The invention of a board game for her autistic son, and then its refinement for the enjoyment of individuals of all ages, has led Patrice Johnson to a million-dollar line of business with the potential to grow even more as she adds new products due for release in 2022.
Inspired by Jaden (IBJ) is the name of her company, an entity based in Kingston which now has two other games in planning. Guesswah&Copy; , the first game launched in 2020, is described as a wholesome and interactive word guessing game built for three or more players, ages six and over. It is based on the eclectic lifestyle and diverse culture of Jamaica. Gaming rules are explained in detail at Guesswah.com.
The game leverages interest in Jamaica's diverse and global appeal. Guesswah features two card decks with clue words related to the rich Jamaican culture. One deck contains yellow cards (Say-It), and the other deck contains green cards (Dweet).
Johnson said that the market she has been targeting are young to middle aged Jamaicans ( mostly professionals) who are avid board game enthusiasts or thrill seekers.
She says that these are , “Usually very patriotic persons with an appreciation for cultural entertainment and our eclectic lifestyle international – Diaspora (especially from US and Canada). Especially die-hearted Jamaicans who crave wholesome entertainment for all ages.”
Johnson states, “ One of the unique things about Guesswah is that we do customised cards for any event or occasion. Our first customisation was done for Digicel Foundation in Christmas last year.”
Johnson was motivated to start creating board games after she gave birth to son Jaden.
She explains, “Shortly after his arrival many unforeseen and dreaded predicaments fell upon me including the realisation that I swiftly became a single parent. Overwhelmed with emotions I channelled my energies into nurturing the creative side of my God-given talents through gaming and education.”
She added, “Another factor emerged recently whereby my son was diagnosed in 2020 with autism. Thankfully, he is high functioning, but it never made the impact of the diagnosis any less. I was devastated. Driven by his love for ABCmouse.com and his aptitude for learning, I decided that everything I created would serve both educational and entertainment purposes.”
The motto of IBJ is “Learning through laughter”. Johnson states, “ Jaden has been my main driving force to succeed in life, even when I can't find the strength . So everything I do is truly inspired by Jaden and God.”
The 47-year-old entrepreneur disclosed that she had one other business venture called Kingston PM Tours and Events and it was established in 2012. This was an evening tour service to visit Kingston hot spots and monuments. It was also a shuttle service for the transportation of patrons to premium parties /events outside of Kingston who did not wish to overnight or drive long distances.
A secure facility was provided to leave vehicles and a coaster provided to take them to the venue and back. Unfortunately, she related, the lot that was used for parking was sold the following year and it wasn't feasible to rent elsewhere.
IBJ will be two years old in December. The principal shareholders in the company are Patrice Johnson, Bryan Johnson and Steve Johnson. The business is operated remotely from home with Patrice Johnson as the sole employee.
The entrepreneur shared her challenges including time management. She explained, “ As a single mom finding the drive and staying motivated while simultaneously holding my regular 8 am-5 pm job. Then I lost my full-time job the following year amidst other devastating occurrences. But thanks to God for a wonderful family , especially my mom and great friends to help me endure.”
She was also affected, she stated, by lack of knowledge about the true definition of a business and the pertinent steps needed to grow a business accordingly. She discovered later, after participation in the Scotia Vision Achievers Programme, that management was well within her ability.
Other challenges have been limited marketing, financing, and finding skillset to meet manufacturing demands locally. The business at its current size has the potential to earn between $1 and $5 million annually.
Johnson shared, “Although the business was set up in December 2019, it took us almost a year after to launch the first product. COVID impacted us logistically during our first shipment . We suffered lengthy delays in getting in our goods as they are manufactured overseas. Shipping rates escalated because of the slide in the Jamaican dollar.
She added: “Christmas season was great for the company, unfortunately the following months saw a decrease in sales due to persons either earning less disposable income or job losses which impacted consumers' purchasing ability . The shutting down of the entertainment industry saw less gatherings due to curfew. Hence, less games nights. The reduction in the tourist arrivals caused less traffic on the island to access our goods through the traditional souvenir and novelty retailers.”