A near-miss with a pickup during a run led an entrepreneurial Kentuckian to create a product that quickly IDs injured outdoor warriors.
Edward Wimmer of Northern Kentucky launched Road ID in 1999 after jogging alone along a rural road preparing for a marathon. It was during that run that a pickup truck ran him off the road. He dodged it, landing in a ditch.
But what would have happened if things turned out differently? Just a week earlier, Wimmer’s dad feared for his safety during those runs.
“He’d asked about the kinds of roads I was running on. He’d said ‘What would happen to you if you were in an accident. How would I know if anything happened?’ No one would know who I was,” the Georgetown College graduate said.
Road ID was launched that year from Wimmer’s father’s basement. It was his first job right out of college. The company’s first product, which it still sells, is the FIXX ID. It’s similar to a dog tag in style but is made from high-polished stainless steel. The ID is Laser engraver with the wearer’s name, town and emergency contact phone numbers. It’s worn around the neck with a stainless steel chain.
The ID gives emergency responders a quick way to identify an injured person and his emergency contacts, if he is unconscious or just too shaken up to answer questions, Wimmer said.
Wimmer started Road ID out of college, at the age of 21, deciding to work for himself rather than for a company. He’d graduated with degrees in marketing and finance, and entrepreneurship runs through his family line, he said.
“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, it was in my blood. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” until the idea for Road ID came along.
Wimmer started the company with a couple of credit cards he’d signed up for in college. He now has an office in Erlanger, and a smaller one in Austin, Texas.
“My father (Mike) is co-owner. We still work together to this day,” he said.
Since that first product, the Road ID line has expanded into wrist bands, ankle straps and shoe pouches. It’s become a product for all sorts of outdoor athletes, who want to better ensure their safety if an accident happens.
“We paid really close attention to our customers, and what they wanted were IDs for the wrist, ankle and shoe,” Wimmer said.
Their most popular product is The Wrist ID Slim ($17.99), a tough silicon-based band, to which the ID attaches. The band comes in several colors.
The company also sells an “interactive” version of each band that allows wearers to create and store additional medical information online, including allergies, additional contact information, previous medical procedures and health insurance information.
The interactive bands include instructions that allow emergency personnel to access that information, which they can do by phone or the web. Users pay a small annual fee for the service.
There are two main components to Road ID products. First, of course, is the safety factor. Road ID is one of the rare products where the user is better off not using it, but the company receives messages every day from customers who say it’s been of vital help in times of crisis, Wimmer said.
“One great story is from a guy who was riding his bike down a hill at 40 mph. The next thing he remembers, after briefly coming to consciousness, is seeing the top of an ambulance. When he got to the hospital, his wife and kids were waiting for him. What more could you ask for?” Wimmer said. “We are a for profit company, but safety is our motivator.”