Assault Victim Launches Self-Defense Product Line
And Turqouya “Tee” Williams knows what it feels like to be a victim of such a crime: in 2014, while exiting her vehicle after work on Bloomington Ave., she was attacked by two men.
In April of this year, driven by her 2014 experience and the sudden death of her father this year, Williams launched Soul Sistas, a Minneapolis-based business that makes personal protection keychains containing tactical self-defense tools, self-defense sprays, and alarms.
“I felt motivated to start my business as a means to live out [my father’s belief in me] and to heal,” Williams says. “And in light of several safety concerns arising in our communities, I wanted to channel that frustration into something tangible and solution oriented.”
For every five keychains Soul Sistas sells, the company also gives one away for free to a Black woman who is escaping domestic violence.
Did you face additional challenges and/or advantages because of when you launched your business?
A | I think I’ve face both challenges and advantages in starting a business this year. One challenge I’ve faced is limited interaction with potential customers. First, I just love meeting new people and human interaction. Secondly, I typically provide a demonstration to ensure folks know how to best utilize it. I’ve had to cultivate new ways to showcase my products online. I think an advantage is we are moving to a more technology-based world, and my products are all shippable. I’ve had great success through my website sales.
According to reports, Minneapolis has seen an uptick in violent crimes this year when compared to 2019. Given that you sell self-defense products, do you believe that has had an impact on your business success?
A | Absolutely. You wouldn’t believe the stories that are shared during customer interactions, and I’ve sold about 500 keychains in 3 months. I’ve had far too many women share a story of sexual violence and assault. At the very least, many women share a time when they were nervous or scared walking to and from their cars. One customer shared that her family member was recently a victim of a carjacking. My personal experience occurred on Bloomington Avenue in 2014. I was attacked on the street by 2 men as I exited my vehicle after work. It’s sad and unfortunate that my product is needed. I always say that my hope is one never has to engage their safety keychain, but better to have one than need one.
What are your aspirations for Soul Sistas’ growth?
A | I hope to continue to expand across the US and beyond. I truly am grateful to be able to provide women with more confidence and protection. I am currently at Bread, a unique pop-up market inside Maplewood Mall every weekend from noon to 6 p.m. I hope one day to be at the Mall of America and potentially have a store of my own. I’d also love to continue to partner with domestic violence survivors and contribute to my community on a larger scale.
Why do you believe now is the right time to bring your product to market?
A | Right now, we have limited community resources and law enforcement. I don’t say this to scare anyone but want to inform our community to be prepared. We are facing a triple pandemic of social injustice, an economic downturn, and Covid-19. Many times, these things can create an environment of scarcity. The safety keychain is a nonlethal option to be better equipped to handle any situation that may arise. Be well and stay safe.