Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Portrait: Delaware

My wife and I have been married for coming up on 16 years and have three exceptionally brilliant children (mostly her doing.) For the better part of 20 years after college I sold commercial printing in the DE, PA, NJ area and lead a successful, yet very boring career killing trees for the purpose of telling you, how you can improve everything about you and your life through junk mail. Nonetheless I was quite successful and the income was enough to have Susan stay at home and raise the kids (this is very important to both of us.)

But low and behold my fidgeting and over thinking things would get the best of me and after a dinner out and doing the Madlibs in the back of the kids menu, I had an idea (not uncommon but this was actionable.) The next morning, at 6:30AM, in the shower (sorry for the bad visual) I realized I had never seen language as a game before and I even knew the name would be called You've been Sentenced! I quickly ran out of the shower and woke Susan with “Honey I have an idea!” in a very excited tone to which she rolled over and replied into the pillow “No not now!”

In a slightly less excited tone I explained my idea for the game to which she more eagerly replied “I haven’t had my coffee yet but that sounds like a good idea.” Together we searched the net on December 29th of 2004, and found hundreds of word games but no sentence forming games and one particular site where a teacher wrote a scathing letter to the toy and game industry stating that she was upset that every year there would be a hundred new word games but that no one had ever made a good sentence forming game. That afternoon I called my brother who has two patents to his name and his response…”That is the most incredibly brilliant idea I have ever heard!” I now had my marching orders from the king.

After about 5 weeks of trying to figure out the game play I understood why there had never been such a game – It didn’t WORK!!! With a little prayer and a decent night’s sleep I figured out the math and geometry that would make language playable. By this time I also had developed a team of people to help me, all working for part ownership in the company. On 5/5/05 we launched the world’s first pentagon shaped game – A game that is now a business that is surviving the world’s worst economy in 70 years.

I had stopped selling printing by March of 2006 as orders were coming in from independent stores but the change came with an order from B&N to fill their 650 super stores. By August I had landed Borders as well and we were now off to the races, constantly raising money from investors and growing the business into a real company. We launched more products, hired 3 people, won multiple awards and sales grew to over ½ a million. Now we needed real money and in May of 2008 launched a Private Placement Memorandum to raise 5 million dollars. By august we had 6 investors in and in September were expecting our first big investment for over a million when… I called my future big investor on the day of the crash to which he replied “I’ve lost 200 million this afternoon and I am going to hold off on any other investments right now. That was the mantra I would hear over and over again from investors for the next year.

By March 1st of 2009 my employees basically let themselves go for the potential survival of the company. It was back to me and Susan and the help of a part time book keeper. 70% of our sales come in the 4th quarter so survival until then was imperative. Susan helped fill in my weeks without pay with her freelance writing and even took on a larger client with the launch of a new jewelry line. www.whimsyworldwide.com We cut many of our activities, travel, and other expenses so we could survive to see if sales for Christmas 2009 could help us recover. I am happy to say that we are still here but in a different shape then we were before. But we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the mommy blogs who have been so tremendous in their reviews.

This economy has been brought on by the greed of a few who took advantage of people, loop holes, and the dreams of many. All of us have been affected and hopefully we will learn from our mistakes…only to repeat them again 70 years from now. I am not trying to sound pessimistic but truthful. Our greed drives us and can be the most motivating factor of change in our lives but it also deceives us when we refuse to look at the past. History does repeat itself.

Susan and I look forward to another great year with hope. Hope that our leaders can change the mistakes we have made and correct our vision for the future.

-Donald, Delaware