A Business Breakdown of how Art of Play Amusements & Games Got Started
Starting a business is easier said than done—from startup costs to finding suppliers and endless unexpected challenges. This week we’re chatting with Dan and Dave Buck, the founders of Art of Play, to learn more about the nitty gritty of how they took the idea for a games and amusements shop and turned it into a reality.
Give us an idea of your timeline. When did you first get the idea for Art of Play, start hiring people, line up suppliers, etc. all the way to having physical products to sell?
Art of Play: We started thinking about a dedicated card site in early 2012 when momentum really started picking up in the card community. dananddave.com was selling more and more decks each year, and other brands were releasing decks left and right. This is also around the time independent artists began launching decks on Kickstarter to great success. Late 2012 we acquired the domain www.artofplay.com, and on August 12th, 2013, we launched.
Our first employee with Art of Play was our brother, Justin. He joined the team in 2012 and has been invaluable in helping us grow Art of Play into what it is today.
Can you provide a breakdown of what costs went into getting Art of Play started?
Art of Play: The domain name was our biggest startup cost. Because someone already owned it, we had to purchase it for a lot more than if it had been unclaimed. We ended up paying a few thousand dollars for it. Second to this were the trademark fees, though only a few hundred bucks.
Did you have investors? If so, how did you work to line them up?
Art of Play: Just the two of us.
What was your biggest expense in founding Art of Play? What ended up being way more affordable than you’d imagined?
Art of Play: The cost of inventory would have been our biggest expense—easily several thousand dollars worth. However, it was already paid for by dananddave.com so we kinda just took it off the shelves from one company and put it on the shelves of the other.
What was way more affordable for us than we imagined was going with Shopify. For years dananddave.com was run on Magento, which was very costly to develop for. There were always bugs to fix and security updates to install. Choosing to go with Shopify almost eliminated all those costs. It worked out so well that we now operate all our retail sites on their platform.
How do you deal with inventory and storage?
Art of Play: We have the greatest warehouse manager on the planet. He was our first employee almost 10 years ago now, and knows our whole operation better than we do. At first, he fulfilled orders in his apartment, then his garage, then a storage unit and now a warehouse.
What resources were the most helpful in getting the business started—websites, magazines, software, etc.?
Art of Play: Shopify has made launching an ecommerce site incredibly easy. And ShipStation’s seamless integration with Shopify allows us to process and ship orders sometimes minutes after they’re placed.
Having a partner is also a great resource. We’ve always been good collaborators and know how to bounce ideas off one another until we both feel it’s right.
How did you go about finding suppliers? Who did/do you work with?
Art of Play: Our playing cards are printed by The United States Playing Card Company, the makers of Bicycle. They use paper from sustainable forests, and print with environmentally friendly water based ink, and that’s attractive to us.
Who did you turn to for packaging your products?
Art of Play: We are very fortunate to have met Daniel Heffernan from Clove St. Press. His letterpress studio is San Diego, California has taken our packaging to a whole new level. It’s like now we are only limited by our imagination, and that has been a lot of fun.
How do you feel that the packaging/branding for Art of Play is successful in communicating the values and mission of your brand?
Art of Play: The mission of Art of Play is to inspire moments of epiphany and connect people through a state of playfulness. We have fun with our packaging and experiment almost every time. We try and surprise our customers with unique designs, and the packaging is our first opportunity to bring excitement. Usually, this invites an entirely new concept.
Where do you find inspiration for your new products?
Art of Play: We love browsing through stores to find inspiration, especially when traveling. We recently took a trip to Japan just to do this. We also tend to produce products related to what we’re currently in the mood for. For example, we love the outdoors and that has inspired some of our recent releases like the Camp Cards and Drifters. And our recent fascination with puzzles and games contributes to those items we now offer.