Dan Willman and his wife, Jessica, are co-owners of Do Gooder Games Café, a hybrid games store with an inclusive community where patrons are invited to play games with others while enjoying their favorite beverages and snacks from the café. The store also features new and diverse offerings for customers to purchase games and supplies. To further build community and set themselves apart from similar enterprises, they champion a unique rewards program where customers not only earn points for dollars spent, but also for participating in events such as meetups, art shows, and more.
Building community is really the backbone of the business. Dan remarked that the gaming industry has always had a problem with gatekeeping and the goal of Do Gooder Games Café is to eliminate this status quo and foster inclusivity at all levels. Operating as a woman-owned business (Jessica owns the majority of shares) is just one way they are working towards this inclusive goal.
Dan and Jessica originally started to pursue their dream of Do Gooder Games in 2008, but after realizing the timing wasn’t right, put the idea aside until 2022. After 14 years of experience and knowledge, the couple was ready to leverage the tools of the SBDC to refine their approach and start implementing their business plan.
Dan’s background in IT leadership and Jessica’s background in nonprofit leadership has equipped them both with a business mentality of problem solving and continuous learning, though the process has not all been smooth sailing. As with most startup businesses, some of the biggest barriers have been securing a location, planning for increased costs associated with high inflation levels, and raising capital without the proof of years of financial statements. Luckily, there are some helpful resources for startups in Colorado right now, such as the Startup Loan Fund, which they are considering.
Through researching available resources online, Dan found the SBDC and began engaging with the free webinars on various business topics, participated in the 9-week LEADING EDGE program, and took advantage of the free one-on-one consulting appointments with the North Metro SBDC’s business advisors. Dan describes his experience in consulting sessions saying, “I think I have talked to every consultant now at the SBDC, some of them more than once. There were a lot of different specialties, a lot of different ideas and it really helped validate what you already know. You’ll learn something, and then get you into the next level of what tools you can use to supplement your knowledge and what direction you need to go.”
Another helpful tool Dan utilized to build his business plan is the Denver Public Library’s Bizboost Program. Through this free service, Dan was able to obtain the demographic information he needed to turn theoretical projections into actual data to backup his financial projections. And the good news is, this service is available to businesses across the state.
Getting this far is already a huge success for Do Gooder Games Café as they have a well thought out business plan, are in negotiations for a lease, have built a strong social media community through their online presence, and hope to officially open their doors in April.
To his fellow startup entrepreneurs, Dan recommends doing your own research (thoroughly!), leveraging all the free tools you can (the SBDC and State resources being just a few), and building your community (networking, finding mentors, and developing your advisory team… it is oaky to be picky). Dan’s evergreen advice rings true, “The more upfront planning you do, the less costly the learning curve is going to be”