When Jeston Jacobson was 11 years old, he was entertaining himself by playing with dice. He would build the dice into little towers, then use other dice to knock them over. He enjoyed it so much he came up with actual rules, and shared it with his dad and some other family members and friends, who also enjoyed it.

Fast forward to the present day, and now 14-year-old Jeston’s tabletop game is a life-size lawn game, Knock ‘Em, and it’s available to purchase online.

“When he showed me the tabletop version and we played I was like, oh, that was a lot of fun, right? Because your kid came up with something, you’re like, oh yeah that was fun, but the fact that we actually got into it, and it was actually a lot of fun, that was No. 1,” Jeston’s dad, Eric Jacobson, said.

After working on a tabletop version of the game for about a year, Jacobson came up with the idea of turning it into a lawn game instead.

“There was a moment I was like, you know what, I feel (a lawn game) would be an easier thing to market,” Jacobson said. “We love yard games, and we know that there’s people who like yard games.”

The game consists of 17 “towers” that are set up in the shape of a cross, with one tower in the middle , with the other 16 towers in lines of four surrounding it. Each line of towers is a different color, and players have a soft ball in a corresponding color which they use to try and knock down other players’ towers.

The first iteration of the game was made out of wood. Jacobson said he went to Home Depot and bought a few 4x4s and made the towers.

“We played it and played with some friends and got some positive feedback, and we had a lot of fun doing it,” Jacobson said. “If we have a lot of fun, that’s step one.”

However, the wood presented a major problem: it was too heavy, weighing in around 40 pounds.

“Not easy for someone to haul to the park,” Jacobson said.

Jeston and his dad went through several different ideas on how to make the game lighter, as well as figuring out where to manufacture it and how to manufacture it in a cost-effective way.

“Then we just thought of cups,” Jeston said. “They stack easy, they’re light.”

The Jacobsons started a Kickstarter campaign last year with the goal of raising $15,000. Unfortunately, they only raised $8,000 — but, Jeston said, that was still a lot of money.

“We didn’t reach our goal, but still, a bunch of people had bought it and I think it kind of showed people actually want this, so it gave us some more hope in doing it and trying it on our own,” Jeston said.

Jeston’s dad decided to invest in the product himself instead. After finding the right manufacturers to make the towers, the balls and the bag they come in, they were able to order 500 sets to be made. They’ve sold around 70 so far, and the rest are taking up space in their unfinished basement.

“The funds that were put to finish the basement are in the product, and the product’s now taking the space in the basement that’s unfinished,” Jacobson said.

Jeston does all the fulfillment, putting the sets together and boxing them up to ship, from their home in Spanish Fork. It’s just part of being an entrepreneur, and Jeston so far is enjoying it.

“It feels cool because not very many people get to do this,” Jeston said. “I’m actually doing it.”

Supporting Jeston through the development and investing in the product, Jacobson said, has been a rewarding project to bring father and son closer together.

“Having teenagers, it’s good to find something that’s a common thing you can connect with,” Jacobson said. “Having an opportunity for us to have something that’s collaborative, that I can support him in, has just been awesome.”

Jacobson said it’s also been beneficial to see Jeston grow and learn through the process.

“(Passing) on the skills you’ve learned in life to your kids, there’s not really a better way than doing something with them and sharing the things that you’re learning and have learned,” Jacobson said.

One of the things both Jeston and his dad have had to face is getting comfortable approaching people, to tell them about the product.

“You just have to go up to people and say, ‘go look this up,’” Jeston said. “Just random people ... it’s a little bit uncomfortable.”

Being able to approach people with confidence, Jacobson said, is a valuable life skill that kids don’t always have the opportunity to learn. In a one-on-one situation with his dad at least, Jacobson said Jeston already is pretty confident when it comes to the game he invented. Whereas some might be worried that a kid entrepreneur would yield to their parent’s idea, Jacobson said Jeston isn’t afraid to push back.

“He pushes back all the time on my ideas,” Jacobson said. “He truly owns how the game plays, what the product looks like, all those things. I’m doing a lot to help with some of the sourcing and some running the business side of it, but the invention and everything is 100% him and it’s just awesome to be a part of (it).”

For the game itself, Jacobson said they hope to build it into a successful, sustainable business. Partially because they enjoy playing it with their own family and friends and want others to have that same experience, but also with the hope it will help pay for some of Jeston’s future, such as college and serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“To have something that can support him, and have on his resume, to be able to have something lean on both financially and experience-wise,” Jacobson said. “I think my biggest goal for (Jeston) is just experience, to help him grow and develop and become a successful individual someday.”

The biggest obstacle to that goal is currently finding the right audience for their product. Jeston and his dad are confident people would like the game — if they just knew where to find it. But it’s all just part of the process. Jeston’s goal for himself is similar to his dad’s.

“To learn how to do this for the future, maybe help figure out what I want to do in the future and help pay for things.”

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

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