Blugold entrepreneurs create Eau Claire-Opoly board game

| Judy Berthiaume

Looking for a new challenge on family game night?

A group of UW-Eau Claire business students has you covered.

The Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization at UW-Eau Claire has created and now is selling Eau Claire-Opoly, a board game that features Eau Claire businesses, organizations, bridges, parks, streets and other landmarks that people in the Chippewa Valley know well.

Bradley Johnson of Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization was a leader in making Eau Claire-Opoly a reality

Bradley Johnson of Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization was a leader in making Eau Claire-Opoly a reality

“I’ve received nothing but positive feedback from customers,” says Bradley Johnson, a management major with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and minors in marketing and finance. “People are impressed with how well Eau Claire is integrated into the board game.

“From the title of the game to the fine details in the playing cards, the game is thoroughly Eau Claire themed.”

Just like the original Monopoly game, players who land on a space can buy the named properties for various dollar amounts, charge other players rent, and invest in houses and hotels to increase their properties’ values as they accumulate money to try to win the game.

However, instead of Kentucky Avenue, Marvin Gardens or Boardwalk, players will find Eau Claire-themed properties such as Water Street ($70), Owen Park ($110), Just Local Food ($250) and Lismore Hotel ($425).

In place of the traditional railroad spaces, players in the local version will land on spaces representing Eau Claire bridges, including the infamous UW-Eau Claire footbridge.

Blugolds play Eau Claire-Opoly, a local version of the popular board game.

Blugolds play Eau Claire-Opoly, a local version of the popular board game.

A player who lands on a UW-Eau Claire Foundation-sponsored treasure chest space might pick a card that allows them to move ahead five spaces, while a stop on the UW-Eau Claire Entrepreneur Program-sponsored opportunity space might get a player a ticket to the popular Jazz Fest (pay $50).

Eau Claire-Opoly playing pieces include familiar symbols like a music note, a coffee mug and a bridge.

“Every space on the board is a location in Eau Claire, such as parks, streets, bridges, public buildings and businesses,” says Johnson, a senior from Lake Geneva who previously served as the organization’s president and now is its student advisor. “Both the UWEC Foundation and UWEC Entrepreneur Program/College of Business are in the game.”

An ongoing goal for UW-Eau Claire’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization is to provide its members with real-world business experience, Johnson says of why the students decided to create and sell a game.

The student organization previously established Blugold Roast, a successful coffee business that now is an LLC owned by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, though still run by students.

“We didn’t want to start a whole new business this time; we wanted to create more of a one-time thing,” Johnson says of the game.

In addition to giving students entrepreneurial experience, the Eau Claire-Opoly project also is raising funds for the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Johnson says, noting that proceeds from game sales will support students who want to attend conferences, help with the costs of hosting events, fund future entrepreneurial ventures, and provide students with grants and scholarships.

Blugolds started the game project in fall 2017, when they began conceptualizing and searching for a manufacturer/supplier. In spring 2018, the group began looking for sponsors for the game board.

Given their busy schedules and students graduating, securing sponsors took longer than expected, so the project was slightly delayed, Johnson says.

To keep the project moving forward, Johnson, who is president of Blugold Roast Coffee, spent a summer both growing the coffee business and securing sponsors for Eau Claire-Opoly. To find sponsors, he communicated with more than 200 people from more than 150 businesses and organizations in Eau Claire, he says.

Once enough sponsorships were secured, Johnson collected photographs from local photographers, finalized the game's design and began the proofing process with the manufacturer.

Finally, last spring they finished the proofing process with the manufacturer and began production of 500 board games.

“When I first got the completed Eau Claire-Opoly board game, I not only saw a marvelous product representing Eau Claire, I saw countless hours of meetings, emails, cold-calls and design work represented by a product,” Johnson says, noting that it took nearly 2 1/2 years for the student group to take the project from an idea to a finished product. “I was and am still proud, but I was/am more focused on the next phase of the project, which is selling the board games.”

The games went on sale during the summer in several Eau Claire stores as well as online.

Since they became available, the board games have been selling quickly, says Johnson, who expects most of the 500 games to be sold by the end of December.

Helping to create Eau Claire-Opoly, run Blugold Roast Coffee and participate in other CEO projects has greatly enhanced his time at UW-Eau Claire, Johnson says. He’s gained valuable experience putting lessons learned in the classroom to work in the real world, he says.

“Working with a team, leading a team, understanding my own in addition to others' strengths and weaknesses, communicating, marketing, sales and strategic planning are all skills that have been enhanced through my experiences in student organizations,” says Johnson, who also has been involved in and/or held leadership positions in several other student organizations and committees, including the College of Business Curriculum Committee, the water ski team and the Student Senate Finance Commission.

For more information about Eau Claire-Opoly, contact Bradley Johnson at johnsobc4293@uwec.edu or the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization at stuorg76@uwec.edu.

Top photo caption: Eau Claire-Opoly features Eau Claire businesses, parks and other places familiar to students and others who live in the area.