How Know Opportunity Started

A Little Background: How and Why

There’s a better way to get kids (and adults) to think bigger, think about their future, think globally and it can start with something as simple as a board game.

The reality is, we live in a globally connected world. Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs and the way we teach entrepreneurship, leave this very real part of business out of the conversation.

Let’s remember that almost 90% of the global buying power is outside the US. We want to make global entrepreneurship the way we start the conversation.

And by adopting this agenda, we’ve been approached by businesses, schools, individuals and organizations around the world. Sure, the game can be considered “edutainment,” which is a blossoming sector. But our value proposition is not that we’re not making education fun, we’re making fun educational.

My partner, Leah Goold-Haws, and I came up with the idea for Know Opportunity™ about two years ago. Leah has three teenage boys – and she was looking for ways to inspire her sons to create their own future and see the world full of opportunity – but how to get them to listen when another lecture from mom just wouldn’t do the trick? There was something interesting she witnessed – her kids and all their friends not only loved to play video games, but they also enjoyed board games and learning, competition and engagement took place right under their noses. With that, Know Opportunity™ was born.

 Know Opportunity design rendering

So, we concepted the board game, and before it could be finalized, we had also worked on developing a curriculum to teach the basics of entrepreneurship (both my partner and I have been involved in entrepreneurial ventures all our lives, though nothing on a grand scale….yet), and we had a chance encounter with a founding teacher at a highly ranked charter high school who asked if we wanted to test our material and the game. So we taught the pilot program at the high school last year, and to great response.

Over the past 12 months we’ve done our due diligence by sharing the game and conferences and conventions, sending the game out for feedback, asking for players of every age and nationality to join in the conversation. From hard-core board gamers to classroom educators, from entrepreneurs to kids and adults.

The game and curriculum we developed – we taught a pilot class at a nationally ranked charter school – are being used by individuals, schools, university entrepreneurship programs and more, both here and abroad.

Using this feedback we’ve made the few small additions requested, and are ready to march forward.

Know Opportunity engages players in the 4 areas of learning: visual, auditory, kinetic, reading/writing. Plus, it’s just, a whole lot more fun than the other games out there.

Speaking of, Know Opportunity wasn’t always as pretty as it is today. What you see above is the direct result of caffeine-induced arguments, brainstorming sessions, sleepless nights, and a veritable river of tears cried. And it all started with this ugly baby you see below:

The original concept design of Know Opportunity
The original concept design of Know Opportunity

It truly has been a process, an evolution and compounding of ideas & interests, likes and dislikes, ill-qualified advice and un-returned phone calls. This game is as self-reflexive as it gets: Entrepreneurs making a business out of a game and curriculum to teach other people the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.

In fact, each of the game cards are directly based on pitfalls and progresses we’ve experienced along this winding path. And all that has built into a badass board game that’s obnoxiously fun, strategically educational, and undeniably cool.

(Here’s the newly designed version, which we need the funds to produce).

The new, 20" x 30" board game design that you can help create!
The new, 20″ x 30″ board game design that you can help create!

About the Game

As you’ve probably noticed, the goal of the game is to introduce players to the idea of starting a business, no matter where they’re located, and open the conversation to conducting business globally. To bring these ideals into perspective, the game features these cards:

Game Cards

Know Opportunity Game Cards
Know Opportunity Game Cards

Know Opportunity Profile Cards

In order to make the game more fun and engaging, we created some of the profiles (there are 27 total) to be a bit wacky and fun. Besides being silly, this approach helps break down any perceived barriers of creativity while also helping to expand the players’ vision of what opportunity might actually look like!

Some examples of the Know Opportunity profile game cards
Some examples of the Know Opportunity profile game cards

Progress

Since then, we have manufactured a small run of the board games, which

  • have been used by Native American Youth Leadership programs
  • have been highlighted at Youth Summits and Conferences
  • has been integrated with some chapters of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program, and
  • the game and curriculum have been adopted by a [presently] small number of schools – all this from students in grades 6 through 12.
Students playing the concept game
Students playing the concept game

 Entrepreneurs Review the Game!

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According to industry data, the board game market is on a rise, which is good. But it is vastly controlled by the likes of Mattel and Hasbro, which aren’t fond of competition. That’s where we thrive – in the face of adversity, and your contribution will help to achieve that end.

Live Locally, Work Globally

One undeniable focus area of the course and board game is the idea of global commerce – to live locally and work globally. Let’s face it, it’s a rough economy out there and everyone from education to popular media is promoting entrepreneurship – but if that’s going to be a successful option for anyone, then we need to teach people how to better reach everyone, how to make it work no matter where you are and connect with people around the world.

So, course concepts are reiterated through the game, and both aspects integrate global commerce into the equation. Now, I am not so naive as to assume or assert that we are teaching a one-stop shop of full entrepreneurial knowledge, but we do like to think we are making some big picture concepts easier to acknowledge and those little shifts in perception can become game-changers (oh, yea! pun intended!).

The real idea is to introduce students/participants to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship – in the boot-camp style programs these go into more detail and depth, but if we can provide some contextual, applicable knowledge to students, what we’ve found is they develop a level of confidence to pursue their own ideas. And it’s not a matter of college vs. entrepreneurship, either. The program teaches that the core qualities of entrepreneurial ventures (interpersonal communication, persuasive speech, expository writing, etc.) can be applied to collegiate studies or a career position.

What’s More…

Additionally, we have found that the application of the game extends beyond the classroom. A chance encounter with a representative of an economic development corporation in Tennessee brought positive feedback when she brought a couple games back to her organization to    see how it could be used for their incubator program; the program has been revised into a, for lack of a better term, boot-camp to be used for a women’s entrepreneurship program underwritten by a  chapter of United Way; and we were asked by the Center for International Trade to provide information to help them recently finish a “sizable chunk of money” grant, in which our program was said to be a “key principle” of the grant parameters.

In short – the application of this program, in the brief time we’ve been promoting it, has found audiences in the education, economic development, nonprofit, and community improvement/health sectors.

Some More Photos

's video poster

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Meet Leah and Josh!
Meet Leah and Josh!