Educational Games of Excellence gets second life with digital
Prior to the pandemic, entrepreneur and retired teacher Erika Dick had been toying with the idea of resurrecting Educational Games of Excellence, the board game business she’d built and shuttered in the nineties. But COVID-19 turned out to be the push she needed.
Dick’s games – Top Story, Funny Phonics and Math Mania – had been hits throughout North America, selling in major educational game stores and being adopted by teachers in the U.S. and Canada but personal reasons compelled her to step back from the company in 1998.
This past year, her adult children who now have kids of their own, asked her if she would revive the company, says the Flesherton-based entrepreneur. “This is before (COVID-19) happened… and that’s when I started writing the book.”
Her book, Read a Rainbow, Write a Rainbow, uses her colour-coded “Rainbow” approach to teach phonics, reading, spelling and grammar. As the pandemic started unfolding, pushing kids out of the classroom and into their own homes to learn, Dick realized, like her games, the book could be used by both parents and teachers to help children learn. But to release it she wanted to take an unconventional approach using digital tools that didn’t exist the first time around for her business.
“It just struck me, it doesn’t cost me anything to release my book in a digital file and it makes a big difference if people don’t have to pay for it and pay for shipping,” says Dick. “With the pandemic, I thought it was something I could do that might help some people.”
But Dick is quick to admit digital marketing is not her strong suit. She had a website but was still in the early stages of getting her product out there when she heard from Grey Highlands, her local municipality, that they were rolling out Digital Main Street across the region. The program combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners like Google to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future.
“I knew nothing really about social media except Facebook and I was very limited there,” says Dick. She’d taught herself how to navigate her WordPress website but she says working one-to-one with her local Digital Service Squad member helped her bring it to life. “It looks better… it’s just amazing, I feel so terrific about all the things I’ve learned at my age.”
Dick used the ShopHERE program powered by Google to get her website up and running. “I’ve put (the book) on Shopify because it is a way for people who really want the product, if they want it right away, to get it.”
She’s also releasing the book weekly, chapter-by-chapter, in digital form to users who sign up via her website. Dick says her website has also proven to be a good forum for sharing learning ideas that aren’t in the book. “I'm hoping the blog will encourage people,” says Dick. “My main thing with parents is (you) can just spend 15 or 20 minutes a day doing some of the things I suggest (with your children) and it’s going to make a huge difference.”
Dick says she plans to continue to build on that digital foundation, offering her downloads and creating content like blogs and videos to help parents. “If I can do that and also help people at the same time, I think that’s a win-win,” says Dick. “But it's something you have to work at continuously… and if you don't have the money to spend on advertising, which I don't, then you have to be willing to succeed in small increments.”
Dick's board games and more can be found on her website here.
Written by Andrew Seale
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.