We earn commissions if you shop through the links below. Read more

Crafting a Niche in Gamer-Themed Self-Care with D20 Alchemy

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Crafting a Niche in Gamer-Themed Self-Care with D20 Alchemy

In the imaginative realm of D20 Alchemy, Carl Carnagey, the owner, and his wife Liz Carnagey, the co-owner, have merged the worlds of gaming and self-care with their unique bath bombs. Designed for gamers, each product not only offers a rejuvenating experience with scents like tea tree and lavender but also includes a collectible twenty-sided dice, emblematic of their gaming roots.

This interview with Carl Carnagey explores the creative journey behind D20 Alchemy, from conceptualization to engaging their gamer audience, and delves into the challenges, sustainability efforts, and future aspirations of this innovative brand.

Liz Carnagey
Carl Carnagey

Inspiration Behind D20 Alchemy

What inspired you to start D20 Alchemy, and how did you identify a niche for gamer-themed self-care products?

D20 Alchemy was something of a merger between our strong desire to work in a company doing something we cared about and a company we would have fun running – with products and concepts we enjoy, such as gaming and self-care for people who love it! Who doesn’t like a great bath bomb on a cold winter evening and a good book (LitRPG preferably)? We sure do, and we also love tabletop gaming for its many unique and positive experiences. Tabletop gaming helps people come together in a meaningful way and have real social interactions that can help us grow in ways many other avenues cannot, offering direct social interaction that we so often lack in a world of social media and distanced relationships.

Product Development Process

Can you describe the process of developing your unique bath bombs? How did you decide on the specific themes and ingredients?

This was a fun process, actually, and it took some time. Bath bombs are surprisingly hard to formulate properly, even for someone with a chemistry background. The key was to find the right set of ingredients that would provide the most benefit to the skin and to the bath experience, while also being able to capture just the right amount of moisture to hold together for the long term. No one wants a bath bomb that disintegrates as soon as it’s opened.

We spent a large amount of time on trial and error shifting one variable at a time to find our formulation.  Then we added the dice in the middle and had to start over completely, again. I know we should have seen that coming, but such is life when starting a business. Oftentimes, things are learned the hard way.

Challenges and Solutions

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome them?

Really, we are still facing these challenges: most of our experience in business is centered around traditional brick and mortar operations where hitting the pavement and “shaking hands” can make the relationships your business will depend on for years to come. 

The online-only model, while vastly superior, is more of an unknown to us, and we needed to find some help to get our name out there and start getting our product in front of potential customers.  It’s still an ongoing process but improving monthly.

Target Audience Engagement

How do you engage with your target audience, the gaming community, to ensure your products meet their needs and preferences?

Good question, I think this is something we actually need to do more of. While we are gamers, and we know gamers, that is only one small subset of the community. We have identified a long list of local and regional trade shows that we would like to begin attending, but for now my wife and I both have day jobs that can make that hard. 

Marketing Strategies

What marketing strategies have been most effective in promoting D20 Alchemy, and how do you tailor them to appeal to gamers?

The bath bomb product tailored to gamers is another way to bring gaming into your life, uniquely. Our content creators do a great job of focusing on the spirit of the project by helping us craft blogs and other materials focused on the gaming experience, such as creating a character for your first game or how a GM might select a campaign to run for beginners. 

Tabletop gaming is a social experience, and we want to do our part to make it as approachable as possible for those who visit our digital storefront. As much as we would love to sit down and play a game with everyone that buys our product, the helpful articles on our blog will fill a similar role.

Sustainability Practices

Can you elaborate on your sustainability practices? How do you balance eco-friendliness with product quality and cost?

Since we are still scaling, we haven’t balanced the cost yet. Sustainability, however, is a different matter. As a professional in the world of chemistry and materials science, I know how important it is to stay as close to a pure unadulterated ingredient as possible. This helps to reduce the impact on our environment by reducing processing, packaging, and shipping on all levels. The more pure the ingredients are, the better they work to create a consistent bath bomb formula. I love win-win situations!

Community Building Efforts

How do you build and maintain a community around your brand, and why is this important for your business?

We leave that to the experts –  as mentioned above, our experience leans heavily into the local small business model. That said, we try to be open and available for questions and feedback at all opportunities and welcome any further chances to engage with our customers or like minded business owners.

Product Diversification

Are you planning to expand your product line beyond bath bombs? If so, what new products might we expect in the future?

Oh absolutely! We have concrete plans and formulations for bath salts, shower steamers (aka shower disks), lotions, and face creams. We are currently playing around with how to formulate a candle set to go with the bath products in an effort to create a full at-home spa experience for the “discerning gamer.”

We considered a soap line as well, but we are having a hard time figuring out how to carry the gamer theme forward with it. I suppose dice shaped soap bars would be cool, but we haven’t found an idea that we love yet. 

Customer Feedback Incorporation

How do you incorporate customer feedback into your product development and business strategies?

This is something we need more of; we have a small set of customer feedback notes, with several dozen instances or so. But the customer is the reason for the company, and we are excited to get more opportunities to hear what people think and adjust our product accordingly. Not to mention, I always love the chance to try and build something new from scratch and look forward to ideas that lead to some creative product research.

Funding and Investment

How did you fund your startup, and do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on securing investment or managing finances?

This is my 4th company in the last 10 years, the first 3 did fairly well and were started with outside investment through the sale of equity stakes to fund the launch. D20 Alchemy, however, is funded entirely by my wife and me. We really wanted something we had full control over that could be fun and fulfilling in a way that reporting to a board can never be. It may take longer to grow the company this way, but in the end I think it will be worth it.

Regarding advice to aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to raise capital or manage finances, that topic is one I’d love to explore deeply, in a separate article. Fundraising is a challenging and sometimes rewarding endeavor that has any number of pitfalls and idiosyncrasies. For example, selling equity in an LLC is very different from raising capital for a C-Corp.  

The one constant piece of advice is do not, by any means, take on money from family or friends unless they don’t need that money.  Every business takes longer to reach profit than expected, and there are always challenges along the way. 

If being an entrepreneur wasn’t hard, everyone would do it, and then it wouldn’t be worth doing. Protect your relationships; they are often worth more than money. 

Business Growth and Scaling

How have you managed the growth of your business, and what are your strategies for scaling up in the future?

We are so early on in this company that I can’t say we have managed to grow yet. We do have high hopes in the work of our marketing partners and the patience to see that through. 

Scaling in the future is a different matter. With a product-based business, we would never have launched if we didn’t have a scaling plan in place. In fact, our costs shift dramatically at several points, from 100 units every 30 days all the way to 10,000. For example: at 3,000 units per month of any single product, automation becomes a key focus area because the efficiency lost without it will cost more than the ingredients for the product.

Unless you are a Ferrari, building an incredibly high dollar value product, a scaling plan must be done prior to launch. This may change along the way, but you should have it 80% dialed in. 

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business in a niche market, particularly in the gaming or self-care industry?

While being an entrepreneur is an amazing journey, it can be the hardest thing you will ever do – but if you find an industry you enjoy, it will also be incredibly fulfilling.

Before you start, make a plan. I’m not talking about a business plan (that comes later). I’m referring to envisioning what success looks like in that business for you. Then, once you have that image, write down a list of the most obvious steps you think it would take to get there. This becomes your focus, your reason why, and will guide the rest of the process. 

Future Vision and Goals

What is your vision for the future of D20 Alchemy, and what goals do you have for the company in the next five years?

The vision for D20 Alchemy is to be a gamer-focused company that helps broaden the awareness of gaming while also helping normalize gaming in mainstream culture by tying it to a thing we all know and love: self-care.

In 5 years, we would like to have a full product line, ideally consisting of a set of 6 self- care products like bath bombs, soaps, lotions, a face cream, and accessory products like candles, short tabletop campaign books, and more. We would then like to combine these individual products into gift boxes and experience packages that can be customized for the buyer through theme selection.  I tend to play the anti-hero type, so for me, this would be a box set geared towards a death knight character or a rakish bard.

From a financial perspective, we would like to eclipse 2 million per year by year 5 with an EBITA in the 20% range. We aren’t looking to make some ungodly amount of money on this company; we just want to make enough to transition it to our full time passion.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Crafting a Niche in Gamer-Themed Self-Care with D20 Alchemy