BRAINERD, Minn. — A fragmented and shortened senior year and derailed after graduation work plans could be enough to upend anyone's attitude or outlook.

But four college students used those setbacks to devise their own business model, create a product to sell and set up a campaign to fund it.

Hanna Degen graduated from Brainerd High School in 2017. At the College of St. Benedict's in St. Joseph, Degen was closing in her senior year as an economics major when the coronavirus changed the world.

In the fall of 2019 Degen and her friends were part of an entrepreneurship program at The Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship that provides classes, coaching and assistance and is geared to building relationships between students at St. Ben's and St. John's University. The center describes itself as a relationship builder not only between students but including faculty, alumnae and community members.

Degen was working with classmates during the three-course entrepreneurial program, which culminates in launching a business, when their idea was born to start creating a game, something they would want to play themselves.

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A prototype of the doghouse game with six games in one and more than 400 cards. There is one loser per round who is sent to the proverbial dog house. Each group of players can decide what happens to the player sent to the dog house. Submitted photo
A prototype of the doghouse game with six games in one and more than 400 cards. There is one loser per round who is sent to the proverbial dog house. Each group of players can decide what happens to the player sent to the dog house. Submitted photo

Degen believed in their business venture and the changed landscape presented a new opportunity to see if they could actually launch their vision. They added another friend who lost out on his job, was accomplished in design and brought skills as an accounting major and the foursome for the team was complete. The people behind the venture are Degen, Margaret Kosir, Zach Kennedy and Owyn Ferguson.

Their venture — doghouse — was based on the party games they liked to play with their own twist. Instead of winners every round, they had a loser and a location where they went: to the dog house. They went on to create an entire dog theme. Since people often grow tired of a game after a time, they put it together as six games in one. A role of the die moves the players to a different game each round.

Degen said the game allows creativity with the playing group deciding on a punishment for the loser in the doghouse, whether that is a silly dance or for appropriately aged adults perhaps partaking of an adult beverage. For Degen this option really gives the players the ability to pick what they want out of the experience each time they play and it allows players to enjoy the game in different ways and in different groups — whether that’s a group of college friends or a multi-generational family unit.

In the description for the project on Kickstarter, a site that allows people to support a project by funding it at various levels, the group describe it as a game people can’t wait to lose.

Degen credited the entrepreneurship center at the college as being instrumental in getting the project on the board with pro bono help from an attorney who served as one of their mentors.

She said they still talk to the mentors at the center every week about different ideas, resources and ways to improve.

As far as manufacturing, the class took three business trips and last winter over the Christmas break they took a trip to Shanghai, China. There they met a manufacturer of games, and were able to make a prototype of the game.

Now that the Kickstarter campaign ($17,205 raised of their $16,000 goal) is complete, they can place their order for the first round of manufacturing. Estimated delivery of the games is in December.

Now they’ve been working on revising the game to make the final copy the best version they can. They are looking at selling the game through Amazon and have been contacted by a few retailers.

More info

For more information on the Kickstarter campaign, go to http://kck.st/2PloXWD.