Today, I couldn’t be happier to feature Theresa Claire, Founder of the Mixed Emotions Game. In her first pitch to me, even on the first slide, she told me all the reasons I should not get involved…
- I’m a solo entrepreneur- and Mom!
- I’m not the first mover.
- I don’t have a PhD. to my name.
- I need a side hustle to make this all work.
To which I responded; so what. I tested the game with my kids, their friends, their parents, their teachers… and it totally rocked! Which is not the first reaction you would expect when discussing the subject of card games that teach kids emotional awareness. But here we are, launching a Kickstarter less than a month later and crushing it on social media. Because it works. Ask the kids. Or support the Kickstarter here.
Question #1; Theresa, what is your Entrepreneur DNA?
I have my parents to thank for the DNA. My mom is the entrepreneur of the family. In the early days of the microwave, she wanted one, but my dad wasn’t sure if they were safe. She went to work for the company, so she could buy it herself. She sold encyclopedias, Longaberger
My dad provides balance with rules. He’s a lawyer by training with the heart of a teacher. Without him, I would not appreciate the value of rules, education and a love for words. He nurtured my desire to learn through our weekly Saturday trips to the library.
My DNA helps me evaluate rules to determine if they make sense. If not, I have to fight against my natural desire to test the boundaries. For example, I wear my seatbelt in the car. It is a law that makes sense because it helps me to feel safe. I am not a risk seeker, but I love a good adventure and am willing to take calculated risks. If there’s a ladder leading up to the roof, but you don’t want me to climb the ladder, you need to make sure I accept the reason it would not be safe for me to climb. Because if you just say, “don’t climb” without an explanation, I’ll be on the roof as soon as your back is turned.
Question #2; And what circumstances while growing up contributed to your being a founder?
Besides witnessing my mom’s 1099 ventures, selling cookies for Girl Scouts was my earliest entrepreneurial training. Once a year, I went with my dad to his office and asked all his staff if they wanted to buy cookies. Even at 8-years-old, I was thinking, there’s got to be an easier way to do this. Now they’re selling cookies online.
My first entrepreneurial venture was a lemonade stand at age 10. My mom was my investor. However, that business was doomed from the start. I didn’t have a business plan and I had serious logistical problems. I had to lug the table and supplies down to the end of the block because we lived on a cul-de-sac. By the time I got down there, I was thinking this is a terrible idea, but I don’t want to fail because of the money mom spent on helping me to get set up. I had lost the passion, and it wasn’t fun. I sat there watching the cars whizz by. Then I had to drag the table and all the other crap back up the hill. I didn’t make it through the week, and the 10-year-old me felt bad about wasting mom’s $100.
Question #3; How did the idea of mixed emotions fall into your lap?
I had created LoveSnax® lunchbox notes but was having trouble selling them. Then about a year ago, a friend looked at the cards and said, “those look like UNO cards.” They were the same size and color. It was, as Oprah might say, an “Aha!” moment.
I took the prototype game to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and they loved it.
It took about 5 months of testing before people started asking where they could buy it. When I heard that from strangers, I started packaging it to sell.
Question #4; What was your biggest “abyss of doubt” to date?
September 30, 2015: I had started my company, Mirror Books in April 2013 with a great idea to create a personalized learn-to-read educational book platform. I was making progress, or so I thought. That day, I was giving a presentation in front of about 25 people, and one of my mentors, Janis Collins, grilled me on my competitive advantage.
“What was your unique selling proposition?” She asked. I tried to answer, but she cut me off.
“But how are you different from Tikatok?” She pushed. I fumbled for an answer.
“They were bought by Pearson.”
The declaration felt like my baby had just been given a death sentence and I would be the one who had to pull the plug.
I left that meeting having to make a decision about my path forward. The week before, one of my potential customers, an educator, had suggested I pursue social-emotional learning (SEL). She said SEL was the “buzz word” in education, but it was a completely new concept to me. I would have to learn a lot to compete in the space. I considered giving up the dream of entrepreneurship altogether. So, I emailed Janis at 8:30 pm and asked if I could call her. That night, she talked me off the ledge. I realized that I was starting over again, but this time as an experienced entrepreneur with a failure on my resume.
Question #5; What do you dream “mixed emotions” to become?
Two years ago, SEL was a buzz word in education. Recently an educator corrected me. She said, “SEL is not a buzz word, it is ‘the’ buzz word.” I really think we have an opportunity to help a lot of kids, their parents and teachers too.
I hesitate to share the vision because some might accuse me of having delusions of grandeur. But in my mind, I can see the message that is carried in The Game of Mixed Emotions spreading across the globe. I see the game translated into a dozen different languages and creating many of other products and stories (both physical and digital) to support the mission.
Although I am not sure which future products will be hits, two things are certain:
- We are full of potential.
- Our possibilities are limited only by our energy, budget, and imagination.
When I start to feel impatient, I remember what Lincoln said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” The reality is that Betsy DeVos’s office is not going to call tomorrow and order a copy of the game for every kindergarten in America. It will take time to prove to the education community that Mixed Emotions and LoveSnax® effectively teach emotional vocabulary and how to make better choices, thereby helping kids feel happier, healthier, and more successful.
~~Wow, you made it all the way down here! ~~~
Like this story?… Inspired, even just a little?… here’s how you might pay it forward;
Please tell me about a great entrepreneur who may need help solving a big puzzle. or…
Please tell me about an A Player who would be a great addition to a founding team.