Mel Bolen

This past December, four days before Christmas, Madeline Bolen passed away.   Better known to her friends and family as Mel, she was the entrepreneur behind Victoria’s book retailer Bolen Books.

Mel played an important role in the history of Outset Media.  She was our first customer!

Back in 1997, I was a 23-year-old budding entrepreneur.  I had written and designed our first game All Canadian Trivia Board GameTM and had just printed 20,000 copies.  Now it was time to sell those games.

This was in the days before most people had access to the Internet.  To get the word out to retailers, I wrote a sales letter introducing the game.  I had no sales materials, no business card… not even a picture of the game to include.  All I had was that sales letter, which I sent via snail mail to several hundred toy stores, game stores, and bookstores across Canada.

Now, I wasn’t so naïve to think it would be as simple as mailing out some letters and waiting for the orders to start pouring in.  I was fully prepared to make follow-up calls.  But before I could start calling, an order arrived on my fax machine (I would have saved that order, but of course everyone used thermal paper fax machines back then, and those faxes fade away after several years).

That first order was from Mel Bolen.  Heck… maybe this was going to be easier than I thought!!!  Of course, it wasn’t that easy.  Mel Bolen was a big supporter of local authors, so it made sense that she would eagerly support a local game inventor.

Back in 1997, bookstores were just starting to dabble in non-book sidelines.  In fact, All Canadian Trivia Board GameTM was the first game ever sold at Bolen Books.  Their first order was for 24 copies of the game, and they would end up ordering an amazing 382 copies that first year.

Quite coincidentally, Bolen Books was very close to my house - it only took about 3 minutes to walk there.  I have fond memories of walking to the bookstore every day after work with my wife, Joy Marie, just to see how many copies had sold that day.  And Mel Bolen was always there… happy to see us… and happy to see the game was a success.

Mel Bolen will be missed.