A local teen develops a novel patent to prevent the spiking of drinks
Shirah Benarde is hoping to put a cap on the number of victims of drink spiking.
The practice of lacing one’s beverage with a substance such as rohypnol or ketamine has been a factor in rapes and sexual assaults for decades, and it has shown no sign of slowing. In a recent study by the American Addiction Centers of 969 participants, 56 percent of female respondents say they unknowingly consumed spiked food and drinks. And it’s not only happening to women; 44 percent of men in the same survey reported being victims.
“The issue’s a big deal today, in other countries too,” says Benarde, 17. “I know people who had their drinks spiked, and because I’m going to college this year, I wanted to have a way for me and my friends to be safe.”
So, at 16, while in her junior year at Oxbridge Academy, Benarde invented a product, cleverly titled the NightCap, to protect against drink spiking. It’s a covering that wraps around most glasses and Solo Cups, with a hole just large enough for a straw. When it’s not protecting a drinking vessel, the product doubles as a hair tie or wristband, increasing the likelihood that its owners will remember to take it with them.
When researching her invention, Benarde found “different kinds of lids” on the market, “but nothing that had a dual use. It’s a way to incorporate something you can use every day.” Benarde spent months on trial and error, developing early models using socks and her mother’s hosiery, before settling on the black nylon-and-Spandex version that has gone to production.
To fund the project, she sought assistance from her 22-year-old brother, Michael, a student of Florida State University’s Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. He helped organize an Indiegogo page for the NightCap, filmed a professional-looking video depicting its use in a social situation, hired a model for a photo shoot showing off the product, and was instrumental in exceeding their crowd-funding goal of raising $12,000 for marketing, manufacture and distribution.
Last fall, the NightCap, priced at $9 for preorder, raised $12,145 from 220 backers. A national TV appearance on Fox Business Network in September, with host Charles Payne singing the NightCap’s praises, didn’t hurt.
“There were a lot of orders that came in right when we left Fox Business,” Benarde says. “I think we raised $1,000 in the 10 minutes we walked out.”
Benarde expects to patent the NightCap by April and market it to bars, festivals and women’s organizations, creating new colored versions, possibly with school logos, to be sold in university shops around the country.