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Female Disruptors: Shari Spiro has shaken up the board game industry

Never believe it if someone says something cannot be done. Anything is possible if you want it badly enough and are clever enough to make it happen. I’ll never forget I had to airship thousands of games from China in time for our first large holiday order for Cards Against Humanity. We were told over […]


Never believe it if someone says something cannot be done. Anything is possible if you want it badly enough and are clever enough to make it happen. I’ll never forget I had to airship thousands of games from China in time for our first large holiday order for Cards Against Humanity. We were told over and over again that it couldn’t be delivered in time but through sheer grit and determination, we got in touch with JFK airport, we spoke with our Chinese counterparts, we wheeled and dealed, and convinced dozens of people to drop what they were doing to make it happen. Well, we made it happen.


I had the pleasure to interview Shari Spiro of Breaking Games


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I worked in the sheet-fed vinyl industry in the 1980’s as a new hire, customer service rep for Emeloid — then Secur Image Technologies, which manufactured credit cards. We printed credit cards for Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. Aside from major credit cards, the company also produced plastic, credit card-sized membership cards for clients ranging from Gucci to Mack Truck. Our special finishing section also took the laminated full-color printed, sheet-fed vinyl and created promotional items like the RUSS BERRIE INSPIRATION cards: wallet-sized cards that contained inspirational and clever sayings.

We made the first full-face holographic credit card, which was the NYNEX New York telephone calling card. It was a fascinating and amazing place to learn about printing, and I quickly fell in love with not only the process but the machines themselves. I gained immeasurable printing knowledge, from hop stamping to die cutting, lamination and full-color printing, and film work and layout became my education … and the job became my new passion.

Eventually I opened my own office and branched out into specialty printing.

Why did you found your company?

Secur Image Technologies closed three years after I started working there. However, at the time, there were still projects that needed to be fulfilled, so that launched me into opening my own company, 
 Ad Magic.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Through one of my companies — Ad Magic — we are able to work with brilliant independent game designers and bring their products to the masses in a way that had never quite been done before. Kickstarter played a big part in that, and our larger clients — like Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens — helped pave the way for new clients.

We continue to bring new and innovative games onto retail shelves across the nation via Target, Barnes and Noble, WalMart, and more. We work in a way that benefits the game designers by providing the services they need: manufacturing, marketing, promotions, etc. We also publish games of our own through Breaking Games, another one of my companies, and maintain a fair and equitable deal with our designers. Our system works from the ground up via prototyping and play-testing a game, manufacturing large quantities, shipping and warehousing operations, and finally, packaging and publishing into retail stores.

We include all of our designers as much as we can in the process of getting their games ready for the marketplace, rather than just signing them and leaving them out of the process to become little more than royalty collectors. Involving the designer keeps the game true to its original idea, all the way to the market and into the hands of the consumers.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

My fiancé Brian Yelinko has mentored me for many years with his unique brand of optimism. And my former stepfather in law — Dick Nigro — was a huge influence in teaching me how to make and close a good deal.

How are you going to shake things up next?

We just launched Breaking Toys. In partnership with Fearless Toys, a design firm out of Tel Aviv, we developed the world’s longest spinning mechanical top called LIMBO, which broke the Guinness World Record for longest-spinning mechanical top in July 2018.

We plan to go into clever electronic toys like these, including Boogie Dice — the worlds first self rolling electronic dice system.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

1. Never believe it if someone says something cannot be done. Anything is possible if you want it badly enough and are clever enough to make it happen.
 I’ll never forget I had to airship thousands of games from China in time for our first large holiday order for Cards Against Humanity. We were told over and over again that it couldn’t be delivered in time but through sheer grit and determination, we got in touch with JFK airport, we spoke with our Chinese counterparts, we wheeled and dealed, and convinced dozens of people to drop what they were doing to make it happen. Well, we made it happen.

2. Don’t respond when angry or upset.
 Rather than responding in the heat of the moment, I wait until I’ve calmed down and write and rewrite an email until it is diplomatic and clear. I find that responding with a positive attitude leads to a positive outcome.

3. Don’t judge a book by its cover!
 So cliche but so VERY true. After interviewing countless candidates and working with dozens and dozens of game designers, I’ve learned that you must listen to what is being said before anything else.

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.

The E myth. This book helped me truly realize that to take my companies to the next level and succeed, I needed to hire good people because they are the key to a successful company. I have an incredibly talented team who knows and loves the industry, is passionate about games and their roles within the company. It’s a wonderful thing to see a business grow and fulfill the lives of so many.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Richard Branson loves games and he needs some of ours on his Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America planes. I have a whole line prepared for an airline called Just Plane Games. And of course, Ellen Degeneres. We know she loves board games and we have a quite a few that we think would be a fun fit for her!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

· Facebook. Admagic — Shari Spiro

· @ad_magic. @breaking_games

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