“Sitting on that beach in Mexico I remember thinking that I could make a few adjustments to that bowl and keep the contents from spilling out,” he said. “Being in Costa Rica that day with my family reminded me of that, and how life is about enjoying the simple things: food, family and nature. That’s when I knew the time was now, and I knew that I could do it.”
Enter the Calibowl – California Bowl – a modern-day twist on the traditional dining staple. The bowls are molded with an enlarged lip around the rim and designed at an angle that pushes food onto the utensil without spillage or overflows. Made out of polypropylene and BPA-free, the bowl not only prevents the contents from spilling, it actually guides the food back toward the utensil, making eating, mixing, feeding and cooking mess-free.
What could be simpler?
“I know,” said Jeff. “But my thought was: everyone eats out of a bowl, so everyone will use this. I literally reinvented the bowl. Someone told me that in a few years this would be like the REACH toothbrush. How many people use the old toothbrushes anymore? I think it will be like that.”
Only cooler. California cool. Molded in bright, vibrant colors, “I like to think they look like surf-wax colors,” said Jeff. The variety of sizes and models are named for state beaches such as Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Del Mar. Whimsical and fun, the bowls even come with a suction cup design, perfect for toddlers.
“These are great for everyone,” said Missy. “They’re good for the handicapped, the elderly, kids as well as everyone else. The applications are endless. We always knew it was a great product and that it could succeed. We just didn’t realize how popular they would be.”
Since the Bollengiers entered their bowls at an LA gift show in February – where they took home the gold – the CaliBowl has been flying out of their warehouses at a rate no one could have imagined. Fox News, QVC and ABC have all done segments on the CaliBowl. Online sales of the product are skyrocketing, and a recent commitment from Oprah Winfrey to feature the CaliBowl line in her magazine this summer has all but assured its ongoing success.
“We’ve sold over 10,000 bowls in the past two months,” said Jeff. “We have commitments from the shopping channel in Canada for the new line, QVC in Japan is going to feature them, and we’re also in negotiations for container shipments of 200,000 units in the next few months. We cannot believe what has happened in such a short, short time. We took a leap of faith, and it paid off.”
But they didn’t do it alone. Gathering a group of talented, individuals around them (“We call them the Dream Team,” said Jeff) the Bollengiers were able to build a company called Simple Wave. Richard Stump, Sandra Madrigal, Phillip Trinidade and Kaveh Soofer have partnered with the Bollengiers to design, develop, manufacture and market the CaliBowl.
“We have been so blessed to find people to help us and guide us through this whole process, some of whom will be our friends forever,” said Jeff. “It has been such a group effort. No one does something like this alone.”
CaliBowls are manufactured in China and the company’s corporate offices are located in Redwood City. But the product has taken off so fast that the Bollengiers are still packaging and mailing some of the items, mostly online orders, themselves – from a corner of their garage. Prices for the bowls range from $13.99 for a single-suction foot bowl to $34.99 for a set of stacking mixing bowls. The most popular sets to date, say the Bollengiers, are the La Jolla set of four soup/cereal bowls.
Sitting in their open, spacious home in Brentwood with a view of rolling, green hills in the background, life looks like it has always been pretty rosy for the Bollengiers. But the family had, in fact, recently fallen on hard times. Jeff saw the economic handwriting on the wall a few years ago when his general engineering business began to suffer due to declining construction. Lately, as the economy has continued to worsen, the Bollengiers were in danger of losing their home. Missy, a stay-at-home-mom, was just a step away from going back to teaching or waitressing for tips.
“As a couple, we were willing to give up everything for this, because the time seemed very right,” said Missy, 37. “And once we made the decision to do this, it became not scary at all. We are all healthy and together and we were fine with literally living in the moment. It’s something that felt very right to us. The words ‘follow your dream’ became very clear to us.”
But it wasn’t always that way. Jeff, a lifelong surfer and beach enthusiast, spent much of his childhood on the road. His dad was a Marine and the family rarely lived in one place too long. Missy, on the other hand, grew up in a solid-upper class neighborhood in Danville. The two met while attending UC Santa Barbara, but Jeff cut short his college career when the Giants drafted him as a catcher for their A-Ball team – the organization’s farm league. The contract however, didn’t quite work out. “They told me I didn’t have enough experience, so that was it,” said Jeff, and from there he went on to a variety of successful jobs and careers.
But always in the back of his mind was the CaliBowl.
“The first day I met Jeff he told me he was going to be a millionaire by the time he was 40,” laughs Missy. “I believed him and look what’s happened.”
Today they’re calling it the Cali Effect; the ultimate wave that has caught the attention of the nation and the world, and has brought this close-knit family on the brink of fame and fortune. Actually, they are more than on the brink. Jeff says that conservative estimates put the family in the multi-million dollar tax bracket in less than a year.
“Yes it’s a little – well a lot – like winning the lottery,” said Missy. “Our whole goal is to give back; that is something we’ve always dreamed of and now we’ll have the chance. What’s important to us is to help children who are less fortunate than our own and to make a difference in the lives of people who have so little.”
And with four children, three girls and a boy, ages 7, 9, 11 and 13, differences will be made in their own lives as well. The family plans to remain in Brentwood, sock away enough for college tuitions, and then, maybe, play a little.
“I’d like a horse,” said Missy. “And we all would like to build a beach house somewhere. But other than that, I don’t know, we want to give back as much as we can.”
Jeff agreed. “We’ve been given an insane opportunity to do some good for others,” he said. “And that’s what we intend to do. People need to know and understand that if they follow their dreams, they can come true. It can literally happen overnight, and you have to, you must, believe it.”
For more information on the CaliBowl, visit www.calibowl.com or call 866-968-8558. When calling or placing an order online, be sure and mention the coupon code “1bowl,” and Contra Costa County residents will receive 25 percent off their purchase.