“Begin with Intent” & Other Advice for Entrepreneurs from the Creators of Art of Play

As an entrepreneur, you’re in for a lot learning by doing. Turning to other business owners and learning about their experiences, though, can help you on your own journey. In this final part of a 4-part series, Dan and Dave Buck, owners of Art of Play, reflect on the challenges they’ve encountered, mistakes they’ve made, and what’s in store for the future of Art of Play.

Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

What was your biggest challenge in founding Art of Play?

Art of Play: The first year was very slow. We didn’t understand how we could sell so many playing cards on dananddave.com and then only see a few orders here and there trickle in to Art of Play. If it wasn’t a side project, we’re sure it would have tested our patience.

After the first year, sales began to pick up. Customer experiences were being shared on Instagram and Facebook, and word of mouth influenced new customers. We continued to add new cards to the site all the time, and eventually, it just caught on. We remember sales going from a few orders a day to hundreds a month in a very short period. And it's been growing ever since. Looking back, it was our persistence, and dedication to customer service that really made the difference. We gave our customers something to share about.

If you could go back and do anything differently in this process, what would you want to change?

Art of Play: Starting a business today, we would begin with intent. Knowing the purpose of your business is fundamental to grow. Five years ago, we pursued an idea. We had this vision for an online shop to buy playing cards, and that's pretty much it. It was like we built a rocket, and had no idea where it could take people, or that it could even take people places.

It was customer feedback that inspired us to think about our purpose and unleash Art of Play's potential. Now, it's not at all about selling playing cards. Our mission is to inspire moments of epiphany and connect people through a state of playfulness. This is what excites us, and it's something we can always work towards.

Did you make any big mistakes during the first few years you were in business?

Art of Play: Of course we did. The first mistake was having an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Vision is important, and more important is purpose. Another mistake was unmindful advertising on Facebook. We would set up campaigns and forget about them. The lesson hit us hard when our jaws dropped at the year-end ad spend. We’re always making mistakes. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not learning.

Looking back, what was one of the best or most beneficial things that you did while getting Art of Play started?

Art of Play: We kept it very simple, which allowed it to evolve on its own.

What is your main advice to other entrepreneurs who would like to start their own company?

Art of Play: Every company begins by starting, so just start your company. It’s the only way. Begin with intent and focus on what is essential. Have an open mind and allow your company to evolve. Be fearless and never give up.

What’s in store for the future of Art of Play?

Art of Play: We are creating our own puzzles and games and will debut a few of them later this year. One we are particularly excited about is ¿Cuantos Puros?, a mind-bending puzzle concept designed by Adam Rubin. We have several new decks of playing cards in production. Each very different from the other. Next year we are planning to open our first retail location in Los Angeles, with others to follow in New York and Tokyo.

One dream is to have our own products accepted into the MoMA permanent collection.

What do you think has contributed to the success of your business?

Art of Play: Love. We love what we do and the people we work with.