Made In Vermont, USA (10 Years On)

So you've invented a product, now what?  

Well, you need to get it made.  Preferably by someone with a track record, someone with integrity, someone who can help provide all the technical know-how to go along with your flashy creativity. In the summer of 2007, we found just such a person in Southern Vermont and he has been making our Whisky Stones beverage cubes ever since.

But it wasn't a slam dunk from day 1.  In fact, my very first email about Whisky Stones beverage cubes, which proposed the idea and requested samples, was met with the Christmas Story-esque comment "you'll knock your teeth out!"  It also came along with a fairly hefty sample fee and a fair amount of initial skepticism.  It wasn't until later that I realized that this stone cutter in Vermont had just offered the first obstacle for my idea and I learned something valuable from that first interaction that every inventor should know. What I learned is that the universe has existed from its inception to this very moment without the benefit of your idea and every force in nature wants to continue unchanged; so it will literally require you to change the universe just a bit to make room for your idea and that takes an enormous amount of effort and persistence.  I am pretty sure there is a principal in physics to explain this resistance to change - inertia I think.  Anyway, I got my first lesson in the physics of inventing things in the very first email I sent about Whisky Stones and it has stayed with me ever since.

Lucky for me, that is not all I got from that first email exchange.  Good to his word, our partner sent samples (and the bill), and we tested.  And we tested.  And we tested.  And it seemed to work.  So I set a meeting and drove up to Vermont to say hello in person with the aim of sketching out an agreement.

Vermont Soapstone is located in a suitably picturesque cops of pine trees off a county road in southern Vermont.  Glenn Bowman is its erstwhile leader - and owner for decades now. Glenn is as New England as they come.  Raised on Nantucket, he adventured to the Gold Coast of California in his youth and returned to settle into a life where he could take pride in owning something and making something worthwhile.  I had gleaned a lot of his nature from our email and phone exchanges up to that point, so I was not going in totally blind.  What I did not know, and what nothing could quite prepare me for, is that Glenn looks exactly like Santa Claus. It would have made negotiating tough, but in the end I didn't really need to.  

We met for an hour or so, he took me on a tour of his workshop, talked to me about his approach to business and the care he takes in his craftsmanship.  We had a lot in common and ended the meeting with a handshake.  To this day, it is the only agreement we have ever made.  

In the past 10 years, we have been pitched by dozens of stone companies around the world, but with a very few small and inconsequential exceptions, Glenn has remained our sole Whisky Stones maker.  We are proud of keeping Whisky Stones beverage cubes Made in USA. Not because of any flag-waving nationalism, but because its a case of an American manufacturer simply being consistently better than anyone else out there.  He's continued to meet our demands for quantity, worked with us in ways both large and small to make our invention a success, and never fails to make the trip down to Connecticut once a year to present us with a giant bottle of Vermont Maple Syrup to say thanks for another successful year in business together.

We've come a long way since that first meeting in 2007, having made and shipped millions and millions of stones using a process that we developed together.  It struck me the other day, when I heard someone refer glibly to some obviously vague agreement or other as being so solid it could be "written in stone," how rare that is.  And how lucky I am to be reminded every time I see my product on a shelf that, on very rare occasions, it's actually true. 

To learn more about Whisky Stones beverage cubes, how they're made and to "meet" Glenn, check out this video we did a while back.

TEROFORMA "Whisky Stones" from Galen Summer on Vimeo.