– What gave you the idea to start STUDENT at the wheel®?
I am a Mom of 3. Two of which have gone through learning how to drive. It was a nail biting experience with both of them. To this day I still think about their safety. Over the course of a week or so I just kept hearing other Mom’s saying how hard it was to teach their kids to drive. Other people would honk or tailgate, flash a finger or two! I heard stories of Mom’s getting out of cars, screaming through sunroofs… I thought I can do something about this to help these new drivers safe.
– who came up with these designs?
It was a family effort. But it came really quick. The pink and blue were first. Then parents started asking for darker colors and the dark blue and black were next. Then kids started buying them, as a matter of fact they buy as much if not more than the parents. My daughter came up with the Cheetah print, her friends asked for a Zebra, and other Teens asked for Camouflage and Tie-Dye. The newest request is Polka-Dot. We are experimenting! In each case we make some, go to a local flea market, get Teens response (and sometimes Parent response) test them in a few stores. If it is a hit, we make them.
– how has it been received?
Very well. As I said, we have kids buying them, and then they leave them on their car! Not the original purpose, but if it helps them and makes them feel safe then who am I to say?
The media really likes it too. We’ve been on CBS news in DC and Philly and in a number of papers. I participated in 2 radio shows in the past week.
It’s nice to see ‘Good News’ in the headlines once in a while.
– what has been the biggest ‘pleasant’ surprise?
Without a doubt the reaction from kids. We really thought Parents would buy them and force their kids to use them, and in many cases the Teen Drivers beg their parents for them.
The biggest Pleasant, but not a surprise, is that it has been 2 years + and kids come back to us and tell us that IT REALLY WORKS! People slow down and give them more room.
– it’s been over 2 years since you started and the economy isn’t so great, how have you been able to survive & grow your business?
It’s been a challenge, but the fact that we get calls from people that tell us they saw them on the road and then purchase them saying that they are ‘fantastic’ really lifts your spirits and makes you move forward. Getting e-mails from the heads of charitable organizations saying that our work is ‘important’ really goes a long way.
– what are some of the stumbling blocks you’ve encountered & how have you overcome them?
Impatient buyers at larger stores. Not all of them, just the one’s that don’t return phone calls, and do things that make you wonder how that place is still in business. Unfortunately there are too many of them, but Fortunately they are not all like that. Some stores (especially family owned) are wonderful and the people there are just fantastic.
– has joining an organization of competitors or like minded companies helped your business?
Joining NOYS (the National Organizations for Youth Safety) is new to us, but the leadership there is remarkable. There are government entities like NHTSA and big Corporation Trusts like the Allstate foundation, established organizations like SADD, and MADD, and new businesses like ours. The big guys can provide the benefit of experience, and the new companies work together to try to make our kids safer in all facets of their life; including New Drivers.
– I heard you are a Chapter in a book on Women Entrepreneurs, can you tell me about it?
Sherry Sexton wrote a book titled ‘The T-Shirt to Prove it’ about 25 Women Entrepreneurs and their journey. I am lucky enough to be included and to be ‘Chapter 8’. The book is available on Amazon.com.
– What can you tell other women that want to start a business?
Follow your passion. There are going to be a lot of people that want to see you fail. Just keep moving forward. Don’t look back. When one door slams in your face, open 10 more.
– Where can we find your products?
On new drivers cars. Also, online at www.STUDENTatthewheel.com and in a number of stores, driving schools, and high school fundraisers around the country. Check the store locator online.