Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Throwing some shade balls

Just when you think there will be no interesting business news to blog about, along comes an article on a California company that’s doing its bit to help with the drought that’s been parching that state for the last few years.

XavierC is producing something called shade (or conservation) balls, and selling them to the LA Department of Water and Power. Shade balls (absolutely a more fun name than conservation balls) are hermetically-sealed polyethylene balls used to cover the surface of a reservoir. Full of water (potable, in case they leak) to keep them from getting blown out of the water, they reduce evaporation, helping conserve what precious little water California has left.

To date, the LA DWP has deployed 96 million shade balls into its reservoirs. (Shade balls are also used to cover “tailing ponds” where contaminated mining effluent is stored to keep the birds away from the toxic yuck, and in wastewater facilities to keep the odors at bay.)

XavierC is not the only company producing shade balls, but they may be the most interesting one.

Founder Sydney Chase had two thoughts in mind when she started XavierC. One was a desire to “help keep reservoirs intact and clean.”

The second reason is built into the company’s name. The “Xavier” is Xavier Castillo, who worked for 18 years in information technology at the Pomona-based Casa Colina physical rehabilitation center. Castillo, 47, survived a car accident at 27 that left him a quadriplegic. He and Chase met by chance four years ago, and he came on board when he learned she wanted to hire disabled veterans who’d been having trouble finding work elsewhere. Factory work itself would be difficult for many of them, so Chase envisioned a company at which vets could perform administrative, marketing, and other tasks on a computer. Castillo controls his own computer using his neck and shoulder muscles, Chase says. (Source: Bloomberg)

Note to self: take at least a month off from complaining about standard geezer-ette aches and pains.

The facility employs 100 full time staff operating 3 shifts up to 7 days a week to accommodate your production needs and schedules. (Source:

Does something about the environment. Hires disabled vets. Manufactures products in the USA.

Is there anyone who wouldn’t want Sydney Chase to succeed?

(There was a similar (sort of) concept used around here over the winter, when the groundskeeper at Fenway Park covered the grass with black sand to hurry along the snow melt needed to get rid of 10 feet of the white stuff in time for opening day. Not necessarily enviro-friendly, but “grass-friendly” and easy on the back. One second thought, given the year the boys are having, it might have been better if they’d just let the snow take its natural course. With luck, the snow wouldn’t have fully melted until July, sparing us at least half of what’s been a truly dreadful and dreadfully long season.)

Anyway, there’s something about the XavierC story that I find really interesting, lovable almost.

When it comes to the ingenious, to small ideas that do big good, I have absolutely no imagination whatsoever. But sometimes I know it when I see it.

Let’s throw some more shade balls, why don’t we?


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