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Family fun blossoms into family business

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — Family gatherings have proved fruitful for the Lewises. With the launch of their Pick Your Brain board game, the Minnesota-based family has turned its love for trivia into a budding enterprise.

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(l-r) Sarai Lewis, Andy, (a Games by James manager), and Mark Lewis \\ Submitted photo

By Paige Elliott

Family gatherings have proved fruitful for the Lewises. With the launch of their Pick Your Brain board game, the Minnesota-based family has turned its love for trivia into a budding enterprise.

The multi-category, knowledge recall game, created by family matriarch Celeste Lewis, was launched in the fall of 2018 and is now stocked in various stores in the Twin Cities. Below, Mark Lewis (ML), the game’s CEO, spoke with the MSR about its origins and inspiration.

MSR: What is the genesis of the Pick Your Brain board game? How did it come to be?

ML: My mother (Celeste Lewis) who is 83 going on 84 — it’s her concept. We’d get together at her house and she’d want to play a game, but she didn’t have Monopoly or any kind of board game to play, so she came up with this concept.

It started out as all of us sort of writing down how many TV shows we know. That’s how it all developed… We started playing the game at home. We’d come up with a topic and we’d see who could guess the most items on the topic.

MSR: So, how did it go from a family game to something you put on the marketplace?

ML: Well, we saw how much fun we would have with it, you know, coming up with the topics and some of the ribbing and the teasing and back and forth between family members — all in good humor and fun. And we were like, wow, there’s really nothing out there like that! Let’s take a run at this thing and see if there’s interest in the marketplace.

So, we did some research and figured out how we could market this, and have it distributed. And, I have a long history and background in demand creation [introducing new products to the market].

A number of us family members have a background in certain areas — for example, Erick, my brother, and his daughter Sarai. She did all the artwork and designed the packaging that’s on the box. She’s 18 years old and in college and has been doing [graphic design] for a long time.

And Erick is an entrepreneur and is always coming up with ideas. He brought together a lot of the elements that needed to be done, working with the different vendors, manufacturers and so on to produce the items of the game. He and I together then went out and started pitching it to different distribution channels.

MSR: What are some of those distribution channels?

ML: Right now, our largest distribution channel is the Games by James organization [all eight stores, including Air Traffic Toys and Games] that’s in a number of the malls here in the Twin Cities, and one mall in Wisconsin and one in St. Cloud…

One of the things that we wanted to do, because of all the traffic in the malls, is we’d go out and do demos in Games by James stores, introduce our game, and have people play it. And every time that we went to a location [to do a demo] we’d sell out in a two- to three-hour window.

MSR: So how is the game played?

ML: The box contains various topic cards with over 208 different topics. You try to list as many items of a chosen topic… The first person [who gets] up to 100 points wins. It’s about 45 minutes to play a complete game. It doesn’t tie up the whole day, you know, and you get a lot of laughter and teasing and all that; it is contagious that way.

The topics can be something as simple as colors — because the game is for [ages] eight and up and for the whole family — to cartoon characters, periodic table elements and different state parks, to name a few. We also have one that asks you to name as many Prince songs as you can. It’s a game that we take a lot of pride in, and we list on the cover that it was created in Minnesota.

Pick Your Brain is billed as a game for the entire family. \\ Submitted photo

[/media-credit] Pick Your Brain is billed as a game for the entire family.

MSR: What else sets this game apart from others on the market?

ML: There aren’t games like this that we’ve been able to find — and we researched and sat down and talked with the marketing director at Games by James. There’s no game currently that is as inclusive for the whole family and age groups and range of topics. If you’re looking for a family party trivia-type game, there’s no comparison.

MSR: Are there plans for a mobile app?

ML: We have an app [in the works]; it’s about 80 percent complete right now.

MSR: So, what’s next for the game? What are your plans for the future?

ML: We have received an official email from Games by James to carry the game permanently. They told us it was a huge success.

The other boutique locations where we’ve had the game [Heroic Goods and Games in South Mpls., Gathered Goods in Excelsior, and four Dreamers Vault stores] sold out during the holiday season, and that was without us doing demos…

We have ideas; there’s always room to grow, so we can do the next iteration with different topics. We’d like to see it at schools, nursing homes and assisted living places to try to bring some joy there, and hospitals, children’s hospitals. We’re just looking to introduce people to the game and try to, you know, bring a smile to their faces. That’s the purpose and passion behind it.

You can purchase Pick Your Brain games by going to pickyourbraingame.com or at various Games by James stores.

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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