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Saturday, August 23, 2014

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Beezi – bee’s knees of spelling bees

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How well do you spell?

That’s the question being asked by the makers of Beezi, the spelling game.

In the United States, spelling bees are a big deal. The granddaddy of them all is the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is so big that it’s broadcast on ESPN. It has attracted contestants from across the United States, even from New Zealand and Guam.

Luckily, you don’t have to go that far to challenge yourself, friends and family to an around-the-kitchen-table spelling contest.

For the past few months, Beezi has been on retail shelves, offering enthusiasts a family-friendly way to have fun and learn something new.

It’s – or is it “its” ? – available in Chapters Indigo stores, where it has been selling well, according to Tony and Robyn Goldstein, the brother-and-sister team who developed the product.

Management at the bookseller’s Yonge and Eglinton store have indicated Beezi has been their No. 1 selling game over the past few weeks, Tony said.

Out of their initial production run of 3,000 units, Chapters Indigo has taken nearly 2,000. The Goldsteins have been making the rounds at toy fairs, trying to create a buzz around it.

Naturally, they’re (or is it their?) enthusiastic about the game.

“There’s nothing quite like it in the market,” said Tony.

Spelling bees are quite popular, he continued, and the game has the added benefit, in an era of social media and blogging, of improving people’s spelling skills when they’re writing a lot.

Plus, spelling bees are really fun, said Robyn, a teacher by training.

She traced the origin of the game back a few years to the time when she worked for her brother. The staff would gather in the company’s boardroom for lunch, and to keep things interesting, Tony would challenge them to spell a word correctly. 

“We had so much fun, we thought it would be a good idea to market it to the broader community,” Robyn said.

They sunk about $100,000 of their own money into the product. At a little more than $30 a game, it could take some time before they begin to show a profit. But like venture capitalists everywhere, the Goldsteins are banking on another exit.

They believe the game could become another Scrabble, with the same sort of popularity and longevity enjoyed by that word game. They’re hoping a big toy manufacturer acquires the game and buys them out.

But, Tony said, “first we need to create some credibility for the product, get some sales behind it.”

The game consists of 2,000 words on 500 cards. “Every card includes the definition of the word, the part of speech, phonetics and origin,” Robyn said.

The game is great at parties and at the cottage. “We want it to be a family game, for people to be together and not using technology,” Robyn said.

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