“Take a chance and create or build something,” said JT Nejedlo, “if you have an idea, just go for it.” JT is a senior in the Bachelor of Business Administration program majoring in Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Information Systems and he takes his own advice to heart. Not only has JT launched his own company DELU, he built a rollercoaster in high school with a childhood friend in their backyard.
DELU is a tailgate-type game that can be played inside or outside by people of all ages and abilities. Born out of boredom and free time between JT’s senior year of high school and freshman year of college, DELU was a way for JT to channel his creativity and love of building into something tangible. Taking elements of other games that he enjoyed, JT started with a low fidelity prototype, chalk on his driveway, and refined the rules and gameboard as he played. JT built a wooden game board and brought DELU with him to his dorm freshman year. After seeing his dorm mates having fun and enjoying DELU, JT decided he would try to bring the game to market.
JT was inspired by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman’s advice, “if you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.” With that understanding DELU has evolved through nearly a dozen prototypes over the last three years. JT started small and made continual improvements based on feedback from users and manufacturing partners. He also leveraged his entrepreneurial classes to iterate and refine his business, ultimately launching direct to consumer sales in December 2019.
It’s also been important for JT to stick to his vision for the company to keep focused on bringing DELU to market. There are many directions he could pursue like custom colors or licensing agreements with sports teams, but JT is prioritizing getting his current design in the hands of as many consumers as possible. In launching the company, JT said he was surprised to learn how difficult it can be to reach customers. Building the DELU brand through social media, blogging, and event promotions, he continues to drive traffic to his website. DELU is engaging and captivates players with their first throw. JT is dedicated to growing his company after graduation in May and hopes to ultimately get the game on store shelves.
“There is nothing cooler than seeing people having fun playing something I created,” JT said. “It really is a dream come true that I have my own product in the market that people love.” Success with DELU is JT’s dream and he plans to work on it as long as people continue to enjoy the game.
The name DELU came from an episode of Drake & Josh. JT and his friend turned the made-up word into an expression of excitement or joy. They enjoyed using the phrase, so when he was looking for a name for his game, he thought it was a good fit. Not to mention, DELU is easily searchable, identifiable, and comes up on the first page of Google results.
The game requires skill, but also a little bit of luck; to play DELU, players alternate bouncing a ball into one of five slots on the game board. One to four points is earned depending on where the ball lands. The first player to get to 20 points wins, however; if a player busts by scoring more than 20 or players tie, they go back to 15. Players can get an automatic win by making the ball into a small hole at the top of the board, but the other player then has a chance for a rebuttal.
While JT will continue to perfect DELU, he accepted a position with PlayMonster as an Associate Brand Manager.
Check out delugames.com for more information about DELU and to order your game. It’s the perfect gift to play inside or outdoors for those of us who are looking for a new activity.