Starting A Business In Lockdown

Mona Lisa COVID


We found the inspiration to start Chalk Rebels on a climbing trip to China in December of 2019. Over there we climbed on pristine chalk-free rock in Yunnan Province at Shigu & Liming. The only reason those climbing areas are still relatively clean today is because they are remote. They don’t see a lot of climbing traffic. Low traffic means less chalk & cleaner rock. We would like to keep most climbing spots like that. Clean.

But that seems no longer possible today. A whole new generation of climbers is entering the sport. Boulder gyms & climbing competitions are turning climbing mainstream. This inevitably means more traffic in our outdoor climbing areas. With more traffic comes more impact to the rock & the environment. And more chalk. So we decided to do something about chalk over-use. We started brainstorming ideas in early 2019 & during our first national lockdown we bit the bullet:

We decided to start a company whose primary goal is to reduce the use of loose chalk powder in the climbing community by offering alternatives & educating climbers about proper chalk use. Starting a company in the middle of a lockdown when all climbing gyms are closed made it a whole lot harder to do product testing. But we managed & by summer we had dozens of climbers trying out our products after the first lockdown was lifted.

Then after summer 2020 we started the move from prototype to full-scale production. We found local manufacturing partners here in Europe & an initial round of pre-sales proved that there was interest from retail partners (gyms, shops) to sell our products. We even found an investor who saw enough potential to finance our startup cost for producing the first four products.

Then the second lockdown hit. We literally incorporated & closed the investment hours before the second lockdown was announced in Belgium. We’re hit pretty hard by this. Just like all of our climbing retail partners & gyms. I guess we can scratch our sales forecast for the next couple of months. But just like the first lockdown we’ll get through this. This second lockdown just buys us more time to do product development! Great products can be created in difficult times.

Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko