9 min 5 sec

Graphic Designer Chalks Up Gripping Side Hustle

Joining Crossfit community changed this stay-at-home dad’s life, so he wanted to give back… and preferably get paid along the way. He finds the solution in sourcing gym chalk from an overseas supplier.
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What It's About

A graphic designer helps althetes get a grip!

Business Model
Skills Required
Research & Marketing
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

90% of Mario's leads come from Instagram, and he works really hard to make sure that his customers know that they are talking to a human and not some bot or indifferent customer service rep. Mario says that putting in that additional little effort is the difference between a one-off sale and a life-long customer.

Fun Fact

Most of the chalk/limestone that's around today was created almost 100 million years ago. This soft, white, porous, sedimentary rock occurs naturally deep under the sea where dead organic skeletons and shells accumulate to make limestone. Humans have been using it for various tasks for centuries, and it's an extremely abundant mineral that is widely mined all over the world.

Notes from Chris

Episode 542

In 2013, an unfit and overweight Mario Parades walked into a Crossfit gym, and he never looked back. Inside the box gym, surrounded by the whoosh of the skipping ropes, the crash of the barbells, and the chants of “one more rep,” Mario found a community he forever wanted to be part of.

Over the next few years, Mario looked for ways he could use his graphic design skills to contribute more to the community. He started by creating t-shirts for gym owners, which were paid for by giving him free entry to the gyms. This venture also expanded into fundraising for charity, where Mario created a line of Crossfit-themed t-shirts to raise money for underprivileged children. One of which, the “Chalk Monster,” went on to sell out and raise hundreds of dollars.

Despite having a busy schedule and looking after his children, Mario was still determined to stay a part of the Crossfit community and bring value to as much of the community as possible. And, maybe earn a little money on the side.

Mario explored options to continue making t-shirts for gyms but quickly found out that Crossfit apparel was a highly competitive market, and new brands were popping up every day. He wanted something that was unique only he could offer. Then, one day, Mario had a conversation with a gym owner about the day-to-day running of a box gym, and how they’d run out of chalk and didn’t have any for the upcoming sessions. Later on that evening, while sipping a glass of Paleo wine, Mario was finally hit with the idea for his side hustle.

Chalk is one of the most overlooked parts of gym life, and probably the least exciting. It’s white powder, in a bucket, that’s used to keep your hands dry and improve your grip. Basically, a commodity. Mario wondered if he could be the person to make that product exciting and decided to take on the challenge. And, it didn’t take him long to come up with a name. He thought back to the “Chalk Monster” t-shirt that sold out and decided it would be a great name for his new brand.

Mario’s product is a subscription service for gym owners to help them keep a constant supply of this chalk. They order their chalk online and it’s delivered to their gym, at their chosen frequency. Mario says his business model is pretty simple because he found a problem, created a solution, and priced it attractively for your bootstrapped gym.

Mario’s total start-up costs for Chalk Monster came in at around $4,200. He’s already made that money back and has 50 monthly subscribers to gyms all around the USA. He’s also sold over 1,700 individual products to countries as far as Germany and to a U.S. military base in Iraq.

He’s made most of these sales thanks to Instagram marketing. The whole philosophy for Mario is “organic” and he tries to generate as much interest as possible without spending money on marketing. This means he spends up to 24 hours week using the platform to find gyms, comment on their posts and start building relationships. He can spend weeks chatting to the same person before he sends a message to them about being interested in his product. He wants to show he cares first, and then sell them second.

Looking to the future, Mario’s goal is to become a staple of the Crossfit community. He wants to reach out to more gyms across the country and begin to break into the European market as well. He’d also love to create a fulfillment center in Panama so he can give back to his homeland community, create jobs, and send his product to even more countries!

  Chalk it up to another side hustle success!


  • Chalk Monster: Take hold of your gym aspirations with Chalk Monster—learn more about Mario and his chalk over on his website!
  • Shopify: Mario used Shopify to set up his store for Chalk Monster, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!
  • Alibaba: The platform that Mario used to locate a manufacturer for his chalk


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Earn 50,000 travel rewards points (enough for 2 round-trip plane tickets or $625 in travel credit). You'll also earn 2x points on all travel and dining spend, with zero foreign transaction fees.

I use this card every day all over the world! ✈️

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Create your online store with Shopify using an exclusive discount for Side Hustle School listeners. For a limited time, get a free 21-day trial and a 10% discount for a whole year.

Many Side Hustle School listeners are building sites using Shopify's easy-to-learn platform. Try it free today!

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Quote of the Day
"The best advice I can give to someone looking to do something similar is to research your product, hustle hard, be humble, and have solid customer service."
—Mario Parades #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau