(Shannon in China with Keepin' It Saxy production run.)
What do you do in the industry?
I am the Product & Communications Manager at Big G Creative, a board game publisher based in Nashville. My role includes a mixture of PR & Marketing, Product Development, Inventor Relations, Event Planning and Customer Support. It’s a dream job. Every day is different and I’m always learning something new!
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
In August 2014, my brother, Tim, reached out to me for help with an adult party game that he and his friend created called Utter Nonsense. At the time, they could only guarantee me four months of employment because they didn't know if the game would be successful or not. (I literally signed a four month contract.) I was hesitant, for obvious reasons, but decided to take the risk. And thank goodness I did. I fell into the Toy & Game industry by chance and somewhere along the way I found my calling. Using my experience as a mom and former teacher, I managed the development of the Family Edition and was Partner & Director of Operations for the company, until it was acquired by PlayMonster in January 2018.
What are you working on now?
July is definitely my busiest month! We are getting ready to launch the Carpool Karaoke Game and the Trapper Keeper Game at Target on July 28th. I’m also preparing for Sweet Suite and Gen Con, plus working on new projects. We’ve published 12 games in 3 years, so there’s never a dull moment. I love working with creative people and bringing new products to market!
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
I believe the three most important things, for any career, are work ethic, character and attitude. My advice is to be someone who other people want to work with. You can always learn new skills, but being honest, hard working, and having a can-do attitude will get you farther than anything else. Don’t be a know-it-all and don’t burn bridges. Surround yourself with people who you respect and admire. Collaboration is the key to success.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I work from home in Michigan and travel when necessary. Our team is very close and many of us communicate daily, sometimes even playtesting new games on Skype calls. My colleague, Alex, holds down the fort at the official Big G headquarters in Nashville, where cowboy boots are encouraged.
(Shannon, Cristy Collins and Alex Kimerling in downtown Nashville)
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Getting people to put down their devices and interact with one another. It’s about making memories and connecting in a meaningful way, bringing friends and families together for laughter and fun.
What is one of the hardest lessons you’ve had to learn?
What and/or who inspires you?
Kindness, new experiences, my parents, my son, my mentor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malala, Amy Poehler, The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, single parents, inventors, artists, musicians, and people who stand up for what they believe in.
How do you recharge or take a break?
We live in a small, peaceful town in Southwest Michigan and I love going to the beach, swimming in Lake Michigan, riding my bike or taking my dog for a walk. Being surrounded by nature and getting outside is really important to me. Even though I grew up in Chicago, I’m not a city girl. My car is always full of sand, towels, rafts, beach chairs and a bucket of heart rocks and beach glass.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I loved playing cards with my grandma. She taught me games like Liverpool, Canadian Rummy, Hearts, UNO and Kings in the Corner. Some of my best childhood memories are playing cards with my family around my grandparents kitchen table.
(Shannon was clearly heading for the toy and game industry at an early age!)
What was your life like growing up?
I have always been very independent and naturally curious, and, thankfully, had tons of freedom to explore my interests growing up. My parents allowed me to take risks and always supported my dreams. At 16, I moved to Paris, France to live with a French family and go to school. After my freshman year of college, I left school to go on the road with a band, which led to a career in the music industry. Then I bought a book called ‘Work Your Way Around the World’ and ended up living in Spain, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Eventually, I went back to school, graduated with a degree in International Studies, joined Americorps, became a teacher and worked with international students at Valparaiso University. I’m forever grateful for the freedom and support I was given throughout my life so that I could pursue my passions.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
My favorite gadget is an apple slicer. Seriously. I love apples.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last week. My cousin and his four kids came to visit over the 4th of July and we all played Bob Ross: Happy Little Accidents together. We had a big group of people ranging in age from almost 4-years-old to 77-years-old and we could not stop laughing at each other’s drawings. It was a magical moment.
Do you have any kiddos?
One 8-year-old boy named Cavan. He’s named after a county in Ireland where the River Shannon begins. He is my official playtester and wants to be a board game designer when he grows up. Or a marine biologist. Or a professional soccer player.
(Shannon presented on the importance of board games and
CHITAG's Young Inventor Challenge at Cavan's school!)
Do you have any pets?
A big red dog named Fletcher. He’s an Irish Goldendoodle. Fletcher means 'arrow maker' and we live off a road called Red Arrow Highway.
What is your favorite night out?
Spending time with friends or seeing live music.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Do you have any special talents?
Everything would have been different if…
I didn’t quit my job to work for Utter Nonsense.
The toy and game industry clearly has….
The best people. I have met the most fun, creative, thoughtful, hard-working and supportive people over the past 5 years.
I’m lucky that….
I have a job I love. I wake up grateful every day.
What is your favorite quote?
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler
What brings you joy?
Sunsets, street art, music, learning new things, my son’s laughter and tacos al pastor, with extra pineapple.
Something very exciting that I can’t talk about yet. :)