During the pandemic when everyone was stuck inside, Derrick Skipper and some friends came up with an idea for a board game called “Capital Punishment.”
The idea for a party argument game grew out of a time when his friends were grieving over a friend who died in an accident.
So Skipper, an IT professional, invested between $6,000 and $11,000 in the business called Guillotine Games LLC, doing business as Capital Punishment Games. For now, the company is based out of Skipper’s home in West Philadelphia and he is the only employee.
“Once the world came to a standstill and you couldn’t do the things you used to do it gave us time to think about other things,” Skipper said. “When we went into lockdown, we were kind of sitting with our grief and we decided to make a game, me and my two best friends surrounding conversations we used to have when the bars were open.”
The Capital Punishment game sells for $34.99. It is similar to a board game called “Cards Against Humanity,” which is popular among high school and college students. For example, there is a rotating judge.
Each player (except the judge) draws five cards and then they submit one of their five cards to argue to the judge why their card is the worst person place or thing in existence.
“The judge hears the arguments and can decide who wins based off personal preference and then awards the player a punishment card or point card that has a random value on it,” Skipper said. “It’s first to three or five points wins. It’s very much like a Comedy Central roast and it’s different than other games because it allows people to bring their own sense of humor and relationship dynamics to the game and really laugh together over ridiculous arguments.”
According to Skipper, the company placed its first order for games in mid-2020, but due to the pandemic and supply chain issues, it didn’t receive them until February 2021.
Capital Punishment is available at Harriett’s Bookshop on East Girard Avenue and The Philly Game Shop on South 5th Street.
“We do most of our sales on our website (www.capitalpunishmentgame.com) and on Amazon,” Skipper said. “We are part of Amazon’s accelerated program late last year.”
As part of the Amazon program, Capital Punishment Games received a $10,000 grant, advertising credits, attends classes with 100 other businesses. Skipper was assigned a mentor by the program, Will Lucas, CEO/founder of Creadio, Black-owned marketing, technology and production agency in Toledo, Ohio.
“I’m there to help him see challenges as opportunities, navigate things that arise in the normal course of doing business, and there to keep him encouraged as the life of a startup entrepreneur can be tough,” Lucas said. “Derrick’s got a solid project that has obviously found some initial traction with his target audience. Our job is to help him increase the exposure his business has to others who are in his target groups so he can continue to grow.”
Lucas said being an entrepreneur can be difficult.
“You’re venturing out into a world where there is no certainty from one day to the next, and on top of that, you’re dealing with the challenges in the supply chain the pandemic delivered,” he said. “Derrick has shown himself to be resilient, open to hard, critical feedback, and if he keeps that up, he’ll be just fine in any endeavor he pursues.”
In 2021, Amazon said it would invest $150 million in the next four years to empower Black entrepreneurs through its Black Business Accelerator. Since then, the program has provided financial assistance, strategic business education and coaching, along with advertising and marketing support to Black businesses.
So far, Capital Punishment Games sold out its entire 1,000 units last December. Like many other companies, supply chain issues meant it didn’t get a new order, until 30 days ago. But the company sold 100 games this month.
By the end of 2022, Skipper estimates that the company will generate total sales of between $50,000 and $100,000.
“Our goals are to create games from a Black perspective that allow good conversation,” Skipper said. “We are working on other games.”
He said he hopes to expand the company into Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
“Those countries have huge board game participants,” Skipper said. “There is a huge growing market for board games.”