It’s amazing how many cultural stories still persist — like the shame that accompanies being female, older and single, an idea reinforced by the classic children’s game Old Maid. If your memory is fuzzy: It’s a matching card game, in which the Old Maid card — usually depicting a grim and never-attractive older woman — has no mate.
Thankfully, Jane Burns had the clarity to not only question this game and its negative connotations about women, but to do something about it. To that end, this 56-year-old illustrator from Bellingham, WA, created BOLD MAID, a redesigned game in which whomever ends up with the title card wins.
This wasn’t Jane’s first foray into children’s games. A lifelong painter and graphic designer, Jane had previously done two children’s activity books with major publishers. But neither went very far, and eventually, submitting new projects become more work than it was worth. Jane never stopped coming up with new book and game ideas, though.
She kept designing them, then simply setting them aside — for years. Eventually, she amassed “a sassy teetering pile” of designs that stared her down while working at her computer on other projects. “I can hear the projects jostling for position round about 4pm every day — just enough rustling to get me to at least say hello now and then,” Jane says. “Last spring, I slipped BOLD MAID off the pile — or maybe she jumped, I'm not sure!”
Jane put the project on Kickstarter, where it was featured as their project of the week. She’d posted a goal of $5,000, but within a few days $6,000 more came flooding in, and she ended up with more than $11,500 total. Now, she’s sold 500 decks of the cards (for $20 each) and has ordered a printing of 500 more. “It’s amazing. I’m sending decks all over the world!” she says.
Back in the day, Jane used to sell her art through reps, but nowadays, she says, “We don’t need them quite as much as we used to because people can find us.” And she marvels that Kickstarter only takes 5 percent, compared to the gallery rate of 50 percent.
Now, a publisher who rejected BOLD MAID 15 years ago has gotten in touch and is considering acquiring the game. This could be a boon for Jane, but at the same time, she wonders, “Do I want them to offer me a sweet deal and ride on their well-worn coattails?” Or does she use Kickstarter to fund her other ideas and eventually build her own game company?
It’s a tough question for every would-be entrepreneur. “I'm a self-proclaimed unitasker, and I run the risk that adding too much to my plate might make me stand in place and twirl,” Jane says.
While she ponders her next move, Jane can be proud of the success and strong choices she’s made thus far as an entrepreneur:
- She questioned the status quo and spotted an area that needed disruption.
- She tested the market. BOLD MAID is actually Jane’s second Kickstarter. She previously posted a much smaller, practice project, in which she asked for just $1,000 and got a few hundred over that (for an idea involving silly putty). This let her see how Kickstarter worked and figure out if she was missing anything.
- She found a way to offer something a little more. Sure BOLD MAID is a great idea, but people were also given the option to become a character on one of the cards. Some of the cards were already based on beloved people in Jane’s life, such as her mother; the rest are based on people who opted through their Kickstarter funding level to be turned into characters too. And, many of these people wound up being her biggest customers. One person alone bought 100 decks.
Jane is bursting with more ideas. She has two more card games simmering in the back of her mind, which, like BOLD MAID, will also have a positive social message. And, there’s still the rest of that giant, teetering pile. We’re looking forward to seeing what jumps out next.