During her final year at University in Brighton, Emily Brooke realised after extensive research into the absurd amount of danger cyclists find themselves in that they needed to be a way to improve their safety. In her continued efforts to reduce the 79% of cyclists that get hit, Blaze Laserlight was born.
I invited Emily Brooke on YHP to share her Blaze story.
Emily Brooke, I’m absolutely thrilled to finally have you on YHP, how are you doing?
Chasing my tail, but loving it thanks.
Tell us a bit about life pre- BLAZE? What entrepreneurial ventures were you involved in?
I was a perpetual student. I started off at Oxford reading Physics, but left that for Design in Brighton and Milan with an entrepreneurial scholarship in America. I then started my own company, so I am basically completely unemployable.
How did the idea for BLAZE come about?
At University. My finally year at Brighton we had the entire year to develop a product from identifying a problem through to marketable solution. After getting on a road bike for the first time that summer, training and cycling 1,000 miles for charity, I got the biking bug badly! I started my final year with the theme ‘Urban Cycling’ and set about understanding the challenges facing city cyclists. Personal safety was quickly identified as the greatest.
After months of research into accident statistics, working with driving psychologists, bus companies the Council, speaking to cyclists etc. I defined the specific challenge I wanted to tackle is the “side sweeping” or “blind spot” - this is the greatest cause of fatality. 79% of cyclists hit are travelling straight ahead and the vehicle turns across them. I saw the threat to cyclists was ahead of you and it was then a case of cycling around town and thinking “that bus in front of me can’t see me, if I was a few yards ahead he could see me… I should project a presence there.” And that was how the idea of our crazy launch product was born.
What is BLAZE? And what are you trying to solve?
Blaze create the ultimate products for urban cyclists. We have launched the innovative Laserlight. A truly radical innovation tackling arguable the greatest danger to riders in the city – being caught in the blind spot. It is a front facing, white light that also has a laser and projects the symbol of a bike down onto the road ahead of the cyclist. It alerts drivers ahead of you of your presence and prevents them turning across your path. It is the first in a range of products and is available for retail on our website. We are also about to ship them from China to our Kickstarter backers right before the Chinese New Year.
What was the hardest part of setting up the business?
Doing it by myself. Nearly all my friends in startups have a cofounding team. I always have the unnerving feeling that if I take a weekend off, the company takes the weekend off. But then with that comes the amazing feeling that I am so incredibly lucky to be building something I started. I’m also growing a really phenomenal little team I love and couldn’t be doing this without.
How were you able to fund it?
Firstly I proved the concept on Kickstarter and raised £55K in crowdfunding from our earliest fans. I have also raised a couple of small rounds of seed money but I am trying to keep that to a minimum and stay lean and get through this season and prove ourselves in retail for the very first time before taking on any serious money.
Can you remember those early days, thinking of the company name, opening the company’s bank account to the first three months or so of running the business, how excited were you?
Haha, yes! It wasn’t even a year ago! But that is crazy. To stop still for a minute and realise the incredible amount we’ve learnt this year. And it’s just the beginning!
What would you say were some of the key fundamentals that were implemented to accelerate the growth of the company?
I was one of the inaugural members of accelerator program Entrepreneur First. Their incredible network, training and access to mentorship has certainly massively helped me this year. But I also a very big advocate of asking others and learning. I have never done this before – I have no experience manufacturing in China, growing a brand, a team, raising money or setting up and fulfilling an ecommerce site… But there are plenty of people around me who have and are experts in their various fields. I go out and find as much advise as I can get my hands on from those who know better than me!
What do you do outside work to unwind?
Bicycle! No seriously. My ride to and from work each day is my essential time to myself to gather my thoughts and get time to myself. I’m generally a bit of an active nutter. I run, swim, and put it all together in my first triathlon recently, which I adored!
What are your plans for BLAZE and yourself in the next 5 years?
Grow a globally renowned urban cycling brand.
Before I leave you today Emily, what advices do you have to anyone reading this interview hoping to start a business or perhaps struggling for attention, investment or a proof of concept?
I think the last thing you said is incredibly valuable – proving the concept! I’d say that’s the most important part of starting a business. Prove the demand for what you’re planning on delivering – get it in front of as many potential customers as possible as early as possible. Don’t be scared of their feedback, it will make you build something far more valuable if you listen to them. As a hardware startup, Kickstarter (or other platforms) is one of the only ways to do this, for which I’m very grateful. And just make sure you’re building something your excited about and love, as it makes it FAR more fun.
Thanks so much for your time Emily
Appreciate you having me on here Joseph
Follow Emily Brooke on Twitter