It’s a new world out there. Many of the things that I love are no longer possible: international travel, volunteering in the school, eating out, randomly show up at a friend’s house and asking them to go for a hike. Suddenly, we are stuck in our homes, feeling a little lonely, maybe even lost.
Reality check, I have three kids ranging in age from 7 to 11. I have an awesome husband, lots of pets and a wonderful home. A global pandemic is hardly the worst we have experienced. In the 20 years Reuven and I have been together, we’ve been through much worse, but the one thing that always works for us is that we can spin anything. Our wedding vows even stated – “For better or worse, bubble or bust.” We are very good at The Pivot.
When pandemic hit hard in Toronto in March 2020, we were weeks away from opening an esports training facility in the west GTA. It would be a place for teens to gather and game together in a safe and inclusive environment. A place where learning about STEM can be fun with gaming and game development classes—a place for esports tournaments and birthday parties. We even had a little spot set aside for geeks like me – the board game lounge. But when the pandemic hit, and a physical location for kids to gather was no longer viable— it was time to pivot.
What kind of business do you start when you can’t leave the house? How do you keep three kids at home engaged and learning? Reuven’s answer, “Teach them what you know.” And what do we know? How to build a website and start a business. What had we been researching? Esports. What do the kids love to do? Game. The answer was there. Award Pool.
While I spent each morning from 9 am – 12 pm teaching grades 1, 4 and 5 at the dining room table, Reuven locked himself in his office for four months and built the architecture of an automated end-to-end esports competition and management platform: Award Pool.
When he was ready, he took in our son Finnegan and together, they created the chat system for Award Pool. When things started to function, I helped develop a business plan, an investor deck and a marketing plan. Our daughter, Isla, and son, Sam, helped to create t-shirt designs. At this point, we brought in a trusted friend and business partner, Alex, to help take Award Pool to the next level and suddenly, our little family project became a viable and growing business.
Dinner conversations changed from what we did at school to what we need to make Award Pool better, what games we needed to feature, what sports we could incorporate, how a Swiss-style tournament is different than a Round Robin. We talked about ownership, stock options, investment and sales. I heard my son Sam talking to his friends about the different ways you can sell a company and which one will give you the most profits. My daughter Isla started building in Scratch instead of watching Netflix for hours on end. Finnegan became our new tech support guy.
We are seven months into this pandemic. The kids have gone back to school (for now), and I am back at the writing-table working on another book. Meanwhile, Award Pool is winning; we are hosting many exciting tournaments, and there are lots of partnerships in the works. Reuven and Alex have taken the reigns and are doing a fantastic job putting Award Pool out there. One day, it will be a giant in the esports world, but to me, it will always be a pivot our family took when the world shut down, and we were left to depend on our creativity and drive.