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You Never Know When Opportunity Will Strike: Winnipeg Entrepreneurs Hit It Big With Game Company

Trivia Mix: Manitoba Trivia Card Game by Glass Jar Games. Photo from Glass Jar Games

The 40-hour workweek doesn’t fit everyone the same. For two Winnipeg entrepreneurs, they decided to spend that time creating their own business rather than clocking into someone else’s. 

In May 2023, Connor Wielgosz and David Plumridge decided to stop talking and start implementing their ideas. The two met at Across the Board, a café on Main Street that was centred around clients coming in to play one of the more than one hundred board and card games the café supplies. After seeing the joy customers got from the games they played, the two decided to start producing their own games and created their company, Glass Jar Games. 

“We’ve always wanted to make games. When we met eight years ago, we would pitch each other games all the time,” Wielgosz explained. “But we never had the resources to make it happen. Now, we discovered that there is more than one way to approach an industry – and for us, we decided to skip the factory and do it ourselves.” 

The two decided to create simple card games they could produce themselves. The games are simple to learn and are produced by hand using environmentally conscious materials. The two come up with the game concepts, design their cards and logos, print and cut hundreds of cards to have adequate stock of each product, and package and mail their games across the country. 

When they first began working the bar was low so far as how far the project could go. Initially their target audience was people who would be typical regulars at Across the Board, folks who are geared toward trying new games. What the duo has found is a larger audience than they expected, due in part to the accessibility of the games they’re making. 

“People have responded really well in part because the games are intuitive and simple – people don’t like rules, and we’re cutting them down as much as we can.” 

Among their primary objectives when making a new card game is simplicity. The faster customers learn the game, the faster they get to play. Connor told me their games are created in such a way that a newcomer can understand how the game works in under a minute. 

With a successful launch in 2023, the two increased the manufacturing hardware to speed up the creation of the games. The creation of physical products, packaging and shipping now makes up the workweek as new ideas are continually being experimented with for new games. 

“We are always dreaming up new games – I literally have dozens of ideas jotted down that are viable soon, and hundreds more that aren’t yet – so it’s a very natural business for us.” 

This creative flare is nothing new to Connor Wielgosz. He has written and performed in multiple shows at Winnipeg’s Fringe Festival and is even a self-published author. This instinctive creativity and their time working at a board game-based restaurant are the greatest assets he and his business partner share. 

“My business partner and I have had the fortune of doing a lot of creative things for work and fun. We both worked at Across the Board teaching games. I’ve designed for numerous creative projects like Fringe shows, and my partner has designed games for Activate. We have a wide skill set and have had the opportunity to fail many times, and so when we approach our problems now, we fail less often, which has been hugely helpful.” 

While sales and distribution are good, it’s not all smooth sailing. With a self-built business comes the problem of fewer hands to carry the load. Time has proven to be a tremendous obstacle in the operation. 

“Finding the time to not only make every game by hand but also invent games, research, apply for farmers markets, build a website. For two people, the list is never ending. Thankfully, we’ve had loads of help from family, friends, and our partners. We couldn’t do it without them.” 

While farmer’s markets were where the two first began exchanging their products for dollars and cents, the almighty internet has served them greatly in the fight to hit the shelves, primarily by giving them their own shelves to sell off. While it is more work operating every aspect from creation to sales, the goal for the duo is to maintain full control of personal production, but one day at a greater scale. With the entire process under their control, the team would be able to maintain an eco-positive trend regarding the products they use for production. With their goal of increasing manufacturing and distribution capabilities, while still retaining full ownership, they maintain the ability to reduce the carbon footprint of their operation by avoiding the mass transport systems currently in place for large-scale production companies. 

From sharing on social media to doing base level research for games -varying from Trivia Mix: Manitoba to Imposters – to the opportunity to share their work with new and lasting customers, the internet has been an undeniable resource for connectivity and information gathering. 

“It wouldn’t be possible without access to the internet. As we grow, we are hoping to leverage the power of the internet to reach folks across Canada and into the States – letting them know we exist and hopefully getting a fun game onto their table.”   

Entrepreneurs in Canada 

In 2023, the government of Canada reported that 1.3 of every 1,000 Canadians were entrepreneurs. This stat has decreased since the year 2000, at which point it was 3 of every 1,000 Canadians. This may come as a surprise to many as shows like Dragon’s Den show the creations of Canadians from across the country. In fact, the decline in the number of working entrepreneurs creates a skewed image of the mindset of Canadians. 

According to a report by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 14 per cent of Canadians have entrepreneurial aspirations, though few take a shot at pursuing their dreams of owning and operating their own business or finding a way to market their self-made product. For many, the idea of stepping away from a steady job, which may come with insurance benefits and a pension, is not as inviting as inflation continues to make life more expensive overall. Employees are also tough to come by in the midst of a nationwide labour shortage, especially for low-paying jobs or new businesses with unknown longevity. Above all, the time required to facilitate a successful business takes far more than what is required at a standard Monday-Friday job. 

For Wielgosz, the work is a privilege. While the hours are long and the work is often tedious and repetitive, the opportunity to bring his work to life and make a profit doing it is rewarding enough. Ultimately, the packaging needs to be designed; the cards need to be printed and cut. While it might be a slog at times, he remains energetic and positive as his business continues to grow. 

“We do everything ourselves. We design, print, cut, assemble, wrap, and ship the games. We also recently launched a new box design and website that should ideally let us ship anywhere in Canada for free.”

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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