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Godwin senior’s COVID-19 salad bowl business feeds Americans

Due to the effects of COVID-19 on schools and businesses, families across the nation are struggling to obtain meals. To combat this issue, Godwin senior Charlie Hamilton used his woodworking and entrepreneurial skills to create the Serving Bowls Project with the help of his longtime friend Charlie Unice, a senior at Maggie Walker Governor’s School. 

“Over 16 million people have lost their jobs, extensive school closings make it difficult to obtain free and reduced lunch kids rely on daily, and many are already food insecure,” said the Serving Bowls Project. 

In a difficult time like this, families need support from those around them and Hamilton has created an avenue for people to lend a hand. 

The Serving Bowls Project is a business that sells wooden salad bowls handcrafted by Hamilton in his garage woodshop, and every dollar earned from purchased bowls is donated to Feeding America, America’s leading food bank. 

Feeding America uses donations to distribute food to “200 food banks, and 60,000” pantries across the United States, said Bowls Project. Each dollar raised is 10 meals for families in need. Currently, the Serving Bowls Project has raised over “$10,000 in revenue and $8,000 in donations,” said Hamilton. This equates to 80,000 meals or breakfast, lunch, and dinner for over 26,000 people. 

Furthermore, people are continuing to buy Hamilton’s handcrafted bowls. At the current moment, on his Instagram, “@servingbowls,” $9,000 is listed as the current amount of funds raised. In one post, Hamilton said, “in the last hour we’ve completely sold out of our bowls raising $2,600 in an hour!”

Hamilton has achieved this by marketing through media platforms. 

“We market through Facebook, Instagram, TV interviews, and the Richmond Times Dispatch,” said Hamilton.  

The successful sales Hamilton achieved could have been due to many reasons, however, Hamilton has two insights of his own. 

“They like the cause and the bowl,” said Hamilton. 

Success did not occur overnight for Hamilton but rather grew from his cultivation of a hobby years ago. Woodworking has been Hamilton’s hobby for the past six years. Hamilton’s first entrepreneurial endeavor was running a lemonade stand, and he later moved on to selling his wooden creations online for several years through the use of an online website, social media, and several stores across Richmond.   

However, Hamilton is currently focused on raising funds for food banks and is using his assets to do so. Hamilton has enlisted the help of his Godwin friends Parker Le, Nikola Stefanovski, Rowen Link, and Timmy Dillard from Freeman High School, all of whom are seniors. 

Hamilton attributes his woodworking knowledge to hours spent watching YouTube videos. 

“I trained all of the kids who work with me. I learned everything I know from watching YouTube,” said Hamilton. 

The Serving Bowls Project’s growth is on Hamilton’s mind, and he plans to improve production by finding people to work alongside himself. 

“I want to get more volunteers and make bowls faster,” said Hamilton. 

When asked for a piece of advice for  up and coming entrepreneurs, Hamilton said “find a problem people struggle with and work really hard until you can help them.”

Each of Hamilton’s bowls is “bespoke,” each created from pieces of wood with variations in grain pattern, color, dimension, and texture. These variations make each salad bowl unique from one another. For example, the curly spalted maple bowl has pronounced contrasting dark streaks while the curly cherry bowl is uniform in color. 

The time required to make a bowl is “about two weeks with six hours of work,” said Hamilton. The bowls are shaped through a woodturning process on a lathe machine that rotates a piece of wood allowing the craftsman to carve out a bowl. 

Currently, these salad bowls are sold for “$100-$300,” says Hamilton. By visiting servingbowls.org, salad bowls and other items, such as merchandise or cutting boards, can be purchased. 

Satisfied customers often show their support via emails. “Reading people’s emails about how much they enjoy using their bowl,” is one of Hamilton’s favorite experiences from the Serving Bowls Project. 

In response to what Hamilton will do if or when COVID-19 dissipates, he said “people will always struggle to put food on the table so we will continue to donate to Feeding America.”

For those interested in helping to feed America, Hamilton suggests a few options: “share our posts on Instagram and tell your friends and family to buy our products or donate to Feeding American or any other food bank.”

photos courtesy Charlie Hamilton
l to r: Senior Charlie Hamilton and his business partner, Charlie Unice.

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