Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jamie Mathy, owner of Red Raccoon Games, located in Bloomington, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Red Raccoon Games has one of the largest selections of board games, card games, role-playing games, and miniatures games in central Illinois. Our customers are individuals, couples, and families who are looking to reconnect with their families & friends in a fun, social way - playing a game! After two years of Covid, people are craving to unplug from constant Zoom calls and staring at their computers.
Tell us about yourself
Ironically, I used to be the Chief Technology Officer of a computer services company. My job was to architect solutions for other businesses all over the midwest, and after staring at my screen for hours, I would need a break and go for a walk around historic downtown Bloomington. On one of those breaks, I stumbled into a small game store and reconnected with my love of board games from childhood. I became friends with the owner and eventually tried to coach him on ways to expand & better market the store to share the love with more people.
One day I apparently irritated him, and he said, "Why don't you just buy the damn store & do it yourself." I didn't know that at the time, he was getting burnt out as a sole proprietor with no employees - he had to work every hour the store was open. I blew it off, but when I stopped back in a couple of weeks later, he asked, "Hey, did you think about my offer?" And now I own a board game store!
What really motivates me is helping people find games that make them happy. You can see the delight in their eyes when they have found the perfect game, and they love it when you ask how it was the next time they come in. It's why I say our unofficial motto is "We sell fun!"
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Oh, how do I choose? There are so many fun stories - I have had people propose to their partners in the store. I have had customers get married, have kids, and now bring those kids in to shop & play games. I have had people drive from 3 hours away to visit us just because we have made funny videos & put them on Tiktok. I have won Micro Business of the Year from the Chamber of Commerce. I have been asked to speak on branding at industry conferences. But I think my biggest accomplishment is helping employees discover who they want to be as adults, get married, start families, and buy homes. I don't have kids, but I can live vicariously through my employees as they become wonderful humans.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The thing I have struggled with the most is understanding that not every person will make a good employee, and not every person will make a good customer for the store. Telling people they need to find a different direction is never easy.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make sure you have a plan for your personal life. The toll on your personal life will be real in the early years, and you need to have serious conversations with your family & friends before taking the plunge to start a business. If you have a spouse or kids, your life will put a strain on them as well. Make a plan for how & when you will spend quality, non-work time with them.
- You need a plan as to how you are going to pay your bills at home. I have talked with many people who discovered that they didn't get paid for the first 6-24 months of their business being in operation. My wife is a school teacher & she was the anchor that allowed me to do what I needed to make the store successful.
- Build your relationships with your key partners at your business - I consider my key partners to be my accountant, my lawyer, my banker, and my primary vendor. Those people are the core that makes my business successful because I know I can trust them to provide quality guidance as I work through new ideas & concepts for our future.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Hire a housekeeper! There is nothing more depressing than working 80-hour weeks and coming home to realize your house is disgusting because you haven't cleaned the bathroom, swept the floors, or dusted. It is demoralizing! I was at a networking mixer, and every person in a circle was a small business owner. An interior designer asked everyone, "How long until you caved & hired someone to clean your house?" and no one had made it longer than six months.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.