This guest blog post is by George Hillhouse.
Growing up in Alabama, one of my favorite sayings was, “Hold my beer and watch this.” In fact, if that’s not the State Motto, it ought to be. Beer, or the consumption thereof, has inspired many otherwise rational people to do things they would never have thought possible. Sometimes subsequent hospital trips confirm they were right in the first place.
But do we demonize beer after one of these episodes? Hardly. Beer gets a pass, a get out of jail free card, even when we know we won’t get out of jail free for things we did on a beer binge. Beer may be unique in this regard. No one says, “Hold my meth pipe and watch this!” thinking that subsequent events will be explained away and forgiven. It takes a beer, or two, to get that kind of a pass.
Mug Muscles Is Born
So it was that two of my friends and I created Austin’s coolest start-up, Mug Muscles, the world’s first exercise beer mug.
Let me explain: Mug Muscles is a beer mug with a grip exerciser in the handle, thus allowing people to get exercise while drinking a cold one. And if a lifetime of drinking beer has taught us anything, it is that beer drinkers are in dire need of some exercise. It’s time to get Sippin’ ‘n Rippin’!
The genius behind Mug Muscles is John Lynn, a former patent attorney turned entrepreneur, who was sitting on the couch on July 4th weekend, drinking a beer, wondering why he couldn’t get a workout in at the same time. No one can say for sure how he came upon this brilliantly absurd idea, but beer was involved, so there you go. Being a former patent attorney, he filed a patent after a brief search revealed that nothing remotely like this had been patented. Shocking!
Fast forward four months later, and John and I are sitting at Maudie’s. This time we have tequila to blame. Instead of merely laughing away the notion of an exercise beer mug, we thought, “What the hell?” So, throwing caution and a couple of margaritas to the wind, we set out on our path to create a company around the new beer mug. We invited another likeminded friend, Beau Ross, to be our CFO. Beau, being from New Orleans, was no stranger to peculiar drinking traditions. After one Sazerac, he was in.
As much as I would like to say that everything else went along just as smoothly, that would be a lie. It turns out that making a plastic beer mug is easy, and making a grip exerciser is easy, but when you combine the two, things get complicated. Our first manufacturer outside Austin told us that we could not mold the mug around a grip exerciser. Bummer. Then they told us what it would cost to build it here. Let’s just say my current late model car cost less than the tooling we needed.
A Wink and a Nod
We have a friend who sources plastic parts from China. Next thing we know, Beau and I are on a plane to Shanghai to inspect factories. We quickly learned two things from that trip. One is that the Chinese have an uncanny ability to reproduce things in massive quantities quickly, and the other is that Chinese beer sucks. Honestly.
After selecting our first and second back-up factory, we then learned our third and hardest lesson about manufacturing in China: nodding your head up and down can mean one of three things:
- “Yes, we can make it for that price,”
- “Yes, we understand you want us to make it for that price,” or
- “We have no way in hell of knowing whether we can or will make it for that price, but we like nodding our heads up and down anyway.”
Long story short, we spent five months learning that our first factory was definitely in the third camp of head-nodding. The good news is that our back-up factory seems to have unlocked the code, and produced acceptable samples of the mug. There is light at the bottom of the mug.
Viva La Revolucion
In truth, Mug Muscles is more than just a beer mug, it is an exercise revolution. The workout program we created is the Beer Exercise Revolution Program, better known as B.E.R.P. Our customers are not just drinking buddies, they are Beer Athletes. On our website, we are even building a hall of fame for them, the Beer Athletes Hall of Recognition and Fame, or B.A.H.R.F. We even completed a successful KickStarter campaign to fund our first order. Life is good keeping Austin weird.
As of this writing, we are in the middle of our first production run, and we are keeping our fingers crossed, beers firmly in hand. Mug Muscles is about to invade Austin.
George Hillhouse is CEO of Mug Muscles, an Austin based start-up and already the world’s leading manufacturer of exercise barware. George can be found at MugMuscles.com.