Pedal house creates havoc in the south
HOUSED in a tech incubator not far from the University of South Carolina campus in downtown Columbia is Caroline Guitar Co. – the boutique effects pedal manufacturer led by the enthusiastic and gregarious Philippe Herndon. Caroline World Headquarters is only three, smallish rooms, but it is enough to house an office (the business end of the business), a work room… complete with bench with dual soldering stations, and a quality control/think-tank vestibule decorated with a 5-watt Crate amp and a wall-sized white board covered with circuital musings. Donning a SC-proud ‘Columbi-Yeah’ t-shirt, Philippe gives GEARPHORIA the nickel tour and reflects on how it all started.
It was January 2011 when Caroline Guitar Co. pitched its business model to the University of South Carolina. The plan – to exchange a cooperative partnership with the college in return for a work space with reduced rent and utilities.
“I was a graduate of the University of South Carolina’s MBA program so I was familiar with what the incubator was,” says Herndon. “It’s been a really great relationship. A lot of really cool things happen with state universities and entrepreneurship across the country. One of those has been incubator spaces.”
Caroline’s brand of ‘thunk-ware’, its pedals being a physical product, appealed to the University, whose incubator spaces were filling up with app developers and other forms of ‘think-ware’ companies.
The pedal maker hit the ground running. With most effects companies, there seems to always be a toil period that exists whether it is marketing indecision or slow product acceptance. For Caroline, their first product – the Wave Cannon overdrive/distortion – was an undisputed success not long after its introduction. Its unique lay-out, use of symbols instead of text for control labeling and a ‘fortunate goof’ set it apart in the over-crowded drive box space. The goof? The Havoc mode.