Today, we’re spotlighting David Derus, founder and CEO of Dice Envy. He’s the guy who makes the plans, gathers the crew, and gets the goods every time.
But this is no heist, it’s a small business, with all the ups and downs and thousands of layers of learning curves that come along with it.
Hi, Dave! Tell us about your TTRPG history, and how that led you to starting a dice company.
The name Dice Envy actually came from a friend at one of our games. I brought out a new set of pretty dice and he was in awe. He said as an aside that he had “dice envy”. I really liked that turn of phrase, so I leaned into it because I wanted our dice to always give people that feeling of, well, envy.
How did Dice Envy come to be a real thing?
Fresh out of grad school I wanted to marry my then-girlfriend. I knew I couldn’t afford that, so I started looking into picking up side jobs. My day job was hour-intensive so rather than applying for another hourly gig, I knew I needed to sell something. I figured, if I have to do retail, it might as well be a product that I love. The timing was also very important: I was fortunate enough to start just as 5th Edition D&D started gaining traction. The company grew up alongside that success.
What was the first product you carried?
What was the first set of dice you got really excited about?
What's the set of dice you love the most?
How has Dice Envy leveled up over the years?
Year 2 (2019) - We expanded our convention schedule, and started attending larger conventions. I got married, moved, and the company moved from my bedroom to the spare room. I hired some of my friends, Ian and Dylan, to help with designs, order fulfillment, and customer service. I met Aabria, who would become so important to our company, and hired her to handle marketing for us. By the end of the year we had become too big for my spare room, and Dice Envy needed to move out of my apartment and into its own office.
Year 3 (2020) - A friend of mine who is a pastor rented us an old Sunday school room to run the business out of. We moved into it shortly before my first child was born. I took some time off for paternity leave and left Dice Envy in Aabria’s very capable hands, which was going great until the world fell apart due to COVID
We had to pull back from all our conventions. Everyone stayed at home and D&D went mostly online. Fortunately for us, people still wanted to buy dice, and we were so grateful for the community’s support during what was a very scary and unstable time. We were able to work from home, and arranged our schedules so there would be no overlap in the office as orders were fulfilled. I had to move out of town to take care of family, and the twins began streaming on Dice Envy’s Twitch channel, which helped grow our audience. That’s how we met Maria, who kept winning our dice-naming contests.Year 4 and beyond (2021-Present) - Rebuilding from the pandemic. Conventions came back, we outgrew the Sunday school room, had to get a real office, and hired Maria. Aabria’s D&D career took off and she had to step away from Dice Envy. We hired Rach, a designer and Dungeon Master friend of mine, who does dice artwork and handles our newsletter and social media. I was able to move back to Los Angeles, and we released our first Advent Calendar in 2022, which sold almost too well, leading to us hiring Joanie, who is a huge help with the increased order volume, and a rockstar at conventions. In 2023, we released the first of our exclusive metal sets (designed in-house), and we have more on the way.
How has it been going to conventions?
What inspired you to start the subscription box?
What’s coming up next? Anything you can tell us about that’s on the horizon?
We’re also working on upgrading our packaging, with an eye towards more sustainable and eco friendly shipping options. For fans of the Infinity D4… well, let’s just say you may want to join our mailing list (if you aren’t already on it) or follow us on socials, because we have some fun stuff up our sleeve, once we iron out production details.