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Unboxed: The Story of A Gaming Café – Issue one

Early March. A Wednesday: Game Night

Me: I’m sick of working shifts.  I wanna start my own business.  Open a gaming café or something.

Blair: I’ll start a café with you, dude.

Me: Aye?

Blair: Aye man, I’d love to do it.

So it Began....

Blair and I got together to brainstorm some ideas a couple of days later. One of the first points we agreed on was that we wanted the gaming café to be really inclusive. We’ve all walked into a gaming café and been hit in the face with the pungent and unwelcoming aroma of nerd sweat and been met with looks that say “You’re not a regular, what are you doing here?”

This is something we wanted to avoid like the plague. That meant we had to think of some ways to get other demographics interested in the café, like traditional card game nights, mass market afternoons, draughts and chess evenings and so on.  But we can’t just have particular times when certain groups are more welcome than others, right? The idea is that everyone is welcome all of the time.

After a few brainstorming sessions (or ‘business meetings’) we made loads of progress in terms of the kind of gaming café we wanted to run; a games and coffee place where you could hang out and play games all day or stop in for a bite and a brew. The next step was to look at startup money.

When we looked into it we realised that we needed a business plan, cash flow forecast and a personal survival budget before we could apply (we could’ve applied first but we would’ve had to do them anyway). Now, if I had to rate my business acumen on a scale from 1-10 I’d have said four, so a full business plan and lots of figures, projections and predictions were all a bit daunting. We managed to take each section at a time, researching existing gaming cafés, contacting distribution companies, pricing coffee (and all the equipment and accessories), board games, food, insurance and literally EVERYTHING else we would need.

One day Blair and I took a trip up to Common Ground Games in Stirling to talk to the owner, Stevie, who was a gentleman and answered all our questions about how to actually run a store. Common Ground focuses more on being a game store/war-gaming play space that serves food rather than a café that sells board games, whereas we wanted to find a sort of balance between the two. We learned a lot from Stevie and got some excellent advice.

Before long we were at the point where, in order to be in a position to start trading as soon as possible, we had to create a private limited company. I know. Like, super grown up stuff. Also super cool, though. We sat down to the lengthy (and I mean LENGTHY to rhyme with tedious) application for “Incorporation”. Luckily, the company name didn’t have to be the same as the business name (I say ‘luckily’ because we still hadn’t chosen a name).

Being that we are part of the group Meeples Anonymous and have been producing a podcast for the past year, we decided to create Meeples Anonymous LTD. Glorious! I must admit, the feeling of being “Director of a Private Limited Company” is a combination of intense trepidation and immense excitement. I can’t wait to get started!

We needed a name for the café. We had wrestled with a few but couldn’t settle on one. We wanted a name that would convey that 1. We sell coffee 2. We sell games 3. You can play games here.  It sounds easy but we’re obviously the kind of people that spend ages pondering over several names that are perfectly fine, to then choose none of them.

A placeholder would have to do (even that took us a week) so we went with The Roasted Meeple as a potential candidate. Yeah, it’s an OK name… “Roasted” represents the coffee; “Meeple” represents the gaming. It’s not bad.

Where we are now?

By early April we had finished the business plan and the cash flow forecast so we went ahead and applied for a startup loan. After some admin and tweaks to the plan, it was sent off to be approved or rejected, like a Resistance: Avalon vote.

Will the loan be approved and therefore give us what we need to actually open the café? Will some spy scoundrel sabotage the vote? I guess you’ll have to wait till next month to find out because that’s where we are at the moment.

Limbo. I know it’s probably not the ending you were hoping for, you were maybe thinking it’ll be a glorious on-going story where we get the money to open and each month you can read about the continuing success of this awesome wee café in the south-west of Scotland. Well I hope it will be.

Oh! We eventually found a name that probably wasn’t what we were originally going for but it was a name we liked. Then, my very talented wife designed us a logo and it said everything we wanted it say.