Ever wonder what it's like to run a dice company? Well, it's time to meet the big boss! The head honcho! The supreme leader!

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.
Portrait of Awesomeness by Alena Lane
Hi, Dave! Tell us about your TTRPG history, and how that led you to starting a dice company.
I was hooked at age 15 after my first session, where we essentially blew up the Death Star. On Fridays after high school we played from 4pm straight through the night and well into Saturday. I’ve also been lucky enough that, for most of my adult life, I've had the much-coveted group that actually meets every Wednesday night. These people aren’t just random players, either. They’re my closest friends. TTRPGs for me have always been about the people at the table with me and the quality time shared. 

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?
I didn’t have a lot of money to invest in the company at first. I had to be selective. I emailed my nerdiest friends and they helped me narrow our first set down. It was a copper frame with a black fill. It also had a d20 with two 9s and no 6. After three months of operation, I had to go back and ship new d20s to all my customers. Turns out no one even noticed, but everyone was grateful we went above and beyond to fix it. Not the most auspicious start, but it meant we got our customer service priorities figured out in a hurry!
What was the first set of dice you got really excited about?
It wasn’t a set so much as a single die, the one that excited me was the d8 healers die we did for Pathfinder. For me it was proof of concept. It was the first time we were able to bring a product to market that just originated from a random idea I had.
What's the set of dice you love the most?
Three Goblins in a Trench Coat. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love these. This is an engraved set with 3d6 that stack up to make … “a regular Hooman.” On the rest of the dice you can find other parts of their wardrobe that they chose to leave on the floor.  I love that it’s unlike anything anyone else is selling and also that if you look closely you can see a story unfold, and I think Rach did a fantastic job with the art.
Old and new.
How has Dice Envy leveled up over the years?
Year 1 (Summer 2017-2018) - I started in my bedroom. It was just me and a little online storefront. By the end of the first 6 months I had about 5 colors. After Christmas, I spent 100% of my earnings on getting new inventory, which never arrived. My supplier ran away with the cash never to be heard from again, which almost ended us right then and there. But, between a small loan and maxing out a credit card or two, I was able to get back on my feet.
Then, at Orccon in February of 2018, I made friends with Christoff of Cantrip Candles, back when they were also just getting started. We’ve been supplying the dice for their candles ever since, and have been delighted to watch our companies grow in the space together. In August of 2018, we dropped the first of our Infinity D4s, which have really become our signature offering, in my mind.
So technical!

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

Shelves at Dave's home office and the Twins working(?) at the church.

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?
I love conventions! Selling dice face-to-face is my favorite part of the job. I’m particularly fond of the Strategicon events in Los Angeles, because it was my first convention and it’s an intimate enough space that I get to spend a lot of time talking to fans. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re in our hometown, which makes transportation super easy.
What inspired you to start the subscription box?
This was an early stroke of good fortune. As far as I know, we were the first people to do that kind of a box in the world of dice. I figured even if we didn’t have a lot of people subscribed, the box could help us offset the costs of bringing new dice to market. There are a few companies now that have something like it, but we’re still the only ones pumping out original designs every month, and when we upgraded our offerings to be plastic or metal, we signed ourselves up for double that monthly output. It’s a constant balancing act, trying to get the production cycles to work on time, but we are working towards making an art of it. 
What’s coming up next? Anything you can tell us about that’s on the horizon?
I’m most excited this year about our new Advent Calendars, which are coming out mid-October, and available now as our first non-Kickstarter presale items. Last year was the first year that we did them, and we sold out well before Halloween. This year, not only do we have more of them, but we’ve designed all sorts of great dice that will only be available in the calendar!

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.
Also, I’m excited that we have started to work closer with brands in the space to help make custom dice. Our most recent partnership has been with "Adventure is Nigh!", and you’ll be seeing more of that collaboration soon.
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