A YOUNG mum from Ripon on a mission to encourage people to enjoy being silly with friends and family. She tells Ruth Campbell how her new game brings people together

Hazel Reynolds’s idea for a card game has proved to be a real winner. It was so hilarious it lured her 12-year-old sister Rose away from her iPad, and family and friends in Ripon, North Yorkshire also enjoyed playing it.

When Hazel’s husband Chris encouraged her to try to make something of Randomise, which involves acting, drawing and describing silly and random identities, she took it to market. Two years on, she’s sold more than 20,000 copies.

Last year, it was one of the best-selling card games on Amazon UK in the run-up to Christmas and Hazel now heads up a team of three employees working in her game company, which turned over £180,000 last year.

“Rose was playing all the time on her tablet and would only come to life when we were playing family games, So I came up with a game, a cross between Pictionary, Articulate and Charades, creating silly drawings and actions that would capture her attention,” says Hazel.

“Seeing my mum trying to draw an evil badger proposing and watching my friend Rach becoming a clumsy goose skydiving was so funny and created hilarious memories that stayed with us long after the game ended. Lots of people suggested we should produce it commercially.”

It was partly Hazel’s desire to start a family which inspired her to reinvent her career and become a full-time game designer.

Aged 28, fed up with her daily commute from Brighton to London and increasingly frustrated by the demands of working as a journalist, she gave up her job to set up her Gamely company two years ago, a day before she found out she was pregnant with her son Charlie.

Hazel had worked in business innovation for Which? and enjoyed that side of her job more than the writing. “I enjoy problem solving and coming up with ideas, but things move quite slowly in a big company,” she says. “I liked the thought of being my own boss and taking responsibility for things, although quitting my job was scary.”

She gave herself four months to see if it would work, playing the game as many times and with as many people as possible, and worked on refining the rules to make it even more fun. An artist friend agreed to illustrate it.

When she launched a campaign on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to test the market, it generated almost £4,500 in pre-orders from 288 supporters in just three weeks.

Investing an additional £5,000 of savings and with the help of Cartamundi, the company which manufactures cards for Monopoly and Uno, Hazel managed to produce and ship the product to her first buyers in time for Christmas.

By the following summer, she was averaging 30 sales a day, enough to provide a small income to live on, going on to average more than 100 a day and soaring to 13,400 copies in the three-month run-up to Christmas.

When Amazon included the game in a special deal offer, it sold a staggering 1,000 copies in a single day. And earlier this year, Hazel, whose game sells in France, Spain, Germany and the US, was asked to share her success story at an Amazon conference in Luxembourg, speaking in front of 800 staff.

Her game has been so popular that husband Chris gave up his job as research manager with Channel 4 to become creative director of Gamely in March. “He has a good understanding of what people like, a good eye for branding,” says Hazel, who also took on a business operations manager in June.

A finalist in the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards this year, she is enjoying being an entrepreneur. “It is great fun,” she says. “I have had to deal with finance, employment contracts, shipping stock and marketing. It’s a challenge, but I am learning so much and every day is different.”

Both she and Chris, who have a second child on the way, manage to work part-time and share childcare. “I can make time for my family while focusing on what I’m good at, which is coming up with fresh ideas for new games,” says Hazel.

Having taken out a £20,000 loan to invest in manufacturing, the company is now busy testing and developing new products for 2018 and plans to expand distribution both in the UK and abroad.

Hazel can barely believe how successful Randomise has been: “My husband had a lot more faith in it than I did. I produced the game with the idea of bringing friends and families together.

“It is crazy to think people I don’t know all over UK are now playing it. It doesn’t feel real, I can’t believe we have managed to turn it into an actual business. If you had said to me three years ago my job would be coming up with games and helping people have fun I would have said that sounds mad.”

W: randomisegame.com