William and Raymond Cooper began work on a life-saving app in 2014 designed to prevent kids and pets from becoming trapped and losing their lives in hot or freezing cars. From the app, the brothers were inspired to launch a non-profit, Child & Pet Safe, Inc., to provide pet supplies, baby car seats, monitors and other safety products to those who can't afford them. William shared the story behind their journey and stressed that, despite plenty of setbacks and a challenging road ahead, he and Raymond are determined to help those in need and save as many lives as possible.
"Prior to launching Child & Pet Safe, I worked as a machinist for AO Precision in Daytona Beach," William said. "I was part of a team that made machine guns for the DOD and law enforcement. Growing up, I always wanted to join the Marines and follow in the footsteps of most of my family. Unfortunately, because I'm flat-footed I wasn't able to join. To me, building high quality weapons was the next best thing I could do for my country."
After three and a half years with AO Precision, William suffered a significant off-the-job injury. He fell down a flight of stairs and sustained neck, back, hip and shoulder injuries. These injuries, along with chronic infections from a hernia mesh implant, forced William to have to leave AO Precision. As unfortunate as his situation was, William, along with Raymond, now had more time to focus on the app and the non-profit side of Child and Pet Safe.
"Once launched, the app, which we started working on in 2014, will have multiple alarms to remind parents that kids and/or pets are present," William said. "When you get in your car, the app will ask who else is in the car with you. When you get to your destination, it will notice you stopped and then ask if your child or pet is still in the car. If you don't respond, there's a second prompt followed by a third prompt. The third prompt will go to family, friends and emergency personnel. They will then have your location through the GPS on your phone."
Since William and Raymond began working on the app in 2014, challenges have included public awareness and funding. They've had interest from local businesses including, car dealerships, restaurants and angel investors willing to act as sponsors, but they need additional funding to first complete work on the app. Perhaps some of that funding will come from donations the brothers receive towards the non-profit side of the business - an idea sparked in 2017.
"After a meeting with several SCORE mentors, where they encouraged us to move forward with the non-profit, we officially launched in March 2017," William said. "My brother and I both grew up poor and decided it was important for us to help our community by helping others. We reached out to major corporations that manufacture baby car seats, monitors, dog leashes, collars, pet safety products and child safety products and got them to donate stuff that we give to the community. We're providing poor families with the necessities. That's our main passion."
Since launching the app and the non-profit, William and Raymond have received plenty of press and exposure from local organizations and news outlets. William appeared on Channel 9 News with Sarahbeth Ackerman and he and Raymond have both spoken at 1 Million Cups Daytona Beach, the New Smyrna Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club of New Smyrna Beach. They also made flyers for the New Smyrna Beach Fire Department to distribute in their monthly newsletters. They were even mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article.
As proud supporters of the National Hot Cars Act, William and Raymond are optimistic about the future of Child and Pet Safe and their ability to save lives. "We're just trying as hard as possible to get the word out," William shared. "If we had the money we need to complete the app, we would have already saved 250 lives. We were supposed to meet with the Governor, but that's on hold because of COVID-19. Nevertheless, we're still focused on our future goal to help protect and save as many innocent children and pet 's lives as we possibly can."
What advice does William have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Have plenty of capital," he said. "Also, attend as many free webinars and seminars as possible. Reach out to local businesses to get someone to back you or sponsor you. Focus on brand awareness and getting exposure. To be honest, I'm looking for advice myself. It's not easy, but we're not giving up."