What we do after we find rock bottom is what defines us. Chantel Calloway is the creator and CEO of Rhyme Antics, a fun, engaging, and educational game inspired by the roots of hip-hop artistry. Chantel developed the game sitting in jail on New Year’s Eve 2010 after she robbed a bank to provide for her son. Today, Rhyme Antics is the first black-owned game to be sold in big-box retailers, Target and Walmart. Chantel joins Fran Racioppi as she talks about her fall, her learnings, her path to entrepreneurship, and how taking responsibility for your actions and accepting when you’re at rock bottom can inspire you to do more. Chantel also provides her lessons on successful crowd-funding and how iteration is critical to developing a product your audience wants, regardless of what the creator thinks it should be. Dive into an inspiring journey of self-development and be motivated to sing your own path, never letting poor choices define your life or your character.
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About Chantel Calloway
Chantel Calloway is the creator behind the hit board game Rhyme Antics. Chantel recently made “Black History” by becoming the 1st Black-owned game to be sold in big-box retailers -Target and Walmart. Rhyme Antics is an innovative game that promotes literacy while paying homage to the roots of Hip Hop artistry. The game has the unique ability to function as a party game, family game, and classroom game for educators.
11 years ago, Chantel robbed a bank in an effort to survive and continue to provide for her young son. Since then, she has redefined her purpose in life, reached back to her core values, and embarked on an entrepreneurial journey that led her to discover a growing literacy crisis in the country. She is driven by her passion to promote book culture within her community and uses Rhyme Antics and the power of Hip Hop as a catalyst to “make reading cool again”. Her success story and thought leadership will inspire any entrepreneur who has the “big dream” ambition to turn their invention into a market-ready success.
Chantel and Rhyme Antics have been featured on Access Hollywood, Buzzfeed, Black Enterprise, and most recently on The Breakfast Club.
All that glitters is in gold. How can you be so bold? Please come in from the cold. Why are my toes full of mold? This is Rhyme Antics. In this episode, Chantel Calloway explains how she went from robbing a bank years ago to being the first black-owned board game in big-box retailers, Walmart and Target. Chantel shares the keys to finding early state investment through crowdsourcing and the pitfalls of founder space when developing concepts that require continuous iteration, plus she tested my literacy and rough skills in a very competitive round of Rhyme Antics.
Chantel, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
I have been fortunate in my life to work in a variety of industries. I’ve gone to school in different places, I’ve traveled and worked all across the world, and I’ve met some amazing people along the way. The internet and social media have brought the world closer in so many ways to make relationship management easier and make sure that you know what people in your life are doing. We get to see and hear about what they’re doing almost in real-time, anywhere they are in the world.
The days of having to hop on the phone and talk to somebody are over, and we could do a whole episode if that’s good or bad. I don’t even know if there are pros and cons on both sides. I say all this because regardless of the many places that we go in our lives, the experiences that we have, and the people we meet, we never forget about the people that we meet early in our life. The people who influenced us from what I call our glory days of high school and college when we had no fear. You could only predict what everybody was going to do with their life but you didn’t know. You said, “I don’t know what that person is going to be.” You would conjecture, “Are they going to make it or are they not?”
I remember a conversation that we had years ago when you decided to graduate from high school a year early. The rest of us were still there trying to figure out who we were and what we wanted to do with the next week, let alone graduating high school a year early and we were holding on, scared of the future, but you knew what that next step was. You jumped headfirst into it. Admittedly and probably wrongfully, that’s the last time we spoke.
Until I saw this headline that Chantel Calloway created a board game and made history by becoming the first black-owned game to be in big box retail, Target and Walmart, in 700 stores. You created Rhyme Antics. I don’t even know if we can call it a board game but we got to talk about that because there are so many aspects to this thing. Having known your work ethic, your drive, the innovation and the vision that you displayed as a young teenager, I wasn’t surprised. I was so proud of what you’ve accomplished. I said, “I have to get her on the show.”
It’s incredible. In the beginning process of creating the game, I was lost and I had to take myself back to that time in high school where I did make that decision to achieve greatness and I did it. My ambition and ability to make a decision, regardless of where I’m currently at in life, which at that time when I made that decision to graduate from high school early, my grades were crap. I was a D student. I remember going to Mr. D and telling him that this is what I wanted to do.
He was the principal. I spent a lot of time in his office.
There were two Mr. D’s, the vice-principal and the principal. I had a meeting with both of them. I said, “I want to graduate early.” They pulled out my grades and they were like, “There’s no way you can graduate early. Look at your grades.” I was a D student. I performed when I wanted to in classes that I liked. I’m choosy. They were like, “In order for you to graduate early, you have to double up on English, Math and you have to get A’s in every single class for the rest of the year. I was like, “I’ll do it.” They thought I was full of it. I love challenges. That’s me. What drives me most is when someone doubts my ability to be able to do something. I remembered that I can do anything regardless of my current circumstances. I can make the decision and do it. Rhyme Antics was born out of remembering who I am as a powerful creator.
Let’s talk about the game. I played the game with my daughter who’s eleven and also my son, who’s a baby. It was so funny because he kept grabbing the microphone from us and talking into it, then handing it back. It was so funny. I have to congratulate you because this game truly is not only fun and engaging but 100% educational. I was humbled and I talked about humility in every single one of these show because it’s a core component of the characteristic of elite performance. I was humbled by my lack of vocabulary. I kept telling myself and saying out loud, “I know no words in the English language.”
This game not only make me think, but when I couldn’t come up with a rhyming word, I immediately grabbed the card to turn it around to see what words I should know and you think, “How do I know nothing?” There is an app component to the game. There are 12,000 vocabulary words, including SAT words. You get more points for homophones. I haven’t heard the word homophone since the days that we were in English class and I received zero points because I got no homophones. There are official words, unofficial words, bonus words. We’re going to play the game in a little bit but what is Rhyme Antics and how do we play it?
In a nutshell, Rhyme Antics is a vocabulary game inspired by hip hop. The genesis of the game is from me being a hip-hop head, from my family and I’m loving game night. There was a lack of new innovative games. We have been playing the same games for decades and we wanted a new game. The whole family is all hip-hop heads. Moreover, I am a logophile. A logophile is a person who has a real deep love for words. When we were in school, I always loved vocabulary. That was my favorite subject. I love learning new words. Hip-hop artists and real MCs are real lyrical geniuses. We’re ‘80s babies. Are you an ‘80s baby?
We were born in the golden era of hip-hop where hip-hop artists were real lyrical geniuses. They told these amazing stories with a vast vocabulary. When you play this game, you realize the true talent that exists in being a hip-hop artist to be able to freestyle off the top of your head and use words and tell a story is a real talent. All my passions came together to create this vocabulary game inspired by hip-hop because I wanted to add value back to the culture of hip-hop and back to my community through having people challenge and work their brains.
You can automatically see it. It was challenging you and tapping into all those cognitive skills like your memory, focus, fluid intelligence, speed, and all those things that activate your brain in an era where we are not using our brains anymore. The research shows that phones are corrupting our cognitive skills and ability at an alarming rate. It’s important that we continue to activate our brains and our cognitive skills and read and think. I wanted to add value back to the culture. It’s a fun literacy game inspired by the roots of hip-hop artistry.
You have stated, “We have a literacy crisis in this country that’s not being talked about. Statistics show that there are 36 million Americans who can’t read. It’s definitely socio-economic and it affects black and brown families and kids. The problem is the schools and the curriculum. There’s a lot of focus on STEM but you have to know how to read.”
Reading is the foundation of all education and everything. If you can’t read, you can’t learn STEM, STEAM or any subject, Math even. It’s the foundation of all education. We have over 40 million Americans walking around who don’t read above a third-grade level, and it’s become more than socio-economic now. Since 2017, the data shows that there’s been a decline in literacy rates among all students from any socio-economic background because of phones, computers and technology. It concerns me especially for my community who’s impacted the most. I’m concerned about those numbers after COVID ends because these children being in the home and not being in school anymore is going to further increase the disparity in those low literacy rates. It’s my duty as a social entrepreneur to promote a reading culture and to use the biggest music genre on the planet to do that.
The game gives you a phrase. At the end of the phrase, there’s a word that you have to rhyme with.
In hip-hop, it’s called a bar.
I know nothing about music. Apparently, English or music.
Two teams battle. There are three levels of difficulty, easy, Intermediate, and Intellectual. The team chooses a difficulty level and a card gets read to them at random and it might say something like, “I love to eat.” That’s an easy card. The team has 60 seconds for each person to quickly freestyle a verse or bar and the last word of your sentence has to rhyme with eat. There’s a bunch of words on the back of the card that you’re trying to guess to get points. We’ll play right now, Fran. If I was on your team, I might kick it off and say, “Yo DJ, give me a beat.” Fran would say.
“Only if I’m on my feet.”
Very good. I know you can do it. I might say, “I left my man because he likes to cheat.” Fran would say.
“I only eat meat.”
“Fran, that was wack. Take a seat.” We go back and forth. There are all these words on the back of the card that you would get points for. That’s the artistry of hip-hop. You’re freestyling and every sentence you’re saying is in rhyme and scheme. On the back of the card, you’ve got all these rhyme words, bonus words and homophones. There are over 7,700 homophones in the English language, which is crazy. The English language is the most difficult language to learn and it’s because there are so many different rules in English.
The rules change and they’re confusing. Words like live and live. They’re spelled the same but they mean different things. All the homophones that sound the same but mean different things. It’s confusing. I love English. It’s a challenge. This works great for people learning English as a different language. That’s why the game has been so successful because it’s so dynamic. It’s all these different things. It’s an adult party game, for kids, family, a drinking game, but then teachers are using it in their classroom. It’s great for artists development and learning English as a second language. It’s so many great things.
Let’s talk about the road to get to where you are now. This mission that you set out on to create this game came out of a self-assessment, this introspective period and an acceptance that you are at the bottom. It’s 2010, New Year’s Eve in Atlanta and you make the decision to rob a bank. You spent three days in jail. The way you’ve defined that decision is, “I was lost spiritually and not focused. I forgot my potential. I wasn’t living my purpose. I was lost and fell upon hard times.” Would you be willing to share what happened and talk about these dire straits that you were in and why you made that bold decision to rob a bank? This is not an easy decision.
I certainly can talk about it. I’m going to be writing a book where I’ll get into deep detail about the events of that day and what happened but I will discuss it. The bottom line is I was spiritually lost. Whatever your religion is, and I’m not religious, I’m a spiritual woman. I believe in a higher power, the Creator and the universe. I believe in universal laws that exist. I had no connection with the Creator at all. I was walking around living life with my ego. I had no purpose and goals. I had forgotten who I was as a co-creator. I forgot my greatness. I was lost.
I lost a job in Atlanta, Georgia. I told this story and nobody knew it. I was working for a guy in Atlanta who was trying to run a Ponzi scheme. He had paid me a retainer for my marketing services. Few months go by and the whole staff and I were not getting paid. We were like, “What’s going on?” I’m in Georgia, you have to have a car to live in Georgia. My car had broken down. This guy wasn’t paying us. I found myself behind in bills, I have a son to take care of, and Christmas was around the corner. All these things were coming at me at one time. I felt hopeless and lost. I watched The Town too many times.
A throwback to the days in Boston.
I don’t know what was wrong with me. It was not a good idea but I did it. Taking myself back, I hate thinking about it because it’s not who I am anymore. When I do think about it and I put myself back in that state, I’m like, “I cannot believe I did that. Girl, you are crazy and fearless.” I got caught immediately. I always say it was divine intervention from God. It was a poor choice. Had I not made that choice I wouldn’t be where I am now. It was divine intervention that I was caught. I did spend three days in jail and people were always shocked that I only spent three days in jail for a crime like that.
I can only say that the first night that I was in jail was so surreal. It was New Year’s Eve and I was being brought to my cell during the countdown. The countdown was on TV. They were letting it play for the cell unit because it was New Year’s Eve so it’s a special occasion. As I’m being brought to my cell, the countdown is going 10, 9, 8, and the door shut on the 1 in the new year. I cried all night and I re-evaluated myself. I started talking to God. We had a little window. I was on the top bunk and the girl who was my cellmate was pregnant. She was crying because she was going into labor.
It was all these spiritual things coming at me. She was going into labor and I got locked upright on the countdown. I’m looking out the window and I’m listening to this girl cry. When I woke up in the morning, she was gone because she went to have her baby. It was nuts. I did not sleep that night for a few minutes but I cried and I prayed all night. I prayed the whole entire time I was in jail. I asked God to spare me and I made a promise. I said, “If you bring me out of this, I will change my life,” and I was serious about that.
Thank you for sharing. I can only imagine what that felt like and to not become overwhelmed at that moment would be a tremendous feat. I can only imagine what you were going through at that period of time. Accepting when you’re at rock bottom is tough to internalize. Many people can’t. Elite performers have a tough time doing this. It’s one of the things that sets elite performers apart from everybody else. It’s their ability to step back and say, “If I’ve done something and I have to take ownership of it.”
We talk a lot about type-A personalities in a lot of the episodes here. They suck at this because type-A personalities want to stand up and say, “No. It was somebody else’s fault.” They cast blame or they deflect ownership right in these times. Being able to sit there as you did, internalize this, accept the responsibility that you put yourself in this position is a difficult thing to do. As you sat there with these thoughts going through your mind as you cried it out and you prayed to God, how did you say to yourself, “I’m going to accept this and own this right now. If I get out of here, I’m going to make some concrete changes.”
It’s always been in my character to accept and take responsibility for me and my actions. That’s definitely in my character and it’s always been. I’m not a liar. I hate liars and I always have been. That comes from some childhood trauma dealing with my dad and I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. I hate liars and people who don’t take responsibility for their wrongdoing. I was able to take responsibility quickly but the hard work was realizing how far gone, lost and off-track I was, and then trying to self-evaluate and figure out, where did I go wrong? How messed up am I? What are the things I need to fix in me? How do I need to get back to the greatness that I know I am?
It was in jail that I made the decision to create the game and bring it to fruition. The game idea had been in the family for at least seven years, at that point. I was like, “God, what can I do to refocus my life?” That idea came into my head. It was like, “This is what you’re going to do.” I received it. The day I got out of jail, I sat at the computer for ten hours and started working on creating this game. I didn’t know where or how I was going to start. I just started.
I started researching games, the game market and hip-hop games. I can only say that God was my partner throughout this whole journey. The hardest work a person has to do is self-development work. You have to look at yourself and do that hard work of saying, “There’s something wrong with me. What do I need to fix?” You have to do the work to fix it. That’s the hardest part because a lot of people are not willing to self-develop and say, “I’m messed up and I need to change these things about me.” People can’t even take constructive criticism from others, let alone look within themselves and say, “I’m not right in these areas,” and begin to do the work to try and fix themselves.
What we say a lot is, “Success is earned every day. How you prepare today determines success tomorrow.” That’s our tagline here on the show. Being able to every day personally assess yourself, wake up and say, “Today, I’m going to do a little bit more. Over this long period of time, I’m going to have come so far,” is what you had to do.
At that point, I was drinking a lot. I was out of shape. I had no goals at all. I was completely lost. It was those little things every day. I have to fix my mind, my body and my soul. It’s all those three things I needed to fix, work on and develop. I started with my mind. I started researching how to get your mind right, how to fix it, get clarity, increase your consciousness and all that. I was brought to meditation. I started researching higher levels of consciousness, how to tap in and meditation. Meditation is something I do every single day. It helps to center me. It’s the foundation of all mental health for anybody. I know it’s difficult for people to do. It was definitely difficult for me to do in the beginning but it’s those baby steps. First, you can do it for 30 seconds, 30 seconds becomes 3 minutes, and then it grows. You’re able to quiet the mind.
With so much noise in the world, we have to be able to quiet the mind for at least a few minutes a day. It’s helpful. It gets you recalibrated. Meditation is the first thing I do. A lot of people look at their phones. That’s the first thing they do. I would say, replace the first thing you do. Open your eyes, giving thanks for being able to live another day, and quieting the mind for as long as you can. Meditation is you’re not thinking about anything. It’s complete silence where you’re not thinking about the future or the past. You’re in the present moment so you’re able to hear everything, and that’s a good sign that you’re tapped in. You are able to hear every sound from the birds in the sky, the truck driving down the street, the little buzz you hear may be from electricity. That’s how you know you’re in the present moment because you’re not thinking about the past or the future. You’re in the present moment.
In a previous episode, we spoke with Dr. Claudius Conrad who is the Chief of Surgery at Tufts Medical Center. He said that every day you take a shower for your body, you must also take a shower for your mind. He does that through the piano. If you can take a shower for your mind, you cleanse all of the waste right off. You recenter yourself and you can begin to execute again. You had the vision for the game. You bring it back to your roots and you want to build something. I define entrepreneurs as people with drive, adaptability, humility and curiosity. Those are part of our nine characteristics of elite performers. You have to push the envelope to do more, faster and harder. You talked about dedicating yourself now to this project of building Rhyme Antics.
Execution of the vision is the hardest part. Many people wake up every day and they say, “I have a million great ideas. I can’t execute any of them.” What defines success is how well you can execute on those ideas especially as a solo founder. This was just you who had to build this and embark on this journey. You also chose an extremely competitive and niched industry in board games. A little data on the competition, these are some of the biggest companies in the world. The 2020 revenue for Hasbro is $5.4 billion. Mattel is $4.5 billion, and Ravensburger is $752 million. There are well-known competitions out there. Cards Against Humanity is probably the biggest one in this space right now. I would not call that an educational game but I would say it’s more on the fun side.
For these established businesses who’ve been in the board game industry for a long time, COVID has provided opportunities for them. Revenues are up 20% to 30% because they’re established. They have marketing and advertising departments. Everybody knows them. It has also created a challenge for new entrepreneurs trying to break into the space because of the lack of funding which we can talk about. When you sat down to then say, “I’m going to take the first steps to develop Rhyme Antics,” you have to go through this concept making and prototyping phase. How do you do that for a board game? How do you sit there and say, “I’m going to create a board game. What are the first things that I’ve got to do?” I wouldn’t even know where to start.
I’ve always been an artsy and crafty person. When we were at Weston, I used to win all the art shows. I don’t know if you knew that but my artwork always won art shows. I like putting things together and figuring them out. It started with me being, “I’m going to create a game.” I went to the store and I bought a bunch of games. I analyzed and dissected them. I figured out the components and what goes into creating one. There are the parts, how to play and the methodology. For me, this game isn’t a board game, but it’s categorized as one because it has the scoreboard piece and it’s mostly paper so it’s called a board game. When I thought of board games, I thought of Candyland, Life or Monopoly. This is categorized as that but it’s a card game with a mic.
It was a little bit easier and I knew it had to be cards with the phrase on the front and the back. I wanted the microphone to be a music-playing microphone. As time went on, I held all the focus groups, listened to the players and potential customers. I really listened to the players. A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in listening to themselves and not doing what they want to do and what they like. I listened to the players. I didn’t necessarily want the mic to look like this. I listened to the players. The players wanted this mic because they could squeeze it, think and drop it. It was kid-friendly. You could hit somebody on the head with it or drop the mic and not break. I listened to players and my focus groups. As time went on, I developed a market-ready product. It was hard because I didn’t know what I was doing. I believe you saw the first iteration.
Talk about the first one because there’s a video of you describing it. You’re absolutely right. You have to have humility as a founder. Many founders fall into this trap of their’s is the greatest idea. You see companies that are 5, 7, 10 years old that are still completely founder-centric where their idea is the only idea and nothing else matters. To hear that you embrace that feedback, that’s an extremely mature attitude in the sense of humility that you have to say, “There are other people who may have better ideas and they are the end-user.” At the end of the day, are you creating a game that you want or the market wants? There’s one seller or buyer if it’s you. There’s the entire market if you’re creating what the market wants. Talk about the first one because I saw this video and I was in tears watching. I can’t describe it. I wouldn’t do it any justice.
It was a shoebox. When you create an invention from ideation to market-ready, it goes through this long evolution. Things change. The first iteration was in a shoebox. I got a graphic designer. I shared my vision of what I thought the box should look like, and it was terrible colors. It was green, Caribbean and fuchsia. When I look at it now, I’m like, “What the hell?” It’s what I saw and eventually, it changed. It was this shoebox and I had this big clunky microphone. It was a mic I found at my mom’s job. I had got this plexiglass thing made to go around it that held that iPod. It held the iPod in there so the music played while players held the mic. I had the cards loosely in the box. I went through two different kinds of graphic design changes. I had that packaging for all my focus groups.
Talk about your focus groups because you going to karaoke bars and say, “Try this game. What do you think?” It is so innovative. It’s an ingenious idea.
When you have no money, you have to be super creative. That’s what I was. I had a lot of friends and family. I would hold these focus groups and ask people if I could host game nights and focus group testing at their houses. I said, “I’ll bring the liquor and the food. I want a few friends to gather and play this game and tell me what they think.” I did the research and development for five years. I held about 50 focus groups and kept all the data. Doing that led up to me launching the crowdfunding campaign that proved to me that I had a market-ready product and that people would buy it. I held these focus groups in different demographics. I did it in elementary schools up to college. I remember I did one at Berklee School of Music. I did one at Weston. Mr. Fuller let me come in and do it at Weston. This was in 2013 that I went back to Weston and held a focus group with Mr. Kelly. I would love to show this game to Mr. Kelly and see where I’m at with it now. That would be awesome. When I think of all the work that I put in and believing in my product, it’s crazy. I put in a lot of work.
Crowdfunding has been a big piece of this from the beginning. You’re in another round of crowdfunding. You started an educational series where you’re talking about crowdfunding to new entrepreneurs and new founders based on these different initiatives and rounds that you’ve done. You mentioned this and I want to bring it up again. You said that you won’t know if people are going to support your product until you get people to invest and take on that product. Crowdfunding to you is a great opportunity to test that viability and allows you to understand, “Are market-ready,” because somebody is going to look at it and they’re going to say, “I’m willing to donate some money to see where this goes.” Can you talk about crowdfunding? How you’ve used it and how somebody develops a successful crowdfunding campaign?
First off, for any invention, crowdfunding is the only way to test the market to see if you have a viable product based on a prototype only. Before an entrepreneur or inventor goes and invests a whole bunch of money in inventory, marketing and doing all this stuff, before they have tested the market to see if people will buy this thing they’ve created, they have to do a crowdfunding campaign. After five years of serious research and development playing the game with hundreds of people, I launched a crowdfund through Indiegogo and I pre-sold 300 units based on my video and using the data from all the people I’ve met over the years. Those people came back and purchased the game because they genuinely loved it.
It’s always important to step outside of your family and friends because those people have biases. They love you, care about you, and they’re not going to shoot down your idea. You have to see if people outside of your family and friends will buy this product. That’s how you know that you have something. I had a $10,000 goal in Indiegogo back then. I raised $11,000. I find myself having to do it again because COVID hit me. Even though sales were great because games are up. I had gotten the relationship with Target so I knew I was going to have to raise a seed round of capital to grow the business to full scale. COVID hit two weeks after I started pitching investors.
As you can imagine, it’s been tough and grueling. We got so many noes. I’ve been actively pitching up until now. After we got into Walmart, I have to get capital in the business to grow and support the big box sales. The product sits on the shelves but you need a marketing campaign to push the product and to get people to go in the stores to buy it. I’m raising another round of $100,000 goal campaign on FundBlackFounders.com. You can’t just jump into a crowdfunding campaign. It takes a lot of planning. We have a larger goal. I had $100,000. You need a small marketing budget behind that campaign to run that. You need to be able to run ads and speak to investors. It’s a process and I’m tired.
The job of a founder is to stay true to your vision and the core fundamentals of the product. You’ve said that the thing that separates this product from everything else is its fun and educational. You also turn down your first licensing deal. They offered it to you, but you said that they didn’t understand the community that the product talks to. They had worldwide distribution. The game would get into all of these different retailers but they didn’t know how to successfully market the product. Even though Rhyme Antics is not just a black product, it’s a hip-hop product and that is black culture. I’m quoting you here, “It’s easy to get lost in the money but I’m truly passionate about the impact the game has on the community and the kids. I don’t want to get lost because of the transaction.” This is interesting because that takes an incredible amount of courage and forward thinking.
We spoke in a previous episode with Peter Cancro, the CEO and Founder of Jersey Mike’s. He purchased Jersey Mike’s when he was seventeen as a single store on the Jersey Shore. His first investor conversation was with an organization that wanted to take equity and position in that business. He was only seventeen and he said, “No, I want to be the only owner.” He walked away from that and he only had one week to close that deal. He subsequently went and got his football coach to invest. He became the sole owner. Now, they’re a $2 billion company in annual revenue with 2,000 stores. Had he made the decision to take an equity partner in, that’d be totally different now. I think about that story when I talked about this because you had to walk away from that. You’re feeling the effects potentially of that now. They could have provided you with a ton of capital but it would take the product in the direction that you didn’t want to go.
I was offered a deal from two of the biggest toy game companies. Spin Master who’s third to Hasbro and Play Monster offered me licensing deals. This was a pre-Target partnership. I knew they had the distribution and the ability to get the product worldwide in all the stores that I had always dreamed of, but I also knew that I could do it on my own. One of the greatest things about social media is the ability for the entrepreneur, artist or whoever to directly talk to customers, get their own sales and generate their own awareness. We don’t need these big guys anymore. We can do it ourselves if you’re willing to put in the work. I believed in myself and my product that much and I didn’t want to sell out. That’s the thing.
The hip-hop culture is near and dear to my heart. I love hip-hop. I love the culture. I grew up in it. It raised me. It’s the reason why I created this product. I didn’t want to sell out and give it to a company that did not understand the market. Hip-hop was a black thing in the beginning, but now it’s the number one music genre in the world. It speaks to everybody. Everybody loves hip-hop. I felt confident that I could get into Target and Walmart on my own and look at me now, I did that. I have the ability to sell those millions of units that I wanted to on my own. There were other examples. Cards Against Humanity is a company that I watched closely their business model and they didn’t sell out at all. They kept their business and were able to dominate in the space as a new game by not selling out. I knew I could do it too.
What’s next? You’re on this emotional roller coaster. The entrepreneur roller coaster and the founder roller coaster where one minute, you’re on top of the world, “I’m in Target and Walmart. I have the potential to sell millions of units. Everything is going well.” Thirty minutes later, “We need money. Everything is lost. Nobody is buying the product.” I go through this daily with the show. One minute, it’s like, “We’re going to do awesome. We have all these great things happening.” The next minute, “Nobody wants to listen. It’s terrible and the content is awful. We can’t get anything.” This is a tough place to be in. You have to constantly come back to it, rationalize it and look internally, “Am I doing everything I can?” You’re assessing yourself and the operation. As you look now for it into what becomes essentially the post-COVID world as we do have some end of the light on this, what’s next? What’s the focus on? How do you stay grounded in looking forward to putting the pieces in place to grow this thing?
I want to tell you that you have an exclusive on this news that I’m about to broadcast. I got funded. I closed a deal for $250,000. After getting turned down, hearing 30 noes from VCs and Angel Investors during COVID, I kept on and I found any and every opportunity. I pitched them and they decided to invest in me. Things are looking good. My future is so bright. I need to find my shades. Where are they?
Put your sunglasses on. I can’t see. Congratulations. That’s amazing.
I’m determined to win. I don’t let anything stop me or get me off course. I understand that there will be noes, the bumps and hurdles will come. As long as you stay the course and stay committed to your goal, you will achieve it.
That’s so true. Should we play the game a little bit?
Yeah, sure. Let’s hear your bars, MC Fran. You’re the man. I’m going to pull a card.
I failed significantly on the easy cards.
I’ll give you intellectual then. This is a good one. Let’s try it.
You’re right about the mic too. As I’m watching you grab your cards, I subconsciously grabbed the microphone from the game to put it in my hand. It’s so funny because you were talking about how the actual focus groups wanted this microphone because they could squeeze it. I can’t squeeze this one in front of me but I can certainly squeeze this one.
This is the intellectual level, “Pass me a tonic.” Tonic is the rhyme word. I’ll help you out. I’ll go first. “This interview is pretty ironic.”
“If only it was supersonic.”
“After this, I’m going to smoke me some chronic.”
We already did an episode on cannabis. It’s a totally acceptable conversation on the show. I can’t use tonic again.
No, you cannot.
I want to say like, “If I only had some phonics,” but I don’t think that’s works.
“The new little Nas X video is very demonic.”
“If only we felt platonic.”
“This mic is cool but I originally wanted it to be electronic.”
I don’t have anything for that. What else have you got? Go to the next one.
The words that you could have said were harmonic, syndromic, symphonic and all these words. There were so many of them. That was intellectual so you get a taste of how hard it can be. The intermediate level seems to be the easiest for adults, which is weird because the easy level is all those sight words we learned when we were in elementary school and we have forgotten all those words.
I don’t know any of them.
This is an intermediate level. It says, “I’m afraid of the dark.”
“Take me to the park.”
“I don’t want to get in the water. I’m afraid of the shark.”
“I just heard a dog bark.”
“My favorite Bible story is Noah’s Ark.”
I don’t know. I’m out.
“I’m about to embark.”
The only thing coming to my mind is dark, which you already said.
There are spark, remark, lark, hark and all these words.
Let’s do one easy one.
“I don’t smoke.”
“Or else I will choke.”
“I used to be broke.”
“Until I gave it a poke.”
“Give me my eggs without the yoke.”
“Or else I’ll take a soak.”
“That was a funny joke.”
I could do this all day. This is awesome. I am so excited. I’m so happy and proud of you to know that you close the funding deal. This game is awesome. It’s so fun. I couldn’t wait to pick it up. I couldn’t wait to play it. I’m sure I will be playing it regularly.
Did you found it at a Target near you?
I did. There were only two left. I did it on the app. I had to secure it before I drove all the way there to get it. Before we close out, I have to ask you about some things that you do every day to be successful. The way that we talk about it here on the show is we talk about the Jedburghs in World War II. They had to do three things successfully every day as the core fundamentals to their entire operation. They had to be able to shoot, move and communicate. If they did these things successfully every day, it didn’t matter what challenges came their way. They would be able to step back and find a way to solve them and find success. What are the three things that you do every day to be successful?
I mentioned meditation. That’s what I have to do every day. Surprisingly, I do make my bed every day and it’s something I didn’t use to do. I read in a podcast that if you’re in the military, that’s something they make you do. I find that after I meditate and I get up and make my bed, there’s something about doing that every single day that makes me feel like I can go and conquer the world. I don’t know why. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but I never used to make my bed until a few years ago. I feel good about it. I feel organized. It gives me a sense of being an organized person. I feel like I can go and accomplish my day and conquer my day. The third thing I would say I do that I didn’t use to do is I put a solid five hours a day into my work. Being an entrepreneur, the toughest part is time management because we have the freedom to do whatever we want. We don’t have anybody over us.
We don’t punch a clock. There’s nobody over me telling me what I have to do when I have to do it. I used to not commit myself to the solid work hours a day but I sit at my desk for a solid five hours a day. I don’t move and I just work. I give myself these 90-minute increments of focus time. After those 90 minutes are up, I can take a break, have something to drink or whatever. For me, it’s the discipline of my schedule, my time management and setting my day right. That meditation which I find time to talk to God is my prayer time as well. I asked God for the strength to do these things every day because it’s developing my willpower, discipline and consistency. Those are the three things I do every day to keep myself going. Even when I feel like I don’t have anything to do like sitting there for five hours, you find things to do.
In making the bed, you achieve something. It’s small but you’ve achieved something small quickly to start the day. In the assessment of elite talent, we use nine core characteristics, drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, effective intelligence, team ability, curiosity and emotional strength. I classify every one of my guests. You display all of them. You have to, in order to be a top performer. You display them all at certain times. I give everybody one core for one. For you, it’s drive. I define this drive as the need for achievement, a growth mindset, be better today than you were yesterday and continuous self-improvement.
You have shown that. You have been at the lowest lows and you have achieved the highest highs. I’ve been fortunate enough to know you for a long time. I’m so excited for the next phase. I’m so proud of you for what you’ve achieved in launching this game, bouncing back from turmoil the way that you have and closing this funding round. I can’t wait to see what’s next. I look forward to talking to you again and thank you so much for joining me on the show.
Thank you, Fran. It was an honor. Thank you for having me in your community.