LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The year was 2020.
Brooke Lierman, of St. Louis, Missouri, was getting some refuge from the COVID-19 lockdown by taking a run.
With music playing in her ears, she was startled by a car that whizzed by.
She had also heard on the news about cases involving female joggers becoming victims of crimes.
“I was just fed up. I was like, I’m so tired of being stressed out while I run when this is supposed to be my escape. This is supposed to be fun but I was just worried about my safety the whole time,” said Brooke Lierman.
She took a “Shark Tank” class as a freshman at Florida Southern College in Lakeland where she had to create a product and a business plan.
“From building it out, I was like, wait, I could actually do it,” she said.
Lierman is now 21 years old and about to graduate from college with a Business Administration degree.
She had a prototype developed by a Canadian company. She calls it “Over the Shoulder.”
“You just clip it onto your leggings,” she said.
The device has a sensor, which detects a person, bicycle, or vehicle approaching from behind.
It alerts the user over Bluetooth using an app.
“It’ll just pause your music and [say] ‘person approaching 300 feet’,” said Lierman.
From there, the device starts recording video, which is sent to the cloud.
“When women are attacked, it’s kind of like a ‘he-said, she-said’. They don’t have anything but now I have the video of your face running up on me, saying something you shouldn’t, doing something you shouldn’t so it’s kind of like an extra layer of protection,” said Lierman.
With guidance from the college, Lierman has won several pitch competitions, raising more than $30,000 for prototype development.
“We’ve used that money to basically turn that product real. It’s exciting to see her actually have something now that can solve a problem she so dearly cares about,” said Justin Heacock, director of the Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Florida Southern College.
Florida Southern College has also set up Lierman, and other entrepreneurial students, at Catapult, a business incubator in Lakeland.
“The next stage that we’re trying to connect her to is to build that credibility, build that community right where she can start getting pre-orders. She can work with various non-profits that she’s identified that focus on female safety while running,” said Heacock.
Heacock said Lierman would need $100,000 to get the product to market.
Lierman has a patent for her product and expects “Over the Shoulder” to go through a few more development stages.
She is hoping to have the product ready for market in the next year or so, at a cost of approximately $150.
“I just want women to have their freedom back and be able to go on runs and go on walks and just not worry,” she said.