10 years on, popular Portsmouth board game is back

Rachel Lowe is the founder of Destination Portsmouth, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary ''Picture: Sarah Standing (151578-5689)
Rachel Lowe is the founder of Destination Portsmouth, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary ''Picture: Sarah Standing (151578-5689)
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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It’s been 10 years since Destination Portsmouth first hit the shelves.

Now, entrepreneur Rachel Lowe is preparing to mark the anniversary with a special edition of the game from her home city of Portsmouth.

The 38-year-old was inspired to create the game when she was working part-time as a taxi driver while studying law at the University of Portsmouth.

She then went on TV’s Dragon’s Den but was slaughtered by the dragons after she pitched her idea.

‘When I had the idea for the game I was driving a cab,’ she says.

‘Portsmouth was the first game that I worked on.

‘I saw an article about Dragon’s Den. I went through the auditions and got to the final part.

‘The producers were a lot nicer than the dragons. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

‘I did my five-minute pitch. I thought I did it brilliantly.

‘I was expecting them to throw money at me and actually I got the worst grilling ever on the show.

‘I cried the whole way home.

‘After several days of feeling sorry for myself I picked myself up.

‘I had raised money myself through sponsorship to get the game produced.

‘I had no retailers in Portsmouth but I had Hamley’s in London.

‘By the end of the first day I had sold out.’

Rachel went down to Cascades Shopping Centre in Portsmouth and set up a table to sell the game.

‘I was there at eight in the morning and by 9am I had to sit down and start signing games because the crowds were going out the door,’ she says.

‘It was remarkable – and magical.

‘For me, it wasn’t about the money. It was the fact that so many people wanted to buy the game.

‘Ten years on and we are hoping to be back in Cascades doing it again.

‘And now we have national retailers stocking the game like WHSmith, John Lewis and Amazon.’

After the success of Destination Portsmouth, Rachel produced a game for London and for several other cities across the UK and beyond.

Rachel went on to sign a deal with Warner Brothers to produce a Harry Potter themed game called Destination Hogwarts.

But it came at the height of the recession and she ended up losing her house and having a breakdown.

During that time she was made an MBE for her work in promoting business in schools.

And she eventually picked herself up and managed to open her own company called She Who Dares UK Limited, which now owns the Destination brand.

‘It’s been a journey. It’s been very emotional,’ Rachel adds.

‘Portsmouth people are very passionate. Our football team has the biggest fan base ever.

‘I draw strength from the letters and cards I get from people.

‘Ten years on and we have doubled the amount of sponsors we had originally. I do feel very proud. Sometimes life can knock you down but you get up and you get out there. Never give up.’

Eventually, Rachel went on to get the Harry Potter game on the market in time for the release of the final movie in the franchise – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

She has also made a Disney Pixar game, a Downton Abbey version, and a game to mark the London 2012 Olympic games.

Rachel says her career has been a rollercoaster but that she is thrilled with what she has gone on to achieve.

‘I do have to pinch myself sometimes,’ she says.

‘I get lost in it because I work incredibly hard and have a great team of people behind me.

‘We are absorbed by our own routine.

‘When we do get to release a new game, so much work has gone into it that it’s nice to celebrate the success of it when we see it on a shelf in John Lewis.

‘Sometimes we can lose sight of the achievements and focus on the hard work to get there.’