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Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 4 months ago

Bar rescue: Business student's product makes drinks safer for women

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Date rape could be a thing of the past, thanks to Alexsandra Wolfe's buzz-worthy product. Market distribution is the next goal.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Date rape has, sadly, become an all-too-common threat for young women. Drugs such as Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and Ketamine are easy to acquire and don’t alter the taste or appearance of alcoholic drinks and other beverages served in bars and clubs.

According to statistics compiled by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and the Association of American Universities, more than 35% of college-age women (ages 18-24) have been raped or sexually assaulted as a result of spiked drinks, and women are the victims of 90% of the 463,000 cases of sexual assault that are reported, on average, each year in the United States.

‘During my freshman year in college, within a week of starting here at UT, more than 10 of my friends got drugged on a single weekend. I knew [date rape] was a bad problem, but didn’t know how bad it actually was.’ Alexsandra Wolfe, Pure-Sipity

Drug-facilitated sexual assault is undoubtedly a pernicious problem, but it could soon have a solution thanks to Alexsandra Wolfe, a University of Tampa student majoring in entrepreneurship and marketing. Wolfe, scheduled to graduate in December, founded Pure-Sipity, a company that’s developing a fashionable, locket-style bracelet that doubles as a date-rape drug testing device.

“During my freshman year in college, within a week of starting here at UT, more than 10 of my friends got drugged on a single weekend,” says Wolfe, 22. “I kept seeing these texts from people saying, ‘Watch your drink; make sure you don’t put your drink down.’ I knew [date rape] was a bad problem, but didn’t know how bad it actually was.”

Wolfe, who competes on the UT equestrian team, had intended to major in pre-veterinary biology and pursue a career in animal care. But an assignment for an introductory entrepreneurship class, which required her to pitch an idea for a product or service, completely changed her career path. Now, thanks to wins at pitch competitions around the country, she’s been able to invest $25,000 into the development of Pure-Sipity bracelets and intends to make the company her full-time job after graduation. 

But as any entrepreneur can attest, you need much more than an inspired, problem-solving idea to succeed in business. Wolfe's next big challenge? Get the Pure-Sipity bracelets on the wrists of the hundreds of thousands of young women who’ll benefit from it. And that product development process, Wolfe has learned, can take much longer than anticipated.

“The thing that held us up the longest was creating the most functional product possible, because we want it to be easy,” she says. “We want it to be discreet and fashionable, but still usable.”

She adds, “So, there were a lot of factors that went into the product design and it took us a while to find a manufacturer that could create a quality piece of jewelry, but that was also in the price range for anyone to buy, from college students to parents. That process ended up probably taking us an extra six months that we did not expect.”

Courtesy. Pure-Sipity has been making prototype bracelets and plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the spring.

Wolfe has partnered with a pair of manufacturers, DrinkSafe and Insider Creations, to create prototypes of the bracelets, which she expects to retail for $30.99. (Test strip refill kits will be available for $12.99, she adds.) Mindful of stretching herself too thin while still in school, she has also hired a COO, Amanda Basco, and over the summer gathered a team of interns to help create content for the company website and Kickstarter campaign, which will launch in the spring.

“It’s a small team, but but our interns have helped us a lot until we're ready to bring on other employees,” says Wolfe, adding she’s also benefited from the support of Kevin Moore, an assistant professor of management in UT’s John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center. “He’s taught me the ins and outs of business and has been my main support system.”

Pure-Sipity will face competition from NightCap, a hair scrunchie that doubles as a secure lid for drinks and, coincidentally, was not only invented by Floridians, but run partially by a fellow UT student. West Palm Beach high school student Shirah Benarde and her older brother, Michael Benarde, a Florida State University graduate, created and marketed NightCap. Shirah Benarde was an 18-year-old UT student in early 2021, when the pair pitched the product on the TV show “Shark Tank.”

Wolfe, however, isn’t too concerned about competitors. She says Pure-Sipity’s value proposition goes above and beyond NightCap’s in that the product solves the problem of pre-drugged beverages. She’s heard stories about Tampa bartenders who allegedly accept bribes in return for serving spiked drinks.

“It's drugged by the time it even gets to you,” Wolfe says. “So, the prevention side of it is good, but at the same time, it’s a lot better if you can test your drink because it can happen at any time.”

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