Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Scott Stevens, CEO of The Hero Workshop, located in Culver City, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The Hero Workshop is a non-profit organization dedicated to organizing and running games of Dungeons and Dragons for kids. We are an interactive storytelling workshop, as well as a community center where kids can come and play DnD for a weekly two-hour appointment with adventure.
Tell us about yourself
The Hero Workshop started as an afterschool program, and we have been growing pretty steadily since our inception. When I first moved to Culver City with my family, my oldest son broke his arm about two weeks after we arrived. I was worried that he would have trouble making friends in his new school (he was eight at the time) since he couldn't play at recess, so I made him little invites to invite a few kids over to play Dungeons and Dragons.
That first game had five kids show up. A few weeks later, 11 kids came over to play. One of the kids' moms suggested that I start an afterschool program. I did exactly that, and in the beginning, I was taking long, late lunches from my day job as a video game designer to come to the school and run a game of DnD. One game turned into two, then three... it became too much for me to juggle on my own, so I hired some help. Things have just been growing the whole time. Turns out - everyone loves DnD!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The thing that surprised me the most and that I am also most proud of is the positive social impact having a regular game night can have on a kid. I have received tons of emails from grateful parents letting me know how meaningful their child's experience with The Hero Workshop has been for them. Shy kids are opening up and expressing themselves, kids making new friends, and learning how to work as a team. Especially when we were all staying at home a couple of years ago - many of us were "terminally bored" with the monotony of staying home for months. Having a weekly game of DnD to play with your friends can mean a lot. It does for me!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Deciding what to charge and how to manage the financial aspect has been my biggest challenge. I have a small staff of awesome Dungeon Masters (shortened to DM, the Dungeon Master is the games' referee) and a small shop in Culver City.
Balancing the needs of the business, the needs of my staff, and the needs of my customers in terms of pricing is something that I spent a lot of time working on and continue to watch the numbers every day.
It's the least fun, most important part of running the organization. But it is important to me that everyone who interacts with The Hero Workshop has a positive experience. I want to take good care of my staff by paying a living wage. I want my customers to be happy with the value they get for their membership. And I want to be able to take care of my family financially. Of course, for all three of those goals to be met, I have to run a viable business that can support all of them!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- I don't know if I'm in a position to be giving anyone else advice! I feel like a babe in the woods sometimes, but I have learned a little from my experience so far.
- I think it's important to start small and grow as organically as you can.
- Going too big means a lot of upfront expenses, and that can put you in a negative financial situation - a hole that you have to dig out of. Try to avoid that by starting small and growing in incremental steps - always have an eye on the future and strive for it, but focus on what you can do today to make things just a little better.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Just thank you for the opportunity to reach more heroes! Come check us out at 4455 Overland Avenue (behind The Spot Cafe) in Culver City - we've got a seat at the table for you!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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