Monday, September 3, 2012

Spotlight on Mommy -- Johanna Denize of Safees


With kids heading back to school, my next Spotlight Mom created a great product that can be used by children who bike to school in the early AM or return after sports practice when it begins to get dark.  In addition, those who like to take a stroll with the baby, jog or participate in other outdoor activities were you may be outside when it is dark, will also benefit from this amazing product.  Johanna Denize has created a line of reflectors which can be worn on the body, strapped to a stroller, pet, etc. and used to make you more visible to traffic.  

I have been using the sample she sent me when I take the girls for a walk in the evenings.  Before having a reflector visible on the stroller, I would always hesitate taking them after dinner for a walk, as cars always speed up and down or street, even though it is marked "20 MPH."  Not only are these reflectors stylish and fun to use, the greatest benefit is being able to be seen by cars at a distance and up close.  I love it when mom entrepreneurs create products that are not only fun to use, but help keep families safe.  And, Johanna Denize has done just that with her Safees reflectors.  

Below is a quick video demonstrating her reflectors in detail:


So, what are you waiting for?  Head on over to the Safees website and order reflectors for every member of your family.  And, don't forget to head back here on Friday, when I will share more about Johanna's product line and offer one lucky reader a chance to win 5 Safees for them to use with their family and share with friends, as well as a 15% coupon code for you to use and save at checkout.

But, in the meantime, please enjoy my Spotlight on Mom interview with Johanna Denize of Safees.

Name: Johanna Denize
Company Name/Product/Service: Safees:Safees are children’s (and adults’) traffic safety reflectors that are attached to your clothing, reflecting light so that surrounding traffic can see you. Safees reflectors increase your visibility in the dark by up to 500%.
Company Location: San Francisco
Company Website:
Facebook URL:
Twitter Handle: @safeesrefelctor
Age of Company: 1 year
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: Just do it.
Favorite Books: Anything Jane Austen, Tolstoy, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

My husband and I have one son, Tom, who is 2.5. He is funny, caring, cute and a very, very active. My husband too:). We are originally from Sweden, but got a chance to move to the US about 5 years ago and we are so happy to live here, we love it! Our son was born in San Francisco. We love traveling and we have driven across the US three times and seen about 30 states. So we still have some states left:) We kind of know now which our favorite states are and we have tried all kinds of food and met some incredible, fun and sweet people.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?
When I had Tom a few years ago I had some problems,  I had Preeclampsia and I ballooned! I was pretty big especially since I was on bed rest for the last few months of the pregnancy. After he was born I decided to walk it off, but in San Francisco traffic is crazy and cars simply wouldn’t stop at crossings and I was frankly scared to push the stroller ahead of me.

Growing up in Sweden, where it is almost dark for a long parts of the year and gets dark early afternoon in the winter, I always wore pedestrian safety reflectors to alert cars to my presence on the street. Almost all kids wore them and still do. So I tried to find quality reflectors to attach to my son’s stroller and myself in the US but I couldn’t find any. Not all reflectors are equally good, and not all reflect light well enough to be seen: the best ones are hard prism reflectors.  Not finding any reflectors that live up to the high quality found in Scandinavian hard prism reflectors, Safees was born. I initially did lots of research on traffic safety, what works, what doesn't and I checked out tons of manufacturers and compared reflectors finally deciding on the manufacturer that actually invented pedestrian safety reflectors and who really know their stuff.

Honestly, I am on a  mission to increase traffic Safety for children in the US and reduce traffic accidents and fatalities. Something as simple as wearing a reflector will de facto reduce your risk of being hit by a car and potentially being injured for life or even killed. It is such an easy precaution and if just one kid can be saved, it is worth it.

What is a typical work day like?
I found that since having our son, I am so much more focused and I work faster and focus on the important stuff, because I want to be able to not think about work when I am with my son, I work fast to be able to have free time (even though the concepts of launching your own business and free time really don’t mesh - I am always thinking of ways to improve aspects of the business). A typical day is spent in front of the computer, and time goes so fast I hardly even get up. I answer tons of emails from bloggers and media interest in testing Safees. I talk to buyers interested in selling Safees in their stores and then I talk to the manufacturer to see how fast we can get orders processed. We are currently redesigning the packaging of Safees, so that takes a lot of time going back and forth with the designer, making sure the packaging looks good but also that all the labelings are correct, adhere to current regulations etc. I also talk to our accountant, fix administration like insurance, book expos and I always check in on our website and store, FB and twitter to make sure no one needs a reply or some info from me. Basically, from the minute I start, till the minute I finish, there are things to do. It never ends, which is good, because that means we have customer and media interest!

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?
Time. Everything takes so much time. I like to work fast and get things executed the very minute I get an idea. Since we are starting we outsource a lot of things, and I have to find freelancers, hire extra staff etc and most people work normal hours at normal paces and I don’t... I want everything done superfast (and perfectly!) which most people don’t see the need for and I guess they are saner for it. But, everyone I meet who runs their own business are kind of crazed and stressed, I guess that is why we thrive off being entrepreneurs!

What did you do in your past work life?
Safees is actually the fourth  business I started, most of the others were together with my husband, I love coming up with ideas and executing them. I currently also have the Clever Travel Companion, which my sister manages. But, before that I was a writer/researcher and I wrote business plans for Venture Capitalists and managed start up projects for them.

What have been some of your major successes?
So far I think Safees is. It is the company I am most passionate about because Safees is a product that has a higher purpose. I am not trying to simply sell something ‘cute’ or ‘fun’. Safees can help save lives AND be fun. I believe so very passionately in Safees and what Safees can help accomplish in terms of traffic safety in North America and I am so extremely excited about Safees future.

What have been some of your major challenges?
Starting a business is extremely stressful. Extremely. And everything is up to you. You must get it done. you must make it work and you must get every detail done and think of everything. No one will do it for you.  in normal jobs people do what they do best and there are positions for everything, but starting up the entrepreneur is everything: designer, marketer, PR person,  salesperson, legal, IT, etc.

You must find the money and get the deals done so you can pay people who work with you. That is stressful. It is just not possible to take sick days and ignore work for a few days because there is no one else to do it. So trying to not stress too much, trying to find something resembling a balance is difficult.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
My son! Always! I want him to have a great life, a good education, safety and security so I have to provide that.

Sometimes chocolate chip cookies help, too.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
I haven’t found it. Basically I  see what needs to get done, both work wise and familywise and I do it. Once it is complete I can relax. So basically i never relax:). Seriously, when I am with my son, or when my husband is with our son we decided that we will not work. So no computer or phone. I actually downgraded from a smartphone to a phone that only works for talking. That way I don’t bring emails with me to the park!

What is next for your business?
We will be attending the ABC Kids Expo in Kentucky October 14-17. We are really looking forward to it, we have meetings lined up with several buyers and media and we view it as a larger launch for Safees and our mission to promote traffic safety in the US.

Our goal is to make Safees available everywhere families go, so Safety is available at an affordable price everywhere.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
Yes, just do it. No more planning, talking or thinking about it. Just do it! Don’t put it off or think you will do it whenever this or that is lined up. Start working and believe you can do it, because you definitely can. And if you think there is stuff you do not know, don’t worry. There is so much help and information available online, just email and ask, or hire a freelancer to help you. Nothing is too difficult, all it takes is work.


  1. I love these profiles of female entrepreneurs! Very inspiring. This one in particular is great because of the product as well, my neighborhood has no streetlights so something like Safees would be great for the kids around us on Halloween.

  2. I love the product,she's putting out their.She's right about Mom's,being out their and when it gets dark it's hard to see them on the side walk,especially now that the time will change soon and it will get dark sooner.