Please Introduce Yourself
Hello, my name is Kathleen Donahue, and I own Labyrinth Games and Puzzles, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Pensacola, Florida, in the northwest part of the state.
What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?
I wanted to be free from having a boss. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family—my father owned the largest liquor store between New Orleans and Jacksonville—I was influenced by that environment. After working for others for many years, I decided to start my own business.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
The idea developed when I was working part-time while my son was in school. I didn’t want to return to full-time work under a boss. After many failed business suggestions to my husband, a finance professional, the idea struck when I was stuck in traffic after searching for a birthday present. This led to the idea of opening a store focused on games and puzzles. I researched how to run a retail store in the digital age and founded Labyrinth.
When did you start your business?
We opened in November of 2010, and we just turned 13. So Labyrinth is now a teenager. It’s been a long road, and we’re still here. It’s kind of amazing after the pandemic, but we’re still here.
What makes your products unique?
We are the only store in Washington, D.C., specializing in non-electronic board games and puzzles. Our store stands out as one of the largest in the country in terms of revenue. Our products cater to the evolving popularity of board games, especially among young adults.
What is your company’s mission?
Our mission is to create laughter, fun, and togetherness through non-electronic gaming and puzzles. Essentially, we aim to bring joy and community to people’s lives through these activities.
Please describe your company’s successes. Is there a pivotal moment?
We’ve experienced many successes, including surviving the pandemic. We’ve won several awards, including recognition from the Game Manufacturers Association, a Capitol Hill Brickie Award, as well as a Capitol Hill Community Foundation Spark Award, which recognizes people or businesses on Capitol Hill that bring a new spark to the neighborhood. There have been so many wonderful successes, but I think the most important success is when I see people playing together and enjoying one another. We do tons of events, and when I see that, it reminds me why I do this.
Why this location?
I chose Capitol Hill because it’s near my home and my son’s school. I love the community feel of Capitol Hill, a small town within a major metropolis. The area is culturally rich yet retains a close-knit community atmosphere.
How does your business help your neighborhood and community?
That’s pretty much all we do; it really is our major focus. We do an annual teacher’s wishlist fund, and last year, we gave over $40,000 worth of games to local teachers for their classrooms. We do game nights for senior citizens and at local schools. We do over 500 events annually, both in the store and the community. I am also incredibly involved in supporting local small businesses. I’m on the board of Eastern Market Main Street, which is a local nonprofit that helps the small businesses in our area and I work very closely with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, and I’m in charge of promotions for a lot of things. This year we did a Thanksgiving promotion called Better Together, where we had 18 local businesses do a gift card exchange – If you shopped at one store, you got a $5 gift card to another local business. I do a lot of work to support small businesses in our community.
A fun fact or unique thing about your business?
For two consecutive years, we’ve been selected to manage all tabletop gaming at Awesome Con, DC’s Comic Conference. Our involvement has been well-received, and we’re expanding our presence at the event.
How would you define your business in three words?
Intelligent, Community, Fun.
What is your favorite holiday?
I enjoy the winter holiday season for its sense of joy, kindness, and community. It’s a time for warmth, hot cocoa, fires, and puzzles. Making a big fire, having a glass of wine, and doing a jigsaw puzzle is pretty much my perfect day.
What would you recommend people buy from your store?
Our store is known for personalized recommendations. One of the things that we’re known for is having an incredibly knowledgeable staff that is able to pick the right product for the right person. In fact, I think that’s why we’re still successful when you have so many options online. Being able to walk in and get personalized advice is what we’re good at. If I were going to pick any one thing, I would say that there is a new game this year called Sky Team, which has been incredibly popular. I played it the other day, and I really, really enjoyed it. It’s a two-player, dice-rolling game about landing an airplane. I have not won it yet, but it is a blast to play, even though I keep crashing my plane. I think it would make a great family game – it’s cooperative and fun!
What is the best thing a customer has ever said to you?
A lot of customers have told us some version of the following, “I made friends, or I met my wife or husband through your store or your products. Or your team and store have brought me together with other people.” So many people have said something like, “I brought this game home, and now my family is playing together.” I’ve also heard that through the events in the store, people who have just moved to Washington, D.C. have made lifelong friends. Hearing those testimonials really means a lot to me.