There’s no one to call BS better than your spouse. At least of course, when it comes to family game night!
After getting married in December 2019 and then surviving lockdown together just months after their nuptials, Nick and Kimelia Weathers Smith immediately got to work on building their family empire. Kimelia, who’d had years of success creating challenges for reality competition shows as a freelance challenge producer, along with her husband who has experience in marketing and consumer strategy, used the pandemic as an opportunity to not only grow relationship-wise, but business-wise as well.
And from there — Brilliant or BS was born.
During the game, the judge picks out one person who is lying by giving them the BS card and one who must be telling the truth by giving them the Brilliant card. A unique spin on game night, this one is fun for the whole family. Nick and Kimelia even made sure to feature 3 expansion packs, which include a “Brilliant and Black Expansion Pack,” with questions specific to Black culture and prominent Black figures.
Instantly, the game became a hit, gaining attention from retailers such as Target, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Uncommon Goods. For ESSENCE, the husband and wife duo discuss landing their deal within a major retailer, lessons learned, and other advice for entrepreneurs wanting to hit the shelves.
ESSENCE: Where did the idea for Brilliant or BS come from?
Kimelia Weathers Smith: Games have always been a part of my life. One of my absolute favorite things to do as a child in D.C. was to play board games with my family. Uno, Sorry! – you name it. It seemed like we were happiest laughing and competing with each other. My career brought me to L.A. where I ended up creating challenges for reality competition shows as a freelance challenge producer. Still, in my free time, I always found myself hosting game nights for my friends. At that point, I assumed all board games were created by companies like Hasbro and Mattel. It wasn’t until I came across Black Card Revoked that I realized not only were there independent game makers out there, but that a Black-owned game could land at a major retailer. Seeing someone who looks like me attain success in the industry was incredibly inspiring. Without knowing how far I could take it, I created a prototype of a simple trivia game using notecards and a glue stick in 2018. The only goal was to make something that I could equally enjoy playing with my Jamaican family in D.C. as well as my Hollywood friends. Seeing as we’re all loud, creative and (occasionally) boastful, I added a bluffing element to the trivia to keep it interesting. I tested the game that Thanksgiving and the feedback was better than I could’ve imagined. I was determined to keep going.
Why do you think it’s become such a sensation?
I think Brilliant or BS? continues to grow with new audiences because it’s a simple concept with a universal appeal. Just about everyone has played trivia at some point in life. Whether or not we realize it, we also learn to bluff or ‘BS’ from early childhood. Most people sit down and expect a traditional trivia game, but after a round or two they begin to see that bluffing is really the star of the show. People love the creative storytelling aspect of the game and the strategy behind sounding believable or interrogating someone for the truth. I mean, who hasn’t sat at home watching “Maury” and tried to predict whether or not the lie detector test determined there was a lie? Most of us believe we’re an excellent judge of character or we aren’t susceptible to ‘BS’ but one round of this game will change that. I’ve always felt like the most successful people in the world are either brilliant or incredibly persuasive. The same is true for this game.
How did you land your deal with Target?
Last summer was a pivotal time for the business. As the pandemic kept most of us inside, we benefited from a huge uptick in people shopping online for board games and anything else to help pass the time at home. At the same time, the tragic death of George Floyd and the call for social justice that followed put a spotlight on thousands of small Black businesses that had been historically underrepresented on the shelves of major stores. We were contacted by a board game consolidator with relationships with just about every retailer in the country. They helped schedule virtual pitch meetings where we got to showcase the game to important retail buyers. Without these two major events, our path to retail might’ve taken much longer. With that said, when the opportunity did come up we were confident that we’d already put in the work to build a brand that was “retail ready.” We were fortunate enough to be selected by Target and Barnes & Noble for Fall 2021 in-store placements.
What’s been the biggest learning lesson — business or otherwise — that you and your husband have learned since working together?
Many people don’t know that my husband and I handle 100% of the business operations ourselves – game design, production, marketing, fulfillment, customer service – everything. We were married in December 2019 and a few months later the world shut down. That means that as newlyweds we also operated a new business in a completely new industry while being quarantined at home. If ever there was a recipe for conflict that was it! We don’t always agree on the right steps for our company but we learned that what makes us compatible as a couple also works well for our business relationship. Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other well and we work best when we trust one another.
We’ve also learned not to get too down about any perceived losses we take. Our motto is “you win some, you learn some.” Anytime something doesn’t go as planned, we do our best to use it as a learning experience to improve for the next time. When you enter a new industry it’s hard not to feel like an imposter or like you don’t belong. The truth is everyone feels like that at times, no matter how experienced they are. We stopped letting doubt dictate our moves and instead kept the faith that what is meant for us will be.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs trying to get on retail shelves?
Focus on the aspects of your business you can control and trust that if you make your customers happy, retailers will take notice. Whether you sell on Amazon, Etsy or your own ecommerce site, know that every rating and review helps to build credibility. Find the people who love your product and let them be your evangelists. At the same time, learn as much as you can about your customers so you can keep them satisfied and coming back for more. Retail placement might be the ultimate co-sign for a new product, but your success with customers is the most important co-sign for retailers.
It’s also important to walk the aisles of your favorite stores and visualize where your product would sit. Not only because I truly believe your thoughts become reality, but because you can learn so much from your competition. Does your product fit in or stand out? Is your pricing competitive? Every question a retail buyer might have, you should’ve already thought about.
With the pandemic, do you think social gatherings and family game nights are a thing of the past? Do you think there’s still room for fun in our new normal?
People are incredibly social by nature. If there is a silver lining to 2020, it’s that it helped reinforce the importance of friends and family to anyone who may have taken them for granted. Suddenly birthday parties became drive-by events and family get-togethers moved to Zoom. It may take some time, but social gatherings will be back in full force and stronger than ever. When that happens, games will be a crucial part of our return to “normal.” Beyond being fun, they build our social skills, keep us creative, and help us learn about one another. The pandemic just proved that we’ll never stop adapting and finding new ways to have fun together.