The Marble Game Story
By Anthony Pope
In the mid 1970’s, my father, George Pope, built the first prototype of The Marble Game. He shared it with family and friends and he improved the design with their input. Everyone who played the game loved it and gave him encouragement. He dreamt of manufacturing the game and have it become as well known world wide as Ping Pong. I recall playing it many times in my early teens and I really liked it too.
My father had many happy, but time consuming responsibilities with family, work and church. Years went by without further progress on the game and it eventually ended up in the attic and his business dream was replaced with a successful career.
Dad passed away in November 2010 at the age of 84. My mother is still with us and my wife and I and our two Boys, Anson and Connor, live only two blocks from their house. I’m grateful the boys got to know Dad so well before he passed, and they absolutely love their grandma.
The next chapter of The Marble Game began one night at Grandma’s house. It was my birthday and the whole family was there. After dinner, my boys asked me if I wanted to play a game like Candy Land or Monopoly. I replied no, too kiddy and the other too long. So Connor said, “Well Dad, it’s your birthday. What would you like to play?” Then I replied, “When I was a boy, I really liked playing The Marble Game.” “What’s that?” both boys asked eagerly. I explained how their Grandpa Pope made the game and it was really fun.
Then my Mom, (Grandma Pope) said, “I think that old game is still up in the attic.” “Really?” I asked. The boys and I soon found the game, brought it down, cleaned it up and tightened the screws that held the paddles on. We played the game and everyone had a wonderful time. The Marble Game was Re-Discovered!
Now, you need to understand that my wife, Kellie, and I and the boys were always talking about what kind of family business we could start. When we would go by a vacant store front, we would talk about what kind of store would do well there. Sometimes we would think of ideas for inventions, only to google it and see it was already done. We would watch Shark Tank every Friday night and dream.
So now it will make sense when I tell you that after playing The Marble Game that night on my birthday, my boys both said, “Hey! This can be our family Business! We can make and sell Marble Games!” My wife and I looked at each other and we could not think of any obvious reason not to consider it.
But our boys were already moving forward with the idea. They asked Grandma for permission to have the game and make it famous just like Grandpa Pope wanted. Grandma Pope sold them the rights to the game for a hug and a kiss from each of them.
Anson and Connor continued to pester me about their game business. I did a thorough internet search and could not find any game that was anything like it. I also did a patent search and only found one old expired game patent that had paddles and marbles, but it was a completely different design and had never been manufactured.
The one problem with my Dad’s original game design was how the paddles were attached to the game. He just used wood screws, and as the players twist the paddles during gameplay, the screws would slowly loosen and unscrew out the bottom. This would be unsafe and sloppy to sell to the public. So, I invented a new attachment method using office chair swivel casters. The paddles could be snapped in place during assembly and never come loose.
The next step was to see if anyone in the general public would actually buy the game. Not just family and friends. The website Kickstarter.com is the perfect platform to test the market. My boys and I made a cheesy video telling our story and showing people of all ages playing the game and giving honest testimonials. I was hoping that we could maybe pre-sell 10 games or so and that would be a start. But to my surprise, we sold 60 games and our video was viewed 6000 times!
The next phase of our startup was the “reality check” of actually making the games. I vastly underestimated the effort required to reverse engineer the game and make them myself. The right hardwood, the best finish. How to cut the shapes, etc. and I still had my full time work to pay the bills. I contacted a few contract manufacturers about making the games for me, but small batches would cost me more than I was selling the game for. So I just started making the games myself in my garage. I developed decent woodworking skills, bought some equipment and borrowed some machines from friends. I missed the ship date that I had promised my kickstarter customers, but almost everyone was very kind and understanding. They gave me encouragement. They understood that I was not a big company. I was just one guy with two boys in the garage on Saturdays.
I learned so much building those games. I made several improvements that I never would have discovered if I had only built 10 games. All the response has been positive from our Kickstarter customers. The game is a hit!
Now we are ready for the next step. A Shark Tank investment! We had a family meeting and made an “All In” commitment to this business. We are passionate. We are resourceful. We are tenacious. We understand the challenges and the correct amount of effort required to make it a success. Everyone in the world who knows Ping Pong, Darts, Billiards or Foosball, will know The Marble Game… and Love it!