Hi, I'm James and I launched Spider Chalk in 2015. This year, 2020, marks our 5-year anniversary as the only chalk manufacturer in the USA. People often ask me how I started Spider Chalk. To celebrate 5 years, I decided to share our history as a business and offer some insight into why our family decided to pursue making better chalk as a lifestyle. Even though I am fiercely private and rarely share details from my life, I think the Spider Chalk story is captivating and I hope it encourages other entrepreneurs to take a leap of faith into manufacturing here in the USA.
In 2008 I started a CrossFit gym. As owner, I often bought chalk for my gym. One day, I decided to invest in a very large order of chalk. A few minutes after that purchase I received an email saying my chalk would be delivered in 4-6 weeks. I called customer service and they told me that the reason for the delay was that every company selling chalk in the USA was waiting on the container ship from China to hit the port. I then searched Google for "USA Chalk" and "Chalk Made In The USA" with zero results. So there I was, head coach of a CrossFit in immediate need of chalk for my gym with no place to buy because no one wanted to make chalk here in America.
CrossFit Gym 2008-2016
I quickly realized that because all chalk came from China on the same container, it was all the same chalk with different labels. Until this point, I somehow falsely believed that different brands were different chalk. It was all a lie. Misleading marketing tactics had blinded me into thinking that one chalk brand was somehow better or worse than another. Now I knew the truth. We have 350 million people in America and not one of them wanted to make chalk? Millions of manufactures across this nation and not one made chalk? Unbelievable. Unacceptable.
I spent weeks calling manufacturers asking them to produce chalk that I could distribute. None were interested. I finally ran out of people to call. The only option left was to do it myself. So we started in the garage. I sold my CrossFit gym and moved to a new city. In the midst of all this change, I was tinkering around and making prototypes for machines. For 18-months I obsessed over how to make chalk, often driving across the country to meet with people who could shed some insight into the process. After countless conversations with engineers, chemists and other experts, I designed a unique series of processes that would produce usable retail products.
Packaging circa 2016
In early months of 2017, my wife and I set up a small production facility in our basement. After our children went to bed, we would sneak down to the basement and start the long, tedious process of making chalk so we could fulfill orders that were pouring in. Our largest single order was over 10,000 units and we had to quickly employ my mother and cousins for a few days just to get that order out the door!
As we grew, I spent most of my time improving processes in order to cut down on the time spent manufacturing each unit and keep up with demand. Spider Chalk invested heavily into machinery, but much of it either didn't work or only improved processing time slightly. But over time, we seemed to find breakthroughs that allowed us to continue increasing our volume. During this time we had many large companies reach out, including one sporting goods store with 850 locations, wanting to purchase chalk. Most of these offers we turned down due to our limited ability to produce large volumes.
Eldest son with our original Spider Chalk 8oz bottle
Then in 2019 Spider Chalk turned the corner. We had improved each process to the point we could hire several workers and pay them a fair wage. Our workers could produce large batches in only a few hours which allowed us to take on larger clients and accept more lucrative contracts. In 2020, the world's largest retailer added Spider Chalk as a vendor making us a global company and the largest in the USA. We dwarf our competitors in the chalk industry both in volume and revenue. Our little basement start-up has now become a true manufacturing company.
One of the first 5.3oz Mega Blocks ever produced... in our basement
Our workers are wonderful, hard-working and responsible members of a local missionary group. These wonderful young people are special and unique. They have returned from the mission field and are looking for temporary jobs with flexible hours. As a business owner, one of the challenges is finding good people. Spider Chalk has been blessed with consistent and eager workers who are thankful for the opportunity to serve the world by making better chalk products.
Spider Chalk is moving our production facility to accommodate our increase in size and building a new warehouse. We will have housing on site for our workers and a full gym to test our products. We jokingly call it "The Compound" due to the fact that our new site will have several buildings, offices and a gym. We plan to invite people to join us for workouts in our new gym and we hope it will become a meeting place for athletes in the community.
Product packaging from 2019 - present
For several years, people often snickered when they saw my dogged determination to produce chalk. It seemed every month we would hit another roadblock. A smarter person would have given up. But the challenge of making chalk became an obsession which turned into a business.
Our goal for Spider Chalk isn't to make better chalk or increase revenue. Our one and only goal is to make relationships with as many people in as many countries as possible with the intention to help them. Maybe we can help people with chalk. Maybe we can help people with jobs. Maybe we can help people with housing. Maybe we can help people with a free workout space. Or maybe we can help people by being an encouragement. We pray for our workers, our vendors, our customers and our suppliers every day. We pray that they are blessed as much as our family has been blessed. We are grateful for the support and we hope that we can continue to produce a wonderful product that people enjoy.