Founded by mum of two Hazel Reynolds, Gamely Games aim to help families step away from their screens and enjoy fun time together.
Winner of the Amazon 2019 small business of the year award and famed for being told by Peter Jones on Dragon’s Den that she’d regret not taking an offer of investment, it’s fair to say when Hazel joined the BRITE Innovation programme in October, we couldn’t wait to find out more….
The dream job that led to the start of Gamely
“Back in 2015, I’d left my job in London and started what I thought was about to be my dream job in Brighton, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Outside of work, I’d invented a pocket card game called Randomise to lure my 12-year-old sister away from her Ipad. All the family came together and loved it. People kept telling me I should try and sell it and so my husband encouraged me to quit my job and launch a Kickstarter campaign. We had four months where we could survive on his salary but I was fully expecting that I’d have to go out and find another job after that”.
The successful Kickstarter campaign enabled Hazel to manufacture the games and get them onto Amazon marketplace just before Christmas. By February 2016, Hazel had been invited to join Amazon launchpad, a springboard to help start-ups succeed on the platform. For the second half of the year, she managed to turn over £160,000 and by the following Christmas, Randomise had sold more than 16,000 copies and was one of the top 10 selling card games on Amazon UK.
Growing a successful business centered around flexibility
Hazel and her husband Chris realised they were onto something and Chris left his job at Channel 4 in London to join the business full time. Today they have a further two team members with plans to expand further in 2021.
“The biggest gift this business has given me is flexibility. Chris and I and our two employees all work part-time and it works. All of us have kids so it enables us to run a successful business but spend plenty of time with our children which we just love.”
Hazel credits this flexibility to the ease of logistics that Amazon provides her business. She uses the fulfillment by Amazon service which means her products come directly from the manufacturer to the Amazon warehouse and the Amazon team then looks after storage, delivery, customer service, and returns.
Finding inspiration for Innovation in 2020
Many of us will recall March 2020, a time when we got thrust into the world of Zoom not just for work, but also for weekend zoom quizzes with family and friends! Gamely realised 2 out of their 5 games – Soundiculous and Frozen Unicorns – were working particularly well on the platform and this gave them a new lens through which to see their products.
“On the other hand, some really wanted to ‘get off tech’ in the evenings and were finding joy in playing games with their loved ones at home. Reading customer reviews and picking up on feedback is key to understanding how people are using our games”.
In the first month of lockdown, Gamely saw sales grow 472% on the same period in 2019 and they officially are on track for their best year yet.
Though many have been stuck at home, Hazel credits her inspiration for new ideas from the outside world and a change of environment.
“I’m so excited to be here at Plus X with a maker space available for us to prototype new products. Learning how to use the machines will stimulate my mind for new ideas and I’m also looking forward to meeting other business owners who we could work with. For instance, we still use plastic shrink-wrap in our packaging, and I know Plus X has members working on plastic alternative solutions. This type of collaboration could be really helpful to our business.
I also find that looking at items I wouldn’t normally look at whether it’s a magazine or exhibition, they can help keep my brain remain curious.
So, I think its balance of that stimuli and then having that space in your brain for creativity to settle in, that’s equally as important. I love the local South Downs National Park for long walks, and I’ve got into sea swimming which is so invigorating. That’s sometimes when the best ideas pop up”.
‘She’ll live to regret that!’ – Turning down investment
In 2019, Hazel appeared on Dragon’s Den, and in the end, turned down a 50k investment from Jenny Campbell for a 10% stake in the business.
“I turned down Jenny’s offer in the end (it just didn’t suit the way we want to do business) and as I left the den, Peter Jones exclaimed ‘She’ll live to regret that!’. I can confirm we did not regret it. Can investors be helpful to a small and growing company? Of course, they can, but, there are plenty of other places to get input, advice, and support.
And for us, the freedom and flexibility that comes from being independent of investors brings huge benefits. While investment can be helpful, I’d encourage any young company to think twice, and consider where they can find other sources of finance, knowledge and support to make the business that they want – and not the business that an investor may be imagining. For us, business is not just about profit – it’s about doing good, making the world a better place and having fun while we’re doing it.”
Games for good
It’s clear in our interview that it’s not just creating joy for paying customers that is important to Hazel.
From the start, Gamely has donated 10% of all profits to charity. They have also created an initiative called ‘Games for Good’, through which they have donated thousands of games to special causes including children who have fled domestic violence and those from low-income households.
The team is also passionate about their environmental impact, and 10 fruit trees are planted in Africa for every 1 that is used to create their games, helping the environment and feeding local families.
An eye on international expansion
As Gamely step foot into what I’m sure will be their best Christmas yet, we ask Hazel what’s on the agenda for 2021.
“We’ll be expanding our team, looking for a brand new team member which is part of the reason we came to Plus X, to ensure the team has an inspiring space to work from. We’re also looking at expanding our international markets, we currently sell in the UK, America and Germany. We want to expand into Australia, Canada and other European countries depending on what happens with Brexit. Most importantly, we’re also planning to launch up to 5 new games next year which would take our product range to 12 games, watch this space!”.
If you are also interested in joining the BRITE Innovation programme you can register your interest here. The Brighton Research Innovation Technology Exchange (BRITE) is a business innovation programme for ambitious and established businesses. BRITE could provide you with specialist research and development expertise as well as the support and facilities to make your business growth journey a reality.