29th July 2016
Founder: Lisa & Ian McCartney
PLYT is a business with a belief that any child can be confident with numbers; Ian and Lisa McCartney's educational board games are now enjoyed across the UK, the US, and Germany.
“Maths is child’s play.” Not a line you hear often, but this is the mission at the heart of PLYT. Founded by husband and wife duo Ian and Lisa McCartney in 2008, PLYT is a business with a belief that any child can be confident with numbers.
Ian and Lisa were at home playing with their two children when it suddenly seemed obvious that there just wasn’t a game for them all to play together to improve the children’s maths and numeracy skills. Ian and Lisa’s response was to say: “let’s make our own!” The result was a board game made simply out of a laminated piece of paper.
Eight years on from this eureka moment, PLYT has launched in the US and Germany, been endorsed by National Numeracy and won various awards. Despite these successes, Lisa celebrates the fact it has always been a family business. “I am the accountant, my husband looks after the supply chain. I have always been a stay at home mum”.
The instant positive effect took Ian and Lisa by surprise. Teachers noticed a real improvement in the children’s maths skills. “We were shocked by the feedback”, explains Lisa. One teacher even remarked, “Every child in this school should have the game”.
Both Ian and Lisa were eager to check that it worked consistently, so gave it to an independent researcher who tested the game across the UK. The results were extraordinary, with 7-13 year olds improving by 30 per cent and adults up by 22 per cent.
You have to become a jack-of-all-trades, I even built the website
Although PLYT has clearly been a success, Ian and Lisa have often found working from home a challenge. There are many risks involved but if you have the passion these can be overcome, Lisa explains. Always asking people for advice, building up trust with the community and raising awareness are key, as is being prepared to learn skills in new areas. “You have to become a jack-of-all-trades, I even built the website but I am no techie!” One of the most important tips Lisa lends to home business owners is to resist becoming too insular. Instead “you need to get out there and network!”
Lisa expresses her surprise at how conservative she found the games industry. “Really they just want Monopoly in a new box which makes it hard getting PLYT into the shops”. PLYT’s primary outlet is Amazon, partly due to Ian and Lisa wanting to keep control themselves. In fact the internet and e-commerce have played a major role in the game’s growth, in particular allowing Ian and Lisa to find everything in their supply chain.
Both come from entrepreneurial backgrounds, having run a small business together in the past. Lisa’s experience as a chartered accountant was valuable, giving her a strong understanding of cash flow. Yet PLYT has broadened her skills in other areas such as developing the artwork that comes with a physical product.
Although Lisa claims the sales and awards are important, it is clear her enjoyment stems from helping children grow their confidence. “When I see a child play and when they get a question right and get excited – to me that is what it is all about. Even if it could help one child, then we would be happy”.