Amanda is the owner and founder of Game Chest, a board game store and rental library in South Dakota, but she started her professional life as an American Sign Language interpreter. As an ASL interpreter she found a lot of joy in assisting the Deaf and hard of hearing community. This required her to not only translate speech into sign language but also act as a cultural mediator,conveying a tone of voice and emotion with facial expressions to allow the complexities of communication to be interpreted. During this time, she was employed as a video interpreter and also worked as an independent contractor providing services on an as-needed basis. This included working on events of all sizes from one-on-one interactions to massive concerts such as Garth Brooks and Disney on Ice.
Even though she was experiencing so many different parts of people’s lives every day, she dreamed of opening a board game store that would allow people to discover new games and would foster a love of gaming in the community. Through the support of her friends and family, she decided to take the risk and opened Game Chest a year and a half ago–and she hasn’t looked back.
Opening a business is nerve-racking and scary. Amanda decided to go for it after finding a lot of support from her friends and family. A pivotal moment came when she wasn’t feeling ready to quit her job and open the business. A friend (and former boss) told her that she needed to stop waiting and dive into it. Her mom, who has a successful career in human resources, helped her to learn about the rights of employees in the workplace. It was this support network that believed in her and gave her the courage and determination to open what is now a successful table-top, card, miniature, and dice game shop where people can come and find new adventures.
But the journey hasn’t always been easy. As a business owner, you have to manage yourself because no one will tell you what to do, and finding the motivation to get the boring or difficult stuff done can be a challenge. This is different from when Amanda was working as an interpreter because she knew where she needed to be and when as well as generally what she would be doing.
A lot of people, including people you will work for as an interpreter, think that the job is merely signing the words someone says, but you have to be able to listen while simultaneously signing and conveying the right emotions in your face. And this can be exhausting. If you think you want to be an interpreter start by taking some American Sign Language classes and spend at least an hour a week with the deaf community. After a year, if you still want to pursue interpreting, start researching and applying to universities with accredited programs such as Augustana University in South Dakota.
When deciding to follow your dreams, you have to first believe in yourself and build your support village. If you have a village backing you, confidence is easier to come by. Building her community is what makes her business run and gives her the power to get things done even on hard days. Amanda believes that being a business owner and managing herself has been the most challenging, but it’s totally worth it! The game shop blew its sales projections out of the water. So never hold back when you have a dream of running your own business. You might surprise yourself on your own success!