If you’re looking for a fun new way to help kids learn, a new interactive board game called Diploma Dogs, developed by elementary school principal Clay McAllester, is a real teacher’s pet. Diploma Dogs has an unusual pedigree. Clay, who wrote his masters thesis on the educational value of games, came up with the idea while teaching fifth grade in the mid-1980s. But it took a sudden burst of inspiration in early 2001 to renew his interest in turning Diploma Dogs into a small business.
Clay reports that Diploma Dogs is “making a dent” in the market for educational games. Though currently available in only a quarter of Wal-Mart’s stores, the game has sold more than 10,000 copies in two years. Clay hopes that both Wal-Mart and Target soon will carry Diploma Dogs nationally. He also is negotiating with an educational supplier to sell the classroom version of the game to school districts across the country. In addition, Clay is working on plans to turn Diploma Dogs’ cuddly game characters into other products targeted to young learners.
While Clay expects to continue his “day job” as a principal for some time, he is very optimistic about the future of Diploma Dogs. A lot of credit, he says, goes to Charlie Betz and SCORE.
“The problem was, I didn’t know how to move forward with my idea,” Clay says. “Some friends recommended that I contact the East Valley, AZ SCORE. That’s where I met a lot of great new friends, including Charlie Betz.”
A retired business owner and CEO, Charlie Betz joined other SCORE volunteer mentors in evaluating Clay’s idea and helping him develop a sound business plan and financial projections. They also advised him on key decisions about putting the game idea in front of the right people, raising money to fund production, and managing expenses and cash flow.
“Charlie is always very giving with his time,” Clay says. “He will stop at any moment to answer a question or listen to an idea.
“It just blows me away that there’s so much help available from SCORE, and that they are all willing to do so much for free.” says Clay.
“At some point, I’d like to be a SCORE counselor and help other people with their ideas,” he says. “It would be a way to reciprocate for all the time that Charlie and the other counselors have given me.”