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When Casey McDermott and Bryan Le got engaged in the summer of 2019, they had dreams of celebrating their big day surrounded by friends and family—around 100 guests. But as they began wedding planning in 2020, the pandemic changed the agenda. So they did what many humans of the world did: hunkered down and puzzled.
“It was just a really nice way to get off of the screen and spend time with each other,” McDermott says. Unlike a board game, where you might be focusing more on playing than chatting, Le adds: “Doing a puzzle is something where you can have a conversation, listen to music, and still have an activity that you’re doing together.”
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Le and McDermott completed between 20 and 25 puzzles during lockdown, but as the pandemic raged on, puzzles became scarce—especially good ones. “Everything was just the kind of traditional, like animals or a cabin in the woods, and just kind of generic art that you tend to see,” McDermott says. So they decided to change that.
“Eventually, we got to a place where we had all this money saved and didn’t know when the wedding would happen,” Le says. “We had always dreamed of starting a business together, so we decided, Hey, why don’t we just use the money that we have saved for the wedding?”
Le was a creative director at an advertising agency, and McDermott worked in fashion merchandising and retail. With their skills and network, they figured they could make more modern puzzles—and do some social good along the way. So the Littleton-based duo cut their guest list down to 14 people and poured their catering funds, dress money, and drink budget into starting Goodfit, an art-driven puzzle company that launched in December 2020.
“Every other idea was always kind of a moonshot,” Le says. “This was the first one that just had this natural chemistry for us, just drawing on our experiences.”
Goodfit turned two this past December (while Le and McDermott will celebrate their second wedding anniversary next August) and became a foundational piece of their life together. While the company’s early supporters were the family and friends who couldn’t attend the nuptials (“because they knew that’s what we used our wedding money for,” Le says), Goodfit has since cultivated a widespread following for its quirky, design-driven motifs, 100-percent recycled cardboard pieces, and commitment to giving back to charities through a profit-sharing model.
One of Goodfit’s first puzzles, Dream Clutter, was designed by Micah Lindenberger, a friend of Le’s and McDermott’s from their former home, New York City. Profits are split three ways between Goodfit, Lindenberger (who also retains design rights), and an artist-chosen charity—in this puzzle’s case, Girls Who Code. “It’s just like a really nice, collaborative, win-win situation for everyone,” McDermott says.
The pair is also committed to working with local artists and using local suppliers, with a dream of someday manufacturing and packaging puzzles entirely in Colorado (though, for now, they’re made overseas). Recently, they met local artist Rachel Jablonski at a Denver maker’s market and collaborated with her on Taco Truck, a 500-piece puzzle with a “casual” degree of difficulty. And while Le and McDermott work with artists around the world, puzzles designed by local artists are some of Goodfit’s most popular. “The outpouring of support we’ve gotten from our local customers has meant everything to us,” McDermott says. “And it really drives our design decisions: the type of art that we choose and the type of artists we want to work with. We are continuing to plant seeds and grow roots here in Colorado.”
While Le and McDermott don’t consider themselves “hardcore puzzlers,” they want to create an enjoyable experience for everyone, regardless of ability. “We like images that have a lot of distinct areas that we can piece together,” Le says, which include color, texture, points of interest, and fun details. “For a puzzler, having density in an image or having ways to sort through the puzzle before they begin it is a big part of gaining momentum as you finish the puzzle,” Le says.
As for their puzzling method, McDermott sorts the pieces while Le assembles the edges; then, they divvy up the interior sections. For those who want to get better at puzzling, McDermott recommends starting small—maybe with a 500-piece puzzle, rather than a more intricate one. And above all, “find artwork and a subject matter that you really like,” McDermott says. “You should always choose something that, at the very least, you’re going to want to look at for a few hours. There’s nothing worse than getting a 1,000-piece puzzle of artwork that you actually don’t like.”
While McDermott now runs the company full-time and Le splits time between Goodfit and his day job, the duo still finds time to puzzle together—albeit with their own creations, whenever a new design comes out. But they look back fondly on the wedding that never was and how it changed their future.
“When that wedding finally did happen, I think the biggest thing we’d learned is that Brian and I working together has made our relationship stronger than ever,” McDermott says. “We’re partners in every sense of the word. And I couldn’t feel better about that.”