Published on February 27th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Blingsting’s Andi Atteberry On Creating A “Cute, Smart, Safe” Collection Of Safety Products
Andrea “Andi” Atteberry was home for the holidays and sitting in the kitchen with her mother Kathleen when her father Ray came home with a gift that his wife and daughter were not expecting to receive: two black pepper spray canisters he had purchased from the local car wash. Upon receipt of her gift, Andi’s mother commented, “If it were pink and sparkly, maybe we would carry it.” Kathleen had inadvertently helped conceptualize Blingsting, a tangible line of personal safety items.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Blingsting is essentially redefining and recreating the personal safety product category. The company’s position is that personal safety doesn’t have to be boring or masculine. In turn, Blingsting has found the perfect marriage between fashion and function. While the plastic case may be covered in rhinestones or come in an eye-catching color, the pepper spray inside is the same pepper spray one would find in a traditional canister at local pharmacy or all-purpose retailer.
Blingsting has come a long way since its 2013 launch with just a pepper spray on the market. Now the company offers personal alarms, emergency hammers, first-aid kits and more. I had the opportunity to do Q&A with Andi Atteberry about Blingsting, whose mission is “to enable women to feel more empowered in situations where they would otherwise feel scared or vulnerable.” More on the growing company can be found online at www.blingsting.com.
What came first: the brand name or the concept?
Andi Atteberry: Both at the same time really. I was home from ASU visiting my parents during the holidays, and my dad walked in from the local car wash with two ugly, masculine pepper sprays for my mom and I. Like most dads, he was notorious for bringing safety gadgets home for us but we always kind of rolled our eyes because we knew it wouldn’t be long until we had misplaced them or they would end up in the junk drawer.
My mom jokingly said that night, “I bet if we made pepper spray pink and sparkly, more women would actually want to carry it.” My dad got quiet for a second and then shouted out “BLINGSTING!” It was the name that made me think it could work. The product idea seemed like a no-brainer, and the name made me smile. We joked about the business idea as a famiy for years, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that we decided to put some investment into getting a few thousand units made, and the idea became a business very quickly.
Did you always know that your items would be colored pink?
Andi Atteberry: Yes! And today pink is still a top-seller. It’s funny because it’s not my favorite color by any means but my Mom is a pink girl. I’ve always designed the products to fit a girly-girls taste but as the brand evolves we are adding more and more designs and colors for all types of tastes. We use what’s trending in accessories like glitter and rock studs.
We recently launched a pepper spray wrapped in faux gold metallic cowhide. It’s just fun to play with different looks and colors and see what works. Right now, our rose gold collection is selling really well. It’s all about getting this very powerful, very serious device in the hands of the girls who need it. We know that if a girl loves her pepper spray because it’s covered in sparkles or even faux cowhide, she’s going to be much more likely to have it on her. And having it on you and accessible is the only thing that matters when it comes down to it.
Which Blingsting item was conceptualized first?
Andi Atteberry: We started with a collection of rhinestone pepper sprays, which took off instantly. It’s funny because we launched the brand at a time when rhinestones were the thing! Many of our customers still love the rhinestone styles. I then realized I wanted to launch a positive, simple safety product that a younger girl could carry, so I drew out a concept for a heart-shaped personal alarm which is now top-seller. It wasn’t long before we started to understand that while some women won’t want a pepper spray for whatever reason, the alarm still provides a solid alternative with no carrying or sales restrictions… and that thing is so loud!
We then launched our emergency escape hammers, a super-cute rose gold first aid clutch, and this very sparkly — but very powerful — stun gun. It’s been a lot fun building out the portfolio of products over the last six or so years and there is so much more to come!
Do you have a favorite of the Blingsting items available?
Andi Atteberry: They are all my “babies” per se, and I can’t choose a favorite! But I have the rose-gold pepper spray on my purse right now. I have our new faux cowhide pepper spray on my laptop bag and our pink heart alarm on my dog leash! I switch them out all the time. I also really love our emergency escape hammer for the car, which we call the GLAMMER. Every person needs a tool in their car to cut a seatbelt and break a window in case of an accident. This product does both of those things very easily, but comes in these gorgeous shades of metallic finishes like teal, hot pink and purple.
The whole idea behind this line is how could you afford to NOT have one of these items? I also love our STUNNING GUN, which is our over-the-top sparkly stun gun. It’s a very high-quality device that will absolutely do the trick to protect and stun if needed. I have never had to use it and hope I never have to. I know our customers feel the same way about our products. But you can’t be caught unprepared.
Are more products currently in development? What’s coming up for Blingsting in 2019?
Andi Atteberry: Yes, we are always working on new products and designs; because we are both a serious personal safety company but also a product design company, it’s important we take risks and try new things. No other brand has taken over the re-design of the self-defense category like we have. Good or bad, we are now seeing copycats all over the place. And while some of my designs make the final cut and make it to market, some don’t.
Because our pepper spray and personal alarms are so popular, we will always find new ways to push out new looks to keep it interesting. We are getting ready to launch a new style of personal alarm on Amazon in the coming weeks — and I can’t wait to show it! We are constantly brainstorming about what to make to round out this whole “cute, smart, safe” collection and it will continue to include both personal safety devices but also products that make living your best life even easier. If it’s practical, but forgettable, there is a chance we will put our own spin on it.
When not busy with Blingsting, how do you like to spend your free time?
Andi Atteberry: I love anything outside, hanging with my dog Baxter, yoga. I love reading about other start-ups and entrepreneurs; how they pushed through to success and maybe more importantly how they pushed through failure. Even when I’m not at work I am thinking about how to evolve the brand so that we increase awareness, grow with our customers, and keep up with the changing dynamics of retail. As challenging as it is to create a concept from nothing, it still feels like we are at the very beginning of the story. We are six years in and there is still so much more to do and create, and so many more women to reach who don’t even know our line is an option yet.
As a music-centric publication, I feel compelled to ask: What was the last concert you attended for fun?
Andi Atteberry: I went on a live music road trip through Texas and saw Willie and Lukas Nelson on New Year’s Eve in Austin. It was so fun! It was a little magical to see Willie for the first time in person and his son Lukas is quite handsome.
Finally, Andi, any last words for the kids?
Andi Atteberry: Yes, go to www.blingsting.com and use code HYPE for 15% off your order! Otherwise, I guess when people ask me for advice on how to start their own company, I always stay start where you are right now. If you work for someone else, take on ownership of that job as if it’s your own company right now. If you are waiting tables to make ends meet, you should be waiting tables like it’s your dream job. Show up on time every time, be honest, keep your word, and work.
I was able to start Blingsting because I worked my heart out in my previous life as a sales rep. My bosses were an ocean away in Australia, but I ran my sales territory like they were standing over my shoulder all day every day. While I wasn’t the best sales rep by any means, I was recognized for my commitment and my effort and was able to advance to a place where I could launch my own idea. I think everyone needs to start where they are. Build the character, get really good at failing, and learn how to hustle first before trying to become a CEO or millionaire overnight!
So many of us who have done it know from experience that it doesn’t work that way. You may read articles or see TV shows that depict overnight millionaires but there is so much more that goes into running a business that isn’t sexy or gets the TV time. There is real blood, sweat, and tears that no one likes to talk about. It’s hard. It eats up years of your life. Those years can be full of self-doubt, little money, and a whole lot of uncertainty. But to keep going is all you can ever do.