Hazel Reynolds: Having a baby can benefit your business

Hazel Reynolds with her husband and two children

Headshot of Katherine Kimber  Hazel Reynolds

Hazel Reynolds (English, 2008) is founder and CEO of Gamely Games. They are currently one of the ventures on the King’s20 Accelerator programme.

I first came up with my card game, Randomise, to lure my then 12-year-old sister away from cat videos on her iPad. It’s super simple, a cross between Charades, Articulate and Pictionary. My sister loved it. My family loved it too.

Around that same time I found myself in a job I wasn’t enjoying. So, with the encouragement of friends, and my husband Chris’ support, I decided to go for it. I quit my job and finished the game. I got my friend to do some illustrations for it. We launched it on Kickstarter as a way to test the market. Within three weeks, we had raised enough to start manufacturing. We managed to get it on the Amazon Launchpad, which highlights new start-up products. By Christmas of the year we launched, two years after I had first come up with Randomise, it was in the top ten best-selling card games on Amazon.

Hazel with her first game, Randomise

Meanwhile, an even more significant event happened in my life. The day after I set up my company I found out I was pregnant. Suddenly, I had a deadline. Having previously worked as a journalist, this was actually really great for me. That experience helped shape how I developed the company and has had long reaching benefits.

When you start a new business, there are always hundreds of things that you could be doing. But I knew that once Charlie was born I would have very limited time. I once heard someone say, if you only had two hours a week to work on your business what would you do? And for a while I literally had around half an hour a day to work whilst Charlie napped. A restricted schedule like that really makes you think about what is essential.

It was only possible to keep things going by outsourcing as much as possible. So, for example, I used Amazon to fulfil orders. I just shipped stock to them and they dealt with all the picking and packing and customer service. It didn’t matter if I was selling ten, a hundred or a thousand games a day, it was no more work for me. In the six months after Charlie was born, the business was able to turn over £160,000 with me working half an hour a day.

The Gamely Games team

Having to radically prioritise meant that my company was really lean. Even now, I only work a 16-hour week. There are four of us working in the company and every week we each choose three tasks that will have the biggest impact on our business. It’s very easy to be busy, but you have to spend your time on what’s important.

Having children also gives you perspective. I love my business and I’m so passionate about it, but at the end of the day my kids are my number one priority. That’s quite nice because when something goes wrong at work, well, I kept two humans alive today so I’m still winning! Not being so emotionally tied up in the business means you can potentially make more rational decisions.

When I had my second child, I really wanted to switch off from my business and have that special time with my family. By that point, my husband was working with me and our colleague Tina was doing 16 hours a week. This meant I was able to take five months of maternity leave. That was amazing for our business because it meant I had to hand over all the day-to-day running, all the bits I still did, to Chris and Tina. And when you are handing things over, you’re asking ‘is this the best way of doing it?’ Chris and Tina had loads of suggestions too. All of those processes came out of my head and we set up new ways to do things.

Three games sold by Gamely Games: Randomise, Soundiculous and The PretenderThree games sold by Gamely Games: Randomise, Soundiculous and The Pretender

Prior to my maternity leave, Gamely had always been my baby. When Chris and Tina took over it became their baby too. When I came back a lot of the stuff that was taking my time before was now taken care of. I had more time to work on the new ideas for growing the business.

One tip I’d give to all would-be entrepreneurs, but especially those with or expecting children, is to ask for help and advice. That might take the form of emotional or practical support from your friends and family, as well as getting insider tips from those in the industry.

Before I became an entrepreneur (which still sounds strange to me), I thought that it would be quite a lonely life. But what I’ve discovered is this huge network of other people setting up businesses. So many people are setting up values driven businesses. And I’ve found people love giving you advice. I know I do. When someone asks me for advice I think ‘Oh, I must have something interesting to say!’

King's 20 Accelerator participants cheering on the terrace of Bush HouseThe King's20 Accelerator programme is run by the Entreprenurial Institute at King's.

One great source of advice and mentoring has been the King’s20 Accelerator. It’s been inspiring meeting all the other entrepreneurs, seeing what they’re doing, hearing about their successes.

Looking to the future, our aim is to help a million people spend more quality time laughing with their family and friends. I’m also keen to develop our family games for younger children. After all, I have two ideal play-testers at home.

King’s Entrepreneurship Institute is now accepting applications for this year's King's20 Accelerator programme. Submit your application today.

If you would like to share your story, why not get in touch? Email forever@kcl.ac.uk with a short bio and a summary of the story you would like to tell.


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