Ask most service members who’ve been on a long term deployment—things can get a little boring in between combat missions. Whether they’re on a carrier ship, or in the middle of the Iraq desert, boredom becomes the enemy that must be destroyed.
Minnesota native and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Matt Butler decided to tackle that mission. During his own downtime in between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Matt conceptualized a game that combines elements of two old games—Horseshoes and Bocce—to make one easy and mobile game.
Once he returned from overseas, Matt created a prototype in his garage and did some very important product testing; he brought this new game to bar-b-ques, pool parties, and other outdoor get-togethers to make sure the idea was well-received and, of course, that people had fun playing!
Matt gathered some local veterans to help construct the game, called Rollors, and soon enough, Rollors turned into an award-winning and unique backyard game. In fact, the Wall Street Journal even called it the “best new lawn games you’ve never heard of.”
Did you catch that? Not the Wall Street Journal part…the other part.
Not only does Matt serve our country in the Air Force, but he’s also noticed a need within the veterans community for stable employment, and is leading a charge to change lives through his business by hiring veterans.
I had the chance to talk to Matt about Rollors, his journey to entrepreneurship, and balancing his active duty military status. How does someone keep all the plates spinning?
“Rollors is very time consuming, but well worth the time and effort between my Air Force career,” he shared. “I’ve really enjoyed networking with other entrepreneurs…or in my case a “vetrepreneur.”
Matt’s been in the Air Force for 19 years, and says succeeding as an entrepreneur means being awesome at time management.
“I try to balance Rollors between my family and work,” Matt told me. “Having a clear understanding of my priorities is key to my success. My family is always my number one priority.”
When not with his family, or wearing his Air Force uniform, I learned Matt’s joy in serving others has been a big part of the Rollors’ story. Matt says he started receiving emails from people all over the United States asking if he could mentor them as they searched for the next steps in their own journey to business-ownership.
“It feels very rewarding to be able to help others pursue their ideas,” he said.
Matt now uses his success with Rollors to help other veterans needing a second career. He consults with them on how to effectively manage their inventions, and shares his knowledge on patenting, distributing, and selling his invention in hopes to inspire and guide other retired and active “brothers in arms” with their creations.
As I talked to Matt, I imagined it couldn’t get better than having an idea come to life and impact so many others in the process. For him, he says the enjoyment of seeing Rollors in stores also puts a pretty big smile on his face.
“I went over to one of my college buddy’s house one day to find them playing corn hole in the backyard. About two or three games in, they brought out some other games to play,” he recalled. In the stack of games that appeared, sat Matt’s game.
“My buddy said he’d never seen me smile so big as when I saw Rollors in that batch of games.”
Since it’s creation only a few years ago, Matt and his game have been featured just about everywhere that matters. From the Today Show, to CNBC and Popular Mechanics. You can imagine life can get pretty busy for Matt—between active duty service and entrepreneurship—but there’s one thing I know for sure: it sure isn’t boring!
Have you ever dreamed of starting a business or creating an invention? What were some of the things you wish you knew before you got started?