After college, we all want to change the world, in some small way. Has your life ever been ruined by spilled salsa? Yeah, ours too. Luckily, CC ‘09ers Michael Charley and Tom Stewart have come to the rescue with the Salsabol. A bowl with an elongated lip to push salsa back onto a chip as you scoop upwards, the Salsabol promises the perfect proportion of dip to chip every time, without breakage or spillage. The men behind the madness sat down with Bwog to discuss the trials and triumphs of leading a Rebolution.
Bwog: So, Bwog is walking down the street, minding its own business, when you guys jump out at it, with Salsabol in hand. Can you sell Bwog a Salsabol in thirty seconds?
Michael Charley: The first thing is that you’re gonna need a new shirt, because it’s covered in red splotches and stains from the salsa that spilled on it. The next question is, how have you been living your life without one? And finally, you really can’t afford not to have one, because when everybody else has one, you’re going to be the laughingstock of the party.
Bwog: I’m sold. Tell me about the design and production process. How does something like this go from an idea to a mass-produced product from a factory?
MC: We had to do that with quite a bit of trial and error. They don’t really teach you about overseas manufacturing in Columbia.
Tom Stewart: It started last summer. I had had the idea of the Salsabol a couple of years ago, and it continued as a running joke. I offered it to Michael, and he was excited. Some guys from my architecture internship were teaching me some of the software I used to make the first 3D model of it. Then, Michael started getting involved in understanding how we might go about getting a producer, samples, testing.
Bwog: How does one do that?
MC: So, China’s an interesting place. You show up, and you realize that no one speaks the language you’re trying to speak, and the people who think that they speak the language you speak, don’t at all. You’ll ask for a bowl, and they’re gonna try to sell you dog food or something. But in about six months of sampling and production we finally got a first shipment.
Bwog: You guys must be aware of the CaliBowl, which is a similar concept.
MC: They’re definitely our biggest competitor in terms of design and sort of, company ambience.
TS: When I first saw the CaliBowl, my immediate reaction was “Aw, man, someone else kind of has this idea,” and then I looked more closely at it, and decided that I don’t really care about the CaliBowl. We have a product that’s a lot more focused than theirs is. Theirs is less of a chip and dip set, less of a centerpiece kind of thing. The other flaw with the CaliBowl, is that, if you have a CaliBowl on the table, and you walk by it, you can’t tell that it’s special. With the Salsabol, we wanted someone to look at it and say, “What is that? Why is it shaped like that?”
Bwog: How have sales been overall?
MC: It’s always up and down. We’ll be sitting around twiddling our thumbs one day and somehow, a ton of orders will get entered and we’ll spend the entire day frantically packing boxes.
Bwog: What are your plans for the Salsabol’s future?
TS: We’re going to pair the Salsabol with a platter to really make it a centerpiece chip and dip set. Then, ideally, we would be able to expand into some other colors. The good thing about it is that a large fraction of people who hear about it, love it, and love to tell other people about it. We all learned in Frontiers of Science about the “hub and spoke” method of social interaction, so we’re trying to find the hubs.
Bwog: Did your experiences at Columbia shape the idea, and if so, how?
TS: I didn’t really think about Columbia directly, but, as we continue to approach new problems every day, I think I’d be a fool not to say that I’m prepared for something. Having met Michael, a guy that would be crazy enough to do this thing with me, maybe that’s attributed to Columbia as well. In a recession economy, failure is not bad, people are so used to it that you can go out and try something completely crazy, and if it doesn’t work out, no one even notices. If it does, you have a great story.
MC: A great story, and a foundation for new things you want to do. We’re learning to be well-versed in things that, a year and a half ago, sitting in a seminar at Columbia, you could’ve said that to me and I would’ve said “What are you talking about?” But that’s what we’re doing, and I’m stoked.
Postscript: Bwog got to test a Salsabol at its first meeting (you should’ve come). While no salsa spilled out of the bowl, some did get on the outer lip, and some got on our shirts in the transfer from hand to mouth. Thankfully, our lives were unruined.
Photos from salsabol.com. Used with permission.