Your Name and Age: Lorraine Finney, 45
Tell us about your family; Husband, Keith, happily married for 17 years, two boys George (14) and Harry (12)
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
I was and still am a part time Personal Injury solicitor specialising in industrial disease claims. I continue to work four days a week, 9.15am to 3.15pm, as a solicitor (these hours allow me to drop off and collect the boys each day since they started school nine years ago) in my ‘day’ job and then complete all my Cognosis duties in the evenings, on my day off on Fridays and at the weekends.
It is tough fitting everything in (especially given that my boys are so sporty and involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities) and I constantly find myself sending emails at midnight, but I believe it’s worth it.
When did you launch?
24th May 2013
How did you get started?
Cognosis Games Limited was formed to bring Cognosis to life.
We developed the basic game format as practice for our boys, who were about to take the CATs (Cognitive Ability Tests) as a part of their entrance exams for their preferred school. Both boys were competitive and always on the go, so getting them to sit and complete practice papers was not working.
It was then that we came up with the board game concept, which was a hit in our household immediately, as both boys wanted to play and keep playing until they won – oblivious to the fact that they were learning and developing with every throw of the dice and every question answered. The boys enjoyed the competition and particularly loved the fact that they could beat their Parents.
We started playing it with friends and their children and, when they too enjoyed it, we realised that there was a potential market for such a product and the first version of Cognosis was born.
Whilst the concept has not changed since the game was originally played, the game has developed and transformed since that first play:
- 200 original questions have replaced the 50 questions for each category first used;
- The introduction of a second shorter timer for 12+ players places them on an equal footing giving them less time to answer;
- Cognosis Challenge squares add another dimension. Challenge your opponent to answer a question from their least favourite category and see them squirm if they get it wrong.
Although Cognosis was only launched on the 24th May 2013, Cognosis Games Limited was incorporated on the 18th October 2011. The intervening period was spent writing all the 600 questions that the game includes – 200 each of verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning, securing a trademark for the logo, employing a graphic designer to design the final board and board items and to sourcing suppliers for all the game board components (different companies produce various parts of it).
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business
I love being in control and knowing that I will stand or fall by the decisions I make. As the business is in its infancy, I am still so excited when we receive a new order/order source.
What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business
Not being able to do it full time. At the moment, I’m juggling my ‘day’ job and the business. Although I enjoy my ‘day’ job, it would be great if I could dedicate all my time to Cognosis. Unfortunately, as a family we cannot afford for me to do that but hopefully soon that will change.
What has worked well about your business?
Using local manufacturers and suppliers – all our suppliers, except for the plastic components supplier, which are based in Suffolk, are all within 35 miles of us. If we have had a problem, and there have only been one or two as the companies we used have been great and very professional, we have been able to go and see them face-to-face and sort things out.
The graphics designer we used for the game and the website is only 10 minutes away and as he is a small business too, meetings have often been after 7pm. If we had sourced the various components further afield and given that I work as well, this could have created far more problems.
What’s been your biggest business mistake? How did you deal with it?
Not looking fully past getting the product finished. We had given some thought to marketing but not enough. In hindsight we would have started our marketing and sales activities much earlier – before the product even launched.
How do you fit in work with the family? Is your partner supportive of your business?
With difficulty. My days were full before – up making packed lunches and teas (my boys usually go straight to tennis/rugby training after school), school run, off to work, do my ‘day’ job, pick up the boys, head to whatever activity they have that night and then home, usually between 7.00pm and 8.30pm.
All this continues but now when I get home it’s not just the dinner I need to worry about (usually already cooked by Keith), but processing orders, updating our Facebook and Google+ accounts, etc. Fortunately, Keith is fantastic and is very hands on – he believes in Cognosis as much as I do and so will make up games, collate database details, etc.
Are you working towards a financial goal for your business?
I would love to be able to run the business full time so our current financial goal is to increase turnover and profit so that I can give up my ‘day’ job and focus on developing Cognosis.
Would you ever give up your business to do something else?
I believe passionately in Cognosis and believe that it is a fantastic educational game for 9 – 11 year olds. Before the game launched, I had been told to price the product based on what would make the earliest and most significant returns. This would have meant a price >50% higher than the current £29.95 selling price – no problem for parents that spend £100’s on private tutoring.
However, I chose to stick by my original pricing policy, as I wanted to make Cognosis available to as many children as possible and priced the product accordingly. I want every child who has to sit these tests to have played Cognosis, either their own copy or one at school, so I cannot foresee me giving up the business as there is lots of work to do.
Do you have an exit strategy?
No. I really want to make this product available to as many children as possible. I want all children to have the same chance of passing what may be the most important tests they ever take.
Have you had your ‘I’ve made it’ moment? Tell us about it. If not when do you think it will come
No, but I think that it will come in the next 18 months.
Where do you hope to be in five years time?
We would love to export Cognosis into Europe and worldwide. We also have plans for a Junior version.
If you have a flexible working business opportunity, please explain briefly what you offer and how people find out more.
At the moment we don’t, but going forward, once we do need staff we will try, subject to business needs, to be as flexible as we can. This will hopefully allow us to recruit part time staff that will be able to fit work in around family commitments.
Your website link.
If you can offer a discount or special promotion for Family Friendly Working readers, please write it here:
We’d be happy to offer a 10% discount to Family Friendly Working readers. Please ask any reader to email me direct – Lorraine@cognosisgames.com – and I will send them a reduced invoice and details of how to pay.