Alissa Chavez, Young Entrepreneur and Inventor of the “Hot Seat”
What inspired Alissa Chavez. an 18 year-old high school senior, to launch Hot Seat, a device that alerts parents – and those in close proximity – if a child is left unattended in a car?
The initial spark was Alissa’s eighth grade science fair project. She bought a door alarm from a local hardware store and tinkered with it to create a system that would alert parents if they left their child in a car seat. She won a regional contest, then going on to state and national competitions.
Alissa then worked with engineers to perfect the design of the device, raising $20,000 on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to develop a prototype. As it is now, the “Hot Seat” device consists of a pad that senses if a child is in the car seat, then communicates wirelessly with a fob attached to a parent’s key chain. If the parent walks more than twenty20 feet away without the child, it will trigger alarms on the fob, the parent’s smartphone (via an app), and the car itself.
Alissa has been featured in the Washington Post, CBC Radio News, NBC, Boston.com, Fox News, and the Huffington Post to name just a few of the media outlets. She has also been honored by the Mayor of Albuquerque and made the list of 9 Inspiring Teen Girls (No. 2 behind Malala!), as well as Glamour’s Tech Heroes of 2014 list.
Alissa was also a finalist (and chosen as one of the winners) for Hautepreneurs’ HauteHopes, a competitive scholarship initiative for New Mexico female residents that provides a select group of women with mentorship, capital and education to pursue their business or venture. Following are some of the insights and thoughts from this youthful, community-spirited entrepreneur.
To me, an entrepreneur is someone who sees a problem, or something that could be made better and they want to be the one to change it. They are willing to do hard work and not give up until they reach their goal.
Who are your heroes?
I have a few heroes: Malala Yousafazi, Jennifer Lawrence and my mom.
Malala Yousafazi is my hero because she shows incredible courage and passion. I cannot even imagine going through what she has been though and yet she has not let anything keep her from doing what she believes in. I have so much respect for her and admire her so much.
I admire Jennifer Lawrence for her passion and her unwillingness to give up. She believed in herself and in what she loves to do. I believe that if you believe in yourself, your dreams will come true, and to me Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing example of that.
My mom is my hero because she has taught me to be a strong person, work hard and believe in yourself. When I was two years old, my parents got divorced, and my mom raised my sister and me on her own since then. She has always been there for both of us, and has sacrificed so much for us. She is such a strong person and the most wonderful, amazing mom.
What was the spark or moment that started your entrepreneurial journey?
My mom has owned a home childcare since I was two years old, so I have been around kids my entire life. The summer before my eighth-grade year, I heard so many stories about children dying after being accidentally left in a hot car. Being around children so much, I couldn’t image how it must feel for these families to lose a child to such a tragic accident. I knew there had to be a way to prevent this type of thing. I created the “Hot Seat,” and that same year I patented my invention and began working on bringing it to the market.
What is your current challenge?
Currently, my product is in the prototype stage. I am working with a company to produce the prototype and from there I will find a company that is able to manufacture my product. I am in high school and my mom is a single parent so not having the financial resources to bring a product to market has been the biggest challenge for me.
Is Hautepreneurs your first pitch competition? Tell me about the experience. What is your advice to other women who may be hesitant to pitch their business ideas?
Hautepreneurs was not actually my first pitch competition. I competed in my school’s science fair, then the Albuquerque, NM regional and state science fair, then also auditioned for ABC’s “Shark Tank” with my product.
My advice for other women that are hesitant to pitch their business or product is believe in yourself and what you are doing. You have to be willing to take risks, because if you don’t you’ll never know what could have happened. There will always be auditions or pitch competitions that you don’t win but, for me, taking the chance is the best way of giving yourself opportunities to succeed.
Your greatest achievement?
At this point in my life, my biggest achievement in having a patented invention before I have even graduated from high school!
What is your motto?
Believe in yourself and don’t give up on your dreams.
Why are you an entrepreneur?
Because I heard so many stories about kids dying after they were accidentally left in a hot car. Every time I hear a story about this type of accident my heart breaks for these families. I believe that my product is the solution to preventing any more of these hot car tragedies.
What mobile device do you presently use?
Facebook and Twitter.
What problem are you solving?
On average, forty children die every year from being accidentally left in a hot car. The “Hot Seat” is an alarm system that prevents these types of accidents. It has four components: first, a pad that can be placed in any car seat; second, a key fob that is attached to the driver’s keys; third is an alarm that can be attached to any vehicle; and fourth is an app for cell phones.
If the pad senses that a child is in the seat and the key fob is at least twenty feet away from the vehicle, three alarms will sound: one on the key fob, one on the vehicle and one on the cell phone app. This will notify the driver as well as people around the vehicle that a child is in danger.
If I wanted to do what you’re doing…what’s your advice?
My advice is to believe in yourself and your product or business, but don’t expect it to happen over night. It takes time for a product to get on the market or for a business to take off — but just because it doesn’t happen quickly doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Are you on Twitter?
Yes — @alissachavez96.
What’s your hashtag?
What conference would you like to keynote?
I would love to be a speaker at [youth global initiative] “We Day.” I feel like “We Day” is an amazing way to inspire young people to follow their dreams, and know that you are never too young to make a difference.
Inc. or Rolling Stone or…..? Which magazine cover?
TeenVogue, Seventeen or Glamour.
The memories of a chef are tastes and smells; what would you say are the memories of an entrepreneur?
The day or moment that you heard a story or saw a problem that you felt so passionate about that you knew you had to something to change it.
What would be the title of your biography?
One Child Too Many.
Do you have any unrealized dream projects?
I have several other inventions that I want to patent and get on the market. I love inventing new products and I have so many that I want to get out there!
What makes you happy?
My family, friends and dogs!
What does success look like for you?
For me, success will be the day that no more children die from being accidentally left in a hot car.
Where can readers of “In Conversation With” connect with you online?
On Twitter and on “The Hot Seat” Facebook page.