Board Game Catering: An Interview with Jesse Tannous of Great Minds Think Geek
Jesse Tannous, a freelance journalist who regularly contributes articles for Casual Game Revolution, recently began a new board gaming venture that has caught our attention. Great Minds Think Geek, as it is called, is a Phoenix-area business that provides a game library and game teaching services to various venues and events that are interested in tabletop gaming. We wanted to find out more, so we reached out for an interview.
Casual Game Revolution (CGR): Hello, Jesse! Great Minds Think Geek sounds like a really cool venture! For those who aren't familiar with your company, what is your short elevator pitch for Great Minds Think Geek?
Jesse Tannous (JT): The shortest elevator pitch I've come up with to try and explain Great Minds Think Geek to people quickly is something along the lines of, "It's like a catering business only for tabletop board games." Although, another appropriate comparison would be something like a Karaoke DJ.
CGR: Have you ever started companies before or is this your first plunge into entrepreneurship?
JT: This is the first time I've ever started a business, and it wasn't as intimidating as I would have imagined. Register on some websites, pay a few fees, set-up an advertisement in a local newspaper and that was about it. Had never really considered starting a business before, but when I decided to try and build this idea from the ground up it just made sense to have something a little more official in place.
CGR: You mentioned that starting a business was not as difficult as you thought. What was the most challenging step? What tips would you give to those who are interested in starting a business?
JT: Honestly my biggest tip would be to just sit down and do a little research, you may be surprised how simple it is to get a business started on paper. The process can vary from state to state so that may account for why I feel like it was pretty simple, but to just get a little LLC started here Arizona the process was relatively straight forward and cost around 200-300 dollars. Nothing about the process would be something I'd say was challenging, except maybe just the fees involved. The longest waiting period was scheduling the advertisement in a local business paper, a requirement here in Arizona. Now the growth of Great Minds Think Geek from an official LLC on paper, to an actual thriving business, that's still something I'm working out for myself.
CGR: How largely have you been involved with gaming throughout your life?
JT: Gaming has always been a huge part of life. I grew up getting dropped off by my mom at the local Atomic Comics. I would hang out for hours playing games like Magic: The Gathering, and those experiences are really what solidified my interest and passion for gaming. It always felt welcoming, and I try and capture that feeling whenever I do these events. Anyone can enjoy tabletop games, and I just try and help make that happen.
CGR: That is so great that you were able to game so much in your childhood! It is also important to foster that inclusiveness, as you mentioned. Other than Magic: The Gathering were there any other games you gravitated to? What led you to those games?
JT: I've really started to gravitate towards cooperative games like Forbidden Island or Fuse. I like a pretty wide range though, I enjoy pen and paper tabletop RPG's like the Savage Worlds and Worlds of Darkness franchises, it's also pretty easy to hook me into any type of card game. Deck builders, living card games, competitive card games, you name it. Having been a life-long MTG player I was actually blown away by some of the innovative mechanics I encountered when trying out Japanese produced TCGs (trading card games) like Weiss Schwarz, Vanguard, and Buddy Fight. In the West many other card games just seem to put their own twist on the MTG formula, which isn't exactly bad, but some of those Japanese games really think outside the box.
CGR: Who tends to be the main clientele for Great Minds Think Geek?
JT: My main clientele at the moment are local businesses who schedule me for events. I reach out to places like arcade bars, coffee shops, bookstores, and pretty much anywhere I think people could have a good time playing some board games. I've also started scheduling Magic: The Gathering events which kind of hearken back to my childhood.
CGR: Aside from Magic: The Gathering, are there any other areas in which you're looking to expand?
JT: To be honest the reason I'm starting up Magic: The Gathering events is because I'd like to build a TCG and CCG (collectible card game) community which may be interested in trying out other games as well. I really enjoy the Japanese card games I mentioned above, but the audience and fan base for them are very niche. This mostly seems due to a lack of marketing for these types of games in the West, people just haven't heard of them, and most of them feature anime style artwork which also turns some people away. Nevertheless, MTG has such a wide community that I'm hoping if I gather enough people together eventually they may decide to give some other games a try too.
CGR: Do you think this business model would work in other cities?
JT: I don't see others doing exactly what I'm doing very much, but in other parts of the country board game focused coffee shops are already very successful. Without the capital to start a more ambitious project like that, I decided I would start small, and what I came up with was Great Minds Think Geek — I wanted to see if other people or businesses would be interested in having me sort of bring the feeling of a board game coffee shop to them. I do think about how exciting it would be to open my own place, someday maybe.
CGR: Board game cafes are definitely a great idea. In Orlando, we have a board game pub, The Cloak and Blaster, that seems to do really well. You mentioned that you might be interested in opening a board game cafe in the future — what might a Great Minds Think Geek cafe look like?
JT: I've always felt most comfortable in lounge type environments. Comfortable chairs, couches, and plenty of natural lighting. I also have a giant sweet tooth so if I ever opened a cafe you can be certain some type of sweets would be available. Throw in some nice gaming tables and an organized but simplified system for customers to check games out of the cafe's library, and I think that would be a pretty amazing start. Digital board games and even consoles that specialize in them are starting to pop-up with greater frequency as well, so it's completely possible to imagine a tabletop game cafe that even has a section for those who can't go without a digital screen, or maybe just want to experience some of their favorite games in a slightly different way. The possibilities are really exciting.
(End of interview.)
Thanks so much to Jesse Tannous from Great Minds Think Geek for taking the time to speak with us! If you would like to follow Jesse's story, check out his website and Facebook page for more information.