A product that turns an ordinary house key into a means of self-defense is the brainchild of South Lake Tahoe product designer Blase Dillingham.
Launched this winter, Tactikey attaches to the head of a house key and allows the user to securely grip the key between the pointer and ring fingers with a closed fist.
"I drew the sketch for it in 2014. I sat on the drawing for three to four years until I got up here and got focused and motivated," said Dillingham, who moved from Los Angeles to South Lake Tahoe two years ago.
The web developer came up with the idea after experiencing a situation where he felt unsafe and unprepared.
"After a Kings game in downtown LA, two or three people started following me," recalled Dillingham. "I grabbed my keys because I'd always heard to use your keys if that's all you have, but the minute that I grabbed them I realized what a poor option this is in reality."
Before landing on the final version of Tactikey, Dillingham created a range of prototypes using a 3-D printer at the University of Nevada, Reno's makerspace, the Innevation Center.
It was his first time creating a product, but he found support through classes at the makerspace, assistance with patent research at the university library and connections made through an inventor group in Reno.
"The biggest challenge is believing in yourself," said Dillingham. "A lot of us have great ideas and when you don't run the idea by anybody, it's the greatest idea in the world. As you start to tell people and get feedback, it can either be positive or negative and that influences how much you believe in it."
Just two months into the launch of his e-commerce site, Dillingham has sold over 1,000 Tactikeys and landed his product in a handful of gun shops in Reno. He hopes to get his product in hardware stores on the South Shore soon.
"I made the product first, then I learned more about the problem," said Dillingham. "Confident, prepared people make poor targets. How you carry yourself, how you are situationally aware determines if you're going to be a target."
Dillingham is already working on developing additional self-defense products to add to his line — but until the patents come through, he has to keep the details under wraps.
"In the city I couldn't focus on what's true to me — my dreams and goals — I just got caught up in following the herd," he said. "Here I fell back into myself and my true north and then I had the clarity to see this whole thing through — and that's exciting."