to imagine ourselves on our deathbeds looking at all of the versions of ourselves that we could have been. This made me realize that I would regret not acting on this idea and that there’s no harm in trying.

In order to keep motivation, I keep thinking back to the first Founders Challenge meeting and how excited I was to start working on this idea. The problem of women's safety and harassment is extremely important. If this venture doesn’t work out, others will continue to seek solutions so more women feel safe in unpredictable environments. While trying to better understand the problem, a surprise I encountered was people who carry pepper spray are not scared of it going off in their pockets, but would be scared if it was part of a clip. I am trying to better understand how this idea will work out because pepper spray can not be shipped to New York, however, it can legally be carried. The founder experience I have gained includes conducting customer interviews, making a low-fidelity prototype, and hiring someone else to help with designs. The Founder Challenge has helped keep me engaged with the entrepreneurial process by encouraging me to share my weekly progress, listen to feedback with an open mind, and not be afraid to work on something even if it might not work out.

You can reach out to me at



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