Frank Rosello can trace his Plano company to a few words scrawled in Sharpie on a rear-view mirror.
“Don’t text and drive,” it read.
Rosello’s friend and business partner, Paul Marcus, saw the message when another friend gave him a ride in his teenager’s car.
“When he saw that, his initial reaction was ‘wow, that’s really responsible of him as a father to put that message on his daughter’s rear-view mirror to remind her to not engage in that behavior and to be safe while driving,’” Rosello said.
But, the writing itself could be a distraction.
That’s what led Marcus and Rosello to come up with reflectionband, a sillicon rubber band inscribed with messaging that stretches around the rear-view mirror of any car make, model, or year.
It can offer a visual text reminder, without disrupting the line of sight out of the car mirror.
“Whatever financial success we attain or have attained today — it was a greater calling than that; it’s more than that for us.”
In 2014, the pair brought their product to life from a paper sketch in nine months. Rosello invested 90 percent of the startup costs.
It wasn’t his first entrepreneurial venture. Years earlier, Rosello, who spent 28 years in financial services, founded the health-care technology company, Environmental Intelligence.
Reflection Band became profitable during the first quarter of 2016 when it recouped Rosello’s startup costs, which exceeded $350,000, he said.
“Whatever financial success we attain or have attained today — it was a greater calling than that; it’s more than that for us,” Rosello said.
TRAFFIC SAFETY FIRST
That calling was playing — whatever part they could — in deterring drivers from being distracted by their phones behind the wheel. That’s why they targeted the traffic safety industry first.
Distracted driving is any activity that takes drivers’ eyes off the road. On average, texting can divert a driver’s attention for five seconds, which, at 55 mph, is the time it takes to travel the length of a football field, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In 2014, 3,179 people were killed in vehicle crashes involving distracted driving, according to the NHTSA. For teen drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes, 10 percent said they were distracted during the time of the accident.
In Texas, distracted driving is responsible for more than 100,000 crashes each year, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
New Mexico Department of Transportation signed on as Reflection Band’s initial client in 2014. Now, the company has done work for about 15 transportation and highway safety departments across the country. Insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofits have also used the product.
“What do people do when they don’t want to forget something? They write it down. They create for themselves a visual reminder.”
For Dallas-based AT&T Inc., Reflection Band developed a custom-branded product to complement its “It Can Wait” campaign. AT&T gave out the bands during the 2015 legislative session when lawmakers discussed a proposed statewide ban on texting while driving.
The texting ban is getting renewed interest. For the fourth consecutive session, lawmakers are considering the issue, according to KERA. On Monday, the Senate Committee on State Affairs approved a bill that would outlaw texting while driving in Texas.
For naysayers that question Reflection Band’s effectiveness, Rosello points to Post-it note reminders, white boards, or electronic reader boards that scroll traffic safety information on highways across Texas.
“What do people do when they don’t want to forget something? They write it down. They create for themselves a visual reminder,” Rosello said.
EXPANDING TO OTHER MARKETS
Since its 2014 launch, Rosello said the company has sold more than 180,000 reflectionbands.
This year, it’s poised to grow production by 300 percent, he said.
That boost is likely to come from its switchover from a mainly B2B business model to adding consumers in the mix.
In January, it opened its e-commerce store giving consumers access to purchase reflectionbands.
Its customer base can be broad, but Rosello has a particular audience in mind.
“We really want to target the parents of teen drivers because that segment of 15-24 is where the bulk of the fatalities and the crashes are occurring,” Rosello said.
Beyond traffic safety, Reflection Band is reaching into other markets.
It’s in talks with several health systems in the area and working on securing a licensing deal to produce products branded with local professional sports teams and major universities.
“We really see that the entry into licensed merchandise will solidify us as a legitimate player and will really put Reflection Band on the map,” Rosello said.
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