Mindy Lin, co-founder of Damsel in Defense, joins us to talk about their mission to empower, educate, and equip women to protect themselves and their families against sexual assault. Mindy tells us about how Damsel in Defense is helping survivors heal through educating and protecting others, and helping women access the financial independence they need to get out of abusive situations. Mindy’s work shows how multilevel marketing companies can create real, life-changing opportunities and we’re honored that she joined us on the podcast.
Kenny: Hello and welcome to the MLM.com podcast. I’m your host, Kenny Rawlins, and this morning we are joined by Mindy Lin of Damsel in Defense. Mindy is the co-founder and Damsel in Defense is a very popular company right now. Mindy, first of all, how are you doing this morning?
Mindy: Doing great. Thanks so much!
Kenny: Remind me, was it 2016 you guys won the DSA Rising Star Award?
Mindy: We won the Rising Star Award in 2015 and then we won the Vision For Tomorrow award in 2016… Oh, I’m so sorry! You were correct. 2016 was Rising Star, 2017 was Vision For Tomorrow. Time goes by too fast!
Kenny: Yeah. It’s crazy. Why don’t you go ahead and give us a little bit of background about Damsel in Defense? You’re one of the co-founders. I’m curious how you guys started and if you could let our listeners know about your vision and what you guys are trying to accomplish.
Mindy: Absolutely. I’d love to. Damsel in Defense was founded in September of 2011. We were in a mom’s group with about 50 moms and really quickly realized that very minimal moms were equipping themselves with products to protect themselves. We just really saw a need for women to be able to protect themselves. So, in September of 2011 is when Damsel in Defense was founded and it’s been a six-year ride for sure. Our mission is to equip empower and educate women to protect themselves. We are all about women not only protecting themselves but their families and not just equipping themselves with product but also an opportunity that creates ways for women to be able to create financial independence to escape situations of abuse, various circumstances that all directly relate to our mission overall.
Kenny: That’s a great introduction. One of the things that I’ve found interesting in doing a little bit of research and in talking to you earlier this week is just the way you’re empowering women both through actually protecting themselves but also… this is where I think network marketing is such an interesting intersection for so many companies… your product empowers women through education and also through being able to protect themselves but then it also provides them a way to empower themselves financially. I’m just curious, what’s your background with network marketing and how did you guys elect to go the network marketing path versus some other means of distribution.
Mindy: We realized that a number of these women were not carrying product because number one they didn’t know how to locate it. As a mom, I’ve never walked into a cop shop to go purchase product. It’s just not a frequent stop. Outside the grocery store you’re just not always venturing over that direction. So, we wanted to create accessibility for moms to be able to not just access the product but feel comfortable with it. I had sold Mary Kay when I was younger. I’d also sold Creative Memories. My mom had sold Excel Communications. So, I was familiar with the business model. But ultimately what we are looking for was an environment for women to feel comfortable. It’s an intimidating product—stun guns, women are always afraid “oh it’s gonna kick back” or “I’m gonna stun myself with it.” There’s an intimidation factor and so how do we create an environment where women are comfortable to be able to try things? Well that’s in their living room with their girlfriends! And so that’s really where the idea came from. I understood that I loved to be an expert—when I was younger it was Mary Kay or it was scrapbooking—and we knew that with such an empowering product and opportunity as protecting yourself and protecting your children… what woman wouldn’t want to be an expert on that and share safety and protection with their friends? So that’s really where the idea and the concept came from. It was very quickly and very well received. It was well received here in Idaho. Idaho is definitely a right to bear arms state. But women didn’t wanna carry a firearm. They were concerned about their children and so this non-lethal form of protection was really well-received. Then we decided to take it to other states and we’re now nationwide.
Kenny: A couple things stood out to me. First of all, I think your guys’s product is unique in the sense that a lot of people probably do feel vulnerable but don’t necessarily know what to do about it and don’t feel comfortable walking into like you say a cop shop or they don’t know what to look for online. I’m sure there’s a certain amount of anxiety to it. By bringing it into the home, with your friends and family it’s a more relaxed environment. I really like that you guys also emphasize education along with it. Could you talk to me a little bit more about what you’re doing to help educate women along with giving them tools to protect themselves.
Mindy: Yeah. I think the education piece is a big piece of it. Taking that fear factor out of it and saying yes this is a stun gun. This stun gun has a disable pin on it. This disable pin goes around your wrist and if this stun gun gets pulled away from you by an attacker, it’s now disabled and it can’t be used against you. Taking those components and overcoming those objections of “no I’m afraid my child will get it.” Okay well, this disable pin goes in one pocket of your purse and the stun gun goes in another.
Just really creating that opportunity to realize the goal is to remove that sense of being an easy target. If I’m walking to my car and I feel threatened I have that stun gun as a deterrent to fire off as a warning and that attacker potential attacker is going to wait for the next easier victim. So, it’s really just creating a sense of education, empowerment, and ultimately helping them to see the need for it and see that it is all about prevention and being proactive around it.
To kind of expand on that… family—we’ve expanded into family education, not just education for women to protect themselves but families… Realizing that yes, our products are for women 18 years and older to carry but what about what about those that are victimized prior to the age of 18? One in five women will be sexually assaulted. College-aged girls are four times more likely. But one in four girls and one in six boys will be assaulted before that age. So, we created Safe Hearts, sharing awareness for family empowerment. That is our family education line that prevents childhood sexual abuse and helps parents to have those conversations.
It’s very easy for parents to have the stranger-danger conversation, but it’s not easy to have the Uncle Mike conversation. How do you create awareness in your child and a sense of body boundaries without making them afraid of absolutely everyone around them? This family empowerment line ultimately does that and creates an opportunity and a platform for parents to have those conversations with their children shoulder-to-shoulder through story books and other resources. these conversations have a natural flow and help parents identify if there are red flags and create a constant conversation instead of a one-time birds-and-the-bees where children feel shame associated to it. That’s been very very well received and a very fulfilling project for me personally as well as many of our team here who have worked on that.
Kenny: That was one of the products that they really stood out to me. I recently became a father and that is one of the things that you start wondering about. It’s hard to explain how all of a sudden these things start popping up into your mind like “How am I gonna handle this? How am I gonna bring up that?”
Kenny: And at what age do you start talking to them? So, to provide those tools to parents so that you can talk to them in a way that they’re not, like you say, afraid of everybody around them but that it’s kind of an ongoing dialogue and that your children feel comfortable coming to you as parents and talking to you. My mom—I don’t even know what the book was called—when I was very young though she somehow got a book that she would read to us at night and they were stories but there were stories about how to avoid either strangers or even family members. There were valuable things that I learned from that. It wasn’t until after you and I talked earlier this week that I all of a sudden remembered that but the lessons that I learned through it were tremendously valuable. So, I can testify to the fact that, yes, these types of tools are tremendously helpful. I think removing that from parents so that they’re not alone totally in knowing when to have the conversations or how to have them is very powerful.
Mindy: That how piece especially because as a mom it’s very easy for me to tell my children “if anybody ever tries to grab you what do you do?” “I scream. I run. I yell. I kick.” It’s very easy for us to program what their responses to us should be and they know how to answer those questions but role playing with that child can yield a completely different result that is shocking as a parent. So that’s one of the tools in the parent guide is role-playing with your child. “Okay I’m gonna be so-and-so and you’re going to be you and we’re in their house and we’re playing in the room.” Role-playing a scenario is hugely eye-opening. Your child has an option, they have to give what they would do in that situation and it’s very different than just citing at them “this is what you do when this happens.” They can very easily spout up what the proper answer is but is that how they will actually respond in an actual event? It’s completely different.
Kenny: That is fascinating to me to hear and also makes a lot of sense but it’s not something that I would have naturally thought about. How have you seen your field change and respond as women have started to use these products? You guys have now been in business for six years. How have you seen people evolve and lives change?
Mindy: I think the most fulfilling part of it for me personally, the rewarding side, has been seeing women… a large number of our field are survivors. They’re drawn to this mission because it is their story. And they have the opportunity through this mission to turn tragedy into triumph, and to take their past and the pains of their past and create purpose in that. If they can take what happened to them and use it for good, to stop what happened to them from happening to the next person, then it’s worth it to them. To have women that have suffered years and years and years of abuse and gone through… One of our [Damsel Pros went through] thirty years of counseling to suffer through these traumas that she suffered at the hand of very close loved ones—father, brothers—and to hear her say “I experienced more healing in the last four years of working this business that I have in 30 years of therapy.” That to me is not just a mission, it’s a ministry. To see women that are stepping into who they are and gaining back their voice and using that voice to help others, I think that is beyond icing on the cake for me. And that’s not just a one-off there. That is the story of many many of the survivors in this company.
Kenny: Yeah I mean it’s beautiful thing. Going back to what we were talking about earlier, there’s so much confidence to be gained: confidence in knowing that you’re better protected, knowing that you’re educating your kids, and knowing that you now have a means to provide for your family or to get out of a bad situation. The one last thing I wanted to touch on and then I will let you go—we appreciate your time this morning—is you also talked to me about how even in being attacked you guys give education on okay so it’s not about staying here, it’s not about fighting, it’s about getting away. Can you talk a little bit about the training that you do for women as they’re being prepared to use those products?
Mindy: Yeah it’s never been about just pushing a product or making a dollar or anything like that. The education component is critical. It’s about sharing awareness. That’s why Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month are huge months for Damsel. We are all about creating that [awareness]. That equip piece [of our mission] is putting that product in the hands of women, but training is critical and making sure our Damsel Pros are linking up with self-defense instructors that can deliver content to that customer. “This is your plan A but if that plan A gets taken away from you, what’s your plan B?” And so, at every Damsel event, whether it’s our leadership retreat or our national conference, we have our self-defense partner that we bring a team of individuals to our conference to offer self-defense training with our product to our field so that they can take that safety training to their customer base as well. We also have, at our leadership event, we take our field to a center where they run through situational awareness live scenarios and how they’ll react to those. It’s not just about pushing the product. I absolutely believe that there is huge huge value in what we sell and what we offer to our customer base but making sure it’s a continued relationship, sharing continued awareness, keeping it in front of people. It’s not just buried in the bottom of their purse. But that they’re constantly aware that it is a lifestyle to carry this product and there’s a lifestyle to stay prepared. So that’s what I would say about that.
Kenny: I appreciate that and it really does highlight some of the ways that… so often we talk about network marketing as an industry and more and more people I talk with say “it’s not really an industry because our products are so varied.” It’s a means of distribution but it also is a means of creating a community, creating ongoing training, and really supporting people. What you guys are doing at Damsel in Defense really highlights some of the bright spots that network marketing has. I appreciate your time this morning and the work that you guys are doing. I just real quickly give our listeners your guys’s website.
Mindy: It’s damselindefense.net
Kenny: All right well I’d encourage people to go out and check out what you guys are doing. I appreciate hearing from you Mindy and we thank you for your time!
Mindy: Absolutely. Thanks so much, Kenny.
Kenny: This has been the MLM.com Podcast. Thanks for listening and extra special thanks to Mindy Lin of Damsel in Defense. I also want to thank Adam Holdaway and Jana Bangerter for production support. We hope you’ll join us next time!