When Tim Swindle and Dave Mazurek were in college at the University of Illinois they used to play a card game with friends that involved combining stereotypical accents with outrageous phrases.
Now 15 years later, that game they played for laughs will be sold in Target stores all across America.
“It started out as just a silly idea we had when we were with friends or at family gatherings,” Swindle, co-founder of the card game “Utter Nonsense”, told Business Insider. “We asked people to write a phrase and an accent on a piece of paper and then we would pass them around. It was purely for fun.”
Utter Nonsense is played with 45 accent cards and 455 phrase cards. Each round the “Nonsense Judge” deals out 7 phrase cards to each player and then selects an accent card from the deck. Each player then has to choose a phrase from their hand and act it out using the chosen accent.
The result tends to be along the lines of a grandma bragging about sexting or a redneck spewing out offensive pickup lines.
It is up to the Nonsense Judge to select the funniest interpretation, and the winner gets to be the Nonsense Judge for the subsequent round.
Ironically, it was after playing Cards Against Humanity that Swindle, 35, and Mazurek, 35, said they came up with the idea.
“We were sitting in a bar on New Years Day 2014 and we had played Cards Against Humanity the previous night and we were saying how much fun it was and we realised we had a game that was a lot of fun so why don’t we turn that into something,” Swindle says, adding that the success of Cards Against Humanity had created a “void” in the party game market that they believed Utter Nonsense could fill.
So Swindle and Mazurek got to work on what Swindle refers to as their “passion project”. By July of last year, Utter Nonsense had raised $US16,000 on Kickstarter and in August, the duo were contacted by nationwide game retailer Marbles: The Brain Store requesting an order of 3,500 units. The game sold like hotcakes during the holiday season and in January of this year, big box retailers started to come knocking.
“In January we were contacted by Target who said they were interested in carrying our game,” said Swindle, who could not contain his surprise. “At this point we were like ‘what is going on?’, Target does not look at a game product that hasn’t been in the market for at least three to five years.”
Swindle and Mazurek were sceptical about going into business with Target, mainly because for the last year the duo had worked on Utter Nonsense purely as a side project. The Chicago natives both have full-time jobs in their hometown. Swindle is a partner at a software startup and Mazurek is a real-estate developer.
“We thought it would be fun to do something with our creative energy outside of our real day jobs,” Swindle says about why they started Utter Nonsense. “This was just a passion project and we stayed true to that. Were not motivated by money and we have no investors.”
“The market can sense when there is not the pressure to do something to appease somebody else,” Swindle added. “When Target first approached us, we thought it was going to be a lot of work and that was the crux of deciding if this is something we want to do,”
Swindle said him and Mazurek rejected Target originally, but after seeing how eager they were, struck a deal for 50,000 units.
Starting August 2, you can buy Utter Nonsense in Target’s all across the country for $US25 bucks a pop. Swindle also said he and Mazurek are in preliminary talks with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
In terms of advice for other entrepreneurs trying to bring their idea to market, Swindle says it is all about passion.
“If your going to do something like we did, do something that your passionate about,” Swindle says, admitting it is a cliche. “For us we worked all day and then came home and stayed up until 2 a.m. working on this when we have to wake up at 6 a.m. We spent our whole summer holed up working on this, but if your not passionate about it then it is just going to die.”
Swindle says the fact that a game he and Mazurek invented in college is now enjoyed by thousands of people gives him immense satisfaction.
“People reach out to us and are like ‘I had an awesome time playing your game and I heard my mum do an orgasm voice,'” he says laughing.
Watch the Utter Nonsense introduction video here: