For game company ThinkFun, Inc., the kickoff to the largest toy fair in the western hemisphere on Valentine’s Day is especially sweet timing. It was 30 years ago in February 1985 that Andrea Barthello and Bill Ritchie co-founded ThinkFun with a dream to ignite the minds of children worldwide, and 30 years ago that they were married. Today, ThinkFun is the leading developer of addictively fun games that build 21st century thinking skills like Gravity Maze™, just named Toy of the Year in the specialty category.
The couple’s tale of the day their dream turned to reality reads like a paperback thriller. Working together at a Washington DC area real estate company, Barthello resigned just as Ritchie was being fired. When shortly thereafter the company’s CEO was indicted for insurance fraud and fled the country, they joke the “stars were aligned.”
In the early years of ThinkFun, Barthello and Ritchie’s basement was command central, serving as home office, assembly line and distribution center. “People enjoy hearing the story of how we built our company from basement to global brand in a notoriously competitive and ever-changing industry,” said Barthello who serves as ThinkFun’s chief operating officer. “But heads lean in really close when we talk about working together as spouses for 30 years!”
While quick to add that every situation is different and what works for them won’t work for everyone, Barthello and Ritchie are happy to share the insight they’ve cultivated these past three decades. They cite understanding what each of you is good at (and avoiding overlap), taking time for yourself and banning business talk over breakfast as three simple mantras. It also comes in handy that they each bring distinctive talents to the table, with Barthello the fearless problem-solver in operations, marketing and sales, and Ritchie, the visionary, techie and finance expert.
On an occasion when many couples would be commemorating their 30th with the tradition of pearls or the modern gift of diamonds, Barthello and Ritchie have something way more fun up their sleeves. At this year’s Toy Fair they will unveil the long-awaited two-player edition to their iconic traffic jam strategy game, Rush Hour, winner of 26 awards since its introduction in 1996. Dubbed Rush Hour® Shift, the game features two drivers trying to break free from traffic and reach the other side while the foundation below shifts with no warning. Some might say the game is a clever parallel to the institution of marriage. “Sometimes in marital matters – business or otherwise – you have to go head-to-head to come out the other side with clarity and purpose,” said Barthello. “And just when you have it all straight, there’s an unexpected shift!”
About ThinkFun, Inc.
For 32 years, ThinkFun Inc. has been dedicated to creating games that spark curiosity, cultivate confidence, and nurture life-long learners. Our games encourage interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM), while generating excitement for a world of learning through play. Innovation, creativity, value, and fun are the four elements that comprise the development of every game. Ignite the mind, and change the world for each player.