Hi! Tell me about you and your business.
My name is Matthew Roberts, and with the help of co-founder Nathan Anderson and our great friend Benjamin White, we started our company PEAR and launched our first product: PEAR Cards.
PEAR Cards is a card-based tool / game that empowers its players to open up and initiate positive conversations. It comprises a set of 100 cards. Think of it as Cards For Humanity, and there are no winners or losers.
Our long-term vision at PEAR is to have multiple outlets and products all focused on Positive Engagement And Response (PEAR). We envision having various platforms that enable people to open up in a comfortable and safe manner and allow them to have a closer connection with other humans and feel a sense of belonging.
We are based in Chico, CA and are currently awaiting our first order of PEAR Cards. They should be here sometime in the January - February time frame, and we are so excited to finally hold them in our hands & share them with the rest of the world!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My personal background ranges anywhere from bartending, running around in Hollywood doing music videos and American Idol, and tech sales. But at the core of everything I’ve done lies the uniform factor - positive human connection.
After wandering endlessly from job to job, I decided to see if Nate, my now co-founder, was interested in traveling Europe alongside me. After very little persuading, we packed up our bags and left our homes in Santa Barbara, CA and San Diego, CA and headed to Europe. We spent ten unbelievable weeks traveling through Europe, meeting people from all around the world, and creating memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. We knew something would come from this trip, but we weren’t yet sure what it was.
Never underestimate the power of asking someone for help. You might be blown away by the number of people that want to help you.
After returning from our trip, we both ended up at a good friend's college graduation party along with Nate's mother, Shelley. At the party, Shelley brought out a set of “Positivity Cards”. She had made them herself and explained that they should be used around the dinner table to show appreciation for each other and start a more in-depth conversation with those around us. She had used them with Nate when he was a young child in this setting to prevent monosyllabic answers to questions and instead open up the conversation.
At the party we used the cards with a diverse set of people, ages 21 - 60, some great friends, some strangers - but we all shared a meaningful and touching experience. It was that moment, along with multiple beers and shots of Crown Royal, that I looked at Nate and realized we had something special. Those cards, those feelings, that connection. People need more of these moments in their lives. So over the next few days, we spent all of our time brainstorming and working to create PEAR Cards.
Describe the process of building the initial version of PEAR Cards.
Immediately we sat down and wrote out over 100 prompts for questions that we would want to answer. Rather than “How was your day?”, we searched for prompts that had a little bit more to them, such as “One thing that made me smile today was ______”. We went through an absurd amount of back and forth on some cards, and others came naturally.
After the course of a few days of brainstorming and building (and of course lots of drinking), we completed the first iteration of PEAR Cards. We had 65 individual prompts and 20 group questions. We also came up with 12 positive affirmations, as we believed it was key for the players to identify and talk about the positives in their lives.
We then found a fantastic graphic designer in Mississippi named Kevin (the internet is a crazy thing) and had a few chats with him before realizing he was the one for us. He created our logo, box design, cards, and so much more. I then reached out to a good friend in Santa Barbara, Mark, who designed our entire website. While creating the site, we ordered our first prototype of PEAR Cards so that we could have something in our hands and start to get feedback.
All the while, we had also begun reaching out and engaging with people on social media accounts, primarily Twitter. We found accounts that were large and/or successful that had high engagement followers. We got in contact with them about what our goal, how they could help us, and how we could help them.
When the initial prototype came in, we went to family, friends and random people to “play” PEAR Cards with, and hear their responses, feedback and thoughts. Word spread quickly that we were trying to do something innovative and positive for a change. Next thing we knew we were on a podcast. Then another. Then we spoke in front of a High School thanks to the help of a teacher and close friend, Stephanie Starmer.
Things started moving quickly. Once we had gathered enough feedback from our initial prototype, we decided to spend a weekend at our close friend's family cabin to work on making PEAR Cards even better. This friend, Ben White, was back living at home in Chico while undergoing chemotherapy. He was looking to spend his time working towards something meaningful and impactful, so he hopped on board with us and PEAR. We went over the original prototype and made multiple changes, and then put in another order - this time for 15 sets.
We sent the new prototypes to our non-profit beneficiaries (AFSP, Mental Health America & BBR Foundation) who are all mental health related. We also sent them to some of the amazing social media accounts that we’ve grown close too, as well as other people who have helped us along the way.
It was now time to set up the Kickstarter and get these cards funded.
I had dealt with Kickstarter before in college during funding for student films, and I knew this was the route we needed to take for PEAR Cards. It’s an all or nothing fundraising platform that isn’t only great for getting money for your product, but also for validating your idea. Kickstarter allows you to see if there is even a market for your product idea. We did some additional research for the timeline of the campaign and decided that a relatively short 30 days would keep backers motivated to reach our goal, and also would be long enough to have multiple large fundraising pushes. We promoted it like crazy on social media. We tried our best to make it go viral and hoped it would catch the eyes of someone or something larger than usual. Unfortunately, we didn’t reach viral status, but the campaign was shared hundreds of times across multiple mediums. We can’t thank those who helped share our page enough. We wouldn't be here today without them. Never be afraid to ask for someone to help you - it’s surprising how willing people often are.
Luckily, we had the help of Ad Magic (the creators of Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens to name a few) to promote our project and give us legitimacy. I was trying to find a reputable company to manufacture our cards, and we came across them. Ad Magic is nothing short of amazing and there truly isn’t enough positive words I could say to describe them. They have helped us out more than we could have ever imagined.
How have you grown the brand and attracted customers?
We had both quit our jobs almost half a year before, and traveled Europe for 10 weeks, so we had very little money to start. This led most of our marketing to be centered around the social media based guerilla style approach. Our promoters and influencers helped us out tremendously, and we’ve only played around with paid ads on Facebook. We have mainly grown through people who genuinely believe in our product and share that with their friends and network. You can never have enough promoters and people who believe in you or your company/product. They are easy to find and are out there on all social media, you just have to start the conversation with them.
I said this earlier, but it’s truly unbelievable how much can happen when you simply ask someone for guidance, feedback or help - please, never underestimate the power of asking family, friends or even strangers for help. You might be blown away by the number of people that genuinely want to help you. We have had the pleasure of working with the awesome people such as Shari Spiro of Ad Magic and her team throughout the PEAR Cards creation process. They helped give us a few shout-outs to people in the right field, and have made some magical things come true.
To be honest, the rest of our growth has come organically through word of mouth and social media. It’s something we are constantly learning more about, but we have found the power of Twitter and Instagram to be unfathomable. One retweet or Instagram tagged post can completely change your direction - in a good or bad way. It's important for us to stay up to date with everything and be on the cutting edge of what is in.
We knew that Kickstarter was going to be our biggest “marketing” channel, so we took the proper time to do that the right way. Going forward we hope to take the Cards Against Humanity approach - people find out about the cards by using them with friends.
If you could go back, would you do anything differently?
Every single thing happens for a reason, and you cannot fail if you learn from things that did not go exactly the way you had hoped or planned. We put our heart and soul into everything we’ve done and never have been more passionate about anything else.
What are your plans for the future?
We are currently waiting for the first edition order to arrive - it’s in production right now. Once we have the cards in hand, we are going to host a massive pickup party at a local restaurant bar so that we can give our customers the cards in person and tell them "Thank You."
We are also going to start producing a podcast and continue growing the blog. The future is bright and we are excited, but we are taking things one step at a time. Recently, Nate, Ben and I just moved into a place together and got a spare room as a PEAR office. I’m excited for the magic that will come out of that room.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
As long as you find something that you truly believe in, you can do no wrong. Put your head down, work hard, be kind, and learn from the “mistakes” that you make - and don’t forget to continue learning. There is no shortage of knowledge out there today, so read, play around, and better yourself everyday, because once you do, everything will come easily. An amazing man in Germany named Helgi once told me and Nate: “Everything is easy once you know it.”
So stop wasting your own time. Get after it. If you find something, go for it, and never let fear stop you from chasing your dreams. People often waste their time and potential. There’s nothing more heartbreaking to me than the thought of sitting on my deathbed imagining all of the things I never did because I was too scared to fail.
Life is much too short to get stuck doing something that doesn’t excite you. Try and channel that inner child that you once had and create amazing that you can share with the world. I genuinely believe the world would be a better place if people worked on things they were passionate about. So please, go after your dreams and don’t let fear consume you.
Where can we go to learn more?
Check out our website at www.pearcards.com. You can also find us on social media at: