Entrepreneurship is sometimes glamorous, but most of the time it is not. Last January, 20-year-old David Price heard the news he was praying for. Walmart, the nation’s No. 1 retailer, had ordered 15,000 inventions from Price, the “safety pouch.”
Price’s wallet is a kind of high-visibility wallet for drivers to present their ID to police during traffic checks. Coming to market during the Black Lives Matter movement, the bright orange pouches were meant to demonstrate cooperation and reduce dangerous, sometimes deadly, misunderstandings.
When you’re stopped, “it’s easy to remove it from the sun visor, clip it to the window, and keep your hands in sight,” Price explained in a 2020 interview.
“I don’t necessarily think of it as a solution to police brutality,” he said in a recent interview, “I think of it as an additional aid to compliance.”
Good news, bad news
At first, Price said, fate seemed to be against him in closing the deal with Walmart. He was scheduled to introduce the product to the largest of the big box stores via Zoom on August 30, 2021, which happened to be the day after Hurricane Ida. As a result of the storm, there was no power to his East New Orleans home and no internet service.
Then, he said, “just five minutes before the meeting, I had a hot spot connection.”
The stunning Walmart purchase that resulted from the meeting was good news, bad news. The big company had certainly validated Price’s concept and thus made his business much more viable. But Price had to make do.
He didn’t happen to have 15,000 bags lying around. So first he had to contact his manufacturer in China to get some made and shipped faster. Price said he had enough money — $80,000 — to prepay for the product. But thanks to the war in Ukraine and other factors, the cost of the expedition went from $15,000 to $45,000, and he hadn’t budgeted extra.
Luckily for Price, family members quickly stepped up to cover the bloated cargo. The family again came to her rescue when the sachets arrived on April 27. The product had to be packaged and delivered to Walmart by May 1, which was not easy. Price said her parents, siblings and cousins suffered long nights and occasional paper cuts as they folded and assembled the 15,000 cartons that would hold the pouches on store shelves.
And Price had to do all of that in exams at Loyola University where he was then a junior, majoring in political science.
“It’s very easy to get overwhelmed,” he says.
A conversation starter
Loyola is where the Safety Pouch project first began. In her Fall 2019 Introduction to Entrepreneurship course, Professor Kate Yoo McCrery challenged students to imagine a product that could somehow drive societal change. Price’s security pouch was one of the results. Price said he’s ruminated on the dangers young people, especially black ones, face at traffic stops since he was 16, when his parents taught him the necessary caution when communicating with the police. police.
From the start, Price’s security pouch wasn’t just practical, it was a symbol of the times. In a way, this doesn’t just fix a potential problem, it signals that a problem exists. Price said he was contacted by a few customers who deployed the pouch during a traffic stop.
“Overall,” he said, “the most common response was that it was a conversation starter. It was an opportunity for both parties (the motorist and the police officer) to build a relationship in the moment.
He said he has yet to receive a negative review from anyone who has used the device.
From the start, Price’s invention brought him a touch of celebrity. Price was a guest on “The Real,” a television talk show, as well as the Kelly Clarkson show, where he received $2,500 in seed money. Price compiled video clips of his TV spots and celebrity endorsements on Safety Pouch’s Facebook page.
Price said even before Walmart’s windfall, he had “made some progress” with sales through his website and Amazon.com. He estimated that he had already sold something like 24,000 sleeves at $20 each. Which is fine. But Walmart’s deal to stock Price’s clutches in the auto departments of 400 stores could boost sales.
Price said reaching this business milestone felt “surreal”.
“I never imagined anyone would take me seriously,” he said, “to believe we could turn this small bedroom operation into a full-scale business.”
Despite its success, life hasn’t changed all that much for Price since the project began. He still lives at home and is mostly focused on finishing his studies, he said. He didn’t buy himself a new car or anything like that; he just reinvests Safety Pouch’s profits back into the business and bides his time while he tries to dream up new inventions.
Ironically, he says, the pouches aren’t yet available at Walmarts in New Orleans where the project began, though you can get them in Gonzales and New Iberia in Louisiana, and Gulfport, Mississippi. Price said he traveled to Gulfport to view his product in the store. He said he captured the moment in a TikTok video which has been viewed 2.1 million times. Which seems to bode well for future sales.
Neither Walmart nor the New Orleans Police Department returned messages seeking comment on this story.
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