February 2012 Issue
Road ID Co-Founder Relies on Lambda Chi Values
by Andrew Talevich
At marathons, triathlons, bike races, and other endurance events it is not uncommon to see participants sporting wristbands, dog tags, or shoe pouches. The product is often from Road ID and the inception of these popular items came from co-founder Edward Wimmer (Georgetown 1999) and his experiences while a member at the Kappa-Omega chapter more than a decade ago.
Road ID is a device athletes wear in case of emergencies. Road ID’s main product is a wristband that provides the name of the wearer, his or her home city, emergency contact information, and a personal message.
Wimmer said the product has saved the lives of numerous people. The idea to create Road ID came after Wimmer had a near fatal experience of his own.
In the fall of 1999, Wimmer and several members of his chapter started training for a marathon. Wimmer was a senior and had just finished his season on the soccer team when some of his fellow Lambda Chi Alpha brothers convinced Wimmer and his fraternity little brother, Jamie Johnson (Georgetown 2001), to join them in training for the Jenny Spangler Trustmark Marathon in Chicago.
Johnson told us, “Soccer season was over so Ed and I were kind of looking around and saying ‘what do we do now.’ Then we had the other guys that were runners in the fraternity and they were egging us on, saying ‘Why don’t you start training with us?’ So, without those guys in the fraternity, we would probably never have gone into training for the marathon.”
While he was training, Wimmer’s dad Mike, who later started Road ID with his son, would call Edward and express concern about his safety. Mike’s main message to his son: bring identification in case of an emergency.
“I just always dismissed his concern as that of an overprotective dad,” said Edward.
Edward didn’t think much about his safety until one day, while running, a pick-up truck forced him off the road and into a ditch. Fortunate to be unscathed, Edward thought about the consequences if he had been hit by the truck.
Edward came up with two conclusions:
“One, perhaps the hardest to admit, was that my dad was right; and two, I realized if that truck hadn’t missed me, and because I wasn’t wearing ID, I could have been in the hospital, unconscious, and a John Doe maybe fighting for my life.”
“That would have been a time when I wanted people by my side more than anything, but nobody would have been there because I wasn’t wearing ID,” he said.
Learning to Succeed
After completing the marathon and graduating later that year, Edward and Mike went on to start Road ID in the basement of their Kentucky home.
Edward credits much of the success of Road ID to the life skills he picked up while an undergraduate at Georgetown College and a member of the Kappa-Omega chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha.
“I think there was a culture of excellence within our fraternity that stuck with people and it was not only excellence after college life but while being a part of college life and while being part of the fraternity,” Wimmer said.
Individually, Wimmer was proactive at Georgetown College by heading up Kappa-Omega’s food drive, serving as assistant fraternity educator, being a representative to the Interfraternity Council, and later becoming IFC president and captain of the varsity soccer team.
“Ed is the type of person who is successful at anything he does, mainly because of his passion and drive and work ethic. When he goes after something he’s always successful,” Johnson said.
Among the notable achievements of the Kappa-Omega chapter were the 11,000 pounds of food collected for the North American Food Drive; an amount that would be doubled the following year.
The men at Kappa-Omega also achieved the highest GPA among fraternities that same year.
“The kind of guys we attracted at Lambda Chi were the kind who wanted to excel. We had guys from every walk of life it seemed in our organization. Everybody was an over-achiever. We all fed off each other’s energies and talents and made each other better as a result,” Wimmer said.
Johnson agrees that the atmosphere at Kappa-Omega was electric.
“We were obviously a pretty close-knit group to say the least. We all had similar outlooks on life. Doing things like the philanthropy were always fun and training for the marathon was another way for us to challenge ourselves and do something different,” Johnson said.
The tradition of excellence at Kappa-Omega translated into Wimmer’s overall success at Road ID.
Since its inception, Road ID has continued to gain immense popularity with the endurance athlete community. The product has become trendy among runners, bicyclists, and swimmers.
“We think there is going to be a time when if you’re a runner, a cyclist, or a tri-athlete, an identification product like Road ID is just going to be part of what you wear. It’s going to be something that you wouldn’t go out without having,” Wimmer said.
Over a span of nine years, Road ID has generated greater than a 50 percent year-over-year revenue growth.
Endorsements for the product include high profile endurance athletes such as cyclists Levi Leipheimer, Bob Roll, Liz Hatch, George Hincapie, and Scott Nydam; Ironman world champion, Craig Alexander; and ultra-marathon runner, Dean Karnazes.
Beyond bottom-line profits of the company, Wimmer takes the most pride in Road ID’s track record of saving the lives of its users.
“Nearly every day one of our customers reaches out to us and says thank you Road ID for doing what you do, you made a big difference in my life,” he said.
Wimmer’s company went on to create Road ID Interactive, a specialized wristband that includes a code that emergency personnel can use to access an injured person’s emergency response profile; a database with the individual’s picture, address, physician contact information, medical history, and allergies.
Wimmer said this information is crucial for medical personnel to have within the golden hour, the time right after an accident that can determine whether a person lives or dies.
“There are people that say they wouldn’t be alive if not for Road ID and that’s why we do what we do. There is somebody’s dad or mom or brother or sister that is alive today because of the product we created.”
“It’s very humbling, but it’s also very motivating,” Wimmer said.
The Gift of Giving
Another major component of Road ID is philanthropy. A portion of every purchase goes to one of nine charities. When a customer buys a Road ID, they have the option of choosing which philanthropy their purchase will support.
“We take giving back to the community and philanthropy very serious,” Wimmer said. “It’s not something that we do as a side initiative. It’s a primary goal of giving back to our community.”
This year, Road ID will be donating nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the charities that the organization supports.
Wimmer credits much of Road ID’s selfless giving to the philanthropic spirit he learned while a member of Lambda Chi Alpha.
“Philanthropy wasn’t a part of my life prior to joining the fraternity in 1995. We had significant experiences. They instilled and firmed up that value and it was a wonderful feeling to be able to give back,” he said.
Wimmer admits that the journey to creating Road ID wasn’t always easy. The company went for several years after it started without making a profit. Wimmer would spend his days working on Road ID and then work nights as a wine distributor in order to pay the bills.
Despite hearing others say that starting his own company was a bad idea, Wimmer kept his faith in Road ID.
“I knew in my heart-of-hearts that Road ID was a real company and that it was just going to take time to make some headway and to build the company that I envisioned, and I wasn’t going to quit,” he said.
In order to be a successful entrepreneur and start a company like Road ID, Wimmer said it’s important to follow the model that Lambda Chi Alpha puts in place.
“You have to be confident, dedicated, and focused to the idea of the job and the task at hand. You also have to be willing to suffer and to sacrifice. Those are a couple of words in our creed,” he said.
Today, Wimmer and Johnson are life-long friends. Their experiences at Kappa-Omega in the late 1990s have shaped their personal and professional lives.
Johnson was Wimmer’s best man at his wedding a couple years ago and the two recently traveled to Hawaii to witness the Ironman World Championship and promote Road ID.
Looking back at the marathon, Wimmer likes to poke fun at Johnson because, despite training together for several weeks, Johnson never completed the Jenny Spangler Trustmark Marathon with his brothers in 1999.
“A couple weeks before, I’d pretty much done all the training, but I just didn’t want to do it. I wussed out and caught a lot of flack from Ed and from the other runners in the fraternity,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson made up for the marathon by later completing several triathlons. He is currently training for the Ironman Louisville.
As an endurance athlete, Johnson himself promotes Road ID. Sample pictures of a Road ID on marketing materials and Road ID’s web site include Johnson’s name and personal information. This is a tribute to their close bond.
“We make it a point to see each other and know what’s going on in each other’s lives and be supportive and to be the friends we are,” Wimmer said.
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