Amazing People, Inspiring Journeys: Lessons from giving away £1500 in a day

By Dave Perrins

Two weeks ago, on the 1st April, we ran our marathon giving day, sponsoring 150 people £10 each for their marathon efforts towards good causes they care about. We did the same last year, but I wasn’t at the company then, and I’ve got to say that I found it an unexpectedly inspiring, encouraging, sobering and moving experience. Now that the dust settled on all the giving and emotion (!) I wanted to share some of the incredible stories I heard, and how it impacted me.

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We heard from a real variety of people. We had people running their 15th (ish) marathon (Gower Tan and Carol Littler) and a whole raft of people running their first ever - including plenty in their 40s and 50s, proving that it’s never too late to start. Like many of us, I live a busy life, and can fall prey to that incredible human skill of finding an excuse not to do something that feels too hard! It might sound cliche, but seeing these people, who are older than me, get going and do something towards ‘their cause’ really empowered me to get on with it for myself.

And that wasn’t all. As if ‘just getting started’ weren’t a good enough excuse, any idea that the circumstances of my rather comfortable life could get in the way were quickly obliterated too. We had Melanie Barratt, who is blind and is actually a paralympic gold medallist in swimming, but who has now signed up to run a marathon with a sighted guide. Wiki Solly is partially sighted and running her first ever marathon, also alongside a guide. Nicole Glover has lost 7 stone to run, while another runner has lost half his body weight (!!!) to get in shape for the marathon. Susie Godley is running for MS, while living with MS herself. All truly incredible and awe-inspiring.

The final real encouragement to me came from people who have been through awful circumstances, where it must have been hard to see any sort of route forward, to come to this point of running a marathon. It was a reminder that however hard life can be (and let’s face it some of us have to face up to really hard stuff), that much of the time, the light of the tunnel will emerge, and the story will go on.

Claire Flatt is raising money for McMillan (and is nearly at an astonishing £10,000 - nice one Claire!) and has gone from chemotherapy to running a marathon in 9 months. Claudia Burrough, another sponsoree, will be completing this year’s marathon in a wheelchair after losing her ability to walk in the training period for last year’s marathon. Nick Smith is running for Spinal Research after having his back replaced 12 years ago following an accident.

We really did read everyone’s posts and contributions and there were so many more we could have mentioned. Like Minal Patel’s inspiring response to incredible loss and adversity which had us in floods of tears or Debbie Ward closing in on raising an incredible £100,000 for cancer research. We don’t have the space to share all 150 stories here, but you can head to our Facebook post to browse them for yourself.

The big take away for me was that while there are so many amazing causes to support out there, a huge part of making a difference is simply taking the energy and effort to show up and do something. It can be easy to block these causes out, or simply get busy with everyday life (and there’s no shame in that) but actually by going out of their way, these amazing and inspiring yet just-like-me people are really contributing to causes that matter, and raising awareness at the same time. It was a privilege to be part of it, and as a company it felt like a real honour to play a very small part in these stories.

Going away at the end of the day I had a smile on my face at this beautiful but unorthodox way of giving (we even had to pause at one point for a bank fraud check!), at the incredible stories efforts of these wonderful people, but also with a real sense of challenge. What can I contribute? How can I open myself up to others stories and experiences enough to provoke me to action?

It looks different for all of us, and I don’t foresee myself running a marathon soon (although maybe you do!) but it has certainly given me a different insight and outlook, and empowered me to believe that I can, and must, do my own small bit towards making this world of ours a better and happier place. Good luck to all you amazing runners doing exactly that!

Getting to know the team - Hazel's Box of Joy

Our lovely Joymail subscribers all have a chance of winning an utterly lovely Box of Joy each month. I think we love putting them together nearly as much as people love receiving them! Although we aren’t eligible to win a box ourselves, we had some fun imagining what we would put in our own, and thought it’d be a nice way for people to get to know us a little bit more. First up is Hazel…

Hazel chose:

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  • Reef board game. We recently spent a team afternoon up at the Draughts board gaming cafe in Waterloo, London, playing games and having fun together (tough job - someone has to do it). Hazel found it a lovely and relaxing play, like Takenoko, and is very keen to play it again.

  • Soundiculous. Although we all already own all our titles (obviously!), we always put in one of our own titles into the Boxes of Joy. Soundiculous is Hazel’s go-to game that can be whipped out in any situation, as it only takes a few seconds to explain and so much fun can be had with it so quickly.

  • A big lump of clay. She was torn between this and a book on ceramics. Either way, Hazel’s newest fad/interest (delete as appropriate) is pottery and this is going to be helpful on that front. I must say, as someone who has seen her first pottery effort, a rather lovely plant pot, I’ve got to say she’s off to a flipping impressive start.

  • Some new goggles. Hazel is a member of the Brighton sea swimmers and therefore a regular sea swimmer. She can be found swimming in all weathers, but is currently in need of a new pair of goggles to go with her excellent wet suit setup.

  • No Box of Joy would be complete without a snack of choice. Hazel has opted for some Divine Dark Chocolate with freeze dried Raspberries. Delicious chocolate from a company with great values - what more can you ask for?!

Up next - Dave…

Dragon's Den: What Happened Next?

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How great was Deborah Meaden playing Randomise on Dragon’s Den? She totally got into the spirit of our company and watching her act out a ‘Gentle Punk Selling Lemonade’ on the show was almost as hilarious as watching her do it live. The editors did well to cut out my distracting belly laughs while she was acting!

Seeing myself on the TV screen was just as bizarre as I’d imagined - it felt a bit like an out of body experience… But wow, what an experience to have survived the Dragon’s Den. 

If you watched the show you’ll know I got an offer of investment from Jenny Campbell and I am so grateful for this - it has given me a real sense of validation to know that she believes in what we are doing. So why did I turn her down?! 

On the show it certainly seemed like I’d made a surprising decision - not least, after I’d left the studio, when Peter Jones declared ‘She’ll live to regret that!’. But honestly, it didn’t feel that surprising at the time - the final offer, with it’s two-year payback period, just didn’t suit our plans for growth that is sustainable in the long-term.

It might look like I made a quick decision - but in reality I spent more than an hour in the den, detailing all our financial history and conservative forecasts, exploring our company’s value with the Dragons. 

Of course, at the time, I would have taken an investment offer at the price we set - as a team we’d agreed this would be worth it for the expertise a Dragon would bring. However, we are now reconsidering whether we really want investment to ‘supercharge’ our company or whether growing more organically (investing our profits into creating and printing more games each year) is a more sustainable and enjoyable route. 

Will I live to regret my decision? Who knows! But right now, no regrets. I feel like we are in a great position, building a good company for the long term benefit of our customers, our team and our world. Watch this space!

Totally surreal: My experience in the den


I can finally talk about it – we’re going to be on Dragons’ Den!

The episode was filmed back in June, and it’s been a real challenge keeping it to myself. I’m still not allowed to tell you what happens – you’ll have to watch BBC TWO at 8pm on Sunday 23 December to find that out – but I can tell you about the exciting and totally surreal experience of filming it.

My youngest child, Cora, was only four-months-old at the time and I was still on maternity leave, so I took the day of recording as one of my ‘keeping in touch’ days. This meant a trip for the entire family to Manchester, and roping my dad in for a day out at the Science Museum with Chris (my husband and cofounder) and Charlie (our two-year-old). That meant Chris could pop in with Cora every three hours so I could feed her. It was quite an experience getting my hair and make-up done all glam and prepping for the TV cameras, then taking a quick break to breastfeed!

Filming was so bizarre, and so much fun, standing in the places you know so well from TV and looking into the faces of people you normally only see in a box in your living room. I’ll be honest, it was nerve-wracking. Everyone on the set is lovely, but the dragons are intimidating and they certainly gave me a good grilling. It was a major adrenaline rush and I’ve not experienced anything like it before. What I enjoyed most of all, though, was getting to talk about the business I feel so passionately about, how much we’ve achieved and our aims for the future. It made me so proud.

Apparently I was in the den for more than an hour, but the time absolutely flew by. Emerging out into the real world again at the end of the day was a bit disorientating. Once the adrenaline wore off, I was shattered, so we travelled straight over to Bishop Monkton (where I grew up and my parents still live), swiftly putting the kids to bed before passing out ourselves.

It all feels like a crazy dream now – I’m looking forward to watching the episode on Sunday  just to prove to myself that it actually happened!

I’d love to know what you think about the episode – you can tell me in the comments, or we’re on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll post my reflections on the show once it’s aired (it will be the first time I’ve seen it) so look out for that. Fingers crossed I come across OK in the edit!

Changing the face of entrepreneurship at Number 10

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I am a games maker. I am a founder. I am a mother. And I guess I am an ‘entrepreneur’. Why is it that this last one still feels funny to say?

Maybe because I never expected to be here. I didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. When I was at school, I never even considered the idea. And I’m sure the careers adviser never suggested it.

Wrongly or rightly, the stereotypical view of an entrepreneur I’d absorbed from society was of the ruthlessly ambitious workaholic, sacrificing their family and personal life to focus on selling and negotiating around the clock, in order to dominate in the harsh dog-eat-dog world of business. This persona didn’t feel relevant or appealing to me at all. So how did I end up here?

Entrepreneurship happened to me

The idea of setting up a business to get my game, Randomise, out into the world came about more as a necessity than a lifelong dream. I was stuck in a job that was sucking the life out of me and I wanted to find a different way to put some good out into the world.

When I quit my job and founded Gamely Games, I was fully expecting to be thrown into the stressful, lonely, all-consuming struggle I’d imagined awaited all ‘entrepreneurs’. But my experience of setting up a business couldn’t have been more different.

What I discovered was a huge network of support and advice, and a community of new entrepreneurs creating businesses with purpose and balance. People doing business differently, starting with what is good and meaningful and growing their companies in a way that made their lives better every day.

Amazing support

Initiatives like the Happy Startup School, Entrepreneurial Spark and the Kings20 accelerator scheme at King’s College London (just named the UK’s most Outstanding Entrepreneurial University) have given me invaluable support and guidance, and these communities make starting and growing a business much less daunting and far more enjoyable.

I found that platforms like Kickstarter go a long way towards levelling the playing field for aspiring creators. And, crucially, I discovered outsourcing services that make running a business a really viable option for people who can’t, or don’t want to, work 80 hours a week.

For example, thanks to the Fulfilment by Amazon service (who pick and pack all of our Amazon orders) I was able to work an average of just half an hour a day after the birth of my first child and turn over more than £100k in the first six months of his life. I discovered that it was possible to run a thriving business that fits flexibly around your other priorities.

Who else is missing out?

I’m not saying that starting a business is easy by any stretch. I know that each entrepreneur will face their own set of unique challenges and will make their own compromises. I am also very aware of my own privilege and the many advantages I have benefited from, simply by being born into a white, middle class family in the UK.

But why was my perception of entrepreneurs so different to the new reality? Why did I have no idea that entrepreneurship could be an option for me? And who else is missing out on these opportunities because they don’t see people they identify with running businesses?

These are questions I don’t have the answers to. I know I’d love to play a part in changing the face of entrepreneurship and raising the profile of successful startup leaders who don’t fit classic stereotypes. But what this looks like in practice/action I’m still working out.

I have read that 70,000 people across Britain would like to start up their own businesses but haven’t done so. 28% feel that the process is too complex, and 36% don’t have enough confidence in themselves to go it alone. I want those people to know that it is possible, and that there are many different routes to success.

Asking the big questions  

Tomorrow I’m going to raise my questions at Number 10 Downing Street.

Through Kings20 I’ve been invited, along with 10 other entrepreneurs (including the incredible Tobi Oredein of Black Ballad and Ismail Jeilani of Scoodle), to a round table discussion with Jimmy McLoughlin, the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on business. We’ll be asking what the government could do to promote entrepreneurship to a wider audience.

This isn’t just good for society, it’s good for business and the economy. My little company Gamely Games now employs several people and has turned over half a million pounds. If we can show more people the flexibility and empowerment that entrepreneurship can offer, imagine what value that could bring - to their lives and to the economy.

I’ve no idea what will come from this meeting at No.10, but I want to be part of the conversation.

Welcome to the gamely blog

We at Gamely love making super-fun games that bring people together to laugh, connect and have a great time together. But we’re also a company that wants to be just a liiiiitle bit different to the others - as well as being fun we aim to be generous, kind and to really make the world a better place. And so we decided it’d be good for us to set up somewhere to talk about all these things - from donating loads of games to refugee camps and families in need here in the UK, to trying to be a brilliant place to work for our little team and giving away at least 10% of our profits.

And, of course, the aim while we do all of this is to have loads of fun along the way. We hope you’ll enjoy getting a little insight into the life of Gamely, and we’re excited to share a bit more of what we’re about with you.

Starting with something we’re very excited about - our disconnect to re-connect Christmas campaign…

We can’t wait to share it with you. Lots of love,

Hazel, Chris, Tina and Dave - The Gamely Team