To be able to combine your biggest passion with your job is a dream for so many of us. And this is exactly what cycling nut Emily Brooke managed to do with her startup, Blaze! In this week’s Eureka Diaries, we chat to Emily about how a newly found love of cycling fueled the creation of a product that helps save lives.
Emily told us that she had two Eureka Moments – one where she had the idea, and the second when she realised she had to commit to making it a reality…
Bitten by the cycling bug
The first happened while Emily was at university: “A friend and I decided to cycle the length of the UK for charity. I’d never really cycled before, but we bought bikes, learned to ride, trained for four months and then cycled 1000 miles! I got the bike bug bad, and have been on a bike nearly every day since.”
In Emily’s final year at university studying product design, she had to design a product from concept to marketable solution. Inspired by her new passion, she chose the theme ‘urban cycling’.
Emily set out to identify and tackle the greatest challenge facing city cyclists: “Personal safety was clearly the biggest issue. I spent six months working with a driving psychologist (a person that analyses accidents), the Brighton Bus Company, the Council and lots of cyclists to understand the problem more clearly,” she explained.
“I also spent a lot of time researching the common factors and statistics of bike accidents. A particular stat stuck in my mind, and I knew it was the problem I wanted to solve – 79% of cyclists that are hit are travelling ‘straight ahead’ when a vehicle manoeuvres into them.” she said.
Eureka Moment number one
One morning Emily was cycling across town with a lorry in front of her. She thought to herself: “The driver can’t see me because I’m in his blind spot. If he turns now, I’m squished. I wish I was five yards ahead… I wish could project myself there.” And just like that, Emily had her first Eureka Moment!
Emily knew the projection idea had potential: “As soon as I had the idea, I knew it was special. I certainly knew there was a big problem, and as a solution projecting an image into blindspots was kind of whacky, but also very simple. I patented the idea during my studies and within two days of my final year exhibition, it was on every cycling blog in the UK and in the Sydney Morning Herald by the end of the week!”
Eureka Moment number two
A little while later Emily’s bike was stolen, and her reaction surprised her: “It was the bike I bought to do the charity ride, and it irrationally broke my heart.”
After an exhausting trip to the police station, Emily was checking her emails at home when she came across news of a cyclist that had been killed by a bus turning across his path. “This was the exact problem my product was designed to tackle. I knew from how upset I was that Blaze was something I had to do. I vowed to commit all of my time to making it a reality. That was my second Eureka Moment.”
Emily faced a lot of challenges along the way. “Manufacturing hardware is very difficult. There are so many moving parts, each dependent on the one before. You are constantly problem solving, and when those problems are thousands of miles away in China, it’s tough.”
Light at the end of the tunnel
But after a lot of hard work, dedication and problem solving, the Laserlight was born. It’s a bike light that projects a lasered image of a bike about 5 – 6 metres ahead of the cyclist warning them that the cyclist is there.
As well as the safety aspect, Emily wanted it to be the ultimate bike light in terms of design and performance: ‘It’s rechargeable, USB compatible and 100% waterproof. Plus, the large buttons allow it to be used with thick winter gloves.”
The Laserlight has been available for about a month now, and orders have been placed from around the world. “The response has been really humbling,” explained Emily. “I think we’ve really surprised people. There have been inevitable imperfections, which I can’t help focusing on – namely the tolerance of the bracket. But we responded immediately, and everyone who has already received a light is now getting a new reworked bracket.”
We asked Emily if she had any advice from other would-be startups: “I have never done this before. I’ve never grown a team, built a brand, manufactured a product, dealt with press, raised money, marketed a product or sorted distribution. BUT… you learn, and the ride can be fun!”
We admire Emily’s dedication to a cause she’s so passionate about, and how she’s managed to design a product to solve such a big problem for urban cyclists. We think Emily could be a bit of a product-design trailblazer in future (sorry, we couldn’t resist), so we’ll be keeping a close eye on Blaze for their next big thing!
How wonderful to hear a story of passion and determination borne out of a desire to make cycling safer. I am sure Emily she will go on to make a huge difference to many lives, maybe even developing more safety products and she deserves huge support and success.
This is an awesome idea and kudos to you for making it a reality.
This story reminds that inventions are are created to solve problems.
Exciting to see an idea go from concept to reality! That creative spark that lies within is one of the wonders of the world!
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