Growing up in a single-parent home kindled Trevon Bruch’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“I became the ‘man of the house’ when I was about 12,” the 27-year-old Covington native said. “When you grow up in a single-parent home you are a lot more aware of things like being low-income, the way of the world and how hard your mom works for you.”
Bruch’s mom worked nightshift, leaving him with the responsibility to get himself and his younger brothers ready for school each morning.
“This actually allowed me take on leadership at an early age; has made me a better leader now and it taught me how to care for people,” Bruch said. “For example, there’s usually a lot more going on with someone than what you just see on the surface.”
That intuitive attention to detail led Bruch to an important discovery a few years ago, which lead him to co-found Safewave Technology. Safewave will soon be offering a vibration-based wristband that links to mainstream security systems and fire alarms.
“Some years ago, I was sleeping in my room and was suddenly awaken by a fire alarm,” Bruch said. “After checking my surroundings and realizing that there was no threat, I began to wonder: ‘What if I hadn’t heard the alarm and something had been seriously wrong?’”
That got him thinking about those who can’t hear. Bruch asked his friend and co-founder Jared Gabbard, to search for emergency alert devices for those who are deaf. Gabbard found nothing on the market. He did learn about several visual alert signals, yet those only worked if someone is awake.
There are more than 400 million people who have some type of hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That number is growing. The WHO estimates in 30 years, about 2.5 billion people will have some degree of hearing loss.
“That’s a lot of people we can be helping,” Bruch said. “There are lives we could save.”
That’s what struck Zac Strobl, assistant director of Northern Kentucky University’s (NKU) Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the most about the product idea – “its ability to potentially save lives.”
“The other thing that impressed me with the idea was the gap in the market,” Strobl said. “No one has come up with this concept, a wearable device for the hearing impaired to be alerted to emergencies. There are lots of ideas and inventions surrounding wristbands, but Trevon has invented a new way to use wristbands and address a market with a great need.”
According to Strobl, it can be rare to come up with and develop a concept that has been unexplored before, especially in today’s world where entrepreneurship has become mainstream.
“Entrepreneurship simply defined is problem solving,” Strobl said. “That’s what Trevon has done. An entrepreneur mindset also involves being able to overcome challenges and have a high level of tolerance for ambiguity. There are a lot of unknowns when creating a new product or service. You must be O.K. with risk.”
Bruch, according to Strobl, has that entrepreneur’s mindset.
“He’s a hustler,” Strobl said. “That’s a term we use to describe entrepreneurs who keep at it, who aren’t going to quit. Trevon has been through some ups and downs, but he pushes through. He’s a hard worker and very dedicated. It’s going to be cool if this all works out.”
Bruch hit the ground running with his idea and co-founded Safewave in 2019 and participated NKU’s INKUBATOR, a 12-week business accelerator that assists to bridge the gap between concept and business. Later that year, Bruch and Gabbard competed in Texas Christian University’s Values and Ventures Pitch Competition. Safewave was named the second-best pitch in the U.S. and became an official LLC shortly after.
In 2021, Bruch set aside his other ideas for business ventures to concentrate fully on Safewave. The company also competed in Mortar Covington’s pitch competition and won the People’s Choice Award and was selected for SoCap Accelerate, that connects health-related startups with social capital.
Next, Safewave faced the challenge of creating the wearable device. Bruch dove into fundraising mode to support the development and testing of the technology. In 2022, Safewave received a $35,000 investment on a $1.75 million valuation cap.
Bruch said the product is now close to being released. Pre-order sales became available to the public in August. There’s still lots of work to be done, however, and Bruch is on top of it. He’s been traveling to New York and Minnesota for the DeafNation Expo to promote Safewave. In addition, he has invested in targeted social media advertising. To build out its team, Safewave is also seeking $750,000 in fundraising.
“It’s exciting,” Bruch said. “I can’t wait to get the product to the people, but also, I appreciate, and I am enjoying this entire journey. One of the best things has been able to connect with other entrepreneurs and just other people in general. I’ve never done anything like this and no one in my family has. I’m the first one in my family to go to and graduate college. I’m learning everything from scratch.”
His mom Nichole Bruch is very proud and said that her son is so driven because he wants to help others.
“Trevon has always thrived to be a positive influence for his little brothers and those around him,” she said. “He is strong-willed and doesn’t let the word no discourage him from doing what he believes in.”
Bruch, however, said he never knew he would be an entrepreneur.
“When I was at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), I studied broadcasting for three years,” he said. “I loved broadcasting, but I wasn’t in love with the salary I’d be getting. So, I switched my major to political science and was planning for law school.”
In 20016, however, while at EKU, Bruch and a friend developed the concept for an app for themselves and fellow students to assist with campus navigation.
“I just fell in love with the creativity of the process,” Bruch said. “I like solving problems and finding solutions for people who are in need.”
According to Bruch, that’s what the Safewave venture has been all about.
“Sometimes I just think ‘Wow!’” Bruch said. “I look at our product and think, ‘I created you’ That is the best feeling in the world. And then, to think that this can help others, it could save lives. That’s motivating.”