Dragons’ Den: One year on… any regrets?

Hazel Reynolds, Gamely Games, Dragons Den
It’s almost exactly a year since I appeared on the Dragon’s Den Christmas Special and (in a moment that looked even more dramatic on TV than in real life) turned down an offer of investment from Jenny Campbell.

As I left the Den, Peter Jones exclaimed ‘She’ll live to regret that!’ but one year on, I’m delighted to say that this prediction has proved to be totally inaccurate; 2019 has proved to be a year of doing good, having fun and selling plenty of games!

With our Christmas Special due for a re-run this Sunday (December 15th), I thought I’d give a little update on what happened next and share some lessons from my experience.

Now, while I have no regrets, I’ll start by saying there have certainly been some challenges this year. We are enjoying huge success in the UK but one of the reasons we went to the Dragons’ Den was to help us grow internationally, and this is an area where we haven’t made a huge amount of progress. We have dabbled in the US and Germany and learnt a lot, but I think we have realised that we don’t actually want to run a multi-national distribution organisation ourselves!

As a team, we want to be spending more time on creating and sharing new ideas and less time on logistics and distribution. We are excited to start exploring alternative ways to reach international customers, including revisiting the idea of partnering with other games companies worldwide, so watch this space! (Or get in touch if you are an awesome games company who might be interested in licensing our games – my email is [email protected]).

But back to the UK… and life at Gamely is just great!

At the time of writing, we have now sold more than 100,000 games and turned over more than a million pounds. Every week, we hear new stories of how our games have helped people connect and laugh together and we couldn’t be happier about the way we are doing business.

We are a unique business, and as the year has passed, we’ve realised more and more that not having any external investors really allows us to be ourselves.

For us, business is not just about profit – it’s about doing good, making the world a better place and having fun while we’re doing it. We’ve donated thousands of pounds to charity this year, given away hundreds of games to good causes and have sought to look after our team well in all sorts of ways.

While we believe that these things are ultimately good for business, and very compatible with having a profitable business, we don’t have to prove the ’cause and effect’ to anyone. And this freedom really allows us to take risks, give generously and act from the heart.

And, happily, it has been a really successful year, and the numbers are good! We’ve released two new games, Frozen Unicorns and Jibbergiggle, both of which we are really proud of. We’ve brought on a fourth permanent team member, who adds so much to the team both in terms of business and fun! I’ve also been part of the excellent Kings20 accelerator at King’s College, and learned from some amazing mentors and entrepreneurs, to help us sharpen up as a business.

So, can investment be helpful to small and growing games company? Of course it could be, and I wouldn’t say it’s wrong for everyone. But there are other places to get input, advice and support.

And does the freedom and flexibility that comes from being independent of investors bring benefits? For sure! I have no doubt that for us, those benefits far outweigh what we would have gained from accepting the investment that was on offer.

While investment can be helpful, I’d encourage any games company to think twice, and consider where they can find other sources of investment, knowledge and support to make the business that they want – and not the business that an investor may be imagining.

Gamely is a significantly better, healthier and happier business for following its own path over the last 12 months and I’m pleased to report that, despite Peter’s predictions, I’m yet to feel even a hint of regret.

Hazel Reynolds is founder and CEO of Gamely Games, the board game firm behind Randomise, Soundiculous, The Pretender, Frozen Unicorns and Jibbergiggle. Gamely’s episode of Dragons’ Den can be watched on Sunday, December 15th at 20:00 on BBC2 and will also be available to watch on BBC iPlayer (look for Series 16, Episode 11).


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