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Robomustache: Building a story one robot at a time

by Allison Stalberg

“It began with an accidental discovery. I was wandering, alone, lost in thought and came upon an empty warehouse. A curious, derelict structure from an earlier time, lost in an abandoned steel graveyard. It called to me. I had to explore it.”

So begins the origin story of Robomustache, a unique figurine and apparel company featuring cute wooden robots made from bamboo kits. Beginning with a craft kit and instructions, anyone from a curious child to a passionate artist can build their own bot.

Graphic designer Charles Wade began developing Robomustache in 2012.

“I wanted something different I guess,” said Wade. “Something to express myself that wasn’t magazines and ads. It started off with doodling little animal illustrations that turned into stickers. Then I started making 3D forms of those. From that it actually turned into wooden robots.”

Developing from a hobby to a business idea, Wade has been working hard to make Robomustache a full time job. Luckily for him, he did not work alone. In the region’s robust entrepreneurial support system, Wade had made contacts like Joel Bennett, Wade’s mentor and a program director of the Triad Startup Lab.

“We created a brand and really helped Charles tell that story through the graphic design, packaging, and the instructions,” said Bennett. “He worked really hard on it with a lot of different people. We’ve had about six or seven people on the team at the Triad Startup Lab including a marketing strategist, creative director, copywriter, graphic designer, and a brand strategist. We put a lot of people’s heads together to create a plan for him to roll that little idea out to the world.”

What makes Wade’s creations stand out is not just the products themselves, but also the story behind them. Robomustache has a story to go with the product; Wade crafted a narrative about the initial meeting between human and robot and leads into why these robots are made.

“We want the robots to be more than just something you buy,” said Wade. “I want it to be more than just a standard product. All the robots have a purpose in the universe. So they’re not just this product you buy, they have their own little unique features and purpose behind them. So it was a way to connect them all together. We want to get people more invested in it because you’re not only putting together this little robot but you’re putting together part of this universe.”

Bennett believes the story is what makes Robomustache stand out from many other projects.

“I’ve designed 50 or 60 products for various manufacturers during the course of my career but none of them had a life of their own,” Bennett said. “I like Robomustache, he’s like one of my heroes.”

Robomustache had a Kickstarter that did not reach its goal of $20,000 for equipment. Currently, the work to put together kits is done by hand in a basement. Wade still hopes to expand Robomustache.

“We may introduce a crowd funding project in a few months that will have some of the stuff the Kickstarter had, maybe some new stuff so that it’s more unique,” said Wade. “But it would be in a few months, not something we plan on doing right this second.”

Local Greensboro businesses such as Scuppernong Books have shown interest in selling some of Wade’s robot products. Interest has also been shown from businesses in California and New York.

Most sales have been at events and festivals where Wade has a physical presence with his creations.

“We do really well getting in front of people,” said Wade. “People are more likely to jump onto buying something if they can see and play with it. We are not a company; we are just beginning in all this stuff so no one really knows about us yet. So it helps when they can see us in person.”

When asked which of his robot creations was his favorite, Wade smiled, “It’s Less than Three (written as <3)" he said. "I like him because he's very cheerful and lovable. You look at him and it's just like 'Wow, he's adorable.'" Each robot has names such as "Helper Bot," "Dance Master," and Wade's latest eight legged creation "Arakno."

As for what he enjoys the most, Wade said, “It’s when I can turn a simple sketch into a 3D creation that not only I can enjoy, but that someone else can enjoy.

“All these started out as a scribble, a sketch, then turned into a more technical illustrations and then to this. That’s the part I enjoy because I’m a designer. It’s methodical and technical. That’s part of what I enjoy about it. It’s sort of like chaotic, but controlled chaos in a way. I like the controlled chaos of the whole process.”

Interested in making creations like Robomustache? Check out the Triad Startup Lab at: http://triadstartup.com/ To find out more about Robomustache: http://robomustache.com/

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