Guardian Locket, a Cove Share startup lead by undergraduate Crystal Sanchez, seeks to reduce the rate of sexual assault in America by providing a discreet and easy to access device to notify authorities of the situation before it escalates. During Crystal's high school years, she learned about alarming statistics around sexual assault including one stating that it affects a person every two minutes. These figures, in addition to learning about people who have been affected by sexual assault during their time in college, motivated Crystal to address this problem.
What began as a high school economics project eventually grew into competitions where Crystal shared Guardian Locket with a larger audience — and started to win. When asked about her experience with building awareness early on, Crystal shared, "the press came, and that motivated me to take it further. We are so blessed to have received coverage early on from organizations such as EY (Ernst & Young) and features on news stations and newspapers." Public reception grew further once Guardian Locket's social media outlets went live and messages began to pour in asking when the product would be available. Interest in Guardian Locket even included people reaching out to Crystal's mother directly for more information. The fervor from the community for this kind of product gave Crystal a realization. She shared, "It was emotional for me to realize that so many people needed a product like this. I realized that my product offered a sense of strength that pepper spray and other products did not offer."
Though she did not know anyone with a background in business when she started Guardian Locket, Crystal understood the entrepreneur's need to adapt and be resourceful. She built meaningful connections with people and organizations that would lead to press and other opportunities. When asked about organizations she has worked with thus far, Crystal shared, "I have been fortunate enough to work with organizations that have offered beneficial resources to me such as the Cove, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and the Blackstone Launchpad. They all have been tremendously helpful, and I am very thankful for their support."
As a UCI undergraduate, the Anteater connection has been prevalent with Guardian Locket and Crystal. Since the day Carolyn Stephens, Director and Chief of Staff for Applied Innovation, gave Crystal a tour of the facility, Crystal realized that everyone at the Cove was there to help and support her startup. Even before Guardian Locket became a Cove Share startup, Richard Sudek, Executive Director of Applied Innovation, connected Crystal to Kirsten Mangers, CEO of ChickLabs LLC, while preparing for the TCU Values and Ventures competition.
Providing context for the connection with ChickLabs, Crystal explained, "Richard thought it would be a great idea to have us connect so I could understand what it was like to pitch from an insider's point of view. Kirsten has built a career on pitching successfully. Also, her specialty involves accelerating and working with early stage startups. She was able to help me with refining my pitch and business plan to have a more thought out and professional presentation." Recalling on her experience working with Kirsten thus far, Crystal highlighted "Kirsten has been a huge supporter and mentor and has been so helpful in my endeavors."
Throughout Crystal's experience building Guardian Locket, she has learned that meaningful connections are crucial in the startup world and beyond. She encourages undergraduates looking to pursue their startup to reach out to people they can learn from and take a chance--the result could be a rewarding experience for both parties. Even if undergraduates are not involved with a specific startup company, Crystal believes they will come out of their entrepreneurial journey with a network of incredible people who are ready to help. She shared the following perspective on working with people from the Cove, "This is what I love about the Cove; everyone is so ready to help, to share, and to offer their insights and opinions. It creates a great ecosystem that people from UCI and the OC area are open to."
Looking forward to the future of Guardian Locket, Crystal shared, "In the coming years, I hope to have launched an IndieGoGo or Kickstarter and have a product available. With that goal in mind, I also hope to have a line of jewelry that offers a variety of wearables, so people do not have to sacrifice style for safety. Over time, the product has evolved and as a person, I have evolved with it so I could form it into a business that could positively affect people. My wish is that the Guardian Locket does its part in helping to keep the world and its people safe. I am extremely thankful for everyone who has supported my startup and its journey."
Hai contributes to the Cove as a content writer for both the Currents newsletter and blog. As an alumnus of UCI with a degree in English and a co-founder of a local creative agency, Hai's focus is centered on spotlighting events, stories, and startups within the Orange County community. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and has participated in fast-pitch competitions through the UCI Antrepreneur Center and has co-organized local business and startup groups such as 1 Million Cups and Orange County Young Entrepreneurs.