‘A great diversion’: Cambridge couple expands ‘kewl’ brain teaser concept
Did you know Kentucky Fried Chicken is a Christmas dinner tradition in Japan?
While that nugget of information seems best served by a beer drinking postal worker in a Boston bar, Teresa and Andrew Marek have been delivering trivia and word salad since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite remaining employed throughout the wave of shutdowns, it was the Cambridge couple’s social life that took a hit. When participating in events with the Kitchener Waterloo Rally Club hit the brakes the couple had a lot of time to fill.
They started online with Daily Mind Melds, posting puzzles for themselves and as requested — usually one or two a day with the answers.
As time went on, Andrew, “the brains of the family,” and Teresa, “the gossip girl,” pooled their talents together to compile a book of puzzles, brain teasers, riddles, quiz games and trivia, dubbed “Mind Melds”.
Through their KewlActiveMinds publishing company, they churned out books beginning in the summer 2020. Besides two “Mind Melds” books, they also published several workbooks for children in Grade 2, 3 and 4, which included fractions, division and other math problems.
According to Alexa.com, the KewlActiveMinds website is now ranked within the top 250,000 websites in the world.
“Let’s face it, even kids are probably sick and tired of video, TV and online learning. So, I said to my husband, ‘let’s do some back to basics stuff,’” Teresa said.
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“Our main goal is to give us something to do and give back.”
The beauty of the books, Teresa said, is they can be purchased through Amazon, which handles the distribution. All they have to do is produce a product.
The plan has worked so far, with sales through Canada, the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Japan and Spain.
To continue the momentum, the pair launched T-shirts, called Thinking Clothing, with puzzles, riddles or mazes on the front and the answers on the back. Some of the shirts that have piqued interest depict pieces of a car or airplane, and people have to visually put it together.
“We want people to have conversations,” she said, noting social interaction will be something people will crave as the country comes out of the pandemic.
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While books, shirts and keeping a fresh website with new puzzles seems like a huge undertaking for people still working full time, Teresa said it filled a void when it was needed most. They’ve also added digital artistry to their repertoire.
“As much as people say it’s great to work from home, it’s not great to work from home,” she said.
“For us it was a great diversion. We would meet in the evenings and say, OK, ‘let’s tackle this part of the book’ or ‘let’s tackle this subject of the book’.”
And they found out some “kewl” facts.
Such as, the mascot for Arsenal football, Gunnersaurus the dinosaur, had been a fixture with the team since 1993 before being “laid off” in the fall of 2020 as part of cost cutting measures.
Those offbeat kernels of information are what drives the husband and wife team.
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“While were sitting here in our own little bubble, we what to research what’s going on in the world.”
Of course, the T-shirts, Teresa said, aren’t all about strengthening the mind. They make a unique gift as well, as each shirt is one of a kind. Unless of course the sole reason to buy one is to know what you get when you mix a cat with lemonade — a sour puss.
To see the Mareks’ products, including the new digital art, go to kewlactiveminds.com.