by Kasey Caminiti | July 1, 2020 12:30 pm
Simon Huck, co-founder of JUDY, wants people everywhere to be prepared for the unexpected. Over the last decade, the 15-year entertainment marketing and communications veteran witnessed close friends and family face emergencies all across the country. From floods in Florida and storm surges along the coast, to household fires destroying years of memories; the resulting anguish, anxiety, and vulnerability are a shared traumatic experience. Troubled by the fact that more than 60% of Americans lack a disaster plan in the event of an emergency situation and personally on the hunt for a more mission-driven venture, Huck co-founded JUDY to make safety simple and accessible.
These days, Huck is zeroed-in on perfecting the art of disaster preparedness, but he got his start in 2004 working in public relations as an intern for Lizzie Grubman and Jonathan Cheban. He self-effacingly admits that at the time he knew nothing about the entertainment publicity world. Awestruck by the opportunity he had been given, he persisted, and ultimately became the principal owner of Command Entertainment Group, a leading celebrity and influencer procurement agency.
Though JUDY may seem to be a significant departure from his career in PR, that is not necessarily the case. Huck has adroitly applied his public relations prowess and celebrity connections (which include the likes of the Kardashians, Jenners, and Chrissy Teigen) to amplify his brand and mission to reshape how the public perceives and handles emergency preparedness.
JUDY offers four levels of kits: The Starter, The Mover, The Mover Max, and The Safe. Each kit is stocked with products across emergency categories (first aid, safety, food, tools, etc.). JUDY’s superpower is the combination of expert-developed kits with educational resources because the act of buying an emergency kit does not keep you safe–knowing how to use it does. JUDY worked with experts to create a collection of essential survival tools and personalized plans of action that are tailored to purchaser’s zip code and the threats they are most vulnerable to. Additionally, after a JUDY kit is registered, the user receives year-round safety tips and advice via text from experts with over 20 years of experience in emergency management experience, not to mention there’s an option to text questions for real-time responses.
At a time when disaster is very much on the mind, Huck spoke with DuJour about letting go of the past, the emergency kit we would all do well to have tucked away right now, and the power that lies in honoring an existential crisis.
What has motivated you professionally over the years?
In 2010, my business transitioned from PR to entertainment branding and procurement. In a nutshell, we help brands work with celebrities and influencers from across the world. My “job” has never once felt like a job –everyday is a new challenge and opportunity to build collaborative partnerships that I watch come to life. Prior to this, I would read interviews about people saying just that and think, “Eye roll…eye roll..they’re lying.”
After 15 years in marketing, what inspired you to found JUDY?
You could say I experienced somewhat of an existential crisis. After 15 years in marketing, I was longing to do something that had a bigger impact on the greater good of this world. I met with my brilliant co-founder and we started talking about problems we had seen in the emergency/safety space. For years, we had friends and family who had experienced emergencies (both small and big) and were undoubtedly underprepared. These situations left many of them scared, anxious, and with lasting trauma.
What has it been like for you to move from your behind-the-scenes role as a celebrity publicist to center stage as a co-founder?
It’s been incredibly hard but one of most rewarding experiences of my life. We spent 18 months working with leading preparedness experts and first responders across the country. These people are some of the most selfless humans on the planet who quite literally sacrifice their lives for the safety and health of others. It’s quite remarkable and puts everything else in your life into perspective. Especially coming from the celebrity world when you can lose perspective quickly.
Have you taken any lessons from being the President of Command Entertainment Group to managing the JUDY team?
Running my marketing company has taught me to manage teams effectively, problem solve, and constantly iterate our business model–all skillsets I’m leveraging at JUDY. It’s also given me tremendous insights into consumer marketing.
What inspired the brand’s name?
We needed a name that you’ll never forget. We surveyed hundreds of people, and everyone felt like they had a Judy in their life: someone who was a dependable, type-A parent figure.
Can you explain JUDY’s mission and why its “rhetoric of readiness” differentiates it from other like-minded brands?
JUDY was born with a simple yet powerful mission to empower people with the knowledge and tools to be prepared for the unexpected. We are the first digitally-connected emergency kit, supported by the tools and resources to use the supplies effectively. We also have a text-based program to get your questions answered by emergency experts. Whether you’re a JUDY customer or not, you can also enroll in our text program for ongoing alerts and practical advice on navigating safety situations. JUDY offers a full emergency ecosystem, from tools to education to community.
How did you incorporate your findings from the emergency preparedness experts into the final JUDY products?
One of our learnings as we developed JUDY is that people would do anything to avoid interacting with emergency products. They wanted to stash their supplies out of sight, cross their fingers nothing disastrous would happen and move on with everyday life. We recognized an opportunity to use design as a catalyst for conversation–if your emergency kit was colorful, user-friendly and accessible, would that change your behavior? Could we compel people to make emergency preparation a part of their everyday life? We wanted to provide an inviting, approachable entry point to help people embrace preparedness.
Every kit is designed with a different consumer in mind. How did you choose the final four offerings?
We immersed ourselves in the world of emergency preparedness for the past year. We started out with a simple mission to understand why so many households were vastly unprepared for emergencies. We talked to hundreds of people all across the country, including leading experts in emergency preparedness, survivalists, first responders and firefighters. Ultimately we determined the right mix of products for varying consumer needs, from the Starter and Mover for on-the-go emergency support to The Safe as an at-home hub of disaster supplies.
More than 60% of Americans have no disaster plan or adequate supplies in the event of an emergency situation. What is JUDY doing to correct that statistic? How does this hinge back to JUDY’s long term vision for public health and safety?
We want to drive a national conversation about emergency preparedness and make safety top-of-mind. Whether or not you’re a JUDY customer, you can enroll in our text alert program, download our PDF preparedness guides and tap into our social media guidance sourced from emergency experts. Our long-term vision is to offer a full emergency ecosystem to help tackle the issue of under-preparedness.
You co-founded a company that seeks to care for others by empowering the masses to prepare for the unexpected. How do you take care of yourself and promote mental readiness?
Meditation daily and turning my phone onto airplane mode after 7:30/8:00pm.
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