How We Created A $400K/Month Card Game To Bring People Closer Together

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About The Company
Coming Up With The Idea
Launching The Business
Recommended Tools
Revenue + Financials
$400,000
revenue/mo
3
Founders
10
Employees
product
Vertellis
from Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands
started August 2020
$400,000
revenue/mo
3
Founders
10
Employees
1.25M
alexa rank
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Listen to the audio version of this story!

Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

My name is Bart and I’m a co-founder of Vertellis. Vertellis means “tell me more” in Dutch and our mission is to bring people closer together. Vertellis is where connections grow and conversations begin, and we're striving to make a worldwide impact on the way people connect in our digital society.

What started as a handwritten card game for our own families to play during Christmas, quickly grew thanks to a crowdfunding campaign to become a mindfulness brand active in 8 countries around the world.

At Vertellis, we firmly believe that quality time offline coupled with a better understanding of oneself is crucial to coping with change in a healthy manner. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to make a positive impact in the world by facilitating meaningful conversations and giving people an outlet for self-reflection and development.

Our products are designed to increase offline moments, make space for self-reflection, and spark sincere conversations with one another.

We sell card games based on reflective and meaningful questions, journals for personal development, and we’ve recently launched an online course designed to help people improve their mindset and change their life for the better.

Our peak season is Q4 and especially in the last two months of the year. Quickly after the first year, when we expanded our product line-up with a journal for personal growth and a card deck for couples, we had two products that are great to launch in Q1 too. New year, new you & Valentine’s day.

Our business model includes selling our products around the world through our webshop with about 30% of sales through Amazon using Facebook ads as the main driver of sales followed by email marketing. This brings in 400K every month (on average) with peaks during the Holiday season and an annual spend of 2.5 million on Facebook ads (in 2019).

We don’t invest in media, papers and podcasts come to us and then we decide if we follow up or not. We choose the 20/80 principles and The One Thing (book by Gary Keller) that we focus on Facebook Marketing. We believe we are the best authentic storytellers in our branch at this moment in time (and we like to keep that title!)

how-we-created-a-400k-month-card-game-to-bring-people-closer-together

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I’ve had a smooth upbringing. Parents are still together (married for over 45 years), gave lots of love to me and my older brother, and paid for my education. But…

I had different ideas than my family about life, education, and the path I wanted to take. I never really felt understood or taken seriously as the youngest member of the family.

This caused a lot of struggle when I was younger which resulted in arguments, disappointments, and more. This, in turn, not only caused a lot of stress for me but also my parents and brother.

I wanted to explain to them why I did what I did...why I wanted to take a different path than my brother and others around me. But they never really understood. They told me I was a rebel.

When I was a bit older, I got to the point where I felt this connection with my family was never going to change and I would just have to live with it.

BUT...

At that time, I started working on my personal development and was learning a lot about myself, psychology, and human nature. Through this, I began to notice the situation with my family wasn't about me and that there wasn’t anything “wrong” with me.

My family didn’t understand me and we never had meaningful conversations about life together. But...I also didn't take the initiative to talk to them or ask them meaningful questions. Consequently, I was failing to include them in my life, too!

Once I realized this, I had an idea that, later on, changed everything for me and the people around me.

Back in December 2015, Liz and I were a couple and we were trying to come up with a fun and meaningful way to connect with our families during the Holiday season.

We were due to start traveling around the world and again - my parents didn’t understand why I sold all my belongings and wanted to travel to Bali...

That Christmas was the last one we were going to spend together before leaving for our new adventure. So as a final chance for me to connect with them,

I created this handwritten question card game in the hopes we would have a meaningful conversation about my plans in life.

To my surprise, something really special happened that evening:

There was so much understanding, love, and even a few tears during this memorable Christmas. We’ve never felt so close to each other.

This not only transformed my overall relationship with my family but also enhanced their relationship with themselves. My mission for having meaningful conversations & spending time offline had begun and That’s how the first Vertellis game - the Holiday Edition - was born.

We came up with a few questions that were designed to get to know our families better, reflecting and talking about the past year and the plans that each of us had for the new year. We wanted to encourage everyone to dream, plan, and make things happen in their life.

We’ve shared our story through Facebook ads and experimented intending to get 500 pre-orders to start production. But the 500 became 25,000 and the next thing you know we had a business!

This “homemade” game of handwritten cards was a success and it sparked some memorable conversations and beautiful moments with our families, something that we’ve all longed for and were touched by. That Christmas we shared food but we also shared stories and dreams and we connected deeper than we have ever done before. There were hugs and tears and laughter and we all felt that much closer together.

how-we-created-a-400k-month-card-game-to-bring-people-closer-together

And then we started our trip around the world and we met Lars in Bali through a friend of ours. Lars was ‘into personal growth’ and ‘we definitely should meet!’ our friend told us. He persisted so much that he even made a Whatsapp group so we would get in touch and find a date.

Lars was there working on his dream at the time: CoWorkParadise. Bringing together a group of like-minded entrepreneurs in Bali! Although this sounds like a dream job, it was hard work, and later on, Lars decided to go full force with Vertellis.

As we started spending time together, traveling for a bit, pursuing our business ideas, and getting to know one another, our little handmade game came up during one of our long chats about family and experiences and plans for the future.

“You should do something with that game of yours”, said Lars. “It’s a great idea and I could help you with a website… we can brainstorm ideas and see where it takes us”. And so we did and that’s how it all started. Lars had experience in Facebook Marketing for his (then) current business CoWorkParadise, I had experience in Door 2 Door sales so I knew a little bit how to get a good message across and Liz loved writing. This combination turned out to be deadly for Facebook. Robert Cialdini and his 6 principles of persuasion thought me a lot when doing sales, and now it turned out to be valuable in the storytelling of Facebook too!

Describe your journey from having an idea to launching your products

We came up with the name “Vertellis” during a business meeting at Old Mans (a surfer’s cafe in Bali). It means “tell me more” in Dutch but it’s an incorrect version of the word and so we thought that makes it fun and easy to remember.

To get the necessary cash and to minimize risk, we came up with the idea to launch the game through crowdfunding via Facebook. We shot a cringy crowdfunding video with some very basic and inexpensive equipment on top of a mountain in Sri Lanka, and we worked through a crazy number of customer service messages on a cold and stormy Dutch island called Texel in November and December 2016.

Vertellis started without any funding and our first pre-orders were from family and friends. We shared our mission with them and they shared it with others in their communities helping us get those first pre-orders in. We’ve shared our story through Facebook ads and experimented to get 500 pre-orders to start production. But the 500 became 25,000 and the next thing you know we had a business!

We wanted to use one of the well-known platforms for crowdfunding at first. But then we got a little discouraged by the number of fees you had to pay to use it and also all the slick movies everyone made. We had 0 budget and wanted to turn the tables around and just start with an idea and a mission (bringing people closer together and stimulate time offline with our meaningful card game).

So we started with sharing it on our pages, from FB to Linkedin, you name it. Good friends of ours wanted to make us succeed, so they shared it too. I got lucky that one friend of mine, his brother, works at a well-known magazine in the Netherlands and he got us some free PR there. Local ‘smaller’ newspapers also loved our story and promoted us for free.

But the crucial pivot became when we saw that we could reach the 500 and we would start producing. With the budget we had on pre-orders, we decided to ‘gamble’ and Lars wanted to use it on Facebook. So he started with advertising and the ad spent was around 10 dollars I believe. The morning after he called me full of excitement that we had a great ROAS and if “he could double it?!” We gave it a go and this process of excitement in the morning and doubling our ad spent just kept going, going, and going until we finished Q4 with 25,000 products sold!

That first “winter” of Vertellis was a combination of luck, momentum, courage, ignorance, rookie mistakes, and tireless days of hard work. It was a successful start, the reviews were great and, even more importantly, we connected with our customers in a very meaningful and genuine way.

how-we-created-a-400k-month-card-game-to-bring-people-closer-together

We believe in connecting with our customers in a meaningful and genuine way and “over-deliver” is at the core of everything we do.

Fast forward to 2017 and we started thinking of growing and expanding outside of the Netherlands both in terms of geography but also in terms of products. So that year we designed and launched the Relationship Edition game around Valentine’s Day and the Family Edition game a few months later.

2017 was also the year we met Willem through another friend of ours who introduced us via Skype! Willem was based in the USA and we had such a great relationship from the get-go that it wasn’t long before we started working together. It was a leap of faith to expand in the USA not only because it was a new market for us but also because we didn’t meet Willem in person yet we became “Bart, Lars, Liz and Willem”, co-founders of Vertellis.

how-we-created-a-400k-month-card-game-to-bring-people-closer-together

“What went well today? What could go better? What motivates you?”

These were some of the daily self-reflection and mindfulness questions we were asking ourselves while working together...and that’s how the Vertellis Chapters was born! Created from our habits and daily practices we naturally developed as a team, we knew this product could help people who, like us, were interested in personal growth and development, people who wanted to become more confident and positive in life by consistently practicing gratitude and simple, yet powerful, life-enhancing habits.

Chapters launched in the Netherlands in 2017, and by 2018 it was available in 5 countries and 5 languages. Our mission was to inspire 1 million people around the world with our products and we reached that goal by the end of 2018.

how-we-created-a-400k-month-card-game-to-bring-people-closer-together

Tell us about your business model and the platforms/tools that you use

Our business model includes selling our products around the world through our webshop with about 30% of sales through Amazon using Facebook ads as the main driver of sales followed by email marketing. This brings in 400K every month (on average) with peaks during the Holiday season and an annual spend of 2.5 million on Facebook ads (in 2019).

Because we love having the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, learn new skills, expand our knowledge, and experiment and create our journey, we’ve designed our team structure so that it includes a small “core” team supported by professional freelancers and experts from around the world. This also helps with keeping our overhead costs low. Hiring our first employees and expanding the team started in 2017. And we didn’t stop there… more people have joined Vertellis since then and it makes us feel proud and grateful to be working with such an amazing team.

how-we-created-a-400k-month-card-game-to-bring-people-closer-together

We believe in connecting with our customers in a meaningful and genuine way and “over-deliver” is at the core of everything we do. We’re constantly looking for ways we can improve and feedback, comments, and suggestions are always encouraged both internally and externally.

We keep things simple, so we don’t use that many tools. We also believe in diversity, so each team can use his or her preferable tool. The tools we use now (distributed among different departments): Klaviyo, Notion, Slack, Google Drive, Google Hangouts / Skype.

How is everything going nowadays, and what are your plans for the future?

There are days when we ask ourselves if this is all real… the beautiful stories of connection and togetherness that were found through our products across the world, the incredibly kind and supportive fans and customers who reach out to us every day and share their Vertellis experiences, our team members who continue to learn, grow and flourish through the work that they do.

Besides the inspiration we offer offline in the shape of our popular question-card games and mindfulness journals, we now have online initiatives to inspire our fans as well. We’re building an amazing community of Vertellis fans, people from around the world who believe in our mission, and we’ve launched the Vertellis Mindset, an online program to improve your mindset through personal development, self-reflection, and lifestyle.

A unique strength of this program is that it is one of the first integral approaches to a vibrant mindset and it takes a holistic approach based on science that helps people change their life for the better!

We’re on a journey to inspire 3 million people around the world this year. The planet needs it, now more than ever!

how-we-created-a-400k-month-card-game-to-bring-people-closer-together

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Bart Kloosterhuis,   Founder of Vertellis

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