Pam and Dave Barret have long been concerned with what they call "constitutional literacy."
And with their extensive backgrounds in education, it was only a matter of time before they came up with Constitution Quest, an innovative twist on teaching people the fundamentals of the supreme law of the United States.
"For years, we had been talking about what we would do in our retirement years, and we knew we would continue to implement our very successful experiences as educators," the Barrets said in an email to TheBlaze.
"So our creative efforts went into high gear to produce a product with real value...and with the help of our very creative and brilliant children, we made a family project of it," it adds.
But they saw more than a want for their product. They saw a real need for it.
"The average American's lack of familiarity with the U.S. Constitution coincides with an existential threat to the continuance of government of, by and for the people. Literacy empowers self-government, but the challenge, as well as the opportunity, is that in many ways our society has been moving toward a post-literate culture," the Barrets say, "where there's an abundance of rhyme but less reason, and sophisms, and sound bites rule."
"We believed we could offer something of substance that would capture and sustain the interest of a distracted generation by making it fun," it adds.
Armed with a stack of constitution-related questions dating back to 2010, the Barrets set out to design a game that would teach players the basics of the critical document.
Of course, getting from idea to product is rarely easy. And the Barrets were no exception.
"We couldn't get a bank loan. Even though the bankers said they loved our product and thought it had 'legs,' this was during the credit crunch and they didn't want to take the risk," they said. "So, we used open lines of personal credit cards, which was a big risk, but we believed in our product and the need for it.
They soon launched Cognitive Square, INC.
"There has been a significant amount of trial and error in what sort of marketing works for our product. We have a good idea of who our target market is, and we're pleased that our product's appeal is much broader than we anticipated," they said.
"But how to reach them has been a challenge. We have a website but extremely limited marketing budget. We experimented with local radio advertisements and got some great endorsements which have been helpful, but we haven't figured out how to make radio work when people really need to see the game to appreciate it.
Furthermore, they add, it has been "a challenge for us as a start-up company that offers a single product to develop a viable and sustainable business model."
"We, of course, have plans for future products and services, but there's so much that goes into developing a product, and there has been so much for us as new entrepreneurs to learn about the business of doing business, and most of our efforts have been directed at marketing this one product effectively," they note.
But even with the uncertainty and the aforementioned "trial and errors," the Barrets eventually had their came first game was in its shrink-wrap.
"What we came up with was a beautiful, functional, interactive piece of art: an educational board game that people actually think is fun," they said.
It wasn't long after launching Constitution Quest that Cognitive Square, INC. connected with The Marketplace by TheBlaze, an online store featuring some of the best and finest small businesses in the nation.
In May 21, 2012, roughly 1,022 games have been sole on the Marketplace.
"We fulfilled 901 orders (many with multiple games in one order) on the Marketplace since last May," the Barrets claimed in a recent email. "[J]ust think all those customers spreading Constitutional Literacy just through an engaging board game!"
And the game is reaching an ever-expanding market.
"The Constitution Quest Game is selling successfully at the James Madison's Montpelier Museum Store, the Nixon Library Museum Store, the Reagan Library Museum Store, and DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. (in addition to small 'mom and pop' shops around the country)," they said.
"These stores have ordered and reordered multiple times!"
They aren't the only ones who are excited about the game. Sales have exceeding all expectations.
"[S]ince it went into the shrink-wrap, we have sold nearly 5000 units across America -- covering ALL 50 states, and are already halfway through the second production run!" they said.
With an enthusiastic and growing customer base, and with the help of the Marketplace, the Barrets' creation has become a small business success story.
"We took an idea and ran with it -- we were passionate about it and we made something happen. That's what being an American entrepreneur is all about," they said. "We wanted the game to be beautiful, and Constitution Quest had to be made in America."
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Featured image Cognitive Square, INC.
- Arts & Entertainment