Being a supplier to businesses flirting with bankruptcy due to COVID lockdowns is tough. No cashflow means no purchases. Period. Our main customers (climbing gyms) are starting to open up again and we are FINALLY seeing some proper sales. It feels good to finally talk to gym owners who are no longer desperate.
From now on we're going to be building in public. We bit the bullet & are going to dedicate our Twitter account to documenting our progress.
It's going to be a bit of a retro-active "Build in Public" thing in terms of product development. Product dev is pretty much finished at this point except for one formula improvement we are still working on.
We're going to document two things on Twitter: how we spent a year building our products & going forward how we are going to sell our products.
We actually wanted to have this skincare kit available for Christmas but that was too tight of a goal. Design + manufacturing of a collection of climbing accessories in less than one month was just not feasible.
I'm happy we set this crazy end-of-yeargoal because just a couple of months later we now have an awesome product line-up with everything a climbers need to take care of their skin.
The kit includes a brush, nail clippers, our balm, our cream, finger tape & a finger file. It comes in a bag sized just right so you can easily add a couple of things of your own like e.g. first-aid-supplies or a tube of chalk cream.
It's so neat to have everything I need for my climbing session fit inside this little bag!
We produced a first batch with the final formula of our first 4 products: chalk cream, crystal chalk, repair cream & repair balm. Products available for sale online & some small sales to local gyms and retailers in Belgium. Accessories (brush, tape, nail clippers) for skin care kit ordered.
Worked hard all summer to define the 4 products we would like to bring to market. Accepted small investment to fund first batch of products. We were first planning on just launching our own formula of liquid chalk but ended up creating four products & accidentally discovered a revolutionary formula of liquid chalk that creates no dust & leaves no residue on the holds.
Over summer we participated in YC's Startup School. I'd participated with another startup before & even though it was a bad match for YC (non-software, non-tech, not-high-growth) I credit being able to finish product development for CR to participating in this program.
There's just something about being part of a community of entrepreneurs struggling and building. The weekly accountability helped a lot. What we achieved in this period is defining the formula for our main product (liquid chalk), but also, almost as important: convincing ourselves that going all the way towards defining a full skincare product line-up was feasible.
Pretty much all product development work for Chalk Rebels was done in this intense 8-week period. Graduated from YC Startup School in September.
We worked with an excellent designer to get the brand design "just right" and the website live. The website was built on Shopify & was pretty easy to DIY.
I'm very happy we paid a little more to do packaging mockups. That saved us so much work in the end. I'm also happy we showed our first crappy versions of the site to the climbers we talked to during customer development.
Having a pro looking website makes it so much easier to talk to people and (in)validate assumptions. Working on design, brand & online presence was also pretty much the ONLY stuff we were able to work on due to the COVID lockdown and because the actual product development cycles in skincare take such a long time.
Creating skincare products turns out to have far far far longer development cycles than software, which has been my bread and butter for the last 10+ years. It took us almost two months to go from idea to first product sample for our liquid chalk. And yes, that first sample was pretty bad.
We'd been toying with the idea of doing Chalk Rebels for about a year but the COVID lockdown finally convinced us to go for it. To give us something to do & take our mind off the craziness of the whole COVID situation. Who knew starting a company could count as therapy?
First thing we did at this point was a round of design & copywriting work to get the website going. Just to have "something" to point to when doing customer development interviews with climbers.
The first inkling of an idea came a full year before we started to work "for real" on Chalk Rebels.
I was helping out a friend with some freelance work on a Shopify plugin & the desire to sell "something" online started to grow.
I remember making some liquid chalk in my kitchen in May 2019. I worked a bit on brand & design but the idea of going all-in oil this was still too scary.
Our goal is to reduce the use of magnesium carbonate powder in the climbing industry. We have created a 100% transparent alternative to white climbing chalk.