Welcome to the first of our QUT Entrepreneurship interview mini-series! These interviews have been conducted in collaboration with the QUT Foundry, and one of our very own journalism students, Sameel Deoji.
Hannah is an award-winning tabletop game producer and QUT researcher, making educational analogue tabletop games in collaboration with various data scientists at the Centre for Data Science QUT. She is currently completing a Masters of Philosophy regarding “Not By Chance: Creating Tabletop Games to Enhance Data Science Awareness”, and coordinating the CDS Interactive Gamified Workshop program. Her other privately published games, private consultation services, and bookable school workshops can be found at here.
What sparked your entrepreneurship journey? What is your project about?
I stumbled into entrepreneurship through a love of creating fun things that people enjoy, and wanting to make that process into a sustainable career that could support my family. I have always loved creating stories and worldbuilding, but was not the best at deciding what the main characters should do in the plot. So, on the advice of my wife, I tried my hand at making a boardgame from one of the stories I’d written (about animals in suits doing business) and it worked out pretty well! From there, I decided to figure out how to make more games and get them out to people. Which ended up involving so much more learning about working with a business partner, running a small business, manufacturing, distribution, crowdfunding, shipping, investment, sales, promotion and just everything else.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Entrepreneurship means putting your energy into bringing a project you’re passionate about to life, and being creative, flexible and persistent in your approach to solving the endless (literally, endless) stream of problems that will be presented to you each day in pursuit of that goal.
How does the Foundry at QUT support your venture?
The QUT Foundry has long been a hub for myself for launching projects, assembling teams, accessing resources, meeting contacts, discussing projects, and getting some sage advice from mentors who have been through the gruelling build stages as well. The fact that it is available and open to all students, faculty, and collaborators has been amazing. I’m always humbled by the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, and have made enduring and treasured friendships within the community at large.
Who are some entrepreneurs that you look up to?
Steve Dee of Tin Star Games, Sean Fenemore of State of Mind Games, and Keith Franks of Cutlass Boardgames, have long been idols of mine for their dedication to their craft and persistence in pursuit of their goals. In their various endeavours, they’ve shown not only an enduring passion for tabletop gaming but also for giving generously to the community, and I really admire that and seek to emulate the example every day.
How do you tackle challenges that come your way when planning or executing your venture?
I try to assess and devise various strategies for working through, overcoming, recovering from, or bypassing each challenge, taking into account the personal/industry/monetary/temporal/alternative resources I have at hand. If I don’t currently have the resources and can’t gain access to them, I try to learn what might be another route to achieving the same goal; but around whatever is causing the challenge, while leaving the plans intact for if or when I would be able to approach that hurdle again. And the key ingredient is working persistently, whatever the path, and talking to people when I feel overwhelmed or stuck, and incapable of solving a particular problem.
Where do you see yourself with your venture in the next ten years?
Hopefully with many things far more automated, and with a big team of designers, artists, developers, and salespeople working on lots of fun games. I’d love to have a strong education/internship arm as well, to encourage and educate others on how to make their own boardgames and get them out into the world.
If you were given $1 million to invest into your venture… what would the first investment be?
I would use the money over two years to fill out a small, full-time team of two salespeople, a web developer, a marketing expert, an artist, and a personal general assistant, and giving them the training and resources needed to perform those roles across a variety of projects. I would place a specific focus on generating sustainable, automated cashflow, and establishing a strong demand for our products in the USA via retail contacts, Amazon listings, and digital promotional activities. Splitting the funding across two years would give us a sustainable runway to do these things with an eye toward the long term, including manufacturing runs of significant sizes and retaining skill-sets long term as they develop and strengthen.
What is some advice you have for young entrepreneurs?
Be relentless in your pursuit of your goal, never give up even when other people would, and try to see each setback as a learning opportunity that makes you smarter and stronger.
Sameel is a full-time Communications (Journalism) and Business (Management) student at QUT where he is an entrepreneurship and student ambassador. He is also an assistant producer at Channel Seven Network – the place where he dreams to become a news anchor. He applies his journalism and business skills in his other roles as marketing coordinator for PR firm, Hype Mogul PR, and as a Service Team Member at MYER. Sameel also loves all things entre- and intrapreneurship. As an entrepreneur, he owns a business named Chipita where he sells scrumptious Mexican-flavoured pita chips for catering, parties and snacking! As an intrapreneur, Sameel enjoys bringing his entrepreneurial toolkit to his workplaces and university to boost creativity, innovation and results. He also loves learning about leadership, to which he brings a charismatic, curious and team-focused attitude. You can connect with Sameel on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.