Leslie Pierson Interview with Nick Shucet 

Nick (0:28)

Hey, what's up everyone? Welcome to the Million Dollar Sellers podcast. Today, we have Leslie Pierson on the show. Leslie, where are you calling in today from? 

Leslie (0:41)

I'm in Seattle.

Nick (0:43)

Nice! How long have you been there?

Leslie (0:47)

Oh, gosh! This is the longest I've ever lived anywhere. So it's almost 21 years. 20 years. a long time. 

Nick (0:54)

Wow! You must like it up there. Where were you before?

Leslie (0:59):

Yeah. Prior to that, I was actually... before that, I was in Memphis just for a short time for grad school. But before that, I was an English teacher abroad. So I lived abroad for eight years. It was fun. Oh my gosh! That was one of the best things I ever did. Thank goodness I did it when I was super young. It'd be hard to do now, but it's great.

Lesley Talks on Becoming an MDS

Nick (01:26)

Nice. Okay. And, let's see... let's get to know you a little bit more. You've been... you joined MDs in November of 2020, right?

Leslie (01:36)


Nick (01:39)

Nice and you've also got... I believe you've got a son that is also a Million Dollar Seller. Is that accurate?

Leslie (01:46)

He is. He is, but I work for him. So technically, he's my boss. This is a joke, the other day, he had another new card game idea and I said, “Well, do you want— I can help you test it any time, you know. Just let me know.” He's like, “I know Mom, you work for me.” And I was like, “Oh, okay! Right. Yeah, I do, technically.” So yes, he is.

Nick (02:16)

Man, that's so amazing. We'll have to see if we can get him on the show sometime too.

Leslie (02:22)

Well, he is gonna turn 11 and he's prone to embarrassment these days. I hate seeing that new phase of life where you're a little more self-conscious as opposed to when he was seven—when he created the game. That is the reason that he's a Million Dollar Seller too. 

Leslie on Parenting a Million Dollar Seller

Nick (02:40)

Nice. And do you have any other kids or is it just one?

Leslie (02:43)

No. Thank goodness, because that would really be messed up to have one kid who sold millions of dollars worth of a game and the other kid is like, “Oh, I didn't do anything.”

Nick (02:58)

That would be a tough sibling rivalry. 

Leslie (02:59)

Exactly. That other kid would need a lot of therapy. Not that Alex won't need a lot of therapy.

Nick (03:07)

He's been walking around with that million-dollar seller's card in his pocket all the time.

Would really be messed up to have one kid who sold millions of dollars worth of a game and the other kid is like, “Oh, I didn't do anything.

How the Entrepreneurship Journey Began for Leslie

Nick (03:15)

He'll be walking around with that million-dollar seller's card in his pocket all the time. Well, why don't you talk to us a little bit about, you know, the company that you created? You were on Shark Tank, which is amazing. Like, go check out Leslie's Shark Tank episode. It's a really cool one. Why don't you just tell us: How did you end up there? I also wanna know, “How did you get started in your entrepreneurial journey?”

Working in the Tech World

Leslie (03:37)

I mentioned that I had been in Memphis. So I finished a degree—my graduate degree in Information Systems. So I worked in the tech field for a while. I had intel in some other places and I loved it. I loved the before and after like creating… you know, creating systems and things. But I kind of overworked for everyone else when I worked at any job.

Creating Her Own Thing

Leslie (04:02)

So I decided I wanted to do something on my own. Right around that time, I became a consultant so I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I was always a private person. I liked creating things.

Magnetic Tins

Leslie (04:16)

And I started making a line of magnetic tins. This was in 2003 ish, so there really weren't a lot of opportunities to sell online as much at that time. And you know, it wasn't of super creative product. And, I also realized I did it with a friend. That we were gonna have to make a lot of money for it to be our full-time job.


Leslie (04:42)

So I decided to try my own thing, which was something that was called “Schtickers.” Our tagline was, “Add your Schtick to your Shtuff.” And we made a line of decals and skins for laptops. So we did a lot of corporate work. We would do things for like Microsoft or, you know, Bacardi or whatever If they wanted to outfit their laptops and things.

And so that, kind of, grew organically for about five years and it was amazing. It was just like a great small lifestyle business. It was just great. And then I had my son and I looked... took my foot off the gas and I just started to see it go down and down. And a whole bunch of people came into the space and did it way better than me. They had licensing, they had all the stuff. And so I just kind of lost my passion for that. 

I realized I kind of have a five-year lifespan on my passion for a project. So it kind of came down.

Good Hangups

Leslie (05:40)

And then, in 2015, my son was five or four-ish. He was bringing up all this artwork and I wanted to hang it up. And I needed to find a better way to hang it up because I hated tape—it ruined it. It was always on that crappy card stock, you know. You have kids. Like that crappy card stock that, you know, you put tape on it and it just rips it off on the corners.

And, I just wanted to be able to change it out. I wanted to really feature his artwork. It was terrible artwork, of course, because he was a child, but I loved it all. So I… and our fridge was covered. So I was like, “Well, I wanna figure out a way to hang things on the wall.” I knew a little bit about adhesive. I knew a little bit about magnets and I knew a little bit about a number of things.

So I decided to try to figure it out. And that's when I came up with Good Hangups, which is a magnetic hanging solution. And at the time when I came up with it, I realized I didn't want to do what I did with schtickers. Which is to grow organically and then have somebody, you know, do what I do and do it better than I did it. And at the time I didn't know if I would get patents.

Putting Her Name in the Sands of Time

Leslie (06:52)

So I thought, well, I better go fast. I better go big and go fast. So I put the line in the sand that I was the one who created it before someone else just knocked it off. Luckily, I got patents. So that wasn't a bit of a concern. But when I did Shark Tank, it was out of that like, “Oh, I got a show that I did it.” Like, I was the one. It had an interesting approach. 


Leslie (07:17)

So we did a Kickstarter for that product line. And then I always have had trouble with marketing. I didn't… I wasn't selling on Amazon. So I didn't realize what the huge benefit of having such a big marketplace was.


Leslie (07:31)

Then I did a contest on the Today Show, which is called ‘Today's Next Big Thing.’ That was a fluke. I would usually drink wine and fill out forms online. If there was a form for Target, I would fill it out. If there was a form for anything.

Today's Next Big Thing

Leslie (07:46)

And, I filled out a form for QVC thinking I was submitting the product. I didn't even know how QVC worked. And I got an email that had ‘Al Roker Space’ on it.  It was like, “You just entered Today's Next Big Thing!.”  I was a little drunk, so I didn't think anything of it. And then, two weeks later they were like, “You need to come enter this contest.”

And I'm like, “Sounds good to me! I don't know what I'm doing!” but it was fun. So, from that, I got used to doing TV cause I… won that contest and then started doing QVC.

Shark Tank

Leslie (08:20)

And so, I got comfortable on TV and got comfortable with the fact that you just have to be yourself and quirky works on TV. So when the opportunity to apply for Shark Tank again… I had applied before and never gotten accepted. And so I applied again through an open casting column. And then I ended up getting on the show and it was a blast! 

Do you watch the show?

Nick (08:45)

I have, yeah. I don't watch it super regularly, but we go through phases where we watch it often. But when you mentioned it in the group, I did, me and my wife both watched your show.

I got comfortable on TV and got comfortable with the fact that you just have to be yourself. And quirky works on TV.

Leslie (08:56)

I had so much fun. I hope it came across that way. Cause I'd watched every episode. I was a super fan of the show. Like I just really enjoyed just the way they have the show structure.  I even watched the Canadian one and the British one, which was Dragon’s Den. So yeah… So I was just like, so psyched to be there. I feel like I had such a good episode because I kind of looked like a happy puppy dog.

And no one wants to kill the happy puppy. You know, I’m like “Ha-ha, I'm so glad to be here!” So it was great. It was a really good time.

Nick (09:32)

Yeah. That's awesome! That's such a good story. I mean, you just… you start out from being, you know, a mom who just wants to display her child's terrible artwork. We all can relate to having... And you know what? I still save it. Like when I take it off the fridge, I still put it somewhere else and hoard it. You know, for some…

Leslie (09:52)

We’ve Got bins at home, like the bins in the garage of it by year—of the terrible artwork… 

Nick (09:58)

There's something satisfying.

Leslie (10:00)

There's something great, yeah.

Managing the Fear of Something New

Nick (10:02)

Just knowing that your kid was thinking about you at some point and writing that, drawing it up, and bringing it home. It’s all exciting to you. You know, and then you get to the point where you're filling out... you create the product and you're filling these forms gets you on… you said it was the Today show, right?

Leslie (10:20)

Yeah. They ran a contest called... Yeah, “Today's Next Big Thing” was the name of the show... Of the segment. And it was so nerve-wracking, I actually had to go on anti-anxiety medication cause I'd never done television before. And I thought… I just kept having dreams that I was gonna trip and be naked and like just knock everything over and damage the whole concept of the product.

But in the end… there was also a part of the contest where you presented and then America voted. So I was really vulnerable to thinking that everyone could just tell me my idea was terrible. Like you know… But in the end, it went great. And then I got more comfortable with the… you know, you feel discomfort with anything you do the first time, right?

As you know, I never read this book, but there was a book that I loved the title of and I have it. I never read it, but it was called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” And the thing on the back just said, “If you've never done something before and you're doing it for the first time and it has any risk associated with it, you're gonna have anxiety. You're gonna be nervous.

You just gotta feel the fear and do it anyway.” Yeah, so that's kinda what I started to do.

Childhood Dreams and Passion

Nick (11:30)

I like the tagline. It says a lot. That's great. Well, props to you for pushing through it. You know, did you already… did you see yourself as a young kid, did you see yourself doing stuff like this or wish you would do stuff like this? 

Leslie (11:48)

Gosh! You know, no, I don't think so. I don't know that I had a perception of myself when I was little. I've always been crafty though. I like to make things.  Like in my early thirties, I made…. You know, before Build a Bear happened, you know, like the big Build a Bear. The company that made the voice boxes used to sell them before they got the big Build-a-Bear contract.

And I used to buy them and then I would record, like... run DMC on them or something and then stick them in a stuffed animal. And then give them to friends.  It was my… I really enjoyed that whole, you know, obviously licensing, not a problem because I'm not selling it. But I've always been crafty. I like to make things.  I didn't really see myself being an entrepreneur.

But it made more sense as I got older when I realized how I'm an all-in person. Like when I work a job, I'm all in. And that was what I was doing with bigger companies you know... When I was in the system and IT, I would work two people's worth of work and that's how I work. 

So that's when I wanted to own it myself. I think it was that experience that made me wanna find a way to own my own experience. So if I overwork it's on me, but I own the results.

And then when you're supposed to coast after you've implemented a system and you should really take it easy and work your maybe 35 hours a week versus 80, I'd get bored and I'd leave. And then I had nothing to show for it. They got two people's worth of work out of me and then I'm gone, so great for them, but I have nothing to show for it.

So that's when I wanted to own it myself. I think it was that experience that made me wanna find a way to own my own experience. So if I overwork it's on me, but I own the results.

Nick (13:28)

Yeah. That's cool that you've just been able to identify that within yourself. And now you're in this position where you can do systems and processes for three months. And then when you come out of the water, you can look at something else in your business and you can focus on that. And it'll keep you entertained and excited. I kind of feel the same way.

Like, I go through phases like that as well, where it's kind of like... it's kind of tough to pin down like one thing I think I'm good at. Like people ask… and in MDS, you'll hear people ask you that kind of often. Like “What is one thing you're really good at?”  And I'm like, “Well, you know, I don't really know the one thing. I can think of a couple of things”

But do you have one or two or a few things you think you're really good at?

Leslie (14:18)

I don't know.  I mean, I love certain things. Like I love product development. I love that, you know, anything related to solving problems through product development. I love it. Yeah, and that would probably be it. I like to develop something, a concept. I like to take an idea and bring it to fruition, whatever it may be. 

But, I can totally believe that you have a million things because in MDS you were always bringing so much value to everything that you posted. Like I just… I constantly have this thought of, Could I go and just hang out with him and just mo… just watch what he does every day? Because I could learn so much just watching what he does?”

Nick (15:08)

Well, yeah, I appreciate you saying that. It’s you know… I’ve…  Sometimes I'm amazed at just how much information some people and you know, myself included, can consume and just, you know, when you're working for yourself and you're excited about it. It's just amazing what people can accomplish when they just keep going… So what do you find yourself doing most… at the moment?

What's Leslie working on now?

Making Out More Time for Family and Travels

Leslie (15:40)

Well, right now we're onboarding a new Operations Manager. So we run the business very lean. Like I’m not…I mean I'm so impressed with a lot of people in MDS who've grown, you know, to quite large sizes with a huge team. And I've never been the best manager.

I'd like to transition, I'm 51. So I would like a little more time with the family and travel now that we're all vaccinated.

I'm a great manager of rock stars who need no management. But I'm not the best at people development and managing people in general. I have in the past hired more juniors not handed off a lot and kept a lot on my plate. I'd like to transition, I'm 51. So I would like a little more time with the family and travel now that we're all vaccinated. And like thinking about what's possible in the world.

I… it's a good time to think about stepping away. So I recently onboarded an operations manager. So right now my job is a lot around… I work a lot around setting him up to really run the day-to-day. He comes in with a lot of Amazon experience, which is great. And so a lot of it is just that hands-off so that then we can do a lot of game development.

Alex has more ideas that we wanna keep working on. And that tends to get put aside for the, you know, the day-to-day things. And so I'm trying to move... We're doing EOS. So we're trying to move into more of the visionary role. And it's hard for me cause I like a lot of the nitty-gritty of some of the things. So I'm trying to find a balance there.

Inculcating EOS Into the Business

Nick (17:12)

Yeah. That's interesting. It kind of goes back to like what I was saying about having a hard time identifying stuff. But like with EOS, the Entrepreneur's Operating System, we'll talk about the visionaries. These are the idea people like to go after different projects and they get bored easily. And you have the integrators who are usually the systems and processes and the operators. 

But it sounds like you kind of fit into both of those roles and can be pretty dynamic when it comes to that…  

Leslie (17:47)

I like both. I like aspects of it, but then I have a lot of blind spots, you know? Because I like certain parts of both. I love the visionary role, but I also… You know, when there’s just a… You know, somebody in MDS who will post something like something to dig into that you can learn so much from, I want to do it. Like I enjoy the process of learning ways to optimize things.

And because I was also partly a process engineer before when I worked at Intel for… Intel capital. I just enjoy optimizing things. And so yeah…  So I think there's always gonna be a part. So actually, we have an EOS implementer who runs our L-10 meetings, which is one of the big meetings that is part of the EOS system. And she's kind of helping me with that.

How do I move into more of a visionary, set people up for success, but still keep my hands on the things that I feel like I can add value to?

Nick (18:51)

Yeah. I'm curious, has she said anything like… has she said, “Oh! There's a lot of people out there I work with who kind of fit into these different roles.” Or does she see you as clearly being one in one role?

Leslie (19:07)

No, she sees my challenge because, you know, she sees that I like some aspects of it. And you know we, like I said, we're really lean. We only have two employees right now. So it's an operations manager and a graphic designer, not common for people to do. You know, usually, you've got at least a few other people within that. But because we're so lean, it's, you know, it's one of those things where… and we keep it simple. 

The business is very simple, especially the game business. It's all Amazon. We have very few skills. We don't launch a lot of products so we can keep it pretty simple. And I like that. But yeah, she sees my challenge because she can see how I light up about certain things that relate to more of the integrator-type role. And then there's the visionary stuff that it has to be me because that's what I love. And especially on the game side.

Yeah, I will say that Alex does all of the game mechanics, all the game, and plays all of this stuff. I really just like helping him get the graphics and the cards. 

For my son's games, they all come, ideas come from him and we work through them together, but we're not going to develop hunt games and get a game designer in to develop them. If he wants to do that, when he takes over the business when he is 18 or whatever, that's great. He can do that, but you know, for now, it's really just a family business so...

Nick (20:31)

Well, I think that's cool. It kind of seems like you landed in a niche that fits you perfectly because you can have these cool ideas—your son can have these cool ideas. You can help him develop those. But then, I imagine creating a game like that takes a while. Like you probably have to dig in and, you know, come up with all these different things that can happen and variables.

And that definitely, you know, takes a special person, I think, to be able to focus on that for that long. Stay excited about it and make it happen.

What Working With Family Means For Leslie

Leslie (21:07)

Yeah, I will say that Alex does all of the game mechanics, all the game, and plays all of this stuff. I really just like helping him get the graphics and the cards. I do the logistics behind the scenes and then I play the Test of Time with him. But, he comes in, singing with his full idea. I'm like— we play a lot of games as a family. I played Chess with him this morning.

He beat me way too fast. And that was really painful, but we play games daily, right? We play games all the time. So we're a game family. So he's got all these mechanics in his head and he just figures out what will work really well together. I do not know how he does it, cause it's amazing. I do the extra part that makes it like an actual game that other people can play versus our play home cards.

I played Chess with him this morning. He beat me way too fast. And that was really painful, but we play games daily, right? We play games all the time.

We actually have some, Alex is working on another game here that we have just like an upgrade card that he created. So we'll play with this type of thing for a long time until the game really works and then we'll develop our cards.. So it's a lot of fun. I mean, it's just a great way to spend time with your kid. Now. It's a joy and my husband loves it too.

So, he's often the person who comes in without as much knowledge about the game we just were working on and then can give really good input because he's not too close to it.

Nick (22:25)

Nice. That's super cool. I like the process you guys have going on and just how you know, family-involved it is. I think any family can feel and identify how special that really is. Do you guys feel like there's anything you did specifically as parents like raising your son that kind of helped foster this—foster his growth here? Or did he just come out…  

Alex in the Gaming Business

Leslie (22:53)

Well, I think it was a combo of things. So he was four or five when I did Shark Tank and I had a big thing about telling him about every aspect of the business as I started it, like he knew budgeting, he knew everything about the business, and...I had planned to do Shark Tank and if it hadn't gone well, I figured it had a benefit because Alex could see me, you know, not do well on television and get up and do something else.

So he might not have as much fear of failure, you know, and… but it went really well. So that was good. So he already had a mindset about making things and that you can get an idea, bring it to life you know, and that side of it. But, then we back a lot of projects on Kickstarter. So we buy a lot of games off of Kickstarter. So he knew about games.

And I think he had seen… I think we looked up Exploding Kittens once, and I think they did like 8 million dollars, I can't remember what it was. At the time he was seven, and had no concept of money other than “That's a huge number!” And so he just came up with the idea to do a game called ‘Taco vs. Burrito’ and do a Kickstarter for it. And he had no idea how to play the game. He just knew the name.

He knew what he wanted to do. And he knew he wanted to do a Kickstarter. And I was like, “Dude, you could just make it for your friends. You could just make it on paper. You don't have to do a Kickstarter” but he was adamant about it. And so I kinda laid out, “Well, here's all the crap you're gonna have to do to do that.” And he just started working through things each day. 

And I think the reason it actually came together was that we had a good structure. We walked our dog to the coffee shop on Saturday and Sunday. My husband would sleep in. I'm an early riser. So my son and I would walk to the coffee shop and we would take the latest version of his game and another game. And we would play the other game first and then we would play the latest version of his game.

And then on the way back, he'd have ideas of things to change. And we did that for like six months and it all came together. I don't think it would've worked had we said “We're sitting down to make a game now, everybody.” I think you'd hate it as a kid after a while. You know, You'd be like, “I don't wanna do this,” but we had to walk the dog.

We didn't have a choice. So it just kind of happened.

Nick (25:15)

Man. Yeah. I love that. That’s a good story. So he figured out that he wanted to do the Kickstarter thing now, had you done one before that? 

Leslie (25:24)

Yeah. I did a Kickstarter for Good Hangups. So he knew about that. And like I said, we were backing a ton of games there. We like watching the videos and we like being an early backer of things. We had backed a couple of other things off of Indie-Gogo and Kickstarter and you know. So it's been really fun.

Nick (25:44)

Nice. Do you have any, uh, any advice for someone who might be listening and, and be interested in, using Kickstarter?

Leslie’s Advice for Using Kickstarter

Leslie (25:53)

Kickstarter is a tricky beast. You know, it works great for games. You know, we've had a lot of luck. We've done two now with the other game we did, which was called ‘Bold Made’ we did recently. And that one did really well compared to the first.

We just didn't know what to expect with ‘Taco versus Burrito’. I think my advice would be, you know, remember that if you see someone go over a hundred thousand dollars, they have ads— they're running ads—they're working with an agency of some sort. So don't have too high of expectations. But I think Kickstarter is brilliant because you get superfans who are happy to start with you.

They'll give you great feedback. It's like a little mini-focus group that pays you to do the work. So it's a ton of work. It is really a ton of work and you are putting yourself out there. It's not for everyone. But I think a great model is, you learn so much. And everything that you do in the Kickstarter, once you go over to like an Amazon or another, all of that work pays off.

Because you have the videos, you have the graphics, you have everything. So it translates well. And for games specifically, it goes really well when you bring it over to Amazon.

Using Platforms Like Kickstarter and Amazon

Nick (27:11)

Okay. Yeah, I like the way that you mentioned, you know, going through the Kickstarter process sets you up for Amazon. Once you get there, you already have the videos, you have a brand, you know who your audience is. So you can plug a lot of that in.

Launch Your Product

Leslie (27:27)

And launch is great too, because if you've already got fans when you bring it over to Amazon and you let your Kickstarter backers know it's on Amazon now. Games are giftable. So people will think, “Oh! I'll get that. I really like that game. I'll get it for a friend. I'll get it for this.” We like to launch like November-ish so that… on Amazon so that everybody can think, “Oh! I need to give you a gift. I'll get that game.”

 We don't do the traditional launch strategies a lot of people do for Amazon. It's kind of just, you know, who we already have in our group of people who have already backed it. And they're the best people to share it with. I feel it when I back something. I feel like I made this happen. I helped them. And they feel that way about your product.

So it's not anything you can get from a regular customer. I don't think so. Maybe you can, I haven't been able to.

Nick (28:20)

No, I think that makes sense like if… It sounds like another way to develop a passionate audience. I mean, you know, people are talking about Instagram and Facebook. And you know, YouTube and all these channels to develop that. You don't really hear people talk about that with Kickstarter. Like you're also developing a passionate following for your brand.

So, yeah. That's great. What did it take for you guys to like, get, get on Kickstarter? Like did you have to invest a good amount of money to get in there? Or was it mostly just getting into it?

Work Hard By Displaying Your Product

Leslie (28:52)

Kickstarter is the best part. It's all sweat equity and you don't get… you don’t need any money to do it. Really. You need to be able to show the product in some way. So you need a prototype, at least that works. For a game, you can actually— probably, not even have that if you had cracks, but, it's really a lot of just work to get it done. And then everything is pre-sold.

So you're essentially funding your first run of inventory. 

Give it Time

Leslie (29:22)

And so you know, other than time, there's not a lot of expense to get started. And even if you did use an agency for ads, which we did for Bold Made this last time, they're usually taking a percentage of the revenue they bring in. So you haven't laid things out until you get paid.

Benefits of Kickstarter For Leslie

Leslie (29:41)

I think that the brilliant part about Kickstarter is, as long as you don't go overboard and spend too much before you get started; It's a great way to:

  • launch a product
  • Get feedback
  • Get money for your first run of the product, and
  • Get it out there.

It really needs to be a unique product. Meaning, that games are unique because they're different kinds of games. It won't work for an iteration or something that already exists, because people will just go over and buy it on Amazon or something like that. But for Good Hangups, it was unbelievably helpful because we had originally had two different pack sizes.

One was for larger posters and one was for smaller posters. But if it was the larger poster, if it was thick and it was small, it needed the larger ones. It was confusing. I learned it was confusing through the Kickstarter. Now it's gonna take me years to learn that that was confusing from customers. But I was able to fix it when I went to ship the product and we just shipped only the one—the larger one.

And because we were buying larger quantities, the price came down to where it was equal. The only reason I had two was that I was messing with the price. So I feel like there's so much to be learned. I don't think you should go into Kickstarter with a completely finished product. Meaning, don't order your inventory before you start Kickstarter because you wanna hear what people are saying, and get feedback, it'll change what you do really well.

Nick (31:07)

Yeah. That's a great point too. Cause at the end of the day, I mean, that's who you're trying to sell the product to. Right? Like you wanna make them happy, make it simple for them, yeah?

Leslie (31:17)

Yeah. When we did Bold Made… it's a game A remake of Old Made and it had amazing women in history in it. And when we did that one, we filed a survey to ask people to let us know what women they'd like to see in the game.

We had 4,000 people fill out the survey. 4,000 people took the time. It was a long survey to give us information. And they went into detail about these women that they were passionate about. 

You can't get that from just a survey on Instagram or something. You're never gonna have that many people who are asking it. People were sharing it around and asking other people to write in. So it was great.

Nick (31:55)

Yeah. That's awesome. I mean, that sounds like a great asset to look at, to leverage for anybody's business. At least to consider, see if there's an opportunity there. What was… So you guys launched on Kickstarter, you've done the shark tank thing, the Today show. How—when did you decide to finally jump into Amazon and what did that look like for you?

Leslie’s Leap to Amazon 

Leslie (32:25)

So I've been doing Amazon a bit with ‘Good Hangups’ before. But when we started doing Taco Versus Burrito, the game... So our plan was, we do the Kickstarter, which raised about $24,000. And then our plan was to order like double the inventory we needed and send the rest to Amazon because I had done Amazon for a while. But not in a very active…

I wasn't doing it to manage it because it was Good Hangups. We were doing big box retail and a number of other things like in Walmart and we did QVC and things like that. We've scaled all that back to be mainly Amazon now because it's just so much easier to manage. But at the time, we just thought, okay, we'll send that inventory into Amazon, that extra inventory for Taco Versus Burrito.

Amazon is great because people come in with their credit cards out

I really still didn't know it was gonna be what it is now. And it sold out instantly, all of the inventory. And we were like,” Oh crap! okay” So then we ordered more and every time we were just selling out with Amazon. Amazon is great because people come in with their credit cards out. That's what I always think of. Like, they're looking for a game, they're looking for a gift, they're looking for something.

They're ready. And if we can get, you know, if you have something compelling, you can end up getting, you know, traction. Plus the game has marketing written in it. I mean, built into it. So people play together. So if you come over to my house and I play with you, you might go buy the game. Whereas with Good Hangups, no one's sitting and talking about how they hung their poster on the wall.

They’re like, you know… Whereas games, people talk about them. So it kind of just started to snowball. And we saw the potential of games on Amazon and it grew that next year. It grew to a million dollars the next year. And then this last year, it did 3.5 million. And it’s just that one SKU. It's crazy how quickly things can evolve, and you know like I said, it's because marketing is built into it.

It kind of grows organically as it goes along. So Amazon became the easiest way to do it while, you know, Alex is still an elementary school student. So I didn't need a second full-time job. I really wanted to keep it simple. So we really have a plan to stay simple and not go big retail. I didn't enjoy… Walmart was a lot of work for the payoff that was there.

I only did it because I thought I should. And it's like an honor to get in, and I'm gonna stop shooting on myself and just do the things that actually work.

Nick (35:11)

So what did that listing look like when you guys put that up? I mean, did you guys do keyword research? How much effort did you put in?

Leslie (35:19)

None. There's no keyword. There never was word research. It was a — my husband is a good writer, so he wrote the copy and it was written based on what we learned from the Kickstarter. So it was just, you know, the content, the topic is funny. People are pretty passionate about tacos and burritos. Oh yeah. The name of itself has a lot built into it.

Plus then, it's made by a seven-year-old. So if you're giving a gift to a 7 to 10-year-old, maybe give them the gift made by a seven-year-old. It's aspiring, right? So, it had a lot built into it. And to be honest, we are just getting around to optimizing for keywords, but we have so many long-tail keywords that it kind of blows my mind because it wasn't on purpose. 

It was all just out of the interest in the game who was buying it and what they were buying it…. What they were also buying it for, you know, what, they were also buying as well.

Nick (36:18):

Long tail keywords can be interesting.

Leslie (36:23)

Yeah. It's crazy. You know, it's crazy. There was an issue on Amazon recently where a lot of things got delisted and I was like, “I better go and see what we were ranking for.” And I found over 2000 words, we ranked under five, organically. So I was like, and they weren't low volume. All of them. There are some strange things we show up in and again, all accidental. 

So people will say,” Wow! What are you doing? It's so cool.” Like, we can get to number one sometimes in Toys and Games. We've done it before. And they're like, “What are you doing?” I was like, “I dunno!” Well, you know, we kinda work on a few different things and we do have really good A+ content and we are part of Launchpad. So we get videos in line. 

So you can have a video right in the middle of the listing. Which I think makes a huge difference in games. It gets people compelled like there are too many choices. Our competitors are all games. Right? So how do you stand out? It's tricky.

Nick (37:33)

Yeah. I imagine like… you could have people playing the game, right? Like in a video right there on the list. That's super cool. That's awesome.

Learning From a Similar Business is Okay

Leslie (37:43)

Absolutely. And we used a guy from… We basically used our Kickstarter video, which is okay. We have a Fiverr guy who has this inner world voice. Who's like in the world, blah blah. And it just, we modeled it very much after Exploding Kitten Energy, like the way they do their video. I mean, those guys are brilliant, both, you know, the graphic person and then the game developer, they are just brilliant. 

So we kind of look at what they do. And while you wouldn't be able to tell we're modeling after what they do, because we don't have the same content at all. Right? But what they do is so well done, that we can model after their video, you can't tell, but it's the energy, the pacing, and the way that they do it is so cool.

Nick (38:34)

Yeah. You know that… What you just described is what took me a long time to really put a finger on and identify when it came to branding. Cause it's just like when you start… I started out on Amazon. So I didn't know much about branding at all. You know, like I was selling other people's products, they had already developed them. 

And then when I stepped into the world of creating my own stuff and you know, you start to get asked questions by people who are developing logos and brand books and stuff. You know, it was like a year of struggling with that stuff for me to really understand marketing. And like you said, like pacing and the tone of voice. And I… What I figured out is you can, for lack of a better word, “copy” someone else.

But if you have your own brand in mind, your own vision, it's not really copying. It's more like inspiration and…

Leslie (39:36)

I call it your “spirit.” When I do Kickstarters, we always find spirit Kickstarters. That's what I call it. You find the Kickstarter that evokes the feeling or… and it might be two or three different ones combined that say like, “Oh yeah, this energy of this game or, in this video.” And each game is different. That's what I wanna evoke. Like I want that feeling to come through and the video and the graphics and the things.

So, you know, no one can tell that you're doing it because you're just, you're using what you respond to in that content to help give you a roadmap on what you need to do. And nobody could tell, unless you're doing the exact same product in the exact same category—no one will ever know. You know like…

I wouldn't expect that these Exploding Kittens have ever thought, you know, “Oh, this is an exact, like, their video is pasted exactly like ours” because the content's different.

If you feel uncomfortable with stealing, you can say “I was inspired by something

Nick (40:35)

It reminds me of a book that I like the title of, but I also never read. It's called “Steal Like An Artist.” Have you heard of that? 

Leslie (40:37)

No, I haven't, but that's a good one. 

Nick (40:39)

Yeah. So I like that one.

Leslie (40:46)

Yeah and I mean If you feel uncomfortable with the stealing, you can say “I was inspired by something”. But it really is helpful for kinda mapping it out to the point where if I see a video I really like, I will write it down, I will pace it out and write it down. Each word that they say, in order at the time they say it, and then I will craft my copy to my video exactly the same, just different content, but pasted in a similar way.

So I achieved that same feeling.

Nick (41:14)

Yeah. I think that's a good tip for someone's listening right now and you're struggling with this idea of how to do that. I've done this before too, where you take it and, you know, if you have a dual monitor or something, you put it up on one monitor and you type out your thing and you just try and mimic. Like you try and… And I think you touched on it, you try to evoke that same feeling that you felt when it captured your attention.

And if you can make that, that's kind of, in my opinion, that's the shortcut. Right? Like if you want to do a shortcut to figure out how you're going to get this process started that's a good way to do it. It's helped me because that's usually what I need to just get it kicked off a little bit, you know— kick me off a little bit, and then I'll get going with it. 

Leslie (41:32)

Yeah. It turns into a template you know. If you stay true to that and that's where your starting point is, then you can enhance it with whatever you decide to do next. Like we don't—our content doesn't look anything like Exploding Kittens today in our listing because we've evolved from… and we've realized what works for our content. 

But when we started with the video or the Kickstarter—the actual Kickstarter, we wanted to make sure we described the game. They did such a good job. We wanted to make sure we get that approach you know. Their rewards are really clear. We want to make sure we get that. So we're going to use that as an inspiration to kind of just build off of it to the point that I have an illustrator out open.

I use Illustrator a lot and I will have their version or a version of something… or another, It's not always them. When it could be, you know— like for Bold Made, there was a really good book called… called “Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls.” And it's all these amazing women in history. So you can really use that same content structure because we're doing something similar.

It's a game, it's a book, they're very different, but they're— we're all talking about celebrating women. So it's kind of a nice way to be able to do it, but I'll have an illustrator open and I'll just put it behind a layer and develop off of the top. It doesn't look anything the same, but I can get a sense of like, “Oh, I just want to model here, like, I want my length of this to be the same.” So yeah it… 

Leslie and Her Flare For Graphic Designing

Nick (43:04)

Good tip as well. I never got too comfortable with Adobe. That was one of those things, you know— I've always wanted to try and be good at everything. And I gave it up a while ago. 

Leslie (43:15)

Yeah. There are great graphic designers that can do this all day. I tend to do too much of it because I enjoy it. You know, like I can get in there and again. I have an amazing graphic designer who can do this way better than me, but I've not found that balance yet to not go down that route. It's just fun. 

Nick (43:19)

Yeah. Design is fun when you create something great. and you realize you started from nothing basically and you whipped up this thing. It's pretty cool. Oh, Leslie. So you've got Good Hangups, Bold Made, and Taco versus Burrito. So those are the three ones you've got going on now?

Leslie (43:37)

That's the main stuff we've got going.

Leslie Explains How She Balances Family and Business

Nick (43:49)

Nice. So how do you balance all of that? You know, with work and family and keep it all going?

Leslie (43:55)

That's a tricky one and that is something I'm actively trying to work on. That was probably one of the main reasons we brought on an Operations Manager was just… You know—knowing that the day-to-day is covered by someone else I can step away more. Someone with more expertise than me, which is often—

I've been the one with the most expertise in the business and that in an area… makes it hard to walk away. So I needed to hire up versus what I ended up hiring usually before. I’d be cheap and I'd hire more junior people and... But doing that, it's, you know, making the time so that when my son wants to play chess and beat me again, every time I swear.

I'm going to get better at chess someday, but I'm not there yet, anyway…  But when you know— he's turning 11 so I am realizing I have limited time left where he's going to want to even hang out with me. So, you know, right now it's about trying to find a way to be available for you know, whatever he's in the zone to do and just enjoy every second.

Cause there's not many left before he grows up and maybe takes over the business. That would be fun. 

Nick (44:14)

Then you won't want to hang out with him anymore. You'll be like, “Nah, you got work to do, man. Mom's going out, I'm out of here.”

Leslie (44:23)

“Mom’s going to go get a drink.” So yeah, but it's pretty funny. So yeah. Balance is probably— I think a lot of people struggle with this. How do you handle balance? Do you… 

Nick (44:36)

Well, yeah. You know, we just kind of—like you said, make time for, like to do the things they want to do, right? My son likes to play video games and he gets excited when I play video games with him. So instead of trying to give them a life lesson about why he shouldn't play video games all the time or something like that, I just, you know, spend 20 or 30 minutes with them and play.

The one thing I've realized with kids is that you can do something for five minutes with them and they'll talk about it for a year. You know? Like they get excited. They remember things. But yeah, I've got three kids, so it's tough. 

Balance… I think a lot of people struggle with this

Leslie (45:01)

Wow! That's a lot to... That's a lot of attention to give. That's impressive. That’s great. I saw a post recently. Wasn't one of your children into karate?

Nick (45:10)

Yeah. My son's in Taekwondo and he just won an award in a tournament that he...

Leslie (45:20)

You looked so happy. I mean, you can see when people really enjoy their kids and enjoy their time. So that's great. And that's a really good point. If you meet them where they're at, I think that was the thing with the game. He wanted to make the game. I went with him where he was going. Wherever he… In the past, when he had ideas, we went where you're going.

Like, if you want to create something, we'll go there. He's now making weird movies that are very strange. Very strange. But he's also very into anime. So if I sit down for, you know—a 20-minute anime with him once, it's like, I've said, “You're valid”, “It's awesome”, “you're great.” And now he can tell me all of those things about it and not feel like he's just trying to educate someone who knows nothing. 

Using EOS in the Family Setting

Nick (46:39)

I've even taken some ideas from the Traction Book, and the EOS system and kind of applied them to my family a little bit. 

Leslie (46:49)

Like how? In what way? I mean, I heard somebody mention that— maybe it was you who had mentioned that... 

Nick (46:53)

Yeah, we were doing morning meetings. We would have more… I have a big, giant whiteboard in the house. So we would do like morning… we would do our segue. You know, talk, our segue was what we were grateful for today. So you would say one thing you're grateful for. We'd have a weekly goal and you'd have like a couple of things on your to-do list that would help you meet your weekly goal.

So it was, you know—we snuck some goal-setting training in there. But really in my mind, it was just something to bring us all together at the beginning of the day. And then at the end of the day again. And just communicate with each other and talk about what went well, and what could've gone better. What you're grateful for. 

Leslie (47:43)

That's awesome! Yeah, the grateful part is great for kids. Like if they can pull themselves out of things and say what they're really grateful for, but I think that's genius. And like, as they grow up, those things stick in a different way. So they might not even continue it, but later on, when they're in a business setting, they might know to do that. “I have instinct around this”. That’s so cool

Nick (48:10)

I really enjoyed that. It's definitely brought us closer together and it's something to look forward to. Just knowing how busy a lot of us are, you know it's like at first I sat… it felt kind of bad to be like, “Well, I got a pencil in my family to my schedule here”, but in reality, it's a good idea. 

We do that for work. We do it for ourselves. Like in my opinion, we should do it for our family first for me, you know, and then build our lives around that. So it's been working for me.

Leslie (48:44)

I think that's so good. I love it. You know, Alex when we got an EOS and implementer, I had to pick somebody specifically who would work with a ten-year-old because he's technically the visionary, you know.I want to sit with him in his role for that. It was really funny those early you know… when we were developing the vision, mission, and all that stuff.

It was always just really funny. He was like, “This is lame.” We had to pull it out of him in a different way. But, you know, it was really funny. But it will stick with him later and he'll be glad we have EOS because when he goes to take it over, he doesn't have to run the day-to-day. He can have people and the structure will be there. That was part of the goal not to hand off a hot mess to my child.

That's all I really want to do. No hot mess. 

Nick (49:40)

Yeah, I think It's great. I mean, it's just such a great setup for him, you know. That's amazing. I look forward to hopefully following his journey a little more and getting to know him a little better. I'm sure he's already an amazing person and just going to grow up and become, you know, just absolutely wonderful. I mean it’s just so amazing… 

What the Future Holds For Leslie and Her Son

Leslie (50:01)

He's a joy. Let's see what he does with these movies. They can get crazy. That might be his future, who knows? But we’ll see. Don’t you find that fun when you don't know what your kids will do— where your kids will go with their ideas? Like you see little elements of them at a certain age. And I kind of almost hope he doesn't do games.

Like he goes into something else because you know, he's kinda done it now at this age. And I would hope he would always be learning and trying and doing new things. So if he wants to sell the business later or if he just wants to have someone else manage it, that's great. 

Nick (50:41)

Yeah, well, it sounds like you're setting him up to be in a good position to make those moves in the future, which you know is amazing.

Leslie (50:49)

I hope so. We'll see. You never know as a parent. 

Nick (50:53)

Yeah. You never know with kids. Well, Leslie, it has been amazing to sit down and have a conversation with you. I'm so grateful that you came onto the podcast. And, man, before we sign off, you got one piece of advice for anybody listening? Maybe if you had to like… had to go back and you're just starting over again, is there something you would do differently? 

My best piece of advice is if you grow to a million dollars, join the Million Dollar Seller Club.

Leslie (51:18)

I would just say, feel the fear, and do it anyway. If you've got— if you're listening to this, you didn't decide to listen unless you are… this is a passion for you. You're not just kind of like, “Should I start a business?” If you're thinking of starting it, feel fear, do it anyway. And then now my best piece of advice is if you grow to a million dollars, join the Million Dollars Seller Club. It’s amazing! It is so great. 

The amount of knowledge, it's like having an amazing board of directors that will do work for you and help you, like when you have something happen and you can go to that group of brilliant people, it just is amazing. So that's my advice. 

Nick (52:03)

Awesome. Thank you, Leslie. Well, once again, thanks a lot for coming on. Great chatting with you. Looking forward to doing it again, and I'll be talking to you soon. 

Leslie (52:15)

Yeah. Great! Thank you for having me.

Nick (52:16)

Yeah, absolutely.

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