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Rebecca Cole

#guide #side #hustle #sell #sort #sleep #repeat

Running a one-woman business is never going to be easy. There are going to be sleepless nights and countless orders to prep, package and ship—especially when you’re going viral on TikTok.

But Rebecca Cole is proof that you really can do it all.

From months of research to hand-making products, it is all possible if you want it to be.

But it’s never a straightforward process.

After five failed side hustles and having a frightening personal experience, she finally found her passion with Fearless Keychains—personal safety keychains for women, helping them to reclaim a sense of independence and freedom.

If you need business inspiration, then look no further.

Here’s what we cover:

The heartbreaking reason behind Fearless Keychains

Bex Burn-Callander:

So Rebecca, tell me the backstory. How did Fearless Keychains come about?

Rebecca Cole:

So I used to be a dental nurse, I was working your normal nine-to-five job, and I was scrolling through TikTok, as most people do nowadays, and I discovered a product that was in America.

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I really wanted one of these products that I found, but I soon came to find that they are illegal over here in the UK, and I wasn’t willing to take any kind of risks.

So I started to look to see if there was anything similar in the UK, something that somebody was already making, and I could not find anything, anywhere.

So I guess I saw a little gap in the market and it kind of just spiralled from there.

Bex Burn-Callander:

This was a personal safety product, right?

So tell me about what was going on in your life, in your friends’ lives, that made you feel like you wanted to have some sort of backup plan, personal safety, something to have in your pocket?

Was there an experience or just a vibe that was affecting you?

Rebecca Cole:

I feel like especially girls, from a really young age, we are taught to never walk alone or go out after dark, and that we should hold our keys in between our fingers.

So there’s always that nervousness about going out by yourself.

But I went out with my friends into London, and we had a little bit of an uncomfortable experience with some unwanted attention. It left us feeling a bit intimidated, which is what sparked me into looking for possible available products.

At that time, all I could find, that was legal, was a safety alarm. That’s the only thing that we are allowed to carry as a form of self-defence. But as I said, this American product came up on my ‘For You’ TikTok page, and I was like, “Wow, this is something that I would love.”

So I had to do my research and things from there.

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But it’s just one of those things, you have that one experience, and then it leaves you looking over your shoulder or walking with your torch on your phone, and that’s just no way to live really, is it?

Bex Burn-Callander:

No, absolutely.

Adapting an American product to abide by UK laws

Bex Burn-Callander:

And so you got inspired by this American product, and then you started looking to create your own, that would be legal in the UK.

So tell me about that journey.

How tricky was it to actually, not just work out what you can carry, and stay within the rules, but also how on earth you would source those particular product to that spec?

Rebecca Cole:

Firstly, with the research, there are so many conflicting things in regard to self-defence.

There are some forums that state things like, you can carry a knife under certain inches, but you can’t use it for self-defence. You can only use it for opening boxes, cutting letters.

It was always a really grey area.

So I just stayed away from all of those kinds of things, and only went looking for the types of things that I knew I could rely on—things that were 100% legal and people were not going to get in any kind of trouble for.

So the research in itself took about six months.

In regard to sourcing my products, I source them from all over. The criminal identification spray that I sell, comes from the UK because it had to be a UK legal product.

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But most of the products, I source from abroad, in bulk. But then some of the items I offer are handmade by myself, so it’s a little bit of everything.

What UK legal equipment is included on the keychain?

Bex Burn-Callander:

Tell me what’s on the keychain.

So if you go to your store, and you buy the classic Fearless Keychain, what’s on there, and what are the purposes of these different tools?

Rebecca Cole:

So firstly, you have a wristlet, which I make by hand. That is designed for you to keep all of the equipment in one place, so it’s easy to carry and also, it means you have different pieces of equipment all in one place, for different situations.

I would say the purpose of the products I provide, is that they will act as a criminal deterrent because they’re not self-defence products, as such.

The items I sell include, a criminal identification spray, which will mark an attacker in a bright red dye, staining their skin and clothes.

It also has a UV fluorescent dye which is not detectable by the naked eye, but it is visible under police equipment.

Lastly, it has a very foul odour in it. So that should act as a deterrent to the attacker, hopefully getting them to turn away from you, giving you vital seconds to run.

A safety alarm, which of course is pretty standard with safety and self-defence in the UK, which will alert people around you and shock an attacker, allowing you to run and find safety.

There is also a spring-loaded window breaker, which is a car safety tool.

It has a hidden blade inside which, again, is UK legal. It is designed to cut your seatbelt if you get into a car accident, as sometimes you can’t gain access to the buckle.

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Or if you need to, let’s say, get a baby out of a car seat really quickly, you can slice off the harness. So that is provided on my keychains.

And also a little torch, which is USB rechargeable, so you never have to worry about batteries. I do include other little bits and bobs on the keychains like hand sanitiser and door openers, but that’s the safety aspect of the equipment that I can offer legally.

The sad reality of selling a product you hope no one ever has to use

Bex Burn-Callander:

And do you get feedback from your customers, I mean, are people using these things, and have you been able to save people from horrible experiences because they’ve had this in their pocket?

Rebecca Cole:

Yeah, so I’ve had a couple of people reach out to me.

This is something I try not to share on social media because it is such personal experience.

But I do have people reach out to me, asking for replacement sprays, where they’ve had to use their spray in an emergency.

Even though I don’t make the spray or manufacture the spray, I have a very close relationship with my supplier. So any feedback on that is great.

And from what I’ve heard from my customers, it’s really helped them in situations.

But it is something that’s really hard to hear.

I get a bit emotional and a bit sensitive about these things, and when I think about people actually having to use these products, it makes my heart hurt a little bit. But there has been situations where unfortunately people have had to use the equipment.

Bex Burn-Callander:

You want it to be a deterrent, you hope that they never end up in a situation where they actually have to use it, I totally understand.

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You don’t need big bucks to start your business

Bex Burn-Callander:

So you said it was six months’ research, and then you buy a lot of the products in bulk.

Can you share with us how much did you have to invest in getting this business off the ground?

Could you start really small and then build slowly? Or did you need to put down a lot?

Rebecca Cole:

As I said, before I created Fearless Keychains, I was a dental nurse. So I was actually a trainee dental nurse, so I was on minimum wage, I wasn’t earning big bucks and I didn’t have loads of money to be investing in a business.

So it got to a point where I was really unhappy in my job, and it was starting to affect me mentally, you know when you get that feeling of, “I just don’t want to go to work,” and it gives you anxiety.

So I knew there was something that I needed to do, it wasn’t a life that I was happy with.

So I saved what I could. I do have a little one as well at home, so obviously like every penny counts. And I managed to scrape together £1,000. And that is how much I started Fearless with.

Now, I didn’t really know anyone, I didn’t have anyone to promote my product, I didn’t have anyone to promote my business.

So everything I have literally done by myself.

It’s definitely proof that if you put your mind to it, you don’t have to have all this money behind you, you don’t have to have all these people behind you.

It is harder, I’m not going to be the one to sit here and say, “Oh yeah, it’s going to work for everyone. And it’s going to be quick and easy,” but it’s definitely possible, 100%.

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Bex Burn-Callander:

Because you even do all the design. So when I was looking through your shop, there’s all these amazing colours and really, they really pop, they’re so cute as well.

Rebecca Cole:

Aww, thank you.

Handmaking products to add a personal touch

Bex Burn-Callander:

So how did you teach yourself design? Did you already have a passion for art or something previously?

Rebecca Cole:

So I’ve always been quite creative person. Even the wristlets, I can actually get someone to make them, but I kind of just enjoy making them. I have always been quite creative and quite arty, in that sense.

But all of those patterns that you see there, they have only been about for about six or seven months.

Previous to that, I was buying designs that were already available with my wholesaler. Because when you are getting things customised, it’s more expensive because you have to buy it in bulk.

So I did have to save for a long time, but I knew that was something I wanted to do to make my product stand out. I wanted to have everything customised to something that I’ve chosen, so then nobody else would have it.

So that was something that I’ve just introduced to the business, which has worked really well.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And you’re still making all of them, right?

Rebecca Cole:

Yes and that’s something that I want to continue to do as well.

Even as Fearless grows, I still want to keep that. It gives that personal experience, do you know what I mean? Rather than me just buying everything already made, it gives that little touch.

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Bex Burn-Callander:

You feel closer to your product and therefore your customers when you are actually physically involved.

Using TikTok to grow your business at a rapid rate

Bex Burn-Callander:

Can you share with me, how quickly this business has grown?

Because you’ve only been around for a year, but do you have any numbers? How many keychains you’ve sold or turnover, anything you can share to show the scale you’re at now?

Rebecca Cole:

So how the business grew, I was very fortunate because one of my videos blew up on TikTok and went viral.

I was very, very fortunate and that did boost my business.

So it sort of went from nothing to big quite quickly, which again, in itself, I was not prepared for. It’s quite a shock to the system. There are lots of ways you need to get around things, if you’ve got lots of people demanding your products.

But then it’s just little old you, working by yourself, and you want to make sure that you reach all these people.

That, in itself, is quite an obstacle to get over.

I’ve sold just over 4,000 in the year, so I’ve made just over 4,000.

But again, I feel like if this was something I was buying pre-made it probably could have been more. It’s due to how many I can make in the time that I’m given.

I reached my six-figure mark in December last year. So the business generated six figures in sales in December, so that would’ve been the eighth month. A lot of it is thanks to TikTok.

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I didn’t really do any other advertising or anything because when I put my first video on TikTok, it generated interest and it kind of blew up from there. I didn’t really have time to advertise anywhere else, so everything has come from TikTok really.

What to put in TikTok videos to market your business—you don’t always need a product on hand

Bex Burn-Callander:

Can you break down for our listeners, I know this is audio, so it’s tricky, but what went in that video?

Why did it go viral? What was it that captured people’s imaginations?

Rebecca Cole:

I think I had a bit of an advantage because this product wasn’t available in the UK.

This wasn’t something that was selling here. And everybody, and I mean everybody, that was commenting on my videos was saying, “Oh, I’ve seen the one in America and I really wanted it, but it had pepper spray, it had a knife, it had a Taser,” and all of these things.

So everyone had seen them in America, and they were already searching.

Whereas I think I did have a bit of an advantage in that sense. But one of the things that I’ve always stuck by in business is selling something that people can’t get anywhere else.

And that doesn’t mean you have to invent a whole new product.

What it means is you take a product that already exists, but make it different, way, way, way different.

There are so many people out there that have different wants, different needs, different desires.

But if you see one business doing well, and you think, “Oh, I want to do that exact thing,” and then you start copying that business, you’re going to have a really hard time convincing their customers to shop with you.

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They’ve already got a reputation, they’re already established.

But if you take what they’re selling and put your own spin on it, whether it’s the colour, the patterns, the product, you are then reaching a whole different target audience.

Then rather than trying to outdo somebody, you’re both succeeding.

Even now, there are more and more safety keychain companies coming up. But if you’re different from the rest, then everyone can succeed.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Now, that’s really great advice. And it’s a kind of easier route to market because you know there’s already demand out there.

So that’s really smart.

Just about that TikTok video. So did you just demonstrate what your product could do? Was that all it took?

Or did you need to do something that took a bit more thought or scripting?

Rebecca Cole:

Yeah, so initially, this was before I had any of the items, because I was sourcing them from abroad, and they obviously take a few weeks to arrive. So I set up a TikTok prior to my business officially opening or selling anything.

I was sharing facts about what I was trying to achieve with my business. So the story behind my business, what it was that I stood for, my work ethic, things like that, just getting my name out there and saying that this is what I want to do, and this is going to be launching soon.

I had about 1,000 followers before I sold one product. So the more you get your name out there and the more you get your business out there, the easier it will be, even prior to opening.

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You don’t have to have the product to start marketing yourself, you can start by saying what it is you are doing, tell everyone and show them—if you can.

So I did have about 1,000 people already there at that point.

After that, I then did a video which was a demonstration of the keychain, the equipment, what it did. And that is what went viral.

How much time to dedicate to TikTok and how it differs from other social media platforms

Bex Burn-Callander:

Do you have to spend a lot of time on social media, on TikTok, in order to maintain momentum?

Does that take up a lot of your time now? Or is it just minimal?

Rebecca Cole:

Initially, when I first started, I focused on TikTok quite a lot.

I was posting two or three times a day and being very consistent with it. But as the business grew, that did get harder because I was having to focus my time on sales rather than making videos.

But like I said, I started the business by myself, so it was something that I had to grow.

I started off with six keychains, could you believe?

On 14 April last year, that was all I had to sell. That was my £1,000, and I had six keychains.

And they sold out within about 10 minutes. So I took that money, and then I could buy 20, I took that money, and it’d buy 50, and grew it from there.

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So in the early stages, I did have more time to be posting on TikTok.

But when I started hitting 150 orders to make a week, it did become harder. But I feel like once you get your foot in the door on TikTok, your videos are constantly being reached.

This is why I love TikTok, because even now I’ve got videos from last year that people are still liking and interacting with. So it is still coming up on their recommended pages.

So I think if you utilise TikTok and are consistent with it, then it can really make your business grow.

Bex Burn-Callander:

TikTok is not like a lot of the other media platforms where when it’s gone, it’s gone, and people don’t tend to scroll back, or they won’t see it again. That’s really good to know.

16 hours on shipping labels and selling products you don’t have in stock— it’s all a learning process

Bex Burn-Callander:

Rebecca, have you made any mistakes along the way, anything?

Rebecca Cole:

So many.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well, can you share one or two.

And so what was the mistake? What went wrong?

And then what did you learn from that?

Rebecca Cole:

So I had no business experience whatsoever. I feel like there were so many things that I was doing that were taking up so much of my time, and I didn’t even realise there were quicker ways of doing it.

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Shipping, for example!

I remember when I first started, I got my first 100 orders, and I was buying one shipping label on PayPal at a time, and it took me 16 hours.

Then I figured out, on Royal Mail, I can do it all in one go and do a batch order in 10 minutes. I was like, “What is wrong with me?”

But lots of little things like that I had to learn. But there’s been times that I haven’t ordered a product but listed on my website as in stock.

So I sell these GPS safety alarms, which when they’re activated, they’ll send your location to your emergency contacts. I had one on my website that I didn’t have in stock at the time and somebody bought it.

I’m a very firm believer in trying not to let your mistakes affect the customer.

So do everything you can to try and figure it out before you approach your customer, and say, “Oh, by the way, I’m not going to lie, I messed up.”

You have to be honest.

But I actually bought one of the alarms on Amazon for four times what I usually pay, and I shipped it to my customer because I didn’t want to be like, “Oh, I’m really sorry, I didn’t have the alarm.”

So there are loads of little things like that. Some costly, some not.

But you are going to make mistakes, and you have to know that is okay. Especially if you’re someone like me that has no business experience, you’re not going to have a clue, I didn’t have a clue.

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I figured everything out as I went along, I didn’t have anyone to go to for advice. You have to learn from these mistakes. But also know that it is okay to make them.

Don’t let your mistakes affect your customers

Bex Burn-Callander:

It’s interesting though, that you say you have no business experience.

But you clearly have very strong business instincts because your feelings about, “Right. I’m not going to say anything in a public forum that might reflect badly on my business, I’m going to always put the customer first. I’m not going to let them see when I’ve made a mistake.”

Those instincts are very strong, entrepreneurial.

So did you kind of hone that as you’ve gone along, or do you feel like you just had a good sense for these things?

Rebecca Cole:

One of my personality traits is that I am a people pleaser.

So if someone asks me to do something, I’ll do it.

I’m just one of those people, which isn’t always a good thing. But my ethics have always been quite strong in the sense that I will go above and beyond.

I feel like it does help in business because you’ve got two ways of going about it. You can go down the route of trying to rectify the mistake without affecting the customer, or you can just own up, which again, it’s okay to hold your hand up and say, “Oh, I made the mistake.”

And if I couldn’t have done anything about it the GPS alarm, then I would’ve gone with that option.

But I do try my absolute best to not let it affect the customer. It will always be a last resort.

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Be your most authentic self

Bex Burn-Callander:

We hear a lot about authenticity, especially when it comes to how you speak to people on social media. You’ve got a definite voice.

When you read your website, you can hear your voice, you can see it in your socials.

Did you spend much time working out what that tone was going to be? Or is this just completely unfiltered Rebecca Cole?

Rebecca Cole:

It is completely unfiltered.

I’m not going to lie, when you have something, and I feel like when you find that passion, you’ll know it. Everyone is capable of this, but you need to find what it is that you are passionate about.

I’ve tried a lot of things, I’ve tried selling bath bombs and so many little side hustles, but they weren’t for me.

But that’s okay, you have to get out there, and you have to try these things. Otherwise, you’re not going to know.

But when you find that thing that you’re passionate about, there is nothing that can stop you. But it has to click, and you will know it when it does.

You just have to get your feet in the water, try little things, have a look, see what’s out there.

If you think, “Oh, I might like to try baking.” Try it. If you don’t like it, move on to the next thing.

Failure is okay. It’s how you deal with it and pick yourself back up afterwards.

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Sometimes it takes five failed side hustles to find your passion

Bex Burn-Callander:

Tell me about some of these side hustles. Bath bombs, you say?

So what other things have you tried to sell over the years?

Rebecca Cole:

So I’ve tried baking. There are things that are harder to try, especially when it comes to food, as you have to consider food hygiene and things like that.

You probably do want to have your qualification or work towards your qualification in something that.

But I did want to think about making cakes and big birthday cakes because I am quite creative.

But there was a lot involved in it that wasn’t for me. It’s not the hard work that scares me. It was considering, do I really want to do this? Or do I want to put in this hard work if it’s not going to make me happy?

So that was a flop.

And then I tried wax melts. Again, wax melts is something that is really hard to get your name out there because there are so many established companies.

You’ve got big companies, such as Yankee Candle. So that, in itself, was quite hard. So that flopped.

Then I did bath bombs.

Again, there’s a lot behind it that you don’t know. You have to have cosmetic assessments, you have to have your recipe assessed and things like that.

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So it’s not about being scared of the hard work, it’s about the hard work being the right thing for you.

If you really enjoy what you’re doing, then it won’t really feel like hard work.

When I look back on this business, I’m like, “How did I even do all this? How? There are things that I just don’t know how I did, but I just did it because I wanted to do it because it was what was passionate about.

Bex Burn-Callander:

So this is your first actual business, but how many experiments do you reckon that you did to get here?

Rebecca Cole:

So I would say I had a good five, but I didn’t sell anything ever, nothing.

I was not successful at all, they all flopped.

Helping customers regain their independence and freedom

Bex Burn-Callander:

Just finally, Rebecca, one more question, which is, can you tell me about the absolute number one highlight that you’ve experienced being a business owner?

What’s been the best moment for you so far?

Rebecca Cole:

This is going to sound so cliché.

So on my checkout page, there’s a little section where it says, ‘Leave me a note’. Sometimes, people will put in there, “Oh, can I have a pink safety alarm instead of a black one,” or whatever.

But every single day, at some point, there is an order that will come through with an essay on it that says about how much this product means to them.

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I am telling you now, hand on heart, I cry still to this day, at every single one of those messages.

The fact people take the time to write about how much this product is going to give them back their independence and freedom. I actually feel like I’m going to cry now.

But it is so overwhelming because you just think of yourself as this nobody, just this one-person business.

But you are having such an impact on other people’s lives to the point that they can go out by themselves and live their life.

And that’s all down to you.

So still to this day, I feel like as cliché as it sounds, every day that, in itself, is my highlight.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Oh Rebecca, you are so far from a nobody, you’re an absolute dynamo.

And what an amazing person.

Rebecca Cole:

I actually think I’m going to cry.

Bex Burn-Callander:

You’re going to set me off, I can see you getting so emotional. But that is a beautiful highlight.

Thank you for being on this show. I’ve loved talking to you.

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Inspired by this small business story?

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Join our community to share your insights and stories on Twitter @SageUK using the hashtag #SoundAdvicePodcast, on Instagram @SageOfficial or in the comments below!

Want to know more about Fearless Keychains?

You can find Fearless Keychains on TikTok and Instagram.

And don’t forget to check out their website too!


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Exclusive: Spirit delays shareholder vote on merger hours before meeting to continue deal talks with Frontier, JetBlue – TalkOfNews.com

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Spirit Airlines says it will decide on competing JetBlue, Frontier bids before the end of June

#Spirit #delays #shareholder #vote #merger #hours #meeting #continue #deal #talks #Frontier #JetBlue

A Spirit Airlines plane on the tarmac at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on February 07, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Spirit Airlines on Wednesday delayed shareholder vote on its proposed merger with Frontier Airlines until July 8, hours before a meeting scheduled for Thursday so it can further discuss options with Frontier and rival suitor JetBlue Airways.

It is the second time Spirit has delayed a vote on its planned combination with Frontier and extends the most contentious battle for a U.S. airline in years.

Spirit originally scheduled Thursday’s vote for June 10 but had delayed that for the same reasons.

Both Frontier and JetBlue have upped their offers in the week before the scheduled vote approached.

“Spirit would not have postponed tomorrow’s meeting if they felt they had the votes,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry consultant and president of Atmosphere Research Group. Spirit didn’t comment on whether that is the case.

“We compliment the Spirit Board for listening to their shareholders, who clearly were not supportive of the Frontier transaction, and adjourning the Special Meeting,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in a statement later Wednesday.

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“It’s clear that Spirit shareholders have now handed the Spirit Board an undeniable mandate to reach an agreement with JetBlue.”

“This is like the end of a soap opera episode,” Harteveldt added.

Frontier and Spirit first announced their intent to merge in February. In April, JetBlue made an all-cash, surprise bid for Spirit, but Spirit’s board has repeatedly rejected JetBlue’s offers, arguing a JetBlue takeover wouldn’t pass muster with regulators.

Either combination would create the United States’ fifth-largest carrier.

JetBlue has fired back at Spirit, saying it did not negotiate in good faith, setting off a war of words between the airlines as they competed for shareholder support ahead of the vote.

Frontier didn’t immediately comment about the postponed vote.

Spirit shares were up about 2% in afterhours trading, while Frontier was up more than 1% and JetBlue was down 1%.

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Exclusive: Get hype for the first images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – TalkOfNews.com

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Get hype for the first images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

#hype #images #NASAs #James #Webb #Space #Telescope

Very soon, humanity will get to view the deepest images of the universe that have ever been captured. In two weeks, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — NASA’s super expensive, super powerful deep space optical imager — will release its first full-color images, and agency officials today suggested that they could just be the beginning.

“This is farther than humanity has ever looked before,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a media briefing Wednesday (he was calling in, as he had tested positive for COVID-19 the night before). “We’re only beginning to understand what Webb can and will do.”

NASA launched James Webb last December; ever since, it’s been conducting a specialized startup process that involves delicately tuning all 18 of its huge mirror segments. A few months ago, NASA shared a “selfie” marking the successful operations of the IR camera and primary mirrors. Earlier this month, the agency said the telescope’s first images will be ready for public debut at 10:30 AM ET on July 12.

One aspect of the universe that JWST will unveil is exoplanets, or planets outside our Solar System — specifically, their atmospheres. This is key to understanding whether there are other planets similar to ours in the universe, or if life can be found on planets under atmospheric conditions that differ from those found on Earth. And Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, confirmed that images of an exoplanet’s atmospheric spectrum will be shared with the public on July 12.

Essentially, James Webb’s extraordinary capacity to capture the infrared spectrum means that it will be able to detect small molecules like carbon dioxide. This will enable scientists to actually examine whether and how atmospheric compositions shape the capacity for life to emerge and develop on a planet.

NASA officials also shared more good news: The agency’s estimates of the excess fuel capability of the telescope were spot on, and JWST will be able to capture images of space for around 20 years.

“Not only will those 20 years allow us to go deeper into history and time, but we will go deeper into science because we will have the opportunity to learn and grow and make new observations,” NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy said.

JWST has not had an easy ride to deep space. The entire project came very close to not happening at all, Nelson said, after it started running out of money and Congress considered canceling it entirely. It also faced numerous delays due to technical issues. Then, when it reached space, it was promptly pinged by a micrometeoroid, an event that surely made every NASA official shudder.

But overall, “it’s been an amazing six months,” Webb project manager Bill Ochs confirmed.

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Exclusive: Fight for Spirit Airlines goes down to the wire with competing bids from Frontier and JetBlue – TalkOfNews.com

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Fight for Spirit Airlines goes down to the wire with competing bids from Frontier and JetBlue

#Fight #Spirit #Airlines #wire #competing #bids #Frontier #JetBlue

The most heated airline battle in recent years comes to a head on Thursday when Spirit Airlines’ shareholders vote on a proposed tie-up with fellow discount carrier Frontier Airlines while rival suitor JetBlue Airways circles with increasingly sweetened takeover bids.

Spirit has repeatedly rebuffed sweetened, all-cash bids from JetBlue, arguing that such a takeover wouldn’t pass muster with regulators, and has stuck with its plan to combine in an also-sweetened cash-and-stock deal to combine with Frontier, first announced in February.

JetBlue’s surprise all-cash bid in April set off a fight over Spirit that last month turned hostile.

If Spirit shareholders vote in favor of the tie-up with Frontier, it would put the carriers on the path to creating a budget airline behemoth. The two carriers share a similar business model based on low fares and fees for almost everything else from seat selection to carry-on bags.

A Frontier Airlines plane near a Spirit Airlines plane at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on May 16, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

If shareholders vote against the deal it opens the door for a takeover by JetBlue, which would retrofit Spirit’s yellow planes to look like JetBlue’s, including cabins with seatback screens and more legroom.

“JetBlue does not have many options to achieve a step-change in growth, and that explains why JetBlue has pursued this deal so doggedly,” said Samuel Engel, aviation consultant at ICF.

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JetBlue and Frontier have each argued their proposed transactions are key to their future growth, helping them better compete with large U.S. carriers and get fast access to Airbus narrow-body planes and pilots.

Either deal would create the fifth-largest U.S. airline.

Late Monday, JetBlue said it would raise the reverse breakup fee if regulators don’t approve a JetBlue takeover of Spirit to $400 million from $350 million. It also raised the amount it would pay up in advance to $2.50 a share, from $1.50 and added a 10 cent-a-share monthly payment to shareholders starting next year until the deal is consummated or terminated.

JetBlue previously offered to divest some assets in crowded markets to calm antitrust fears, but hasn’t said it would give up its alliance with American Airlines in the Northeast U.S., which Spirit has called out as a sticking point in that deal.

JetBlue’s latest offer came after Frontier late Friday raised the cash portion of its offer by $2 per share to $4.13 and increased the reverse breakup fee to $350 million to match JetBlue’s then-offer.

Spirit has stuck with the Frontier deal. CEO Ted Christie on Tuesday called the Frontier offer “very compelling” and told CNBC the airline wants to “focus our efforts on convincing the shareholders it’s the right thing to do.”

Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services on Tuesday said that “the enhancements by JetBlue may be enough to offset the potential upside of the proposed merger with Frontier” but said it didn’t want to change its recommendation in favor of the deal with so little time before the vote.

Spirit postponed the vote from June 10 to continue deal talks with Frontier and JetBlue.

War of words

For weeks, JetBlue has argued that Spirit’s board hasn’t negotiated in good faith or fully considered its offer. It has repeatedly urged the budget airline’s shareholders to vote against the Frontier deal.

“The Spirit Board consistently ignored or refused to engage with JetBlue until faced with certain defeat on the original shareholder meeting date and then, in an attempt to avoid the widespread perception of its poor corporate governance, pretended to engage with JetBlue,” JetBlue said in a letter Wednesday again urging Spirit shareholders to vote against the Frontier deal.

Spirit has repeatedly denied claims that it hasn’t engaged with JetBlue in good faith.

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“Our board believes [the Frontier merger] is the most financially and strategically compelling path forward for Spirit with a greater likelihood of closing,” Christie said in a video message addressing shareholders on Wednesday.

All three carriers have traded heated words as they try to win over Spirit shareholders before the shareholder vote.

JetBlue late Monday wrote a letter to Spirit shareholders detailing its latest sweetened bid and accusing Spirit of making “misleading statements” regarding its antitrust doubts.

Frontier fired back in a lengthy news release Tuesday saying that “a Spirit acquisition by JetBlue would lead to a dead end — a fact that no amount of money, bluster, or misdirection will change.”

The high drama is coming from an already-consolidated industry that hasn’t seen a major airline deal since 2016, when JetBlue lost out to Alaska Airlines for Virgin America.

“This is as much as a potboiler for the summer than any trashy novel,” said Henry Harteveldt, a former airline manager and president of of Atmosphere Research Group.

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