Joe Barron: Forget ROI, Focus on ROB (Return on Beer)!

by Joe Barron | 03 Jul 2024

Biographies and Interviews


MC (Mary Couzin): Hi Joe! I'm sure our readers would love to hear about your recent incredible successes (Congrats!), so please share what’s new at Gray Matters?


JB: (Joe Barron): We just launched our new game, Slip It In, and thanks to a viral video (currently at 5 million views) it was the #1 selling new release on Amazon last month!


MC: What’s the game all about?


JB:   Players get five slips with the most random phrases on them like “Pocket Jerky” or “I Shipped My Pants” and then they must try and slip them into their conversations without getting busted.  It’s really a social experience that can be played anytime and anywhere.  The game was invented by three guys from Chicagoland who originally entered the concept into a game design contest we had back in 2019.  We then brought on comedic geniuses and tabletop game influencers, Grant Lyon and Danielle Standring, to elevate the content’s laugh factor!



MC: Any new games in the works?


JB: Of course!  We’re developing a game right now called Rhymes with Duck with two of Chicagoland’s best inventors, Bob Kamp and Brady Peterson (pictured).  They both already have hit games on the market like Blank Slate (Bob) and Otrio (Brady).  We discovered the game last year at your very own POP Week Inventor Pitch & Innovation Conference!


MC: So, sounds like more and more of your games are coming from outside inventors?


JB: Yes – I’ve run out of good ideas!  Haha.  There’s a wonderful community of brilliant inventors that are critical for us to connect with so that we bring the very best games to the market.



MC: How are you bringing new games to the market?


JB:  We’ve brought on a couple talented designers to our team, Sophia Ricciardi and Jessica Butler, to help us develop new games and marketing content.  Our marketing partner, Loudr, then amplifies our message – it’s a special partnership led by my hometown friend, Jackie Brooks.



MC: And you also just partnered with Asmodee, right?


JB: Yes, they’re our new distribution partner and I LOVE working with them.  In just six months, we’ve shared so many laughs together and are seeing a lot of mutual success.  They have the best team (pictured above), and I can’t wait to be with the whole Asmodee crew next month at Gen Con.


MC: Is this your first time at Gen Con?


JB: Yes!  We’ll be exhibiting in Entrepreneur’s Avenue this year and have a ton of fun things planned for our launch of Slip It In, including Grant Lyon and Dani Standring joining our booth to sign autographs.



MC: Any other show you’re attending this year?


JB: Of course, we’ll be at  The Chicago Toy Game Fair and the Inventor Pitch & Innovation Conference!  It’s my favorite show of the year, and I promise I’m not brown nosing, Mary.  Haha.  It not only allows us to connect with great inventors (by the way, my first meeting last year was with Reyn Guyer, inventor of Twister and Nerf – you may have heard of them?), but we also get a consumer show to connect with our end customer right ahead of the holiday season.  The whole show is a blast!



MC:  Any last words of advice for new publishers or inventors?


JB:  Yes – when you’re first starting out, forget ROI and focus on ROB (Return on Beer)!  Coffee works too.  With so many companies focused on AI and automation, I’m happy to say that the best businesses are still built on relationships with PEOPLE!  Go meet people in person and share a beverage – it builds trust and a lasting bond.  Some real-life examples:

  • Mary, I met you over coffee at a pie shop in downtown Chicago.
  • I met Jodi Meusel over coffee and donuts (with bacon!) – she helped us launch Gray Matters.
  • I shared space at ChiTAG’s beer garden with Julien Sharp - she is now the GM at Asmodee, our exceptional distribution partner. (Joe and Julien pictured above)
  • I met a fellow Michigan State alum for a beer here in Glen Ellyn which led to us landing our largest customer.


There are so many fun people in this industry that love to engage and are generous with their time, so instead of having ChatGPT send an automated email, just send this – “Hey, you wanna grab a beer?”


board games inventors

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