By Dana Lacey, Financial Post Business Magazine, April 2, 2007
Photo by Nick Westover
WHO: Claire Watson
JOB: Founder of Chalk It Up, a Gabriola Island, B.C.-based company that designs and sells custom-made, illustrated chalkboard menus for restaurants and cafes.
NUMBER OF BOARDS SOLD: Four hundred and counting since Watson created the company in 2001. Most end up in cozy cafes and chain restaurants in the U.S.
IN DEMAND: “I got into chalk art when I worked in restaurants. When I started up the business, I thought I’d do mainly vinyl signs, with chalkboards on the side, but the chalkboards totally took off. I launched a website and started getting the odd online order — and then it went crazy. We’ve been busy ever since. Right now, I have about 24 clients on the go and the studio is packed full of chalkboards.”
DAY IN THE LIFE: After getting their six-year-old off to school, Claire and her employee/ husband, Adam, go to their studio, which is connected to their house. She designs and colours the boards, and he builds the frames and ships them off to clients.
TRICK OF THE TRADE: To prevent smudging, Claire sprays each board with sealant.
BIGGEST ORDER: U.S. restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday ordered 75 boards, an order worth US$30,000, prompting Claire to hire a helper. “I didn’t want to draw that many hamburgers on my own,” she says. The order took six weeks to fill. -DL