Brent Beck has always loved games. In fact, he proposed to his wife during a game of Scrabble. This love of games and creativity led him and his wife to start a business, Grandpa Beck’s Games, and create games such as Cover Your Assets and Skull King. These games are some of my favorites that I had been playing well before meeting Brent, and their popularity is one of the reasons Brent and his family have done well with their business.
Yet he has chosen a very uncommon path. Grandpa Beck’s Games has been around for over 10 years, but he’s only recently been working on it full-time. Because he just retired from being a pilot! So at the time when most people plan on taking golf vacations or moving somewhere warm (my lifelong dream), Brent is now spending more time than ever to continue growing his company.
Luckily, they have been able to build a successful company and create thousands of avid fans by their personal touch. In an industry dominated by Mattel and Hasbro, they have managed to stand out by naming the company after their family, having Brent’s face on each box, as well as including their actual phone number on each box where families can reach out to them and give them their thoughts about the games.
Brent is one of the only guys who can pull off a bowler hat. Well, him and the Bowler Hat Guy from Meet the Robinson’s. And if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like long games then you have to check out Cover Your Assets, Skull King, and any of his other games.
“I never want to be a bad example to somebody. I want to be somebody who people can trust.”
“The personal approach is really what helped us to have the branding we enjoy.”
“When you go into business there’s a lot of ways to spend money. That part is easy. Getting to where you’re making more than you’re burning is difficult.”
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Grandpa Beck’s Games Website: Click Here
Kyle Bringhurst 00:15
Alright, so I am sitting here today talking to Brent Beck from Grandpa Beck’s Games. How are you doing Brent?
Brent Beck 02:16
Doing great. Thanks, Kyle.
Kyle Bringhurst 02:17
Good. Yeah, thank you for taking the time to join us and talk a little bit about your story. I know that it has been a bit of a wild ride for you. So for our listeners talk a little bit about Grandpa Beck’s Games, for a little bit of context, you guys have made games like Skull King, Cover Your Assets is probably the most well known one. That’s the one that I’ve known and played the most probably. And then you guys have a lot of other games too. So very popular, successful games that are out there. But tell us a little bit about how you got into the game business and what you guys are doing it Grandpa Beck’s?
Brent Beck 02:51
Well, it was a long story about how we began. And one that is not probably typical in some ways, but maybe typical because everybody has things changed as they come along. But about 15 years ago, we had the idea to take a game we modified from a face card game and make it a game. But I had no idea how to get started what to do, and took us a number of years to get something ready to go to market. And it took us many years once we had things to sell to get things to where they’re profitable. But we were persistent. And we can go into more details about how this happened. But we are persistent. And we’re blessed because we have some really catchy games and we have a great artists that helps us out. And somehow through all those difficulties which we might go through more later. We’ve gotten to be where we have seven games currently that are in our line. In July, we passed our first million games sold. And we sold about 300,000 games or three and 50,000 you count the ones licensed out over the last year in 2020. And we now have inquiries and things starting all over the world for more sales and more growth we we have a lot of things that have been difficult to get going like design production distribution, that are now falling into place. And we’re at a point where we’re really going worldwide in many ways. The future.
Kyle Bringhurst 04:19
Cool. What was the first game that you started working on?
Brent Beck 04:22
The game we first are working on it was the game we called golf which we no longer have in the line. Our first designer was was a guy that had had a game that was he created the new AI. My wife’s father knew him. And so we hired him to do the artwork for game and the design. This is the this was the first game that we released was very creative as far as the packaging.
Kyle Bringhurst 04:44
It’s called Flip 9. And for those of you who don’t see it.
Brent Beck 04:49
It was going to be called Flip nine. But when we applied for this name, one of the main challenges we had was the trademark issues and the trademark office said that flip nine was too close to someone again was trademarked called Flip five or something. And so we were denied the trademark on this game, which is a whole story about the naming of the company and the name of the games, which I can go into as far as the trademark issues, which was a big part of our stumbling block. There’s also this design, though, is cute, it was kind of unstable, because it was tall and big, expensive to store. And the first print really didn’t have this was totally defective, the cards are all splashy in size, we had to ditch the whole print run of it. But that was the first attempt. And then the second attempt was golf. In a more concise sized package, we changed out the box twice before we actually sold it because of a branding attempt with our second game, which was cover your assets. And we presented them both together in 2012. At toy for Toy Fair in New York, which is held the Javits Center in Manhattan, we went there with the two games and went out to the world say hello, here we are selling graphics games with these two games. And that place is like six football fields, looking in sizes, just millions of stuff there. And we were kind of intimidated that we showed up with our total games. But we made connections there that have been with us, since even though that show was not profitable. connections over time from there have paid off over the years. But that was the beginning. When we first actually had something on the market that was 2012. We actually started the cup in 2008. So takes a long time to get something actually ready to put on the market.
Kyle Bringhurst 06:28
Wow. So that is a Yeah, four years for production. And for just design and making sure that everything goes well, what were the things that took up the most time in that period before launch.
Brent Beck 06:40
The first part was just finding some way to illustrate it. And the guy we finally found was has a game he had made that was very successful. And he had a line of games him selling his own games. Plus, he was selling some games for other people. And so he had distribution that was going on the way the plan initially was that we were just going to have him do the artwork, that he was going to sell our game along with his game. And his games and and that was going to be it was going to be turnkey, seemed easy. We paid him for his time that he was going to sell our stuff. But then he had these two partners which were controlled more than half of the company. And when things slow down after the Christmas season, they didn’t want to keep paying him. And they had a big fight and kind of destroyed his business. And he kind of dropped out of viability, to market our product. And we had a game and no way to sell it. And it started a whole new process of trying to figure out how to go from there.
Brent Beck 07:35
So that was the first part. Then by 2012, we finally had got a second game, rebranded the whole thing changed the trademark from from was going to be first called funtime games. But that was denied by the trademark office as well. There wasn’t gonna be called graphes games because I had a daughter or granddaughter who’s call me grumpy, who’s at the time she was a little kid now she’s 16. And then with that was denied, actually, it was approved and contested by someone who had a gray piece golf tournament in Florida who had fancy lawyers and Connecticut they’re gonna sue us. And so the third attempt our real our, our attorney for trademark said, if you make it personalized, then they can’t deny our trademark. So we changed it to grandpa Beck’s games because that was something they couldn’t deny. The in the end even though there’s other things were challenging and difficult with losing the trademark opportunities on those first two names.
Brent Beck 08:26
The fact that we eventually went to Grandpa Beck’s Games was the best thing in the end, because that gave us a company name that was much more personal. We started to initially brand the games with my little picture of the top with different hats. And we had the idea of putting my phone number on the boxes so we can be more personal because it’s Grandpa Beck’s Games. And in the end, that kind of personal approach is really what helped us to have, the branding we enjoy and the connection we have with families because it’s no longer just ABC games. It’s how it’s gonna come back. I can call him on the phone, I can text him I can I can watch a video of him talking about it. And and so it made it really family oriented. And that was really one of the things that helps helps us to stand out, I think.
Kyle Bringhurst 09:07
Yeah, and that reminds me a lot of one of our past guests. Her name is Jenna. And she runs a little ice cream shop actually here called Max all a mode. There are basically macaron ice cream sandwiches, and they’re delicious. And if you’re in Orem, just a plug for them, you should go check them out because they’re great. But she talks a lot about how when she first got started, she wasn’t having a ton of success of marketing or getting the name out. And then she had a friend who mentioned who owned a business who who mentioned to her that you should start being the face of your business, you should go live on Instagram, you should take lots of behind the scenes pictures and do all these things.
Kyle Bringhurst 09:47
And once she started doing that, then that is when her business really started to grow because she started being a lot more personal. And it’s like you mentioned customers love that feeling of buying into a story of helping someone versus this faceless corporation that just takes our money and wants to make a profit. Nobody likes to support that. But when it’s somebody personal, somebody that you can even tell yourself, even if you don’t know them personally, like, Oh, I feel connection to this person, because they have provided me with this game with this ice cream or whatever it is, it makes them a lot more willing to purchase the products. I think that like you mentioned, that was a very smart decision on your guys’ part.
Brent Beck 10:28
We kind of fell into it. But in reality, it really represents the actual should be called Grandpa Beck’s Family Games when it would be more accurate because I have the audacity and the idea to start but in reality without my wife, being supportive, and being really good at coming up with game ideas, and being really good collaborator with our artists and being patient with the amount of hours that I spent away from doing more fun things, because for years, we’ve spent most of our vacation times going to conventions and shows and things. And for a number of years, I was spending a couple grand a month to make the business keep going. So it made me feel poor than I would have been if I hadn’t been doing the business. And a lot of times I’d be sitting in a desk doing stuff instead of doing stuff that I would have more fun with the family, especially during the school day or whatever, when I was home, and also on layovers when I was an airline pilot. So all those things were challenges.
Brent Beck 11:21
And without our artists, if I hadn’t found our second artist, we wouldn’t have been successful anyway, because she really is the secret sauce that has helped us because traditionally, our games are more than the traditional kind of game in the past or something like phase 10, or whatever would be what’s a interactive card game. But instead of just colors, numbers, with April, being our artists, she gives us a real rich, illustrative presentation to our games. And that has really been the whole difference because the game is no longer just colors, numbers, that really enjoyable to play. And they have the theme to make them where it’s his story involved in the in the concept instead of just a mechanic. Yeah, so she really has been a key to our success. And she was very patient in the early days that kind of walk us between projects and give us a affordable rate. But because of her her contribution and continued contribution over the last 10 years, or 11, since she started working with us, we really have a much richer brand we we wouldn’t be successful without that.
Kyle Bringhurst 12:21
Yeah, and I mean, it just goes to show that storytelling is king. And even when it comes to games, that is what really draws people’s attention. Like you have a game called Skull King. And I’m just sitting here looking behind you. There’s a picture of you dressed up as a pirate with your wife. And it is just like playing that game. I I went to Lake Powell this summer with some of my best friends and one of them brought it that was the first time I had ever played it. But it was so fun. And the cards were just beautifully designed. And all the different characters involved where it was a piece of art and it made me really enjoy playing it. And even when it wasn’t my turn I still found myself looking at the box looking at the cards because it was a really interactive experience. So that is something very valuable that I think you guys have done really really well. And yeah, I didn’t know that you had an outside artist or designer but she has been knocking out of the park for sure.
Brent Beck 13:15
She wasn’t born into our family but now she’s one of the family and she’s a shareholder in the company and I met her when she was first a young married couple of moving into our area in Seattle for a short time before they moved back to their home in Reno where they’re from but and she had moved before we needed her help. But then I remembered well as artists we should check with her and she’s just she’s gifted but very flexible because she’s done such a wide range of art in our games everything from from a huge dogs in Nuts About Mutts to really crazy imaginative creature features in in Cover Your Kingdom that are filled with hundreds of interesting art things and very detailed antiquities in our game Antiquity Quest, and treasures. Just she has such a range. And in the Skull King game, when we were starting to work on the cards, we got listed as five pirates and there’s two special pirates. We need the seven faces for these games ago. We’ve got seven faces. My wife and I are five kids. So they have seven, seven main cards in the game are illustrations of our family members. And like the two mermaids are daughter law and one of them is my is our artist April she’s illustrate herself as one of the mermaids so we’ve had a lot of fun with building in little family secrets into the cards. And if you look at the map card in the game, the X on the map card is where house is.
Kyle Bringhurst 14:30
That’s awesome. Yeah, very much very personalized to you guys. So I think that’s really cool. I want to talk a little bit about your life before this because did you say you’re 65 now?
Brent Beck 14:40
Just turned 65 over Labor Day weekend, this month.
Kyle Bringhurst 14:43
Happy birthday. That’s exciting. That means that you started this business. I mean, you said about 15 years ago with the designs and everything first off, so you were about 50 What were you doing before you transition to making games?
Brent Beck 14:56
Well, my big dream in life as far as the career goes was to be an airline pilot, I grew up with no connections to anybody who flew no extra, I live near an airport, I live near SeaTac airport. So I had planes flying overhead all the time, if your son’s got to fly those planes, maybe I could do it. But it was really difficult to consider possibly how to do it. I didn’t want to go in the military for various reasons. And so I had to wait until I was about 22. And it had worked, I’d done some volunteer work for a couple years. And then I I spent a year working in the shipyards, and finally had some money saved up. And that gave me the idea that maybe I could do this, maybe I could pursue my dream to be a pilot. So I went to the local Flight School in Seattle and started college, community college. And I would go to the community college, the morning flight school in the afternoon and work from four till midnight. And I did that for a year and a half to get all my ratings and be able to pay for them.
Brent Beck 15:44
And then to spend 10 years flying small planes, flow planes, freight planes, commuter planes, all kinds of things until I get hired by Alaska Airlines 10 years later, and then spent 33 years for Alaska Airlines as a pilot last 25 years as a captain on first the MD at the 737. But 20,000 hours of flying and lots of interesting things over the years was a great career that I loved and felt very honored to be able to do and to carry billions of passengers around the country and across the oceans. And funniest part of the career was my oldest son who’s also named Brent. He is also Alaska Airlines pilot now and we got to spend the last couple years before I retired with he is my co pilot, and we got to be captain Brett back and first officer Brent back flying passengers around. And that’s a really rare opportunity to get not only get a family member in the cockpit, but to have that professional relationship flying together. So that was really cool.
Kyle Bringhurst 16:31
That is super cool. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anybody being able to do that with someone who also flies in their family. So that’s a very rare experience.
Brent Beck 16:39
Yeah, there’s others who had family members in the in the business, but nobody else share the same name. So when they showed up in the crew orders with the two names the same, the gate agents were oftentimes apologetic because crew scheduling messed up and we’re short one pilot, but in the end, they find out that there was actually two of us.
Kyle Bringhurst 16:54
I can imagine them probably being super stressed out in the moment whenever that happened. So now I’m curious, how did you make that transition from being a pilot to now creating games and having a game business?
Brent Beck 17:06
Well, I certainly had no training in it. To be a pilot, you had to have a degree back then. So I got a bachelor of arts and psychology because that was easy to get, I was working full time and go to school part time, my wife’s a retired hairdresser with no college officially running budgets and financial things is not my forte. And so it wasn’t because of any financial acumen of mine, but pilots have kind of a varied schedule and, and we’re all kind of little bit organizers or whatever, as as a pilot mentality, perhaps. And over the years, I’ve, I’ve looked at different kinds of things as a side job, just you know, because we all want to do better and be more, but I never really buy into any kind of the direct marketing things that came along because I didn’t think they were providing a value that was fair for the product that was being sold. And I did a couple of real estate things.
Brent Beck 17:47
I built a spec house and so that I had a house that was a leaseback option. And I remodeled that and sold it. That was right before the 2008 financial whatever that was, it was in financial crisis and, and so I didn’t really want to go into real estate at the time, because it seemed risks I just I just barely got these houses sold before the market dropped 40% I was lucky that I at the time that I had was holding them still I could have come back fine. But I, I sold them and it was out of that. So because my kids at the time, I’d taken a big pay cut with the airlines about the same time because of the setback of this economy. I took like a 40% pay cut with the airline. And all the airlines were losing pensions and people getting laid off. And I had a pension at the potential but was I really going to get that or not. And so that’s what made me motivated. But at that time, my kids were just hitting the college years and weddings and, and those expensive years for a parent to help the kids through those things. And so the game idea came out of necessity of thinking of something to do to try and make up for this, this loss that I had financially and, and to try and have a better option to help the kids with their education and such.
Kyle Bringhurst 18:49
I think I remember reading that you guys really got started or really enjoyed loving games when you were a young married couple, because you didn’t really have much money. And so you would have game nights where you would invite your neighbors over. And that would be your way to socialize where the kids would go watch a movie and you guys would sit down and play games. And it just kind of blossomed from there. Right? Is that right?
Brent Beck 19:11
Sort of that’s all that’s all true. The little fun twists before that is 40 plus years ago, we’ve had a fourth wedding anniversary as well, on my sixth birthday. But when I was getting ready to propose six months before that 40 plus years ago, I actually proposed during a Scrabble game with my wife’s parents and her playing together. I broke the tile so I could pull out the words marry me. And I proposed by putting those letters out on the tiles. And so that was a thing I never knew that we’re doing making games, but I use the game as a way to propose which is kind of funny. But we definitely did that. We played a lot of fun games with our traditional games with our friends and we played a lot of card games. I was loved card games we and we oftentimes modified them to make a traditional card game more interesting. And so we have the history of card games with friends and family and also with making them different than they were designed before. cuz that was we had a game we called killer Udo which had about 20 extra rules on it, which was a little bit over the top hard to remember who was doing what. It was something that came back and we decided we wanted to make the games.
Kyle Bringhurst 20:12
Yeah, I love games. Games is something that is super important for my family, we always get together, usually have Sunday dinner together. And then we will always play games Sunday nights just because it helps us feel really connected. And I’m not a big strategy game person. I like the games that are pretty quick. And I feel like I’m not alone in that aspect. There are definitely people who love strategy games and love playing for hours and hours and hours. But that is not me. So that’s why I like your games, because they’re pretty quick and easy to get through with a family.
Brent Beck 20:39
Yeah, we certainly are not in the big Euro game building as a civilization planning for hours in your game world. But that’s because I prefer a game is more about interaction and more about the relationships and the fun time being had. And the game is a vehicle towards those achievements of family connections. Nothing wrong with big games. But if you have a game that’s too complicated, then pick the whole evening and learn it, you have a chance to really just have fun and our games all playing around. So if you have 15 minutes, you can play a few rounds. If you have a whole evening people play them over and over again. But we like the fact that it’s not so hard. And just personally, I work hard in life. I don’t want to work that hard. I’m playing again. I want to just have fun.
Kyle Bringhurst 21:20
Amen to that. So out of all the games that you’ve created. Now, what would you say is your favorite?
Brent Beck 21:26
Well, you’re kind of asking like, my favorite child. Exactly. And hard to identify. So it’s it’s a it’s a tough question. But I I like them for for reasons. But in reality, when I say okay, we got a game that available, we’ve got time to have just fun playing a game. I usually default to Skull King because it is the one that I probably have played recreationally the most. I could go on about reasons why I love them all. And I and they all were developed with love family background and love to them but Skull King is definitely favorites. And it’s a fun, fresh challenge every time even though it’s something I played hundreds of times.
Kyle Bringhurst 22:02
Those are the best kind of games, the ones that you can pull them out, and you just play over and over and over again. So I want to talk about some of the failures and some of the hard times that have gone with going with with building this business, obviously, because first off, you’ve already said you didn’t have any experience in business in general, let alone in the card game industry. But first off, I want to touch about something touch on something that you had said previously, when you were talking about building the business and how there were years where you were having to spend your own money month after month just to keep the lights on, so to speak in the business and keep it around and how family vacations would come. But it would really just be more work and you felt like you were separated from your family and you weren’t as present as you would like to be. How did you feel in those moments?
Brent Beck 22:49
We did find time for some family outings, my wife and I a lot of time we were to use for extra fun trips, were usually involved with a game show. But we did have a lot of fun with the family like luckily. But Tommy started the business, my kids were mostly all at a high school. So really, that was a key for our personal sanity was that the kids were all adults pretty much before we started. So I don’t have to feel like I had to miss out on the kids raising too much, which I think was important. Because if I’d had to do all this, and I was taking my time away from the scout outings for different things, that would have been worse. But the whole thing was just so naive about the whole thing, because we have the simple plan, this guy was going to make the game he’s going to sell it. And my wife says I never believe that plan. But I believe that, you know, I thought that was gonna it was gonna work out. And so that was the plan.
Brent Beck 23:29
I never really intended to go to trade shows and stuff. As you know, it’s such an amount of work and hassle, I I never really wanted to do that I didn’t want to have to go on hock my own game and trying to people to buy it. That was not my plan. But once I got started, I couldn’t go back, you know. And so that’s kind of where it is. For me in life, I launched into something like being an airline pilot, I don’t really know how to do it, how it’s gonna work out. But I, once I get started, I have to stick with it, you know, and I’m not gonna stop. And so with the game business, even though we started off with a rocky start with a designer that failed to stay with us and the design that was not functional for stores, and the names that got squashed by trademarks, and the remakes we had to make to be able to get the game ready for market and that and all those expenses that happened before we even started selling something.
Brent Beck 24:14
Those were really tough things and I’d taken out some home equity to be able to start off initially and in 2012, we first got the order of games, we had four stacks, floor to ceiling and one bay of the garage, which was our warehouse, you know, and so we started off in the garage like a lot of businesses would and then I could say every time I was on a layover instead of going out and enjoying walking to the city, whatever I would be sitting in my hotel room, calling people on the phone and working on things and spending a couple grand a month instead of making money. There’s a lot of sleepless nights and difficult times But we persisted and really just stuck with it. We go to both shows for retailers and also retail shows several times a year to try and get things started trying to make something happen and just beat the bushes and call it a And did we had to get something going because in the end with a game, the really successful way to have it be shared is word of mouth.
Brent Beck 25:08
A game is something you play for people, not yourself. And so that’s really our secret success that people share with their friends. As a result of Jim’s playing it not an overt effort, but just as a nature of the product, they share it. And that gradually get the words of word spreading around the US around the world, as it happens. And we do a lot of other promotional things. But that’s really the thing that has been the most successful for us. And but it wasn’t easy. And it takes a long time to get that going. And definitely, I’d be at Toy Fair. And I’d say we have this game I’m trying to explain. But people don’t have a new toy or a ball and they can look at in two seconds, we’ll know what it is so much easier to describe that new little toy. A game is like just a box until you play it. So it’s too difficult thing that started but it has good long term upside. But it’s it’s not an easy product to get going.
Kyle Bringhurst 25:53
Yeah, I can only imagine all of the education that goes into selling games to the customers to get them interested must be overwhelming. I want to go back to what you had mentioned just barely. And you had mentioned it earlier to how there were months where you spent 1000s of dollars instead of earning any money. How many months do you think that was that you had to spend your own money instead of make money?
Brent Beck 26:16
I was probably, I mean, it started off his blog started off four years before he began making any money, of course, I was spending money. And then for the first five years, probably of the business after 2012, it was probably a deficit spending situation at the time, I’d be making some money but not making as much as we were, as we were spending. Because when you go into business, there’s a lot of ways to spend money, anybody wants to sell you a service or a product or charge you for this or that that part is easy spending the money. But getting to where you’re making more than you’re earning is difficult. And if I hadn’t already had a good career where I had a really good careers airline captain, I wouldn’t have the money to do it. Plus, as a pilot, you have kind of a flexible schedule, you can you can change your schedule around him just block out time, we don’t have to work every day you work here and there.
Brent Beck 26:58
And you can kind of work hard for a couple weeks and take some time off when it’s not vacation time. And plus I had kind of The Audacity because if everything failed, I could have my pension, which still be more than, than like my dad had as a school teacher. And so I thought, okay, if I don’t succeed, then I can always survive on this pension. And I kind of didn’t put my money into a 401k and stuff. During those years, I was building the business because I was putting it all in the business. So I kind of I kind of risk my my retirement one way or the other. Either I was going to be more successful by the business succeeding or I was going to be living in more humble situation in retiree, if the business didn’t succeed, and I had to survive off of just my pension. I’m lucky that it went the second way as far as being successful. And instead of the way it could have gone very easily where I would have blown my retirement.
Kyle Bringhurst 27:43
So in those moments, or in those months where you’re spending money, I’m just thinking from my personal experience, if that were me, I would imagine well, I know that if that were me, and if I were in your shoes, I would feel a little bit insecure about myself and as a provider, just because I deal with issues with self confidence a lot. And with feeling like I’m enough or doing enough for those around me, did any of those feelings creep into your mind?
Brent Beck 28:09
There’s no doubt that I had many sleepless nights because of difficulties. And it’s been a big stress in life, as far as making sure that we’re going to be secure, you know, as far as it’s not, you know, be a burden to the family or whatever, when you get older, I had the pension. So it’s something but but because of some of those fears of if I’m going to be able to make enough it kept me from being maybe as willing to invest in in stock market stuff as I might have otherwise, because I was afraid of losing something there too. And I’d invested in a couple startups friends of mine brought to me earlier in my married life. And both of those totally went bankrupt, I didn’t never got out of the box. So I lost 10s of 1000s of dollars in those in other people’s startups, which again kind of jilted my perspective on investing because these were not the kind of investments I should have been doing, I should have done just conservative, normal, you know, mutual fund or something. But I tried the couple things I thought were gonna be great. They both busted. And with this business, my wife and I figured, okay, and the other businesses were counting on someone else to succeed.
Brent Beck 29:07
In this case, we can decide on whether we’re going to succeed or not, they don’t have a choice on how it’s going to be received. But we, we can decide to work hard, we can decide not to give up and we can decide to use all of our energies to do it. So we had that choice, we still could have been unsuccessful, because there’s no guarantees because you’re dedicated and you and you work hard that is going to succeed, but we had good products, and we were dedicated and we’re patient and we’re willing to suffer through some times but in the end, we’re blessed because of the products we’re we’re received well by consumers and we made a connection with people but it was definitely not the easy path. You know what much easier just to invest a 401k and just live live simply and and not put every extra minute into something else because I basically I never off work because even now my phone numbers and more than a million boxes so people call me all the time and send me messages and so I’ve never I’ve never not working even if I’m on a cruise or something. I’m still answering the phone you know So it’s a choice. But it’s an interesting life experience. I enjoy every interaction we have. But it’s it’s not the easy path.
Kyle Bringhurst 30:06
For sure. I like that mindset that you brought up, because I feel like that’s one that I find over and over again, when I talk to successful entrepreneurs, or just successful people in life in general. And it’s the decision, the conscious decision to take responsibility, and to take back the control instead of waiting and hoping that somebody else either does well like an investment, or instead of waiting and hoping that somebody else likes our product, just any other thing waiting for that external validation, you tell yourself, hey, it doesn’t matter how this is received, I can’t control that, like, what I can control is my efforts and my hard work, I can control how much time I spend in developing a better product. So obviously, I want to hear that feedback. But whether or not somebody likes me, or likes my product, or my business, that doesn’t say anything about me. And I found that, for me when I’ve been successful in life are those periods where I’ve felt more confident and successful have been the times where I’ve really focused on what I’m doing, versus how it’s being perceived by other people or being received in the business world. And that’s the only way to have success. So I think that that’s a super, super smart, and obviously logical way to go about living life and running a business.
Brent Beck 31:19
Certainly have been persistent, and we’re willing to not not be perfect out of the box, because like our crew, this stuff skulking is actually the fourth edition. And we each time we have done the games, we’ve updated things and improve things. And it’s never quite done, I figured we’d make the one game we’ve done. But we’ve never done a thing game development, because we’re always striving to improve our products. And we spent the last year and a half going through a whole refresh of the whole line to get them all consistently branded, because initially, we didn’t have a graph cards, we just had our Illustrator. And so we brought in a new team member to help us to go through and refresh all the games. And it was quite a difficult process. But now they’re getting ready for wider retail acceptance and more international distribution. So we wanted to make them the best we could.
Kyle Bringhurst 32:01
Let’s talk about that for a second with the growth of the business. I’m just curious, where do you see yourselves going in the next 5, 10, 15 years?
Brent Beck 32:11
Well, it’s interesting thing, when I first started, my goal was to someday get to 2 million in sales and not have employees. But we have employees now and we had three and a half million in sales last year. But we feel now we’re just in the beginning of our potential, my perspective on what can happen is as a chain has changed, and I, I see that we are just at the beginning of a tipping point that is has huge, unlimited potential. Because we didn’t have any salespeople until this year of the spring, we hired two salespeople to work full time, one works, the more on the game business, one more on the toy and book business. And so they they go with us to the appropriate trade show based on which market area where we’re marketing. And they both bring so many additional skills to the table and backgrounds that are really helping us out and in so many ways that they weren’t even hired for just adding new skills because they’re in the team. So that is a big thing.
Brent Beck 33:00
And we just now just after 10 years, we’re just getting into finally into wider retail, we purposely didn’t go into mass retail initially, because wanted to make sure that there was succeed when that happened. And we didn’t want to have that happen too soon, we also wanted to make sure we could fund it ourselves without having to go to partners wherever. So we’ve been able to kind of just grow our capability with our ability. So we didn’t have to ever get the point where we had to sell off part of the company to get a backer or something. So we didn’t do that. And so the combination of those things, plus the fact that we’re now we’re into some masters, we will hopefully be in in like major mass stores in the coming years. We have some international distribution. But we have inquiries from all over the world with companies Skull King is printed in Korean and Japanese and through licensing agreements in EU languages. But I have a new agreement, starting with China and Argentina, and Brazil and Poland. And I mean, we have products that we are confident we’ll grow around the world and be on the market for decades.
Brent Beck 33:58
The game Pitt has was made like hundreds of years ago, and people still playing it. And we hope that way, after we’re gone, people are still enjoying our games. And so, you know, we’re blessed to be in a position where we have all kinds of opportunities. And we see no, I’m 65. But I’m not an iPhone down by any means with our team that we have. And with the interest we have afterwards we have the we have a super great relationship with a production facility in Krakow, Poland that really goes to bat for us and does a good job. And we have a great warehouse in Chicago that can handle anything for us that we have to do as part of a worldwide corporation. So we have all the tools in place for unlimited growth in the future. And because we’re just getting of going into wider markets, we’re really well known in a few states like in Idaho and Utah, but that’s really a small percentage of the country population and we are not very well known in most of the countries so and most of the world we have distribution begun in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK This is about just very, very fledgling efforts there. So who knows, I’m just focused on making happen,
Kyle Bringhurst 35:06
I think you’re going to obviously you guys have been able to see really great growth. But one thing about your story that sticks out is the fact that it is a slow process to find success. A lot of times, too often, I feel like entrepreneurs look for that success within a year within two years. And if they’re not having success, then like that quickly, then they think that they’re a failure, or that the business idea isn’t viable. But what I have found is that from talking to a lot of other people, and just from my own experience, it really takes about five plus yours to know if your business is going to actually be really successful or not. With my window cleaning company, for example, this is year six. And so last year was the first year, I was not quite stressed out about money, and we finally had stabilized and we were able to grow a little bit and feel like oh, this is something that actually can stay around and be viable. And I found that by talking to so many different business owners to it, it takes a long time to be able to not only establish success for that year, but also build that reliability that your business is going to be around for years to come to. So I think it’s a great story of persistence.
Brent Beck 36:16
Yeah, we were talking to the owner of the company that makes the set game years ago, and she says it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. And that was her her phrase that she used. And that really, it’s taken us more than 10 years, because we’re not quick as some people, but I definitely didn’t quit my day job. This was always a thing I add, in addition to say, like the watch Shark Shark Tank, they always want people to quit their job and put their full time into it show they’re motivated. But for me, that would have been the death knell and why would I quit my job as airline pilots make games but but if you don’t have that foundation of ongoing ability to be able to make a living as much more stressful and, and also puts you in position where you’re going to be more like, well, you have potential fail. But it’s different. Because our business, if we had a business where we had to run a restaurant or have a storefront, well, things you have to be there every day, you have to do things every day, those kind of things, you have to kind of be there or get people you can trust to be there. And so our business luckily didn’t have that requirement of having a lot of overhead, we have overhead and inventory. But initially, it was paid per job they did now there were people on salary, but initially it was it was something we could kind of meter and be patient with. And we do have to have the risk of inventory and look at things like rent and stuff.
Kyle Bringhurst 37:28
So before we wrap up this first section of the podcast interview, I want to ask you, what would you say has been your biggest failure in this endeavor that you guys have gone through and the advice that you would give to game makers who want to break into the industry?
Brent Beck 37:43
The biggest problem is that I didn’t do much research before we started this. But part of that if I had known more, I may not have done the business because if I’d realize the risk, I may have kept me from doing it. But so it’s a mixed blessing. But if I was going to start this business, I would be better off to go to this thing called gamma, which is gay manufacturer Association, they have a trade show every year, usually I could have gone there and learned a lot about the business, I could have gone to Toy Fair and just walked the floor and seen what other things were being offered, I could have really been a lot more thorough in preparing for it. So I went into it with a lot of bluster, but not a lot of actual research. And we didn’t have a business plan. I was talking to a business consultant guy who works for Community College, a friend of mine knew that before we were profitable, he says it was kind of a Cavalier decision to start this business I go, who’s gonna start it, it kind of just evolved.
Brent Beck 38:31
But definitely the lack of preparation and lack of his lack of business knowledge skills. As we start to get successful, we kind of had a difficult time a couple years ago, because I don’t really have the tools to to lead a team. Once we start to get a team, I didn’t have the mindset of having regular meetings of structuring things of delegating. They didn’t do a very good job as our team grew in delegating, and then managing a team working together. So that is, I’m not super good at it. But it was definitely a difficult time as I started to go from being just my wife and I and artists to try and have more people working with us. That was a difficult stage because I wasn’t really equipped to manage that. And yeah, it was a self inflicted injuries there. But we stuck with it and worked through it and came out okay, but it was it was difficult time.
Kyle Bringhurst 39:16
We are going to talk on that a little bit in our Year One section in just a few minutes. But first, I want to wrap up with our lightning round. So just a few of my favorite questions, and I just want to see your thoughts on them. So the first one would be what is your biggest fear?
Brent Beck 39:31
I definitely would be afraid if I was gonna fail because I know a lot of people rely on me, you know, in my family and I think if I failed to be a good example, I’m gonna do my biggest fear because I looked to people around me as as part of my support group. And if I was to fail people by not living up to my own standards in life, that would be a fear, but I am totally resolute that I won’t but I never want to be a bad example to somebody or to to be an example of quitting or not working hard or not being relied upon. I want to be Somebody who people can trust to rely on fact that I’m going to stick with what I’ve said and be there. So
Kyle Bringhurst 40:05
I love that one. I think that one’s a great one. The next question is, what is your personal definition of failure?
Brent Beck 40:11
Certainly, having a time that something doesn’t work out does not make you a failure, because I actually read books and stuff about Abraham Lincoln and other people who had difficult challenges before they succeeded. And so you can’t say Abraham Lincoln was a failure, because he didn’t get elected the first time or because he had this failure, that only failure happens if you don’t get up and get back going on it again, I certainly had failures in my investment choices and options. But those were setbacks and difficulties that help the fact that my mindset, but if I’d given up and never tried, again, that would have been a failure. But because I never give up on people or my potential to someday improve, then I think, I’m not going to fail. But if someone fails once and quits, then they fail.
Kyle Bringhurst 40:52
That’s a great way to put it. I’ve never heard it put that way. But I really like that. And then the last one in this section is, what’s one habit that you have that has helped contribute to your success?
Brent Beck 41:02
I make lists every day, I make lists infinitely I’m always making a list of things to do today, or for this project, I just, I’m always working off of a set of goals and a list of activities. And so I’m not the most organized person, but I’m always making a list of what I got to do. And I never get through the whole list. But I’m, I’m always on a task basis to get something done. And in my mindset, I have all these little phrases I’ve used my whole lifetime is a little motto, it’s like, winners never quit and quitters never win, when the going is tough, the tough get going. I have, you know all these little things that have been part of my mindset that I live by. And so I really think it’s not of persistence and never giving up.
Kyle Bringhurst 41:41
Yeah, that is amazing. Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your story about grandpa backs, games and just about some of the failures and the struggles that you guys have gone through to get there. Because I know it is not an easy journey at all to find success at any level, let alone being already doing 3.5 million in sales every year, and yet you have the potential for so much more. So it’s been a really great conversation that we’ve had. And I am super excited to jump into the Year One section now about how you would go about launching a business again, or tackling the first 12 months after launching a business.