EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Wonder Hoodie, a southern California startup, sells a product its founder wishes didn't have to exist-- a bulletproof hoodie.
Like many young tech workers, 25-year-old Vy Tran decided to create something she needed but couldn't find. In 2016, her neighbor in her hometown of Seattle, was walking home when a man shot her dead, after an attempted robbery.
"Last year, my next door neighbor, a Vietnamese mother of two was just walking home when she was approached for her purse, she wouldn't give it up and they had a struggle and the person ended up shooting her eight times in the chest, she died right there, right in front of her home and mine," said Tran.
She was so worried about her own brother and mother, who walk the same route as her neighbor, she started to shop around for bulletproof gear.
"I looked online for something to buy them and I couldn't really find anything for women or children or at a price point I could afford," she said.
With a background in material science, she prototyped designs and sent them for testing. When her products met National Institute of Justice requirements for body armor, she founded her company in 2018 and started selling the gear-- a hoodie, a jean jacket, a vest and other accessories that start at $450.
"This is just me doing my part that if someone like my mom or brother was looking for a product like this, it would be made available to them."
The reality of getting caught in random gunfire has given rise to an industry of bulletproof gear, designed for people who likely never thought about tactical armor in the past -- parents, teachers, kids. You can now find bulletproof backpacks, portable shelters and plate inserts all over the web.
Wonder Hoodie has received letters of interest from schools and parents. One customer bought one because his wife is a teacher. Another, so he can feel safe enough to go to the movies.
Kids sizes are especially heartbreaking. Tran said, she wished she didn't have to sell her products, at all. But, the demand is undeniable and not surprising.
Wonder Hoodie has patented the head protection design, as well as the zipper that connects the armor with the sweater, so users can throw it in the wash.
"We only use dupont kevlar and a newer version of their kevlar, called kevlar xp," said Tran,
"They're rated as 3A which is the highest level of protection you can get from soft body armor."
According to Wonder Hoodie's specifications, all available on their website, that means the clothing can protect from a weapon like a .44 magnum.
For every 10 sold, the company donates one to a public school teacher.