Cottage Grove woman creates children's board game
As Lisa Kaufenberg tells it, God and Google helped her go from board game enthusiast to inventor.
Kaufenberg, a Cottage Grove married mother of two, looked to a higher power -- and the wealth of information on the Internet -- to create and market a children's board game.
"I think it's just a fun story and I still can't believe it happened," Kaufenberg said recently, holding a copy of her "Cupcake Race" board game sold at game stores and through online retailers.
Two years ago, Kaufenberg said, she was praying for ways to pay off typical household debt like credit card balances so that she could direct more of her income to church-related missions.
"I just said, 'God, if you could give me an idea, that would be really neat,'" she recalled.
While playing board games with her family on New Years Day 2011, she thought of creating a game based on cupcakes.
At the time, the baked goods had a buzz about them, with TV shows dedicated to decadent dessert creations and the opening of boutique shops selling only cupcakes.
It seemed like a good idea, Kaufenberg thought.
"Who doesn't like cupcakes?" she said in a recent interview.
As Kaufenberg was bathing her two daughters one night, a catchy slogan for her game came to mind: "Mix it, bake it, frost it, top it; So much fun, you just can't stop it."
She quickly called her mother and vetted it. They liked it and stuck with it.
"It's cheesy, but it's fun," she said.
Kaufenberg went to work creating a prototype for her games. She used arts-and-crafts materials such as thick poster board and markers for the game board and Styrofoam, felt and fabric fasteners to make the cupcake, frosting and sprinkles game pieces.
She created a game narrative: you've been invited to a friend's house and you have to make a cupcake. The first player to pass through the game board and complete a cupcake wins.
"The winner gets the cherry on top," she said.
She found inventor information and patent guidelines on the Internet, and then turned to her friend and former coworker, Mark Nelsen of Cottage Grove, to help make a video commercial she could use to market the concept. The 30-second video, available on YouTube, features Kaufenberg, husband Scott and daughters Macey and Allie playing with the prototype game at their dining room table.
Kaufenberg researched game manufacturers and sent emails with the video commercial to about 20 companies. She talked to a representative at New Jersey-based Endless Games last summer and received a follow-up call last November from the company. It liked the concept.
"They got to work right away," she said. Endless Games previewed "Cupcake Race" at a New York toy fair in February. Production ended in July and the game is available for $19.99 in Creative Kidstuff and Toys R Us stores and online at Target.com and endlessgames.com. It is meant for players ages 4 and up.
The final product, design, instructions and concept are nearly identical to what Kaufenberg proposed. She got to sign off on some of the game decisions.
"I wasn't going to argue with what they did," she said. "It looked really good."
Kaufenberg, 35, said she kept her game project largely a secret because she didn't know whether it would pan out. Her husband encouraged her throughout the process.
"He was very supportive," she recalled. "I would tell him ideas and he would say, 'go for it.'"
Now that it's been available for a couple of weeks, Kaufenberg said it's been purchased and used by people as far as Ohio and New Jersey.
A Park High School grad, Kaufenberg attends Crossroads Community Church in Woodbury. She doesn't know how much she will earn off of the project, but hopes to be able to support missionary work such as Feed My Starving Children and World Vision, a global children's hunger organization.
Kaufenberg signed a three-year contract and will receive royalties based on the number of units sold to toy retailers. She said she wanted to tell people her story because the game is available and it may inspire others to pursue their dreams.
Kaufenberg has ideas for two other games, but is waiting to see how "Cupcake Race" fares.
"Hopefully it does well," she said.