Inspirational Woman: Hazel Reynolds | Founder & CEO, Gamely Games

Hazel Reynolds with Gamely GamesI’m the founder and CEO of Gamely Games, a small but beautifully formed games company based in Brighton.

We make super fun games that bring people together to laugh and have fun. I started the company nearly six years ago after making a game for my little sister Rose as a Christmas present.

I didn’t have any experience in the world of games – I’d previously worked as a journalist and in business development for a charity – but with the support of loved ones and friends I decided to go for it. I initially put the idea on Kickstarter in 2015 and people loved it so much I raised enough money to get my first ever batch on sale in time for Christmas. In the new year, we joined Amazon Launchpad to access the sales and promotional platforms that helped more people discover us – from here Gamely was born. It’s been an amazing journey since and I’m proud to say that Gamely has grown into a thriving business which has eight unique games in the product line, employs five people and exports globally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

No, I didn’t. I really loved working as a journalist for Which? Magazine and got some amazing opportunities through my role there. I then moved to a different job working in a charity that looked, on paper, to be my dream job. However, things really didn’t go how I hoped they would and I ended up in a job that I really didn’t like and with my confidence at rock bottom. I knew something needed to change – I didn’t feel myself at that point and wanted a fresh start and this motivated me to start Gamely. To be honest, until that point, I’d never considered starting my own business as I always thought that being an entrepreneur meant grafting away with 80-hour weeks and always being switched on to work. If I hadn’t been in such a difficult place, I’m not sure I would ever have done it, but I’m so glad that it’s worked out the way it has.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? 

I think the biggest challenge has probably been balancing family life with taking care of the business. I found out I was pregnant the day after I set up Gamely! That had its challenges but it really forced me to set up and run the business in a really lean way, using automation where I could and having to be laser focused on what opportunities I said yes and no to. I signed up to the ‘Fulfilment by Amazon’ (FBA) service early on and passing on all the fulfilment and shipping for them to deal with really made it possible for us to operate in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if everything relied on me. Our first game Randomise became one of Amazon’s top ten bestselling games in the UK within that year and my husband, Chris, soon left his job to join me on this adventure.

I now feel really lucky to have found a balance that works for me and my family, that allows me to spend lots of time with the kids while really contributing to the business in a focused way that makes the most of my time and skills. Of course, there are practical challenges from time to time, as there are in any business. But as these have come up over time, I’ve come to realise that between me and my wonderful team we can always find a way to deal with them.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think it’s just the fact that I’ve created a company that I’m really proud of. We have a wonderful little team of amazing people; we get to bring people together to laugh and have fun together and we do good things for the wider world. What more could I want?! I know that it’s easy to fixate on sales figures or turnover, and those things do matter, but for me I love the fact that I wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work, spending time with the team and getting to be creative and do good.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

We’ve worked really hard to build the sort of company we want to see more of in the world. For us, that means living our motto of ‘Have fun. Do good’ and making sure our team, our suppliers, our partners, the people who buy our games and just anyone who we interact with, has an amazing experience. On top of that we give 10% of our profits to charity, offset our carbon, give away thousands of games each year to good causes and plant 10 trees for every 1 we use. I think many see this sort of thing as a nice after-thought, but I really believe that putting all of that at the front and centre of the business has been a massively important factor in the company growing in the way it has. It’s ensured that we have great relationships as a team, which means we’re all really happy to come to work and I think the team love building a company that is not just fun but also great for the world. I think it’s really created a feel-good factor around the business that spreads really easily, and that’s given us amazing opportunities and helped us to build the business in a different and exciting way.

5 games landscape shot, Gamely Games

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee? 

I’ve been part of a couple of start-up accelerators – Kings20 and Entrepreneurial Spark – both of which saw me get the support of some excellent mentors who really took the time to understand me and the business and give us great support. We’re now part of the Brite Programme at Plus X in Brighton and, again, this has been a source of great support. Google is obviously a great source of all sorts of information but ultimately you don’t know what you don’t know – and mentoring really helps shine a light on these things. I’m not officially mentoring anyone but I’ve helped lots of other games makers and people starting their own businesses on a more informal basis. I’ve received so much help and support myself and I do love the opportunity to give back to others – I love seeing other people’s creations come to life!

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be? 

That’s a big question. In terms of gender equality within entrepreneurship, I think ultimately, we need more role models of people doing business differently. As I mentioned before, my impression had always been that entrepreneurs had to be ‘always on’ people working long hours, with a growth at all costs mindsets. I think if we were to see more examples that show it just doesn’t have to be that way, then we’d see a lot more gender equality. Certainly, it would allow those with more caring responsibilities or other particular interests to develop their own work in a different sort of direction, which is so important.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Well for starters, I would say believe in yourself! At the time I launched Gamely my confidence was at an all-time low. I was in a job that I thought was my dream job, but that turned out to be quite the opposite. The thought of turning my idea into a business was scary, but I’m so glad I had people around me who encouraged me to go for it. I think it’s important to not focus too much on what you don’t have, or how you might not be perfectly suited to the task, but to really believe in yourself and give yourself permission to at least fully explore your ideas and have a go!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m really interested in how we can continue to use our business for good and push on towards to do even more great stuff for the world. I think when I was younger, I probably expected that I’d be more likely to run a charity than a business but I’ve come to realise just how much we can do for the world by running our business in the way we believe in. I’m proud of all we’ve achieved but I believe so much more is possible so I want to explore and push towards this. One way we are ramping up our efforts is through our Games for Good programme – getting free games to charities who can benefit from them the most – including those working with young people and those working around loneliness and mental health. Last year we gave away 2,500 games to good causes and this year we want to double that to 5,000. We’re also looking at how we can most effectively support charities as we keep giving away 10% of our profits – this figure started small when we first began but is getting bigger and bigger and we’re excited to see the impact it will have!

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