October 1, 2023

Neal Hoffman, the Cincinnati entrepreneur who pitched Mensch on a Bench to millions of viewers on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2014, has a new business venture that looks to play off the growing popularity of tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons. 
Hoffman, who successfully landed a six-figure investment on “Shark Tank” nearly eight years ago, recently led a group of unnamed local investors to acquire Metallic Dice Games, a tabletop dice company based in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Hoffman said the purchase price topped $3 million. 
Hoffman continues to actively run Mensch on a Bench, a doll and storybook combo that’s become the Jewish equivalent to Elf on a Shelf; however, the company is at the point now where he can take on other opportunities. That’s why he’s diving into Metallic Dice Games.
He said there’s plenty of room to take Metallic Dice Games to the next level.
Metallic Dice Games founder Adam Hackett launched the company 10 years ago. Hackett previously interned at Chessex, another dice company based in Fort Wayne, and saw an opportunity to branch off to develop metal dice. The company has since expanded with products made out of resin, plastic, silicon (which Hoffman calls silent dice) and stone.
Its latest offering includes Elixir Dice, which are hand-crafted, sharp-edged and liquid-filled with a snowglobe-like effect. A full set of seven will sell for $80. 
“It’s a very personal accessory,” Hoffman said. “It really represents you as a player. People have put a lot of thought and effort into the kind of dice they have.” 
The company has largely funded new offerings via Kickstarter campaigns. It’s raised more than $1 million via the crowdfunding platform. Hoffman said the company has more than 300 SKUs and retail partnerships with Barnes and Nobles, Books-A-Million as well as game stores in 12 different countries.
Hoffman will use his 18 years of toy industry experience to expand Metallic Dice into new categories like games and accessories. A former Business Courier “Forty under 40” honoree, he spent six years at Hasbro working on G.I. Joe and Tonka, before moving to Cincinnati and developing Mensch.
There are also opportunities for licensing and partnership deals, especially given success of shows like Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
“There are fairly low barriers to entry in this market, so there are always people coming up with new games. We’re already in all these tabletop gaming shops, so it would be great if we offered games at some point, too,” he said. “We’re also potentially looking at acquisitions as we continue to grow.”
Metallic Dice Games will remain in Fort Wayne — the company has a warehouse with four employees based there. Hackett will remain with the company for at least a year, possibly longer, to lead product and design innovation.
He wants to bring in new technology to increase product offerings. For instance, there’s ways to use new materials, to put different items or characters inside the dice, or experiment with sounds and smells. 
Hoffman will handle the marketing and product development from Cincinnati.
He’s already been shopping the dice locally — with at least one interested buyer: Cosmic Gorilla, the hybrid comic shop and bar and lounge located next to Findlay Market
Chris Bergman, who opened Cosmic Gorilla alongside Greg Newman and Jacob Trevino, has known Hoffman for years, he said. Bergman previously launched the now-defunct startup ChoreMonster, which developed apps to help families manage household chores, and Hoffman served as a business mentor for the company.
Bergman was able to get his hands a few Metallic Dice Games dice at GenCon, a tabletop game convention in Indianapolis in early August, and said he’s been amazed at the quality and uniqueness.
“MGD is leveling up what dice can (do), both with the type of material used and their design approaches,” Bergman said. “I can’t wait to get these onto the shelves at Cosmic Gorilla. All of us D&D nerds will be able to collect some extremely cool dice, and from a local company.”
Mensch on a Bench, meanwhile, continues to grow at a steady pace. Mensch is now a five-part series with its latest rollout, Zebra from Zion, a plush doll, and “The Only Jew in the Jungle” storybook.
Hoffman said he’s still feeling the positive benefits of the so-called “Shark Tank effect.” Hoffman landed a $150,000 investment for 15% equity in the company from sharks Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner during his appearance on the show.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Hoffman said. “I’ll call someone still today and they’ll say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy from Shark Tank.’ It’s like having a superpower.”
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