Bethesda dad Chris Hugill aims to elevate beer pong by building sophisticated wooden tables
Chris Hugill has always had a passion for games. Growing up in Ohio, he enjoyed playing board games and street hockey, transitioning to competitive skiing as a teen and then pool at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. It wasn’t until he was in his late 20s, pursuing an MBA at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, that he finally found the game that would define his adult years: beer pong.
Aiming to elevate the game’s lowbrow image, Hugill left his job as a management consultant last year to launch Victory Tables, which he touts as the maker of “the world’s first luxury beer pong table.”
“I wanted to build a nicer beer pong table, something that would allow the more mature beer pong enthusiast to enjoy the game they love,” Hugill, 38, says of the popular collegiate game. Teams of players try to toss a Ping-Pong ball into plastic cups of beer set up in a pyramid formation at the opposite end of a table. “It doesn’t have to be about soggy cardboard. It doesn’t have to be about drinking. It can be about bringing people together in the spirit of fun and competition, like any great game.”
Victory Tables operates out of Hugill’s Bethesda home, where he lives with his wife, Andrea, and two children, ages 3 and 5. In his garage-turned-woodworking studio, he personally designs and builds maple, cherry and walnut tables that are refined enough to use for serving Thanksgiving dinners and children’s birthday cakes as well as lining up cups of beer.
As he builds his business, Hugill is targeting Bethesda’s active beer pong scene, which includes the Maryland Beer Pong league and weekly beer pong tournaments at Tapp’d Bethesda. Moving beyond the plastic and aluminum tables that currently dominate the market, Hugill’s solid wood tables include ball storage racks, adjustable feet for a level game, and a foldable design for
convenient storage and transport.
“It’s a showpiece for sure,” says Ryn Burns of Georgetown, a friend who uses his table to host everything from intimate family gatherings to beer pong tournaments.
Hugill was introduced to carpentry when he volunteered as a theater technician in college. After graduating, he built sets for theater companies across the country. In 2007, he arrived at Babson, where he built his first beer pong table. After months of bonding with classmates over beer pong played on a beer-soaked cardboard box, Hugill surprised a friend with a handcrafted pine table for his birthday.
Friends raved about the table, leaving Hugill wondering if he had stumbled onto something that could be big. After graduating from Babson, he spent years helping other companies bring products to market while thinking his beer pong tables should be among them. Changing careers wasn’t an easy decision, though; the Hugills had recently welcomed their second child and purchased their Bethesda home.
“It was hard for him to leave the traditional path,” says his wife, Andrea, 38. “I’m a big believer in following your dreams, and he needed an encouraging voice, not a skeptical one.”
Launching his business with his wife’s support, Hugill spent the first part of 2018 working full time to build a social media presence and perfect the design of his flagship table, the Victory One, which retails for $1,050. This January, Hugill wrapped up a Kickstarter campaign that surpassed its fundraising goal of $8,000. The seed money will allow Hugill to partner with a local company to expand his production capacity and begin personalizing tables to suit customers’ preferences.
“Who knows what the future will hold, but I feel like I’m on the cusp of building something,” Hugill says. “In many ways, business is a game, and I’ve always loved playing a good game.”