You b8ta believe it

10 futuristic products you can buy today in this Galleria store that's flipping the script on retail

B8ta has all the perks of a digital marketplace — but customers are able to physically test all the products. Photo by Natalie Harms

Retail is in a transformative phase, as more and more consumers are shopping online. According to United States Census data, over 9 percent of this year's first-quarter retail sales were e-commerce transactions — that's more than doubled in less than 10 years. But one brick-and-mortar retailer has a new approach to sales for new, innovative products entering the marketplace.

San Francisco-based b8ta opened its first store in 2015, and now has 13 flagship stores nationwide — in addition to having setups in Lowe's stores across the country. Houston's first and only location opened in October of 2017 in the Galleria.

The store acts as a general marketplace, where companies can rent shelf space at the store to feature their products — everything from home accessories to tech gadgets and even items like electric skateboards. Consumers can come into the store and test products, and the developers can see — in real time — how customers are interacting with their products.

"If you look at our store, nothing's in a box. Everything is out on display," says Jalal Bsaiso, b8ta Houston's general manager. "Everything has a tablet with information on the product, and that data is controlled by the maker — they can swap photos, change pricing, all on the fly. They also can see analytics in real time. They can see how many people walk by their product and how long they are engaging. Sales associates log demos we do with the customer, so the partner can see that too."

Bsaiso says that innovators have trouble entering brick-and-mortar sales because consumers need to take the products out of the box to experience them and have a sales associate educate and demonstrate how to use the product. The company's three founders — Phillip Raub, Vibhu Norby, and William Mintun — worked at Nest, a smart home technology product, prior to launching b8ta. They saw Nest struggle to get into brick-and-mortar stores and started envisioning a concept that would be right for products like Nest.

"Online it's easy to sell something," Bsaiso says. "You post it on your website, you have analytics, and you can see how people got to your website and what they purchased. There's nothing like that in physical retail."

Product makers can apply online to become b8ta partners. Usually, each partner has products in at least half of the 13 stores, and every product has an inventory of six to 10 products in the store.

"Retail is evolving," Bsaiso says. "I think everything is moving toward experience. You don't want to spend $200 online on a product that might not even work for you from a company you're not really familiar with."

The store will stock any types of products in its stores, as long as it fits the bill as an innovative product. Here are 10 that seem like are from the future.

A self-caring herb garden

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Véritable Indoor Garden has lights that mimics the sun and a tank of water that together lets your plants be all set for up to 3 weeks.

A camera with 16 lenses

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Light L16 camera would make a spider jealous. With 16 lenses, the camera captures all the different types of lighting and focus to ensure you capture the best picture.

A gadget to make you fluent in every language

Photo by Natalie Harms

Here's one for the world traveler. Pocketalk Two-Way Voice Translator allows you to translate what someone is trying to tell you, and vice versa.

A collar that tells you everything you need to know about Fido

Photo by Natalie Harms

The LINK AKC™ Smart Dog Classic Collar tells you everything from location and body temperature to even recording activity.

A device that swims for you

Photo by Natalie Harms

Going on an underwater adventure? The WHITESHARK MIX Underwater Scooter is the smallest underwater scooter and takes you 3.35 miles per hour with its two propellers.

A shark-preventing ankle band

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Sharbanz technology prevents any nefarious sharks from coming anywhere close to you.

A robot to talk to your child

Photo by Natalie Harms

Tyche AI Learning Robot for Kids learns your child's facial expression, name, and voice to communicate, educate, and interact with him or her.

A next-gen speaker that features the song's lyrics

Photo by Natalie Harms

Ever wonder what that one lyric is in your favorite song? COTODAMA Lyric Speaker will tell you. In addition to featuring the lyrics of most popular songs, the speaker will visualize any tune you queue.

A deep tissue massager the size of headphones

Photo by Natalie Harms

The UGYM mini Deep Tissue Massager vows to relieve back pain and help you sleep better. And, it's on sale.

A handheld smart safety device

Photo by Natalie Harms

Much like your actual father, D.A.D.® 2 (Defense Alert Device), is here to keep you safe. It tracks your location and can send an emergency alert on your behalf. Plus, there's also the military-grade pepper spray to also keep an attacker at bay.

If the glove doesn't fit

Houston company aims to equally equip female workers

SeeHerWork launched its line of female-gear in September. Courtesy of SeeHerWork

When Jane Henry was working on her home right after Hurricane Harvey — her house got three feet of mud in it — she went to throw a board into the dumpster, and her glove went with it.

Henry says the industry standard is to recommend small and extra-small sizes for women's workwear, but as a ladies large in athletic gloves, Henry still had a good inch or so of glove at her fingertips in her workwear gloves.

"I went upstairs to my sewing room, and I ripped that glove apart and I resewed it to fit my hand," Henry says.

Other women stopped her in hardware stores to ask her about her shoddily sewn glove, and she realized this was the idea for next company. She incorporated SeeHerWork a few months later in January of 2018, and she launched her line of clothing in September, just a year after she had the idea. Based in Houston, SeeHerWork rents warehouse space in Kingwood and has its corporate office in Midtown.

Doing the legwork
Henry is no stranger to the startup game. She created her own consulting company, Xcution Inc., over 16 years ago, but she downsized the company in 2016 when oil prices took a turn. Instead, she went into Rice University's MBA program, where, ultimately, she created a network of associates that would eventually help SeeHerWork grow.

"I've been a serial entrepreneur — been trying to avoid calling myself that," says Henry. "I have two entrepreneurial parents, and I told myself I'd never be an entrepreneur, yet that's what I keep doing."

Through her business expertise and education, she knew she had to start with a one-page business plan for the company. She then took her idea to over 50 focus groups made up of 10 to 20 female workers, safety managers, and procurement managers across industries — transportation, military oil and gas, engineering, and more.

"The response was eerily similar despite the industry," Henry says.

The focus group participants were tired of the "pink it and shrink it" approach to women's workwear and equipment. They felt like if their supplies don't fit, they don't fit. Mentorship opportunities and performance are then subsequently hindered, creating a spiral effect of deterring women from entering the skilled labor workforce. This is a huge problem, considering there's the recent labor shortage with these types of jobs.

She took this information and her first prototypes to a national pitch competition to great success — and a standing ovation. Henry also connected with the Rice Angel Network, Station Houston, The Cannon, and other local innovation-focused entities.

Roadwork ahead
Henry has big plans for SeeHerWork, and is in talks with a few large entities — like the Houston Airport System, Fluor Corp., and Toyota — that have expressed interest in using her gear for their workforce. Henry also wants to expand her products and reach female workers through retail — online and in store.

"Ultimately, SeeHerWork is the Lululemon of workwear," Henry says.

SeeHerWork is focused on keeping women safe, firstly, but also encouraging more women to enter the skilled labor workforce and then work their way up the ladder.

"I don't want people to think of us as a workwear company," Henry says. "I want them to think of us as an inclusion company. Mostly because just like professional sports team, the first step is the right clothing and equipment and the second step is working to be a team and working together."

At your fingertips

Courtesy of SeeHerWork

SeeHerWork has a full line of products, from gloves and bags to safety vests and long-sleeves shirts. She's launching more products — like coveralls, pants, and footwear — soon.