If you like to cook, don’t open a restaurant, go be a chef. If you like to design board games, don’t publish your own game, design it and pitch it to a publishing company.
Establishing a new business is a lot of work that is loosely involved with the subject matter you are doing business in. When I first started CavernWire, I did it as a passion project because I realized I enjoyed making games but I was in for a rude awakening when I had to start figuring out the business side of things.
At first it felt good and I felt important as I was trying something out of the normal 9-5 job. Of course I was still working my corporate job at the time still since CavernWire didn’t make any money. Lets be honest, it still isn’t making money, but Fangorn Forge, our sister company, is what I do full time to support my family. As time went on, it got harder. I realized I was wildly incapable to do business with my current set of skills.
After many much needed wake up calls from my loving wife, I realized that if I was going to make this dream a reality, I needed a better understanding of business. That’s when I started Fangorn Forge. Fangorn Forge is a sister company to CavernWire Games where we sell board game and RPG accessories.
Tabletop gaming is a passion of mine so it was important that I had at least that motivation to get me started in the world of business. Now let’s get back to you.
So you have this passion whether it be cooking or creating games or anything else. Maybe you’ve tried your hand at cooking and your good at it. Maybe your just okay but you are interested in learning more, framing a vision around your passions, and/or bringing something different to the community of your passion. Now that’s a reason to open a restaurant, but there is still so much more that is involved.
Start with a Problem
The first thing to know about starting a business is that the majority of your time will be devoted to business endeavors like marketing, responding to customer’s inquiries, setting prices for your product or services, communicating with companies who will help deliver/create your product or services.
In my case, I work retail: I sell physical (or digital) products to customers. The platform I am primarily using at this point in time is Etsy. I decided this platform worked well for my needs as I wanted to create something new for a hobby that I love. I started with a problem that I had with my own gaming experiences. My problem was that I want a way to bring several board games on a trip without having to worry about a large stack of games falling over in the trunk of my car.
Think of a problem that you want to solve in the industry you want to start your business in. Maybe there is a certain style of game or mechanic that you feel has never quite scratched that itch you’ve had. Maybe there is a theme that hasn’t really been captured well by other titles. Whatever your problem is, start there.
Our first product that we released was the board game travel bags. This product was an idea my wife and I came up with as we weren’t satisfied with any solutions that were out on the market. To be honest there wasn’t that many solutions on the market for this either.
Being the Solution to Your Problems
Now that we have identified our problem, begin to brainstorm solutions. Keep in mind that solutions that you create for your initial problem will often create more problems. Our dilemma was we wanted to bring 5-10 board games camping or on family vacations so we had options for playing games in the evenings or during the kids nap time.
The new problem that arose for us was that many games will take up a lot of space for travel especially if we want to bring any large games. Once your solutions start causing more problems, it’s time to start applying the second key ingredient to starting your business: you.
What are your strengths?
Let’s look at what you have to offer. What are your strengths? What knowledge have you acquired from other parts of your life that can help you solve these problems? What can you offer to the industry that will add value to your product or service that will make it stand out?
My wife and I are novice backpackers. We don’t go very often (especially now with 3 kids under the age of 4) but we learned how to pack light and pack smart. Only bring what you need and condense the things you do need.
It helped us to think like a minimalist, not only for our backpacking trips, but for really any trip we go on now. The last couple flights we went on to Disney World with our 3 kids we didn’t check any bags or pay for carry on items: personal items only. Yeah, we’re a bit crazy. I don’t recommend this for many reasons but that is a story for another time.
Bringing this full circle, this mentality actually helped us significantly in finding a solution for our problem. We looked at these games and asked ourselves, what is needed and what isn’t? You may have noticed this yourself, but game boxes are often extremely oversized for the contents they contain. There is reasons for this which I will cover in a future post.
Even if many game boxes are vastly oversized, they aren’t useless. They protect their contents. So our solution was, instead of 5-10 games with 5-10 boxes, we bring 5-10 games in 1 box (or bag). After some more problem solving, we ended up coming up with a modular game bag solution that could custom fit any component size.
Learn New Skills
I didn’t consciously think back to my minimalist backpacking skills at the time when we were coming up with this solution, in fact, it was only a realization now as I’m writing this blog post but it’s so important to learn new skills and try new things because you never know how and when they will apply.
The other way to gain skills and knowledge is through some sort of formal education which is what played a key role in the final problems of this ongoing board game storage solution I had.
For me, I earned an associates in fine arts and continued my education until I earned my BFA in graphic design. Now I don’t think you need a college degree to be able to start your own business but online courses, trade skills, any form of skill or discipline you’ve learned can help in this process. Identify what those skills are so that you can leverage them and add value to your product or service.
One of my final problems with this product was how I would market this bag so that people would immediately know it’s used for board games, and not just another random organization box that you find at Hobby Lobby. This is where my education came in. I was able to add value to this product with a handful of designs so it was no longer an electrics bag or a makeup bag or a random knick knack bag but specifically a board game bag.
Identify Your Weaknesses
After you find your strengths, look toward your weaknesses. What aren’t you skilled at and how can you account for that with the resources around you? For me, that was marketing, specifically in reaching customers who would be interested in what I was selling. I worked a bit in the marketing world in my corporate job but I wasn’t good at it and I didn’t like it. That was actually another big reason I chose Etsy as my main selling platform because there was already a large customer base using the service.
Find resources that can help you with your weaknesses (your probably have several, I know I do). If you’re designing a game but are a terrible illustrator, find an artist on Fiverr or Upworks. It’ll be worth the investment.
There are so many variables and things to consider when you are starting a business but I hope this at least gives you a starting point. As one last piece of advice, the best way to start a business is to actually start. Nothing will ever come if it only ever stays as an idea in your head or in your journal. Take the first step into launching your own business. I’d love to hear where you are at in your business endeavors in the comments below.