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The big interview

September 2011 | by David Harvey and Ben Lewis

The big interview

‘It’s wooden, it’s noisy and you get to ping things. Brilliant!’ was magazine Timeout’s enthusiastic endorsement of Pucket, the elasticated table game. Sheila Marshall caught up with Pucket Enterprises team David Harvey and Ben Lewis in Battersea.

SM What were you doing before Pucket?

DH I analysed and valued wind farms for a finance company and was made redundant during the credit crunch. I started Pucket with the payout.
BL After university, I worked for an MP on an internship and afterwards spent a short time at a think tank. I joined a graduate scheme of a large car club for two years and left in October 2009 just before I got married.
DH It took about six months from the initial idea to having something to sell. Ben joined as we started to trade in the run up to Christmas 2009.

SM Was Pucket born out of passion or necessity?

DH I turned down a reliable job because I was attracted to entrepreneurship. Business has so much potential to be done well. If God is redeeming all areas of life, then business is part of that.
BL I wanted to work with Pucket and, as it grew, I was more excited. Work is necessary irrespective of financial stuff. Working with Dave on a great product and running it the way we want is brilliant.

SM How did you discover Pucket?

DH I was studying in France, and one day I saw two older men playing a game called Table à l’élastique. I was immediately hooked, as it was competitive but simple. I went to the DIY store, made one and gave it to my brother for Christmas. Years later, we took it on a skiing holiday. There were 18 of us, and everyone saw its potential. I was surprised that it had not yet been properly commercialised.

SM What are the benefits of running your own business?

DH I should give credit to a guy called James Ewins, whose presentation on Fairtrade convinced me it was a great idea.
BL We can decide how Pucket is produced, who produces it and the way it’s sold. This means it’s produced well and encourages good livelihoods. Fairtrade is great, because you pay the guys at the bottom who are producing it, first rather than last.
DH We also avoid intrusive marketing, because there are too many advertisements out there. We are free to run the company in a way that makes us proud; not that we are omniscient about the right way to run a company.

SM What risks are in your approach to business?

DH One of the problems is that it’s extremely cyclical. We do more than half our sales at Christmas time and that means there is a massive need to finance that Christmas order at a time of the year when you’re not selling as many. That’s part of the Fairtrade deal, that you pay at least half in advance.

SM What challenges do you face?

DH At the scale we are operating on, it’s quite hard to have a certified supply chain. We know the species of wood is not endangered, but we can’t give any guarantees about whether the plantations are well managed or not. Once we get to a certain scale, we hope it will be easier to improve on that point.

SM What is success to you?

BL Success is not being the world’s biggest, richest and best company, selling millions of games.
DH It’s been great fun, so even if we have to wrap it up next year because it’s not financially sustainable, I don’t think I’ll have any regrets.

SM What sustains you?

DH On a spiritual level, we begin and end the day with prayer. We commit everything we do to God and pray that God will help us be imaginative in how we manage the company.

SM What are your hopes for Pucket?

DH There are many things we would like to do. I mentioned the wood sustainability, which we hope to improve on. We looked into joining forces with some kind of youth programme for disadvantaged young people, but we are not at the point where we can give proper employment. Maybe one day that will be an option.
SM What’s satisfying about your job?    
DH Seeing customers enjoy Pucket for the first time reminds me that this is a fun game.
BL We both love and believe in the product and it is satisfying to run a business in the way we think is right. It’s not a principle unless you do it when it hurts.

SM Is Pucket your calling?

DH It is my calling for now, but I’m not sure that I’ll retire selling Pucket games. However, I believe we should be good citizens and take responsibility for the environmental, societal and aesthetic impact of business.

SM How do you share your faith?

DH Our ‘About Us’ page includes that we are inspired by our Christian faith and that’s at the root of our ethical ambitions.
BL A lot of the people working on Pucket are Christians, so, in that sense, there isn’t much opportunity.

SM How does being a Christian make a difference to those around you?

BL We try to treat people with whom we are regularly in contact, like suppliers and customers, in the same way we want to be treated. If there is a problem, we deal with it quickly. That’s good business, but our motivation isn’t just to sell more boards.
DH Also, we were approached by a high profile gentlemen’s magazine to do an advertorial. When I looked into it, one section featured young women in their underwear and we didn’t want to be involved.

SM Can serving God be applicable to a board game?

DH Paul in Romans talks about all there is of life being under God’s dominion and everything needs to be redeemed. It feels quite lofty saying that. Pucket is not a perfect business. But that’s what we’re trying to live up to.
BL We wouldn’t be doing Pucket if it didn’t link in with what we believe is God’s will. We’re inspired and held by God.

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