When Shauna Damman gave birth to her third child last summer, her C-section left her unable to comfortably use sidewalk chalk alongside her oldest daughter, Claire, who loves to doodle on the driveway of the family’s Bloomfield Hills home.
“Getting up and down with chalk was a challenge,” said Shauna, who found a solution to her problem in the form of a busted rake.
Attaching a piece of chalk to the rake handle with a plastic zip tie, Shauna found she could color flowers, stick figures and the like with her nine-year-old daughter without having to get on her hands and knees.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, Shauna had created the inaugural prototype for what would become known as Walkie Chalk, a product she and her husband, Matt, launched from the ground up.
Currently on sale at the Beverly Hills' Ace Hardware and Birmingham’s Restyle Child, Walkie Chalk is also slated for the shelves of national retailers, including Bed Bath and Beyond. The stand-up chalk holder is a kid-friendly gadget that uses durable foam to hold in place a piece of chalk at the end of the plastic handle.
“It’s been neat to show our kids that if you put your mind to anything – if you come up with an idea, you can make it come to life,” said Shauna. “(Our son and daughter) are on the package, so they think it’s really neat.”
“There’s a lot of uses for it that we’re just scratching the surface of,” said Matt, who has a background in manufacturing, sales, and retail. “I had a distributor in Kansas City (contact us). They’re going to tire repair stores – if someone can’t reach a tire, they can reach out and mark something (with Walkie Chalk).”
Art teachers and physical therapists are also taking a liking to the new product, as is the Plymouth Township clerk, who requested Walkie Chalk before the August presidential primary, citing it as a helpful tool for precinct workers who have to draw lines to keep voters organized while they wait.
While Shauna gets crafty with art projects for the kids at home, her chalk-on-a-stick concept was her first invention, and she credits Matt for making “the magic happen.”
“You’ve got to get beyond friends and family, and push your comfort zone, be willing to put yourself out there,” he said, making no qualms about the difficulty of being an after hours entrepreneur while working full time and being a dad.
“We’re just a normal couple taking our personal time and money, and we really tried to do it. That we actually did it, that’s the gratifying work. We did something a lot of people would rarely do.”
Working on Walkie Chalk has meant lack of sleep for Shauna, as well, who makes time for the budding business in between commitments with her children.
“I have my traveling office in the minivan,” she joked. “My phone, a couple of notebooks, and my planner. If I’m waiting in the school pick-up line, I’m making callbacks, then it’s full throttle from 9 p.m. to midnight,” said the former public relations representative.
“It’s been a neat journey… to put my work hat back on, and show myself I can get back in the saddle.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent