At 11 years of age, Eric Schadt is likely Durango’s youngest entrepreneur.
With the aid of his older sister, Jennifer, 21, and his older brother, Paul, 16, Eric has turned his fourth grade science project, a board game called “Saving Eagles” about the life cycle of the endangered Philippine eagle, into the first product for the family’s business, E Family Games.
“I found the eagle in a book. I thought it looked cool. It eats macaque monkeys, and it’s the only eagle that doesn’t eat fish. Its wing span can be 6 feet to 7 feet,” Eric said.
The forests where the eagles live, principally on the island of Mindanao, are being cut down, creating a real problem for the birds which mate for life and can live for about 60 years.
“Essentially, it leaves them homeless, and they kind of die from that” Eric said. “They use the same nest their entire lives.”
Another vulnerability for the bird, which is critically endangered, is that the nesting mates produce only one chick every two years.
In designing the game, the Schadts decided to honor the birds’ devotion to their mates by making the finding of a life partner a big part of the game.
Eric said there are only 400 known nesting couples in the wild.
Paul, who will be a Durango High School junior, said his father, Jeff, encouraged his three children to build on Eric’s idea to create their company after hearing how popular the board game was with Eric’s classmates.
Paul said his father, who has started several companies and currently heads a nonprofit he founded, Revive Family, has been the general manager behind the scenes, providing business experience and offering encouragement.
“We tested the game before school and during lunch and recess. Sometimes, we brought pizza. When we didn’t have time to finish a game, everyone was asking us to bring it back,” Eric said.
Saving Eagles follows the life cycle of the Philippine eagle through 125 spaces, advancing with dice throws. The spaces often require a player to pick up cards that can be beneficial or harmful to an eagle.
If you run into the poacher or the exotic animal trapper, that’s pretty bad news for your eagle.
The Schadts knew they had a real product on their hands when the Philippine Eagle Foundation agreed to partner with them. E Family Games will donate 10% of proceeds from sales of all games, which will be priced at $35 on Kickstarter, to the foundation. In return, the foundation has agreed to send several email notifications about the game to its 40,000 member-supporters.
The Schadts are aiming to raise $200,000 through the sale of Saving Eagles through Christmas, when they plan to deliver Kickstarter orders.
Jennifer, who handles marketing and social media communications, said working with Kickstarter, Facebook, a subcontracted marketing firm and a manufacturer of board games has taught her the importance of clear communications.
“It’s moving more quickly than we thought it would,” she said. “The whole thing has been a learning experience. Just coming up with a business plan was a huge learning curve for us.”
The Schadt trio saved money by bringing in a family friend, Diane Gamlem, a Seattle artist, into the ownership group. Gamlem designed the board for the game and the packaging.
They’ve also brought their website developer into the ownership group.
The Schadts plan to use the money raised in Kickstarter sales to refine Saving Eagles and to work on new games based on other endangered animals.
Jennifer said the most difficult thing in designing the game was coming up with the right ratio of good to bad cards so players could finish a game in about 30 to 40 minutes.
The trio went through five prototypes before they found a design that flowed smoothly and conveyed insightful information about the eagles’ precarious lives.
“The goal of the game is to navigate your eagle through life and learn about the eagle and have fun along the way,” Jennifer said.
The Schadts are well on their way in the design of the second game, tentatively titled, “Running with the Pack,” which will examine the lives of threatened wolves.
They plan to partner with nonprofit foundations that protect endangered wolves. They hope to have the game out by May 2020.
Jeff, the kids father, said, “They’re pretty serious about this. They worked for six hours today on the cards for the wolf game.”
Plans are also in the works for games that are based on endangered animals of the Southwest, ocean animals and North American endangered birds.
They plan partnerships with nonprofits with all their games – devoting a percentage of proceeds to saving the endangered critters.
“The mission statement of our company is: Bringing families together with games that do good,” Jennifer said.