Today we meet Dan Blacklock, Founder of Cloud Puncher Games. Dan is a board game enthusiast who started Cloud Puncher Games after realizing that there was simply no dedicated and attractive way to store his games. Seeing a gap in the market, he designed and created a product while running an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign to get it off the ground. Now branching out into other products, Dan discusses the unique challenges of logistics with large and customizable items, his effective and varied use of crowdfunding, and much more.
Hi, I’m Dan Blacklock, Founder of Cloud Puncher Games. I do product design, marketing, logistics, sourcing, web store management, everything except customer service (I have one employee who handles all things customer service).
This is my second business, my first was a dog clothing company called The Dog Costumer, it went under because I had no experience in the industry (I didn’t even own a dog!).
My previous experience is fairly unrelated, I spent 5 years doing public relations at a Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company, but I guess I did build the hard skills in design, writing, and videography necessary to form the foundation of the Cloud Puncher Games brand.
My company designs and sells board game accessories. Our flagship product is the BoxThrone, a modular board game shelving system. I started getting into board games in 2016, and by 2017 I recognized a need for a storage system that could grow alongside my collection (something modular instead of just buying separate bookcases) – I wanted to build a seamless wall of games, and just nothing like that existed.
I launched the BoxThrone on Kickstarter in 2017 and raised over $900,000 (with an extra $150,000 in an additional crowdfunding campaign later). I had an industrial designer who helped sketch out the bones of the system and develop the first prototype, but most of the iterative design process was done at the factory on the factory floor as we tweaked things one at a time until we got to the final form you see today.
After the successful Kickstarter, we launched the Shopify store about 8 months later – and sold $100,000 on products on Day 1, putting it in the Top 1% of Shopify store launches ever.
We just launched our second product, Token Sesame. We raised $400,000 in the Kickstarter, which ended in October and now we are taking late pledges while working with the factory to finalize the design. We plan to launch a second store at cloudpunchergames.com to house all our non-BoxThrone products, including Token Sesame and future games and accessories.
We are also planning on launching another Kickstarter campaign in spring 2021 for our next product, Finger of Destiny, and another furniture product in late 2021.
Logistics can honestly be a nightmare. Our store operates on a pre-order model; every month we lock-in orders and ship a made-to-order shipment of BoxThrones to the warehouse. We do this because the system is so big and customizable with over 75 different SKUs, it’s unaffordable to house so much product in a 3PL warehouse.
So of course there’s major risk with this model, like if the factory ships us the wrong color, or SKUs go missing during transport, and our warehouse ships out a whole carton of product instead of a single product.
One time our warehouse shipped a customer a box of 64 pickled olives instead of a shelving system, and another customer got a random backpack instead. Other times the 3PL warehouse will get new employees who don’t understand packing instructions and will open up the boxed shelving system and ship out like one small part of it (and then the rest of the SKU essentially becomes a write-off). So it becomes difficult to predict what SKUs are going to come up short when it comes time to ship if something goes wrong.
We do keep a stock of extras, but we worked with a big tech-based 3PL for a long time it was often difficult and unwieldy for them to accommodate any specific requests if we wanted them to repack stuff. We just swapped to a smaller, centrally-located warehouse with better customer care so we’re hoping we’ve escaped these issues for now. Of course, there are always freight shipping issues too, like now with COVID and the ecommerce boom, all the ports around the world are super backed up and freight capacity is becoming more strained than ever, but that’s out of our control so all we can do is communicate with customers about it.
Definitely Kickstarter. To this day we still get a good amount of sales from people finding our Kickstarter campaign 3 years later. It brought visibility and hype to the brand that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. And it was possible to build on our track record to launch Token Sesame and do well there too, and I’m hoping we can repeat that on our next campaign, Finger of Destiny.
1. Work in a business you are passionate about and want to be seen as a leader in. If you don’t want people to refer to you as “the Queen of Peanut Butter”, why are you selling peanut butter?
2. Outsource the big time drainers – for me, that was customer service, and soon I’ll be hiring someone for social media outreach. That way you can focus on shortening product cycles.
3. Spend money to make money – splash out on photos, videos, and ads that make your product look as good as it possibly can.
Sure, for people wanting to find their passion for entrepreneurship:
Books – “The Millionaire Fastlane” and “The Four-Hour Workweek”.
Audio – The Shopify Masters Podcast.
For understanding marketing psychology better, “Neuromarketing” was really useful.
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