Red Herring Games – the story so far

Red Herring Games murder mystery events
Red Herring Games murder mystery events

Red Herring Games are creators of murder mystery dinner party games and personalised events, with a very extensive online offering. SME spoke to Jo Smedley of Red Herring Games to find out more….

Tell me about your company – where did the idea come from? How did you get started?

I started my company in 2003. I started writing murder mystery games a few years before that as I used to work with a youth group at church who wanted to play one. None of the ones I had played to date from the high street were appropriate for that demographic. Once I’d written one for them, I tried it with the adults (to check it was suitable) and they had a ball and wanted more! So I started to write my own parties. After a few years my work at the time was incredibly stressful and I considered leaving my job and starting a coffee shop – but we hadn’t the capital to allow me to do that. At that point a friend suggested I sell the games I had created. I found a firm in the USA who were accepting new Authors and started working with them, but found their customer care wasn’t up to much and their website didn’t suit what I wanted to do with my own games, so with the help of a couple of friends who were website designers I launched Red Herring Games.

Last year we broke with the original website designers and went with a 3rd party to keep friendships and work separate again. (It’s very difficult working with friends!)

Could you tell me a bit about your product/services range?

We supply “off the shelf” murder mystery dinner party games for people to download and print and play at home. Since launch we discovered there was a huge market for print on demand kits – so we also offer that service now too.

There was also a dearth of scripts available for amateurs to host fundraising events and private parties for larger numbers – and we now supply 4 different styles of large group murder mystery scripts.

We launched an event management side to the business within 2 years of start up as we realised what we did also worked well in the hotel and team building industry and we are fast growing our event management services, and have worked as far away as Hawaii, and Barcelona, although most of our day to day work is in the UK.

We also supply a bespoke writing service, and are working with a firm in France to provide all their team building scripts, and are about to launch an educational and team building wing to the business.

Who are your biggest competitors? What makes your company special compared to its competitors?

Our biggest competitor is Paul Lamond for the boxed sets. These are available through Amazon, so we launched on Amazon to give them a run for their money. (I think we have!)

In the on-line downloadable kit retail world there are a number of firms who supply dinner party games or scripts, but none carry the range we do, and none are as easy to use. Our biggest on-line competitors tend to use the words “Murder mystery games” in their website address… which generally means if you shop with them you have no idea who you’ve bought from and use another supplier without realising next time around. We stand out from the rest as we have a brand name people recognise. Other recognisable brands are “Host-party” who cornered the USA market some time ago.

Tell me about your role – what does a typical day look like for you?

I’m the managing director of the firm and the principal writer, as well as general dogsbody. A typical day varies as a lot depends on what comes in over night in terms of emails and orders. Today for example, it’s just me and the dog in the office, so I’m attending to all the retail shipments, printing and boxing kits ordered overnight, wrapping custom wrapped chocolate bars, answering customisation queries, event enquiries and dealing with finances in between.