Girl Develop It and ROAR for Good
Fueled by a passion to empower women in all areas of life, Yasmine founded the Philadelphia chapter of Girl Develop It while running her first software company which was acquired in late 2011. She is currently the CEO of ROAR for Good (useROAR.com), a social impact company aimed at decreasing the incidents of assault against women with fashionable safety accessories and educational programs. In addition, Yasmine serves on the advisory board of TechGirlz, an organization focused on encouraging middle-school girls to pursue careers in technology and CodedbyKids, a non-profit providing free tech education programs to disadvantaged inner city youth.
We asked Yasmine a few questions to learn more about her background and company. Below are her answers.
Hobbies: biking, reading fiction novels, playing Ruzzle (mobile word game).
Favorite Food: Greek food is my favorite and any of it!
Hometown: Kuwait City, Kuwait
Temple Degree: Entrepreneurship degree from the Fox School of Business, 2006
Business Stage: We’re early with ROAR. We have a functional prototype of the safety wearable we’re building and we’re currently designing how it’ll be activated and what it’ll look like (it’s a fashionable accessory that can be triggered in case of an emergency. It has the option to launch a bright light and a loud alarm to disorient an attacker or a silent mode. Either way it’ll text message friends/family and call the authorities. Our safety app will be piloted next month. This integrates with the accessory and empowers users to be more aware of their environment. We’re going to launch that and our crowdfunding campaign early 2015.
As far as Girl Develop It, it’s 3 years old and currently the largest tech group in Philadelphia according to Meetup.com. Our goal is to provide powerful hands-on programs to women (18 and up) to teach them how to code and be more technically proficient, whether it’s building websites, mobile apps, games, or taking design and career development classes.
Personal Statement: When I don’t see a solution to a problem I have, I build it or try my best to inspire someone to. That’s how I started 123LinkIt, Girl Develop It, ROAR for Good and other groups, events, etc. In short, I’m a doer and why I’ll always be an entrepreneur. It’s satisfying to make things happen and build something out of nothing, especially when it inspires others or makes a difference in their lives.
Financial Information: I am not a millionaire. That seems like a good bragging point and I would share if I had something to boast about.
What lessons have you learned?
Sooo many and I’m constantly learning. The biggest one is that you can’t nor should you do it all. Build a team, delegate, and focus on what you’re good at and working ON the business then IN the business. Also to focus! I still have to remind myself of this because I get excited by the “shiny objects” and deviate from moving ahead on initiatives.
What inspired you to start your own company?
With my current venture, ROAR for Good, the idea came from a sequence of events. First traveling alone for 6 months last year and encountering woman after woman who had been assaulted in some way. A week after I returned, a woman was raped a block from my apartment. She went out to feed her meter and a guy grabbed her from behind, punched her, dragged her to an alley and sexually assaulted her. I was inspired to create something that uses my background and technology to make women safer. Then I dug into how to eliminate it so the onus isn’t on women to protect themselves and I discovered education is what will make a difference. So the end result is a social impact company that produces safety products to fund violence prevention programs to teach boys to respect women.
We believe we can truly make a difference in ending violence against women. We’re the only ones that aren’t putting a band-aid on the problem by simply devising safety tools. Instead we’re building products as short-term solutions with the long-term goal of changing society so women don’t need to protect themselves in the first place. It’s going to change the world.
Who is your mentor / idol and why?
When I was growing up, Allen Iverson was my idol. I was a tomboy in high school and I wore his gear, watched his games and tried to emulate his crossover. I admired how he rose from very humble beginnings to get to where he is. I gravitate towards people that are either underdogs or overcome adversities. Currently, I would say strong women leaders like Malala Yousafzai, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and Marissa Mayer to name a few. There aren’t many and I respect those who step up and utilize their position to amplify causes that can make a difference with those who are not as privileged.
What has been your greatest challenge?
With my first company, it was building a tech company without having technical knowledge. I changed that by starting Girl Develop It Philly. With ROAR, I would say funding. I bootstrapped my first startup and I’m currently in the process of raising money and it’s unfamiliar territory. As with everything, it’s breaking it down to find out what’s required, asking for help from those who have done it before and making it happen.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
I actually wrote about this here.