Startup Diaries: Creating the Boardgame of Entrepreneurialism

Leah Goold-Haws explains how she came to create a boardgame which teaches entrepreneurialism and has been featured in Forbes Online Magazine.

Though I come from a family where my father was a multiple small venture entrepreneur, after my divorce, I struggled to determine what type of job would be best for me.

I knew, despite my fears, that I wanted employment that would give me the flexibility I would need as a single parent. I also feared that a traditional 9-5 would leave me at the mercy of an employer and being over 40, I didn’t think I would have as many potential economic opportunities as self-employment could offer.

So I dove in – starting a marketing firm – LGH Marketing/Strategy, as it was a background I’ve always worked in. I had one client and a lot of motivation. The client itself was a collaborative I brought together, stemming from a conversation about the need for increasing higher educational aspirations in our rural community.

I took that comment and ran with it – garnering a committee of like-minded people who eventually gave me some grant funding to put a campaign together. From there, the project has evolved into an educational tool of its own, and became an entry point into my second company, Mindevices.

The funny thing about both these companies and the story behind them is that I didn’t know how to find work that would be “my passion”, as so many self-help gurus describe being the ultimate employment goal. All I knew at the start was that I needed a way to make a living and that I wanted to become as knowledgeable as I could in the process.

The most interesting part of the story so far? In looking for a way to teach my own teenagers about business, I created an offering that has been the best part of the journey hands down.

We live in a rural community in far Northern California (sad but true, it is not all beaches and movie stars here!) where unemployment is high, educational attainment is low and expectations for one’s future are often times lower still. As my oldest son and his friends looked around the local landscape for jobs, they felt discouraged or that the only answer would be to leave town – and not with plans to return.

I, like so many mothers before me, tried a good old fashioned conversation (lecture?) to impart my thoughts on creating one’s own opportunities.

And, like all those mothers before me, I often felt my advice fell on deaf ears. But, I did notice that my sons and their friends learned despite themselves when immersed in game play.

Not only did their competitive nature drive them to succeed, but they took in whatever topic at hand – from real estate to world history – whilst involved in the enjoyment of playing with friends.

A tiny idea was sparked and, on poster boards from the dollar store, I took a pencil and a ruler and started to sketch out my game. People snickered or rolled their eyes, even my teens, but I felt like I was on the right path. Every book I read, every client experience I went through in my own life, every lesson my sons brought home from their public school business courses, further inspired me. I sat in front of the computer and the words just poured out.

Before I knew it, I had designed a complete board game that teaches entrepreneurship as an entry way into global commerce.

I decided to be bold and contacted my local charter high school and asked if I could pilot an entrepreneur course in tandem with my board game. They agreed – though they would not pay me for it. I didn’t care. By this time I had a wonderful partner and together we taught the class to the toughest critics out there – high school students. Not only was the class a success, my Xeroxed copies of my board game became just as popular. Students even asked where they could buy the game! That summer, I traveled all around the area promoting my program and was asked to develop an official curriculum to go along with it.

Most recently, my board game – having graduated from Xerox copy to beautiful but expensive prototype – was featured in Forbes Online magazine. It is being used at several area high schools and is even being adopted to teach adults.

I’ve found a great truth in the Latin phrase, “Docendo Discimus” or in English, “We learn by teaching.” Thus far, I am still learning but after 2 years, have certainly learned a lot.

Leah Goold-Haws is the Creative Director/Strategist for LGH Marketing/Strategy, working with government agencies, nonprofits, and community outreach committees to create collaborative messaging strategies. She consults with small business & start-ups through the Small Business Development Center including workshops on how to successfully market a business. She teaches entrepreneurship through her other business venture, Mindevices, via her program Know Opportunity. Connect with Leah at her website www.lghmarketstrategy.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lghmarketstrategy.

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