why did you call it ‘spike’s sight words?’

“Ah…that’s a good question and it always makes me smile when I am asked it. After I had designed my logo, I suppose I wanted to give the octopus a name and a personality to match. I knew the word ‘sight’ needed to be in the title and because I love alliterations also it needed to begin with an ‘S’. I remember having a short-list of some names ‘Sally, Simmy, Sam’ etc but none of them were very catchy. I eventually went with Spike – like the famous film director!”

I suppose the next question should be, why did you choose an octopus?
[smiles] “I had a feeling that question may follow. Well firstly I wanted an animal as my logo and I researched what the most intelligent of animals were to tie in with our ethos of helping children to read. I remember some of the animals I was looking at were owls, dogs, monkeys and of course an octopus! For some reason, I was just drawn to the idea of an octopus and being able to make the words from its tentacles.


“Well it was mainly because I was trying to teach my son these words. I had taught him the alphabet and phonetical sounds to the letters so the next stage was learning small, high-frequency words like in, it, the, she etc.”



what age did you start teaching your son to read?

“Hmmmm… very young to be honest. Well young compared to most people. I had successfully taught my daughter to read at 2 years old. My son was much more behind though so I went more at his pace. I suppose I started teaching the alphabet at 2 or 3 years old and letter sounds around 3-4 years old. I know this is young and a lot of people will say ‘it’s too young and your child should be playing not learning how to read’ but for me, I wanted to give him the gift of reading and I simply thought to myself, why not start at a young age? My son had plenty of playtime also by the way! But my son took YEARS to grasp letter sounds and he never seemed to remember any small high-frequency words I gave him – hence why I had to find a different way of teaching him.

so how did the board game idea come about?

“Are you asking about my “Eureka” moment? [smiles]. Well I remember being in our lounge in Qatar (where Sophie and her family used to live) and my daughter was reading book after book to myself and our nanny. I could see the joy she was getting from it, I could hear the laughter when the words and pictures made her laugh -it filled my heart with happiness. I then looked at my son who was playing with his toy cars in the play area. His hand would always have a toy car in it and he would spend hours parking them / fixing them and just being a typical boy which I loved. I didn’t want to take away the car from his hand as it made him so happy, so I thought to myself, what if he could use the toy car in some sort of learning? I suppose it was then that I thought of the idea to draw a racing track on some paper with words on it. After about 20 minutes and a very sketchy picture, I asked him to come over and play it. The fact that I HADN’T told him to leave his toy car in the play area and to instead BRING the car to the table really captured his attention. It wasn’t long before I too had a toy car and was using it to race along the track, stopping off to learn a word. After we played it, I thought to myself I wanted to make the picture more professional looking and colourful – so that night at work, I did my first design!

tell us about your old work?

“My background is in film and television and in Qatar I worked for a global news channel. The shifts were long but we had lots of breaks in between – breaks which would sometimes be 4 hours long! We were not allowed to leave the building however {encase of breaking news} – so it is this time that I used to work on my designs. Sssh…don’t tell my old boss that!”

I remember playing my ‘make-shift’ board game with my son. He really liked using his ‘construction’ vehicles for this one.

so how did you go from designing your own boards to manufacturing them?

“I had been playing my make-shift board games with my children for a few weeks. I enjoyed going to work on a night shift for a change as this is where I got the most breaks and therefore time to work on my designs. Before you ask me, I don’t feel guilty doing them at work because at 4am, you need something to keep you awake during the long breaks. Instead of eating chocolate and drinking coffee, the ‘adrenaline’ of creating something new was enough for me to perform my job well by keeping alert till 8am!

After a few months, I thought to myself “I want to make a company out of this”.

what did you have to do then?

“Well this is an interesting question because this was around 2020 I believe and the world and Qatar was in the height of corona! I mention this because it was an important time for me mentally. Life in Qatar was really tough under corona and for a lot of people it meant we couldn’t do what we normally did. To cut a long story short, it made me feel like ‘I want to get out of this situation and country. ‘ My children were missing out on so much (all parks were closed for nearly a year) and so it was this desire to improve my families life is what gave me the ‘guts’ to press send when sending over the money to the manufacturers!”

So can you tell us what the different stages were?

“Sure, so after coming up with the idea and the concept, I mentally had to battle whether to ‘go for it’ and send over the money to a company I had found in China. At first, I paid for a sample. This in itself was a few thousands dollars (I’m starting to clam up at the thought of it all!). The sample was good but had issues – mainly the strap handle wasn’t strong enough and actually fell off when I opened it. Having paid thousands of dollars for this sample, you can imagine I wasn’t best pleased! But the sample was essential in improving the product and making it into what it is today. I then had to get testing of the product (this again cost thousands of dollars to do) but there is no escaping this one. It is important especially since Spike’s is a children’s product. Luckily, it all passed and we were given the go ahead to begin production. I remember sending the money for the first batch order. I stared at the screen for ages, debating whether I could justify spending so much money, But when i clicked ‘send’ and the money went through – I was elated!”

Did you carry on working in your job?

“I did for a bit but now that I had found my PASSION in life, my head and heart were more into that. I had worked there for 14 years and knew the time was right for me to return to England to begin work on the company. The boards were going to take 6 months to produce and ship to England so I handed in my notice shortly after. My family and I moved to England a month before my shipment was due!”

You mention your family a lot, do they help you with Spike?

“I love my family very much hence all the mentions! And yes they do help me – A LOT. They help me take photos, come up with ideas, spread the word to their friends etc. Last year they helped me in an Exhibiiton. I was 2 ways about bringing them but then I thought 2 things. One people could see the children who inspired Spike and two, my children could learn how a business promotes itself. It was mainly a win, win for all!”

What is your proudest moment so far?

“Great question and you can see from my smile, it means a lot. I suppose there are a few – if that’s allowed. Firstly, seeing my shipment arrive and seeing the board games physically was a very proud moment. Then I suppose, seeing my children’s reading and spelling improve, from something I created is another proud moment. But professionally, I would say being nominated for a British Dyslexia Association Award this year was the best moment. Although I didn’t win, seeing my logo and my product on the big screen, in front of esteemed educators, politicians and even Royalty was my proudest moment. I am sure there are MANY more to come however….”

What are your dreams for Spike’s Sight Words?

“Oh i do have big dreams but I cannot share them all with you! Let’s just say that our ambitions are HUGE – we want to be used in every school up and down the UK and we want to be known and present in every country worldwide! So many children around the world need to learn to read and our board games can help in that. It is a dream of mine to see photos of children learning to read with our board games from every corner of the globe!”

Is there anything you would have done differently?

“Hmmm…that’s a good one. Let me think…there isn’t much to the product I would ever change as I worked so hard on getting that right from the start. I suppose one day, I may include ‘phonics’ tokens so parents can start at the VERY beginning of learning to read. I suppose I would then have to include alphabet tokens also!”

What do you think ‘Spike’ needs now?

“Tough question and I don’t want to ‘spill all the beans’ on this one! I suppose like any company, it needs exposure. Exposure costs money however so that’s something I am working on. It is an interesting dilemma of mine – whether to keep going alone with it all or seek investment! I was thinking about applying for ‘Dragon’s Den’ (a UK TV show for investors and businesses) but I think my company is too young. Saying this, we are getting orders from across the world and there is definitely a strong market for it so who knows! Carpe Diem is my motto in life!”

Do you regret leaving your job to set up the company?

“(Sophie chuckles) I thought that maybe a question! The answer is ‘NO’. I don’t regret my time in Qatar, it gave me the ability to invest into my own company. It also gave me experience as I also set up a small company there with my business partner and learned the ins and outs of business. But like any entrepreneur, I am still learning and will always learn. I love working on my own company. I love waking up early to answer emails. I love staying up late, editing a video or advert for social media. It is a wonderful feeling also knowing that your product is helping children with their reading. As cheesy as it sounds, If I manage to instill a love of reading to a few children of this world then there will never be any regrets!”

Did you or do you have any doubts about the product?

“Definitely not! I believe in the product! I know it is helping children with their reading and spelling. What I will say however is that there were times when I thought about whether children were still willing to learn with board games rather than spend time playing educational online games. I shouldn’t have had those doubts because the market research and global sales prove that lots of people are still wanting to learn with board games. In my opinion, it is much more efficient playing a board games rather than stuck pressing buttons and swiping in front of the screen!”

Final question, what are your favourite 3 boards?

“Oh…that’s the hardest of all your questions! I would say there are 2 types of ‘favourite’. Let me explain, favourite which I think have the best graphics and pictures and favourite which mean the most personally. My favourite graphically would be ‘Magic Forest’, ‘Ancient Egypt’ and ‘Famous Landmarks’ and my favourite personally would be ‘Formula One’ as my son loves playing that. ‘Cops ‘n’ Robbers’ which my daughter inspired and ‘Pink Castle’ as I remember playing it with my daughter.”

Good luck Spike!