I'm James, the Owner of Spider Chalk. I launched Spider Chalk in 2015 and since that time, we've remained the only USA manufacturer of gym chalk.
People often ask me how I started Spider Chalk. Even though I am fiercely private and rarely offer details from my life, I want to share the Spider Chalk story. I hope it encourages athletes to support USA companies, and motivates entrepreneurs to manufacture in the USA instead of importing.
The Dirty Secret Of Chalk
In 2015, I ordered liquid chalk for the members of my CrossFit gym. A few minutes later I received an email saying, "Your order will arrive in 4-6 weeks."
I immediately called customer support where a lady explained all the chalk in the USA comes from China on a container ship. Every website selling chalk, and every brand of chalk, was the same product shipped from China. The only difference between hundreds of brands of blocks, liquid and powder chalk was the labels.
I didn't believe it so I searched Google for "USA Chalk" and "Chalk Made In The USA." 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 made chalk here in America.
CrossFit Gym 2008-2016
Until this point, I somehow falsely believed the lie that different brands offered different chalk. Misleading marketing tactics had blinded me into thinking that one chalk brand was somehow better or worse than another. Now I knew the truth - it was all the same chalk only with different labels.
Unbelievable and unacceptable.
I needed liquid chalk immediately for my gym so I decided to make my own. It was a disaster. My first mistake was following the "make liquid chalk at home" videos I found on YouTube, which told me I could put chalk and alcohol in a blender. It made a mess and the results were unbelievably bad for several reasons:
- The chalk came from China and turned into a goopy mess in the blender.
- The chalk rubbed off immediately, lasting about 5 reps.
- My gym looked like a chalk bomb exploded when the chalk rubbed off everywhere.
I reached out to a few chemists that helped me formulate a better, longer-lasting version of liquid chalk I called Spider Chalk. This time the chalk lasted an entire workout and my members loved it! I created a website and sent the link to fellow gym owners who also purchased bottles for their members.
A few days later I received a call from an online retailer who requested wholesale prices. They ordered 50 bottles. Apparently, others were tired of waiting on the ship too.
The Crazy Idea
Everyone loved our liquid chalk. We sold thousands of bottles and people went crazy over the formula! But as our liquid chalk became a best-seller on Amazon, I received hundreds of requests for block chalk.
Most lifters use blocks, and they were tired of the crumbly mess from cheap 2oz imported blocks. As I researched the methods of manufacturing, I discovered that 2oz imported blocks used a binder to make the chalk stick together. That binder became a lubricant when wet. Every time your hands sweat, they also become slippery and the more chalk you used the worse it became.
I experimented making chalk blocks out of chalk powder without using a binder. None of the blocks I created seem to stick together. I had the same problems with my test blocks as the common 2oz blocks, one rub and they crumbled! I even tried crushing 2oz blocks and forming them into new blocks, but I could never get them dense enough to last more than a few days - they all turned to powder!
Finally, after months of research, I discovered two challenges that must be solved in order to make blocks: First, the powder chalk had to be ultra-pure, the right density and a specific particle size in order to stick together without a binder, and second, I needed to design a completely new process in order to make better, denser blocks.
So that's what I did. For 18-months I obsessed over how to make blocks, often driving across the country to meet with people who could shed insight into the process.
After much stumbling and many wrong approaches, I made a machine with one purpose, to form dense chalk blocks using only 100% pure, lab-made, magnesium carbonate. 18 months of effort produced the world's first chalk block machine.
The next year our business grew fast! To keep up with demand, my wife and I set up a small production facility in our basement. After our four children went to bed, we would sneak down to the basement and start the long, tedious process of fulfilling orders.
Packaging circa 2016
As Spider Chalk grew, I spent most of my time improving processes in order to decrease the manufacturing time for each unit and keep up with demand. Spider Chalk invested heavily into new 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. Our processes improved to the point we could hire 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.
In 2020, we reached a distribution deal in our 20th country, making us a global company and the largest chalk manufacturer in the USA. We dwarf our competitors in the sports 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
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.
As we approach 2023, after much deliberation, Spider Chalk has decided to automate our manufacturing processes, consequently eliminating human workers entirely. In this recession economy, it's been increasingly challenging to find workers willing to accept jobs with repetitive tasks. Automating puts us in a unique situation to scale rapidly and decrease prices.
As we grow into the future, I will never lose sight of my original goal - to make better chalk and make it here in the USA. That will NEVER change.
Product packaging from 2019 - present
For several years, people often snickered when they saw my dogged determination to produce chalk in the USA. A smarter person would have given up. But the challenge of making chalk became an obsession which turned into a business.
One day I hope you will try our chalk and feel the difference.
Spider Chalk isn't a lifestyle brand and we don't have ambassadors or influencers repping our products.
Spider Chalk does one thing and does it better than everyone else on the planet, make better chalk.