EAP Toy and Games with Founder, Chrissy Fagerholt feature #74 of Together Talks
"Together Talks" feature #74: EAP Toy and Games presented by KLS, freight company
Some Background on EAP Toy and Games
Today's edition of "Together Talks" campaign, KLS had the opportunity to interview EAP Toy and Games and Founder, Chrissy Fagerholt. EAP Toy and Games create memories. Chrissy has created her games from life experience, humor, and nostalgia. Her foray into the gaming industry started with a night out with friends. Soon after she was one of the creators of Friend or Faux. The game of ridiculously revealing questions was licensed to Games Adults Play line from Goliath Games. Since then, Chrissy has transitioned to self-published games with her most recent including, You Who?! and The Lunch Room Game and Go Big or Go Broke.
A night out with friends
EAP Toy and games wasn't something that had been in the works for Chrissy for a long time, truthfully at all. She had spent 17 years as a floral designer previously. Chrissy shared with us that after she graduated college she took a corporate job that lasted one day, "I knew instantly this setting wasn't for me." She had always loved the ability to create and to connect with customers. But her entire life and career trajectory would turn on one night out with friends.
In the midst of hanging out they proceeded to start asking each other questions, revealing questions. After the night concluded filled with many laughs and an overall good time, Chrissy woke up the next morning feeling invigorated. She texted her group of friends and said, we have to make this into a game. The group proceeded to create what became known as Friend or Faux. Once the game was completed and licensed to Goliath Games, everyone said that was a heck of a ride, but we need to go back to our careers now. Chrissy had scratched an itch and wanted more.
In June of 2022, she founded her own company EAP Toy and Games. After the success of the first game, Chrissy wanted to explore what else she could create. With the support of her friends and former business partners, Chrissy wanted to incorporate her many work experiences and mix it with her life experiences to bring people together. She had a hunch that if she could create a feeling in consumers based of nostalgia and turn it into laughter, she would have a winning formula. She loved the process of creating their first game and was determined to see what the future would hold for her.
Chrissy's whole life turned on this one night out. She always knew she wanted to create, she just hadn't yet found that channel. In speaking with us, she described what was so magical about that night, "I wanted to take those moments out with my friends and put it in a box and sell it." This was the foundation of which Chrissy would go on to design her games.
Chrissy explained to us that the gaming industry is primarily ran by males. Being a woman-owned game publisher is rare. While it creates additional challenges for her and the company she is building, Chrissy uses it to her advantage. She is able to bring a female perspective into the design process of not just the games but also the packaging. Also, being a mother allows her to understand what children enjoy and how to captivate them and keep their attention.
EAP Toy and Games produce family-friendly games for ages 8 an up. Chrissy has always been conscious and making them quick to pick up and play and easy to understand. She believes both are crucial components to having a strong retention rate. All of her games strive to induce laughter and happiness. One way she reaches this goal is by using clever and witty humor. Another fascinating component of the games she has created is they are designed to be enjoyable regardless of the makeup of the group, whether just children, just adults, or a mix, her games are created to provide endless fun.
We just had to know where Chrissy gets her creativity from when creating a new game. She told us that she credits her life experiences. The first example she gave us was her game Go Big or Go Broke, "My kids growing up were always betting on things. Who could chug a glass of water fastest, who could do this the longest, etc. I always joked there had to be something there." She took that nostalgic moment and put it in game form for people to enjoy. You Who?! is the family version of the first game her and her friends created. And Lunchroom was a result of her working in the kitchen at a school.
Chrissy said the biggest thing when creating a game is she never tries to manufacturer a response, "You don't have to try to be funny, life is just funny." Her games are designed to give someone the opportunity to figure that out. She also mentioned that some games out there are designed for potential social embarrassment. While that works for some people, not everyone is in favor of those settings. Rather she believes if you can touch to what someone is feeling personally, people react to that. That is organic and real and authentic, the goal of all of her creations.
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Chrissy loves the ability to connect people with happiness, laughter, and ultimately memories. But it extends past just the games she is creating. Her company gives a portion of proceeds and hosts events for The Backpack Society, a nonprofit with a mission to remove food insecurity as an obstacle for children so they can grow, learn, and thrive. Chrissy said that the foundation vibes well with her Lunch Room game and has proven to be a good partnership.
It is imperative for EAP Toy and Games to be conscious even when it comes to packaging. Chrissy explained she wants there to be a sense of fun with each game before it is opened and played. She tries to stand out with packaging specifically and not fall into the standard expectations when browsing a game shelf at a store. Her key is to pull on their nostalgia. When she can create a reaction by just looking at the packaging, that is when she first develops that connect and makes it resonate with a consumer. She carefully and meticulously concentrates on every detail of the packaging because it is imperative to elicit a response simply from the visual appeal.
Self-Created, Self-Ran, Self-Taught
The journey for Chrissy and her company has been one of learning. Being a solopreneur she is responsible for all facets of her company. While she does outsource certain tasks, it still is her as a one-woman operation. This has forced her to learn on the fly in regards to some aspects of building her company. One example she mentioned was becoming diligent reading contracts, shipping rules, and labeling. In the beginning she would potentially go too fast and miss a step and cautioned that can be very damaging. For her it has been important to understand that mistakes will be made, but to learn from them and allow yourself to grow and become a better version.
Another challenge was when she first released her games she only had two. Unless one of them is a viral mega-hit, companies can be hesitant to rep you Chrissy explained. This led to a crucial development for Chrissy as she initially started with the strategy of selling to stores, not Amazon. This required her to attend trade shows and be the face of the company. Chrissy told us about the first trade show she attended, she ended up landing a toy store she had admired for a long time. "They came over and I pitched them, being very relaxed. We had a very good connection, but it was a natural human connection, I told my story and it resonated with them and they ended up buying.", Chrissy told us.
She told us while she wasn't always good, it was ok, because it taught her and she had the opportunity to learn about herself including what worked and didn't work. Over time she continued to develop and improve her delivery. All of the bad experiences provided her lessons to understand what companies made the right fit for EAP Toy and Games.
Running her own company she said the freedom is her favorite aspect. The ability to create and bring her vision to life for others is so special. She told us she always has ideas running through her head for new games. She will still pitch for licensing just because of time constraints, some games in her opinion feel better suited to go that route versus self-publishing. She also credited the situation and support of her family allowing her to chase her dream. Chrissy mentioned how fortunate she is that her husband is able to provide, but also support her for believing in her passion. She said she is aware it is a privilege that she gets to create these games and she doesn't take it for granted. But she instead uses that privilege as motivation. She has a personal investment in getting a game sold, but she also believes that if you don't make that level of sacrifice and put the work in you can't truly find out what you are capable of.
The magic words
Chrissy mentioned the growth has been incredible for the company. This year she has had two of her biggest sales to date. It feels validating taking that risk on herself and for her family knowing that buyers are investing in her choosing to spend their money on her games. As time passes she said knowing the reputation that EAP Toy and Games is garnering in the space is so cool to experience. Chrissy and her brand are becoming more and more visible and aware, which speaks to the traction she is generating.
The ability to create is Chrissy's favorite part of working there, but one particular component she loves especially. Think of it as a sales pitch, but in her industry it is referred to as "sizzle reels". She loves editing her reels. Showing a potential buyer what she had made, what she is showing and most importantly she asks one question, "How will I razzle and dazzle them?" She mentioned this entire process is incredibly fun for her.
While any business will have its peaks and valleys, Chrissy said she always keeps in mind her progress. She shared with us that a year ago she was in 17 stores, as of our chat with her she had tripled that. EAP Toy and Games is working on getting into more mass market stores while also building the D2C options, including Amazon. Chrissy said being the owner it is sometimes hard to see that growth when in the thick of it and running the day to day operations. But she forces herself to take a panoramic view and celebrate the successes of her company, which leads her to one single thought.
She shared with us her goal for every idea she has and when to turn it into a creation, “I want to play it again”.
Piece of Advice
Our conversation with Chrissy ended with her piece of advice:
If you are interested in starting a business, you might have so many ideas, it is a matter of what you do with an idea to move forward. If you work hard enough and put yourself so far into it that you either have to sink or swim, that is when you will find out if you're made for it. Put yourself so far into it that you can’t go back, see it through. Look at learning lessons instead of mistakes because we all make them.
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Klimson Logistics Solutions - Together Talks with EAP Toy and Games feature #74
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