- Jenny Woo is the founder of Mind Brain Emotion, which sells emotional-intelligence card games.
- She started her company in 2018 after polling parents and school counselors for ideas.
- Woo has made six figures a year by leveraging Amazon Ads and customer surveys.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jenny Woo, the 40-year-old founder of Mind Brain Emotion, from Irvine, California. Insider has verified her business’ revenue with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I moved to the US from China when I was 10 and am the first one to earn multiple advanced degrees in my family. While in school, I learned to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity, advocate for myself, and develop authentic relationships — the starting point for what would later become a brand for teaching emotional intelligence.
I started working when I was 15 at dim-sum restaurants and Denny’s, but I’ve always had various entrepreneurial projects on the side, like scalping concert tickets in high school and selling photo-booth props and custom event designs on Etsy. As someone passionate about human development, I later held jobs as a human-capital consultant at Deloitte, a manager of talent strategy at Cisco Systems, an MBA career coach at UC Berkeley, a director of a Montessori school network, and a fitness trainer.
But in 2018, I quit my job at the Montessori school and founded my company, Mind Brain Emotion, where I sell practical card games on emotional intelligence. My company’s revenue in 2022 was more than $877,000.
This is how I did it.
The idea came together for me when I had 3 kids under 3 who would endlessly send me on an emotional roller coaster
My work in child development as a school director had highlighted to me the value of learning social and emotional skills early on in life. And as a student, I was in a class once where the instructor grouped students in pairs and had them draw poker cards with ice-breaker questions on them. I learned that a deck of cards was the perfect simple and tactical medium for my idea.
Next came the conceptualization stage. I studied the kind of language my target audience was using in Facebook groups for parents, counselors, and educators, and I polled a couple of groups to see how my products resonated with them.
Many moms in the groups said they struggled to connect with their kids because they didn’t know what to ask and didn’t have enough time in the day, so I highlighted a feature to respond to this pain point — “engaging prompts to connect with your kids on the go: in the car, while waiting in line, and at the dinner table” — in my product description.
In the early stages, I was iterating my product design myself almost every other week. I picked the card-deck design because I thought repurposing card suits and numbers would help users understand which skills they were working on without having to read a manual — the suits categorized the skills into competencies, and the numbers sorted them by level of difficulty.
I now hire a part-time copywriter and a seasonal designer when I’m working on a new product. My team is currently three people: a part-time content developer, a part-time salesperson, and me.
I started with a campaign on Kickstarter
In May 2018, I advertised 1,000 preorders on Kickstarter for my first product, a deck called 52 Essential Conversations. I told friends and family, emailed schools and parent organizations, posted in Facebook groups, ran Facebook ads, and made an Amazon storefront.
More than a third of the decks were bought via that Kickstarter campaign. I allocated the remaining decks to promote on Amazon and my website for the rest of the year, but everything sold out within the next two months after The Harvard Gazette published an article about my product. The publicity skyrocketed my sales on Amazon, and I plastered it all over my marketing copy and packaging.
I also invited teachers, counselors, and college professors to record audio on the theme and content of a single card in the deck on my podcast, then integrated a “lessons by topic” section into my website and promoted it as a virtual-card feature on Amazon. The expert guests and I then cross-promoted each other on social media.
I used Amazon Ads to bid on keywords that consumers used to search for similar products
A bid is the amount of money you’re willing to spend toward a keyword or advertisement. Amazon Ads includes an algorithm that recommends keyword bid prices to you. I bid on keywords related to what someone on Amazon might type when they searched for products related to emotional intelligence, such as “EQ for kids.”
To get preliminary data on which keywords were the most effective for driving people to my product, I used an Amazon tool that chooses keywords for you to bid on based on your product listing and related customer searches.
I learned that product-listing optimization was vital to my profitability and organic indexing, where you don’t have to pay to get on top of the search-results page. You have limited time to catch a shopper’s attention, so your product title, image, and description need to be as relevant as possible to what people are searching for and what you’re providing. The more people who click to buy your product after a relevant search, the more likely Amazon will rank your product higher in the search results.
I also talked to game-industry buyers at a conference in Chicago, and their feedback gave me the clarity I needed: I’d been marketing my cards as children’s toys, which would mean I’d be competing in vain against fun games backed by giant game makers. I decided to switch my language from “card game” to “educational learning tool.”
Next, I conducted a satisfactory survey
The survey consisted of 74 of my customers across dozens of schools in 11 countries. I used Qualtrics, an online-survey platform, and my email list to invite people to fill out the survey.
My goal was to get an inside look at how, where, and why my customers were using my product. I came up with 20 questions — a mix of multiple choice, checking all boxes that apply, and open-ended inquiries — and was amazed to discover that educators and mental–health professionals were using this tool more than parents were, as I thought it’d surely be the opposite. Their reasons were that my cards complied with their educational standards and were easy to use and understand.
The results helped me fine-tune my marketing copy on Amazon. I made it more educator-oriented by focusing on the learning and behavioral benefits in schools and after-school settings — speech and language support, class discussion, reflective writing prompts, and peer mentorship — and including photos from the educators’ classrooms on my website.
I did more market research in late 2018 and by the following March, another card deck was born: 52 Essential Relationships.
I’ve since expanded, and I now sell seven different decks. I went backward to move forward in my business because I recognized that in order to have genuine conversations, trust and understanding are prerequisites.