Inspirational Woman: Emma Kay | Founder, WalkSafe+

Meet Emma Kay

Founder, WalkSafe+

WalkSafe+ is the brainchild of 34-year-old Emma Kay, who as a daughter of a met police officer had many rules to make sure Emma and her siblings stayed and continue to stay safe when out and about. Over her lifetime Emma has experienced catcalling, following, groping and flashing, sadly events that occur too regularly to many women across the world.

As an adult, the working world expanded Emma’s perspective to experiences beyond her own. Volunteering at a community centre for people in crisis, she saw first hand the experiences women had, specifically their fear of the streets at night, confirming her fear that personal safety really is an issue that affects everyone.

Emma’s career in childcare highlighted the importance of educating young girls and boys about issues like consent, gender bias and the importance of preventative actions. Emma built WalkSafe+ as she truly believes technology, combined with vision can genuinely save lives. 

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Emma Kay, I’m 34 and I am the Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of WalkSafe+. WalkSafe+ is the leading personal safety app on the market, we use the most up to date crime data provided by the police to feed our interactive, unique map that allows users to have the most relevant information at their finger tips and choose their safest route to their destination. My background is in early years education, I managed nurseries and schools – I really loved working with and being around children. Before the pandemic I owned a beauty business, and then during the pandemic launched WalkSafe+ to provide a much needed solution to personal safety concerns. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and I’ve always enjoyed what’s associated with being an entrepreneur – the challenges but also the life changing successes. Starting WalkSafe+ has been such an amazing learning opportunity, it’s completely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I’m so grateful for the journey that the last 2 years has taken me on and I can’t wait to see where we go next.

What does WalkSafe+ include?

The app has; at its heart, our interactive map which has crime icons which allows users to plan safer journeys to avoid crime hotspots. The WalkSafe feature allows you to share your route and allocated estimated time of arrival as a live journey with your trusted family and friends, so they know when you should arrive e.g if you’re travelling from Green Park to Oxford Circus, this will take you 20 minutes, the app will show you the most efficient route to take and how long it should take you to arrive there, this is then shared live with your loved ones so they are in the loop with where you are and at what time. HomeSafe allows users to share their route home and their chosen estimated time of arrival with their trusted family and loved ones; if you fail to arrive at your destination at your ETA, the app will automatically alert your loved ones that you have failed to arrive and give your trusted family and friends your exact last location. We also have a feature called SOS, if you hold down the SOS button, this will immediately alert your selected friends that you are in danger giving your live location.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, I fell into childcare because of my degree (I have a BA Hons in Early Years Education) and then fell into beauty and then fell into WalkSafe+ – you can have the best laid plans for a career, a bit like having a birth plan, but; they never go to plan! The one thing I always found was, that if I was enjoying what I was doing, and I felt passionately about it, I succeeded at it. It’s certainly something I will be telling my children as they grow up – follow where your interests lie, find something that (although it’s cheesy) makes your heart sing. If you want to get up and do a job that you enjoy – that’s all you can really ask for. 

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes so many! Being a start up we are often strapped for cash, and there is always the feeling like where is the next bit of money going to come from, how are we going to raise that investment; that is a huge challenge! Also being a new mother (I have 2 gorgeous children) I was a mum to one and was pregnant with my second when we started WalkSafe+ – that’s been a huge challenge, not only being so sleep deprived, but also finding that work/family life balance. I decided to go back to work after 2 months – the company needed me to come back, but it was a huge challenge! Our CEO was in a similar position and we worked it out to make sure that neither our families or the business suffered.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I have to say firstly my children, being a mother is the most challenging but most rewarding job I have ever had! Secondly, starting WalkSafe+ and seeing people engage with it. We had over 500,000 downloads after the terrible murder of Sarah Everard – if I can help just one person feel more safe in their environment then I will have succeeded.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

The feedback that we get from the users of WalkSafe+ is amazing, but the main thing that everyone says is that we are genuine and authentic, that we are doing it for the right reasons. One thing I’ve learnt is that no woman wants to hear from a man about how a woman feels on gender based violence. I am able to talk on these subjects because I am a woman, I have experienced it and I do know how it feels. Also that personal safety is a basic human right – it shouldn’t be charged for, this is something we feel very strongly about. The people that need our app the most, are the people working antisocial hours, the ones that can’t necessarily afford taxis, the people who are taking the tube, bus and walking home, those are people that we want to be able to access the information that we are providing. Our success has been because we really understand the need within the market, women and gender minorities are the people most affected and we feel that we can genuinely help them in an authentic way.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I would love to be a mentor and I love having mentors. Within the WalkSafe+ team I have been very fortunate in the fact that we now have a wonderful ex deputy commissioner on our team. She has a plethora of knowledge which spans over 30 years, she’s worked for prison intelligence and the Met amongst other things – her experience has been invaluable; she has taught me a lot since she started with us, and she is someone I really look up to, she has definitely fallen into a role of mentor. If I can help someone in their journey, or with their career, I’d love that opportunity. I think mentoring is something we should all try and do, if you have someone that has helped you in your career I think it’s important to pay it forward, particularly to the next generation! Having that extra support is so crucial in our learning development, and I know that I value all of the advice I’ve been given so much and I would absolutely pass on everything I have learnt to anyone who’d like to know!

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I’d like to see more female founders seek investment, the numbers are so small. The number of VC’s that are women is so small – we need to have more seats at the table. Half of the problem is to get these female founders through the door so they are listened too. To be honest; I think the change needs to come even before those meetings, women need more support and help with their decks, advice and access to genuine, helpful people who can give actionable, useful advice. I’d really like to see more VC’s spending time reaching out to female founders to see how they can help – then we can get the seats at the table and make a difference! I’m very grateful to our investors – Fearless Adventures, they particularly loved our vision, but specifically wanted to help a female founder. There is such a lack of representation in this area and they wanted to help society and have another woman in this space. That to me is a good place to start!

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Listen to your gut – every decision I’ve made for WalkSafe+ has been right, but I’m often scared to voice it; I often felt that I didn’t have credentials of the other people in the room and therefore didn’t have as much of a voice. In all of those rooms, in those conversations about my business I’ve been right and they’ve been wrong, if I had trusted myself and my own intuition it would have had a different outcome. This is of course, easier said that done; particularly being a woman it is hard to have a seat at that table and then also to have the courage to speak up in those situations. Something I’m telling myself now, not just what I’d tell my younger self is – trust myself, speak up for what I know to be true and right – if not just for myself but for other women in the situation, if I can’t do it for myself do it for the other people out there that don’t have that voice.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We’ve got a very exciting B2B offering launching later this year; we are also working on our web app for businesses which is due to launch in the next few months. We are also launching our safety awareness training and that’s another challenge. As with all businesses there are obstacles, but we are always fine tuning our offering and making sure it’s as robust as possible and fit for market! Our focus now and forever is to make sure people feel safe on our streets, day in day out. I want to change peoples attitudes towards personal safety, it’s not something we should take for granted. In the long run we’d like not to have to exist! That sounds illogical, but if we don’t exist that means that the streets are safe, and people feel that they can be at home in their own city, not constantly feeling at threat.

Where can you download WalkSafe+?

WalkSafe+ is available to download for free from the App Store and Google Play and at walksafe.io. Follow on Instagram @walksafeio.

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