How Dogpatch Games wrote the rule book for tabletop gaming customer service?

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

Growing up, Shannon spent countless hours playing board games with his family, a core memory he wanted to help others recreate, especially during the pandemic when people felt largely disconnected. From that, Dogpatch games was born – a board game store in San Francisco that soon after opening became more than just a place to buy games.

“One of our main principles or touchstones that we try to focus on is inclusiveness,” said Shannon. “It’s the idea that there’s a seat for everyone and there’s a game for everyone. This game might not be for you, but this game is, and you just haven’t found it yet.”

Shannon’s approach to entrepreneurship was to start slowly, giving the company a chance to grow in the neighborhood. He started with a soft opening, where the business was only open for a few hours a day. Even with limited hours, curious customers still trickled in, giving Shannon a chance to impress them.

One of those clients was Yelp Elite reviewer Jenny X ., who saw the store when she moved to the area. Before entering, she thought Dogpatch would be a one-time visit. To her surprise, it ended up being a memorable experience that she couldn’t wait to tell her friends about.

“I definitely came in as very skeptical. I [thought], we just come in and leave. This isn’t going to be a place where we’ll be spending much time,’ Jenny said. “When I saw how much passion the owner had for games, I let my guard down [decided] not to be skeptical here for a second and let him try to convince us.”

To make Dogpatch more than a store, Shannon goes above and beyond to make customers feel comfortable. Similar to Jenny’s experience, he regularly offers to teach customers how to play different board games and asks questions to find out which games they like best.

By giving customers easier access to the business, Shannon was later able to introduce a membership model for repeat customers, providing a stable revenue stream for the store. When setting prices for different membership levels, Shannon prioritized accessibility for all customers.

“We tried to find a price that feels reasonable, but recognizing that this is a premium gaming space,” said Shannon. “We want to make our community members feel like they’re getting enough value for their membership where they get the premium service, but they’re discounted enough and invited to these extra things that they don’t want to give up their membership.”

As part of the membership model, Dogpatch hosts exclusive events and game nights for members. It also hosts events open to all members of the community, such as Dungeon & Dragons Tournaments and Ladies’ Nights, to help customers meet and make new connections.

In the future, Shannon Dogpatch hopes to integrate even more into the community by partnering with local businesses, such as his “Parents’ Night Out” initiative with a local restaurant Gilberth’s Latin Fusionwhere parents can drop their kids off at Dogpatch and get a discount on their dining out.

“The kids are here playing games for two hours. We got them — you go to your date night and then come back and pick them up,” Shannon said. “We’re trying to create a little neighborhood community with other establishments in our neighborhood because we’re all in this together.”

Other small businesses can learn effective strategies from Dogpatch’s playbook, such as:

  • Consider a soft opening model. A soft opening can be a great way to generate enthusiasm for your business and get the word out organically without a major investment in resources.
  • Building a solid pricing model. By creating profiles of your ideal customers, you can choose a pricing model that’s right for your business and accessible to customers.
  • Integrating your business into the community. Host community events open to all and partner with other local businesses to help each other grow.
  • Giving customers an experience to talk about. Prioritize customer service and help customers feel comfortable with unfamiliar experiences so they (and their friends) keep coming back.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Shannon and Jenny, and subscribe Behind the review for more information from new entrepreneurs and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, StitcherAnd Sound cloud

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