The Future Of Board Games
John Lee and Laurie Bradford could never imagine that a global pandemic would shutter their board-games café and lounge, Funny Bones Inc. However two years after launching the South Etobicoke venue, the couple were forced to close down due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We were shocked. We had to let go of our initial staff and that really hurt because our staff is like our family. One of them drives in from Orangeville,” Bradford says.
The pandemic has dramatically shifted how small businesses in Canada function. With many brick-and-mortar locations closing due to the spread of the virus, small businesses now have hard decisions to make to keep their business afloat. Bradford and Lee chose to get their business online. The two came across the ShopHERE Powered By Google Program, which is an initiative that helps small Canadian businesses develop a strong online presence and undergo a digital transformation.
“It was very important for us to go online because we had to shut our doors. We had zero revenue coming and many expenses going out,” Lee says.
As savvy business owners, Lee and Bradford had to think outside of the box. Renting out board games using an online store was great, but not enough to mitigate the drop in sales at the cafe’s brick-and-mortar location.
“We see ourselves as a business in virtual play, in both the educational and corporate sectors. And we’re really trying to expand in these areas,” Bradford says. “We are not relying on the brick-and-mortar as our main revenue anymore.”
Funny Bones partnered with Humber College in Toronto to set up school orientation activities. With many students studying remotely across the globe, Funny Bones facilitated activities to help students feel a sense of community, no matter how far away they were.
“We did games like Pictionary and in-house trivia for students. This was done all online. We had both domestic and international students take part so you have to consider different internet speeds and access to technology. But we did get 100 people to show up to these online events.”
Many institutions are looking for virtual team building activities. This is a space where Funny Bones excels, and are seeing growth for their business. They are even thinking of hosting murder-mystery style online games in the future.
Bradford notes that going virtual means Funny Bones has access to markets beyond Toronto and Canada. “Virtual play is no longer bound by geography, we can do this on an international scale. We are looking at more local right now, but eventually down the line, and if COVID-19 keeps going at the pace it is going, we are looking beyond Canada,” Bradford says.
Bradford and Lee remain optimistic in the face of so much uncertainty facing small businesses today. With their new online platform, the two have more confidence that Funny Bones will ride out the pandemic, and have a fruitful future. To learn more about the ShopHERE Powered By Google Program, click here. To browse through the Funny Bones Inc. online store, click here.
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, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.
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.