Shari Spiro - Making Poker Chips for Michael Jordan and More!
What do you do in the industry?
I am the CEO and founder of Ad Magic Games, Breaking Games, and Breaking Toys. Ad Magic is a manufacturer of Card and Board Games primarily, Breaking Games is a publisher and distributor of games, Breaking Toys is involved in manufacturing and distributing toys and electronic game and toy accessories. I also own Print and Play games, a prototype facility in Vancouver Washington that also does print on demand games.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
Printing Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens, Joking Hazard, Secret Hitler, Game of Phones, developing and printing Fake News, Expancity, Rise of Tribes and Poop the game. I would like to think my claim to fame is that I work with talented indie designers and help them get their games out to the world.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I got a call from a team wanting to print a black and white card game. It was called Cards Against Humanity. That game took off like wildfire. Prior to that I had been printing custom playing cards for large corporate brands like Applebees, Ford, Symantec, The CIA, Garth Brooks, Journey, Pink Panther, HBO, Working Title and Bad Robot to name a few.
What are you working on now?
Today I am designing a box for a new game we are making, meeting with a client at our offices for part of the day, figuring out a flow plan for import orders, catching up on 139 emails from last night, planning a trip to San Francisco for a conference, and trying to figure out dinner at some point.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
Most of the trends I see excite me. I love the new electronic possibilities - I am involved with several including Boogie dice - the worlds first electronic - perfectly balances - self powered - lighted rolling dice that can be started with a clap of your hands and also controlled through a simple phone app. Also LIMBO - the new mechanical top that holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for longest spinning mechanical top. Its a fascinating thing to watch and is actually relaxing too. I love the new games that are asymmetrical - with players having different goals - I find the balance of mechanics in those games to be fascinating. I am also getting more into Stuffed animals and we are even incorporating them into some new game play.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Please present complete and balanced product ideas. The art does not need to be complete - but for a game the mechanics do need to be complete.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Try not to turn your hobby into work - see your hobby as a hobby and keep your work separate from it so you always have a way to relax. Learn to unplug and enjoy nature. Watch your time carefully and try to have a balance between work and life.
What does your typical day look like?
I get up and have coffee or another warm drink with my fiancé and we talk about things for a bit. Then I check my emails for a while. After that on a good day I take a shower (he he). After making myself as presentable as possible I head over to my office. On Tuesdays we have a team meeting. Now - with the completion of my new office - I have two offices. I spend time at both. I meet with team members about daily questions or concerns, Much of the day is spent responding to questions and emails. Some days are spent meeting new clients, testing games, taking phone calls or Skype meetings and then winding down I sometimes break open a new project that was sent to me and try to figure out the rules or the electronic downloads required to work the item. I try to get in some exercise as well - riding a bike in or outside of my office on a nice day - doing some core exercises or if I can get away - I have a gym I go to. Most of my days are extremely packed with people and things to be done. I travel at least once or twice a month right now as well.
What’s your workspace setup like?
My original office is filled with years of projects on all the walls and shelves. My new office is nearly empty with a couple of bins of current projects and a lot of open space. I have a loft upstairs in the new office where I hope to do yoga and have bean bag chairs - a place to get a break for a few minutes as needed. Not sure if I will actually DO the yoga but that is the intent. I have a stationary bike desk in there - two couches and my desk. Very simple.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing the games printed and breaking one open to play is the most rewarding part and then seeing it on the shelves in a store is like icing on a cupcake. I get the same feeling from seeing ANY product I have been involved in manufacturing. As soon as a sample comes in - its like Christmas morning.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
Making poker chips for Michael Jordan. That job nearly killed me. I was under a tremendous amount of time and mental pressure. The client was not reasonable and they did not listen when I explained the time frame. I had 6 months of verbal abuse. I learned not to deal with abusive clients, to explain time lines as clearly as possible along with all potential pitfalls, and that I STILL loved the product even after all of that because in the end the product and seeing it is still its own reward.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
We are investing heavily in programming for all of our sales channels to make as much of our work as possible automated and non redundant. I want us to connect and report to our clients as seamlessly as possible and support them with reports and dashboards that help them to make good decisions.
What and/or who inspires you?
My team mates are all amazing, my clients are all brilliant, people in the industry are busy and exciting to be around - I am inspired by the new technology and ideas that I get exposed to daily - my family and friends inspire me. My daughters constantly inspire and amaze me. My fiancé is always coming up with something new and exciting and he inspires me to push forward. Traveling inspires me - seeing beauty in nature and in cities worldwide inspires me. Speaking Spanish challenges me and inspires me to improve. A better question might be what does not inspire me. Almost anything that is positive in life inspires me - I am easy that way - I wake up happy generally.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I hang out with my daughters, or my fiancé. I play piano and sing, or play guitar or ukulele. I write songs, read audio books and of course I have been known to binge on a streaming show once in a while. Sometimes I just organize things and I find that is really relaxing. In the winter I ride snowboard and in summer I try to wakeboard or something off the back of a boat.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I loved Etch a Sketch and my stuffed animals. Game wise I really loved Scrabble and still love word games.
Where were you born?
What was your life like growing up?
I had a group of girl friends and kids in the neighborhood - and I played with friends in the woods making a house there - waking the trails. In the summer we played kickball at the top of the street - we stayed out until it got dark. In the winter we rode a sled train down the hill. I led it once and we crashed - that did not go so well :) I rode my bike all around - walked home from school with my friends - put the dinner in the oven so it was ready when my parents came home. I had fun just watching TV with my parents and going wherever they went pretty much.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in a small town in NJ where we had a pretty similar group of people from Kindergarten through High School. It gave me confidence - because I excelled and I knew who I was.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I should have bought the warehouse that used to exist across the street - it would have been nice to have that location. I finally bought another warehouse - but I learned that you need to seize opportunity even if it requires more bravery than you feel you can muster. Sometimes you just have to go for a big leap earlier than you might want to.
What do you read every day, and why?
I read the news - I read my social media - I read a piece of whatever book I am reading at the time and I read some sort of inspirational quote every day if I come across one. I like a mix of information - and there is certainly never a lack of that.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I have several. Once is my ancient thickness gauge. I love being able to measure the thickness of things. For an app I love Evernote - it is very handy and also has the info I need and is shared across devices. For software - I love Adobe illustrator - that's my go to for designing.
How do you jump-start your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
I run ideas by team members - or I think about it before I go to sleep and usually wake up with the answer. It is amazing how many times that has happened.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
At dinner last night - I found out that one of my text messages was read aloud in a car to a group of people. I got a kick out of that.
Are you named after anyone?
I am named after my mothers dad and one of her cousins.
Do you have any kiddos?
Yes Two daughters.
Do you have any pets?
We have two Maine coons Leo and Lacey.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Yes - I love eating pie. Pumpkin and Apple. I try not to do it that often. I also love getting a massage.
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?
Guitar, Electric Bass Guitar, Piano.
What’s your favorite cereal?
I like steel cut oatmeal.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
Good question - I usually notice the way they carry themselves and the way they speak.
What is your eye color?
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
I prefer movies with CLEVER endings.
Summer of Winter?
Hugs or Kisses?
What’s your favorite TV show?
Game of Thrones - is that a TV show? alternately I love Handmaid’s tale right now.
What is your favorite night out?
Seeing a new movie in a theater with great chairs.
Favorite movie of all time?
Tough one - I like The Time travelers Wife for some reason.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
China and New Zealand - not sure which is actually further.
Do you have any special talents?
I sing and play guitar and bass - I write songs.
What are your hobbies?
I like to write music and play music and I like to ride snowboard and do water sports when the weather is nice.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be me.
Next I go to San Francisco - and after that I go to Essen and after that I go to Chicago Toy Fair and then Philadelphia. After that I continue to work with my team to grow our businesses and continue to work on localization of the games and toys for countries worldwide.