San Luis Obispo has its fair share of resources. And sometimes, people can find a way to incorporate them all. Take Taylor Engen, for instance.
The political science junior and co-owner of Glassed Over has tapped into the wealth of resources and ideas in the San Luis Obispo area and funneled them into his recently launched business. Glassed Over takes used glass bottles and redesigns them into drinking glasses and candles.
With the prevalence of the wine country, push for sustainability and focus on small businesses, one would think this idea had already been employed in the San Luis Obispo area. But Engen didn’t look at it that way, at least initially. In fact, he really just wanted to create.
A while back, Engen helped a friend move into her apartment when he spotted her set of cups made out of wine bottles which she’d found at a swap meet. Engen was intrigued by the idea, he said, so he looked up how to cut wine bottles in half and tried it out.
From there, Engen tried over and over to get a clean cut. After a few weeks, he finally got it right.
“At first I did it because I thought it was fun,” Engen said. “I think glass is cool, so I just made sets for our house. That’s how it started.”
Engen and co-owner Ted Olson, a long-time friend and student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, also started to notice how frequently glass bottles come and go, whether they’re recycled or just thrown in the trash. So Olson and Engen collected 100 pounds of glass bottles and took them to a recycling center to see what kind of money they could get.
The grand total? $7.50.
“We realized that there has to be something better you can do with glass,” Engen said.
Now, with the recycling idea in their back pocket, the boys started piecing the puzzle together — “upcycling” used bottles (and taking note of artistic wine labels) and making them into something usable again.
Over winter break, the company started to take shape. The first step was perfecting the cut.
Engen said he practices “scoring the line” as a means of cutting the glass.
“I take a glass cutter and scratch a line in the glass,” Engen said. “Then I’ll take boiling hot water and put it all along that crack, then put it in cold water. And the temperature change makes it crack.”
Engen said at this point he probably gets a clean cut nine out of 10 times.
“I’d say just time is what’s allowed me to get it all down,” Engen said.
Currently, the two have an up-and-running website complete with an ordering system created voluntarily by a boyfriend of a cousin of a girlfriend … of Olson’s.
“He just offered to do it for free,” Olson said. “So that just fell into our laps.”
Olson and Engen also received help with the logo design from Engen’s girlfriend, psychology junior Megan Hoffman, and friend, graphic communication junior Michaela Tutor.
Tutor, a long-time friend of Engen’s, said the logo design has been in the works since last quarter.
“It’s definitely been a long process,” Tutor said. “As we started to realize how popular it was becoming, we really started coming up with identity.”
Hoffman said she’s impressed with Engen’s hard work and love of the craft.
“It’s really cool to be a part of and see it get off the ground and see the hard work he’s done,” Hoffman said. “A lot of people think of these ideas, but to actually try it and perfect it — this is something that him and Ted have been working on for months.”
Since the company’s debut, Engen and Olson have circulated the buzz, not only to friends, but also to small businesses and wineries. Engen has been in contact with local shop Hands Gallery as well as La Belle Winery in Morro Bay.
“The frontier I really want to get into is working for wineries and cutting their own bottles,” Engen said. “That’s really exciting because there’s so many wineries around here.”
However, that frontier has been somewhat difficult for the two to explore, mainly because of the distance. Olson said communication is the hardest thing to manage at this point. However, it also acts as way for the company to expand across Southern California.
“He is up in SLO and I’m down here in L.A., so it’s kind of based out of two cities,” Olson said. “So if we were both here, things would be easy, but there are a lot of small businesses and shops in SLO, and he can get into that market which is a big benefit.”
As far as managing their money, Engen said they are learning as they go. Engen is pursuing a minor in agricultural business and said he’s turned to professors for financial advice. One monetary surprise was the cost of quality candles. Both Engen and Olson said they were astonished at the regular prices of candles on the market.
“We had no idea — we thought five to 10 bucks,” Olson said. “And people looked at them and they said, ‘That’s it? That’s how much you’re selling it for?’”
However, the current price range seems to suit demands, considering the bottles are hand-cut and the scented soy-based wax is hand-poured.
“I want to charge lower prices, but the truth is, it’s all handmade,” Engen said. “We really try to emphasize that.”
At this point, the duo has it figured out, but are still pursuing new prospects because of the initial drive behind the project — enjoyment.
“I have the resources now, I have the time now and I decided that this is the time to go for it,” Engen said. “This is an example of something that’s thrown at you, and you don’t necessarily know where it’s going. But I’m just going to continue trying to enjoy it.”