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 US companies and motivates entrepreneurs to manufacture in the US 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 who 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 it 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 blinded me into thinking that one chalk brand was somehow better or worse than another. The truth is it was all the same chalk with different labels.
Unbelievable and unacceptable.
I needed liquid chalk immediately for my gym so I decided to make a batch. It was disastrous. 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 liquid chalk lasted an entire workout and my members loved it!
A few days later I received a call from an online retailer who requested wholesale prices. They ordered 50 bottles. Apparently, other companies were tired of waiting on imported chalk.
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 compressed chalk blocks and 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 with making chalk blocks 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!
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. Finally, after months of research, I discovered a completely new process to make better, denser blocks.
Then I designed a machine to form dense chalk blocks using only 100% pure, lab-made, magnesium carbonate.
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 to fulfill orders.
Packaging circa 2016
As Spider Chalk grew, I spent most of my time improving processes to keep up with demand. 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 block chalk. Most of these offers we turned down due to our limited production capabilities.
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 now produce large batches in only a few hours, allowing us to work with 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. 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, Spider Chalk has begun to automate our factory. Automating puts our business in a unique situation to scale rapidly and decrease prices. Spider Chalk will be the first and only fully-automated chalk manufacturer in the world.
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 that 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.