Designing games wasn’t always in the cards for Hazel Reynolds, but wanting to break free of a media job, be her own boss and, above all, start a family led her down a new path.
A family game
At 28, Hazel was increasingly frustrated by the demands of working in London’s magazine industry and long daily commutes from Brighton. It was a moment with her then twelve-year-old sister that helped her discover a new, unexpected career opportunity: “I was visiting her in Yorkshire and found that she was playing all the time with her tablet. She would only come to life when we were playing family games. So I came up with the idea for a game that could capture her attention: that first idea eventually became Randomise.”
I didn’t want to use the savings of a lifetime just to find out my friends were only being kind!
It began by writing words on blank cards, which Hazel would rearrange to generate scenes to act out or draw. Initially just a game to create silly drawings and actions between sisters, Randomise was soon being played by the entire family and with friends.
Hazel knew she was onto something, and enlisted her friends for further trial games to refine the rules and maximise the fun. Her friend Leigh, a professional illustrator, helped her create the graphics that would ultimately give Randomise its distinctive and dynamic look.
Shuffling the pack
With a fully developed and designed game, Hazel now had a nagging question: “I always liked the idea of being my own boss, plus I wanted to have time to start a family. Could Randomise work as a business and allow me to be independent?”
Urged on by her family, Hazel took the leap and decided to take Randomise to market. “By that time I was looking for a new job. I chose to give myself four months and see if this could really work.” The timing was perfect: the day after founding her company, Gamely Ltd, Hazel discovered she was pregnant with her son Charlie.
Now an entrepreneur and an expecting mother, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to test the waters before investing further in the project: “I didn’t want to use the savings of a lifetime just to find out my friends were only being kind!” To her delight, she managed to raise £4,500 to manufacture the first batch of games.
Roll the Dice
After shipping out all the Kickstarter orders, Hazel knew she wanted to start selling on Amazon. “Amazon was an obvious choice for me,” she explains. “It is a key place people go to when they are looking for toys and board games.” Selling on Amazon was an easy way to reach customers and collect her earnings on time.
To keep her business lean and manage the growing number of orders, she signed up for Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), Amazon’s logistics service: “When shipping our Kickstarter orders, I found myself knee-deep in tape and bubble wrap; with FBA, I could simply send Amazon a big batch of games, and they would take care of everything, from packing to shipping.”
In March, Hazel applied to join Amazon Launchpad, a program specifically designed to give extra visibility to start-ups on Amazon. “We were featured among so many cool items,” she recalls. “Launchpad allowed us to upload extra text, photos and a video to tell our story and convey the hilarity of playing Randomise. It was a fantastic way to get the word out there and get people to play the game. Additionally, the programme has given us the opportunity to participate in deal schemes such as Deal of the Day, which has been great for sales.” Thanks to Amazon Launchpad, Hazel’s business went from selling a handful of copies to hundreds in a matter of months.
“We have sold out our initial batch of 4,000 copies of Randomise and have manufactured a huge new batch to set us up for Christmas. Daily sales are looking really good and, amazingly, the business is starting to feel sustainable enough to support me on an ongoing basis while I raise my little family,” she says proudly.
With her first game on a roll in Britain, Hazel is now planning on taking Randomisebeyond borders. “We just licensed Spanish and French versions of the game, and we‘ll be registered with Amazon.com by the end of the year.” She recently gave birth to her baby boy, and with both a young family and young business, time is more precious than ever. “Amazon has helped me make time for my family and focus on what I am good at, which is coming up with fresh ideas for new games!”
Once again she’s turning to her most valued advisors. “Christmas time is a busy period for game designers: this year I’m testing out lots of new prototypes with friends and family. Whichever one they think is best, that’s the one we will launch next year.”