ThinkFun Alexandria, Virginia
“The Internet allows us to tell our unique story and reach niche audiences.”Bill Ritchie, President & Co-founderThinkFun has 35 employees.link www.thinkfun.comBill Ritchie and his wife, Andrea Barthello, founded ThinkFun in 1985 to translate the ideas of mathematicians, engineers, and inventors into enjoyable games for kids around the world. Bill’s inspiration was his own childhood. “From the time I was a little kid, the whole idea of recreational mathematics and playing with logic games and toys was something I thought everybody did,” Bill says. Today, ThinkFun produces challenging games, toys, puzzles, and brain teasers. “We do less online gaming than physical, in-your-hands games for deeper experiences through play.”
After a quarter century in business, scrambling for market share with the toy giants, ThinkFun saw the incredible digital possibilities of “reaching niche audiences, telling a deeper story, and having people communicate with each other about this cool company,” Bill says. “We realized that we needed to make some fundamental changes in the way we created our products and went to market,” says Mike Ritchie, Director of Marketing. ThinkFun launched a completely new website in 2015 and waded deeply into digital marketing and social media. They turned to AdWords, Google's advertising program, to help them target those niche markets. Bill describes their experience with AdWords as “gasoline on the fire,” and it is now integral to their marketing strategy. Google Analytics gives them insights into what visitors to their website find most relevant, allowing them to make data-driven decisions about what is resonating with customers.
ThinkFun has garnered hundreds of awards and accolades for their games and puzzles, including Code Master, Rush Hour, and Gravity Maze. The Internet and Google tools have given them the opportunity to create their own strong brand online, so they are no longer solely dependent on just selling to big retailers. In fact, they now have passionate fans among parents and children in over 50 countries. Bill expects exciting times ahead. “There's still a lot of value placed on physical games for kids. But we need to make sure that we're adapting to the digital side, so we can be wherever we need to be going forward,” he says. “Google will help us to realize that future.”ThinkFun has 35 employees.link www.thinkfun.com
Vertical Rock Climbing & Fitness Center Manassas, Virginia
Vertical Rock Climbing & Fitness Center
“The Internet allows us to do a lot more, and faster, than we'd normally be able to do.”Ian Colton, Founder & CEO3,500+ visitors a weeklink www.climb-va.comFor Ian and Lindsey Colton, rock climbing is about more than just fitness and the outdoors. “There’s a lot of believing in yourself. And being able to push yourself to a limit safely, and trusting the people you’re with,” Ian says. Climbing had always been a cherished family activity for the Coltons, and their dream was to bring that empowerment and positivity to a broader community. After almost six years of looking for a space with very high ceilings, things fell into place. “It was one of these lucky calls we got about a space coming up for lease, and the rest is history,” Ian says.
Since that day in 2011, the company itself has reached great heights, bypassing administrative roadblocks through online tools like Google Drive. “With rock climbing, we have a lot of paperwork. It’s a logistical nightmare. When we opened, the cloud was becoming more available. Being able to store our information that way has been very helpful,” Ian says. Running their operations themselves instead of jumping into large contracts, they use “just about every Google product that’s out there.” From the beginning, they’ve used AdWords, Google's advertising program, to connect them with customers. They also use Google Analytics to improve their website and promotions. Another big part of their community is YouTube, where they share instructional videos and content from their members. “If you don’t have a web presence, you’re obsolete,” Ian says.
The Coltons have created a space for people of all ages, skill sets, and fitness levels. “We have members of the community in their mid-70s still actively climbing,” Ian says. The most rewarding part is the positive impact on people’s lives. “I’ve had parents come up to me, with tears in their eyes, saying how happy they are to see a transition with their kids through rock climbing.” The Coltons want to make that impact even bigger. “We want to see multiple Vertical Rocks in the state,” Ian says. To get there, they’ll continue to rely on the web. “Word of mouth is one of the best ways to advertise. And we thoroughly believe that having a web presence is a way to extend our word of mouth.”3,500+ visitors a weeklink www.climb-va.com