Propelled by $20,000 she won in pitch competitions, a 21-year-old Florida Southern College athlete is on track to market a device designed to make runners feel more secure by alerting them when someone or something is approaching from behind.
Brooke Lierman, an FSC lacrosse player and a member of the Catapult startup incubator in downtown Lakeland, developed OverTheShoulder, which uses smart sensors to alert runners to danger; they can then push a button clipped to their clothing to alert their contacts of the emergency and their location.
“My true goal is to revolutionize the running experience for women and give them freedom from fear,” Lierman said.
The device connects via Bluetooth to the runner’s headphones and an app that stores the runner’s contacts and can send them alerts.
“Most importantly, within the app, you can put what terrain you are on…This will allow the device to know what it needs to look for: people, cars, bikes, animals. The device will then sense these threats from up to 30 yards away and pause the runner’s music, tell them what’s behind them, how far away it is, and then continue to play the runner’s music,” Lierman explained.
“Finally, [if] a “threat” is detected, there is a flashing red light that will continue to flash brighter as the “threat” approaches in order to notify them that they have been detected.”
The camera on the device will also record a video of the threat, Lierman said.
Originally from St. Louis, she said she got the idea while running back home before she headed off to college.
“During Covid, I was running every day just to get out of the house. One of these days, I was running and a car drove past me and scared the crap out of me because I couldn’t hear it coming. I got so mad and frustrated that my runs were constantly getting ruined from me being startled or tripping over things… After this incident, I ran the rest of my way home and wondered why is there nothing that just told me what is behind me while I run,” she recalled.
Lierman decided to respond to that unanswered question during her first year at FSC, where she took a business course and was assigned the project of creating a business. With the encouragement of her teammates, she went on to convert the class project into OverTheShoulder LLC last January.
“This device is needed because there is nothing in the market that does anything like it. In the market, there are so many safety devices that will deter an attacker once someone is already being harassed or attacked. However, the goal of this device is to be preventive instead of reactive. We want to keep people from ever being attacked in the first place,” Lierman said.
Lierman said she applied for a patent, and is in the final stage of product development. After her third prototype is finished being created, she hopes to manufacture and sell her device to consumers. The price will be $149.99, she said. She doesn’t have a set date for when it’ll be for sale but is working towards bringing it to the marketplace by 2024.
“I think building this company has been one of the hardest but most amazing journeys that I have ever been on. I truly love building it and the process. I have had a lot of successful milestones in the last year,” Lierman said.
Through her participation in FSC’s entrepreneurship program, she received a membership to Catapult Lakeland, a co-working space and small business incubator, and assistance with applying for funding, including winning a grant from the Florida Venture Forum in October.
“Winning the $5,000 grant felt surreal. It’s crazy to have the realization that other people truly believe in your mission and what you are doing. In order to win the grant, I had to make a three-minute pitch in front of a room full of people and judges and then answer two minutes of questions. I was very nervous,” Lierman said, adding that she has earned more than $20,000 from pitch competitions.
Florida Southern College’s Center of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship started in 2021. Its director, Justin Heacock, said the program has since produced 50 startups, OverTheShoulder being one of them.