UAH alumna Molly Timbrook (’17 MA, English) and her husband Dustin, launched Timbrook Toys last year.

Photo courtesy: Timbrook Toys

When Molly Timbrook (’17 MA, English) attended The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) little did she know her graduate degree in English would be instrumental in launching a toy business.

Molly, a technical writer at Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure (Hexagon), and her husband Dustin, an artist, came up with the concept for "Hedge Lord" while vacationing in Asheville, N.C. in 2017. The two visited Biltmore Mansion, a historic house museum built by George Washington Vanderbilt. It is still considered the largest privately owned house in U.S. history.

The Timbrooks talked at length about the museum’s lack of a hedge maze, and began theorizing what a gear-based, hedge maze board game might look like. "We spent the drive home to Huntsville talking about our theoretical game and in Knoxville, TN, we came up with a name — Hedge Lord," said Molly.

She used skills learned in the UAH technical communications program to write instructions for the game, and Dustin long infatuated with gears and how they work, designed the artwork and technical mechanisms for their board game visions to come to life. Molly said for practical reasons, Dustin’s goal to include gears in the game’s design was left out.

With the help of friends, the couple spent months fine-tuning rules for the game using a paper prototype. "Honestly, writing the instructions for Hedge Lord was even more nerve-wracking than writing and editing my Capstone project," she said.

The two launched Timbrook Toys shortly after announcing the board game on social media in spring 2018.

"We thought Timbrook Toys might be a fun, short-lived experience, but now there are copies of Hedge Lord all across the country and pre-orders don’t seem to be slowing down," Molly said. "Our games and toys are story-driven, and that’s something my husband and I work on together. We make each copy of Hedge Lord by hand to order at our Huntsville home."

Molly said each copy of Hedge Lord is made with real wood and is cut, screen printed, and assembled by Dustin and Molly.

"When you play Hedge Lord, you assume the role of a dastardly lord and you are accompanied by a terrible beast," explains Molly. "You and your lordly peers have made a dangerous wager that whoever is the first to escape the mysterious maze or the last to escape attacks from the fearsome beasts will become the Hedge Lord and the inheritor of all the other lords’s ill-gotten estates."

The Timbrook Toys board game "Hedge Lord."

Photo courtesy: Timbrook Toys

The game is best played with four players, one player for each of the lord and beast pairs, but the game can be just as much fun with three or even two players. A typical game lasts half an hour or less.

Molly, a native of Chattanooga, TN, was home-schooled and graduated from Covenant College with a Bachelor’s degree in English.

Fascinated with writing and storytelling for as long as she can remember, Molly "always knew" that she wanted a career as a writer. "I realized that I was not fully prepared to enter the workforce as a professional writer. I chose to enroll in the UAH College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to pursue a graduate degree because I was impressed by the English department’s commitment to academic inquiry and the technical communication program’s dedication to shaping students for the workforce."

While she did not attend UAH with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur, her experience at the university shaped her role as a toymaker and business owner in terms of critical thinking skills and storytelling, which is what she does on a daily basis in managing Timbrook Toys.

Molly credits her personal and career success to two UAH professors. "My academic experience would not have been the same, and might not happened at all, without Dr. Alanna Frost, Department Chairperson and Associate Professor of English and Dr. Ryan Weber, Associate Professor of English.

"Dr. Weber was instrumental in giving me the knowledge and confidence to pursue work as a professional writer, and while I had initially only planned to pursue a Graduate Certification in Technical Communication, in what would have been my last semester, I met Dr. Frost and she said she thought I should finish the coursework needed for a Master’s degree. Because of her help and guidance, I did."

Molly said, too, the rigorous researched-focused education she received from UAH challenged the academic perceptions that she had coming into graduate school. "I feel that I am a more thoughtful, better-rounded person and writer as a result." Molly also served as a graduate teaching assistant and worked at the university’s Propulsion Research Center (PRC) as a student specialist while attending graduate school. She edited proposals, academic papers, and safety plans, and wrote newsletters and articles, and assisted with outreach events for UAH students. For a brief time, she worked at the PRC after graduation.

Today, both Molly and Dustin work full-time jobs in addition to running Timbrook Toys. At Hexagon, she manages Help and Release Documentation for a number of utilities and communications software products. Dustin, a visual artist, is Director of Beautification at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment Center.

The Timbrooks have delivered about 110 games in the past year and have approximately 150 pre-orders to fulfill with more orders arriving each day.

For detailed information on the specifics of the game, please visit: timbrook.toys/rules.


Contact

Karen Brennan
 256.824.2586
Karen.Brennan@uah.edu