- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

WINONA, Minn. (AP) - Jose Pelaez may be his own boss, but that doesn’t mean he lets himself sleep in.

The 33-year-old father of two is up every morning at 2:30 a.m.

Why?

So he can get in a solid three hours of work at his business, Pelaez Creative Design, before returning home to enjoy breakfast with his wife, who works at Olmsted Medical Center, and sons, ages 4 years and 10 months.

He’ll make it back to the office around 8 a.m. and work again until 11, when he picks his 4-year-old up from preschool and takes him to daycare. Then he’ll work again until 4 p.m., when he takes his son to karate and then goes home for supper.

Needless to say, he’s in bed at the same time his kids are.

And when he is not working, he’s still working - on designing his own products, which range from screen advertising to baby trackers to a board game and a card game. His most recent is a family game, “Cards vs. Dice.”

Pelaez said he traces his knack for game design back to his childhood.

“When I was little, I remember watching a movie and making a board game for it,” he told the Winona Daily News (http://bit.ly/1rmPiAs).

His first game was Indiana Jones-themed. After cutting out all the pieces and making the rules, he would play the games with his younger brothers.

Most of his ideas come like this, Pelaez said, out of things he enjoys in everyday life.

In 2006, Pelaez was watching the World Cup and thought he could make a soccer board game. The game, simply titled “Soccer: The Board Game,” sold more than he expected, and that gave him the impetus to design more.

“I thought I should come up with a game that everybody can enjoy,” he said.

So he made his most recently released game, called “Cards vs. Dice: Strategically Lucky.”

The game, which Pelaez described as “very simple and basic,” involves a deck of 24 cards, two dice and small “Lucky” cards. Players use their cards to match the amount the roll, and they can collect Lucky cards or get rid of their hand in order to win.

Pelaez said the idea for the game came to him suddenly. “I think in one day I had the idea,” he said. “I don’t know how. I just imagined it, just like that. It was weird.”

For people who know Pelaez, it’s not that weird at all.

Della Schmidt, the president of the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce, has worked with Pelaez to design several logos, including the chamber’s centennial logo and the Winona Main Street Program, an initiative to develop a vibrant downtown. She said Pelaez never stops coming up with new ideas, even when things don’t turn out.

Pelaez also works hard makes his clients happy, Schmidt said. “Many times to reach a final design, you have to get consensus from a lot of people,” she said.

“He’s very calm, and his calm kind of sets the tone for everyone else, regardless of the deadline,” she said.

Much of Pelaez’s work is designing logos and branding for businesses, which is his favorite thing to do. “I enjoy new companies, startups,” Pelaez said. “You are starting something from scratch again. It’s a process that I enjoy.”

Like his interest in games, Pelaez’s talent for designing logos started early. He made his first when he was 14, for his father’s auto parts store in Ecuador.

Pelaez, who was born and raised in Ecuador, came to the United States in 1999, when he was 19, to live with an aunt in Nodine. He wanted to attend college for business administration, but visiting Winona changed all that.

“I remember driving down Third Street and seeing the graphic design studios,” Pelaez said. He decided then to study graphic design, attending Western Technical College while working full-time for Express-A-Button in Nodine. He graduated in 2005, and after working for an advertising agency in La Crosse, Wis., for a year, started his own business. He became a U.S. citizen in 2010.

After being in business for almost 10 years, Pelaez has four big clients, and about 120 smaller clients. Work comes and goes, but there is always work.

“I have to be very, very organized,” he said. “I always have sticky notes all over the place. Everything has to be scheduled.”

That’s why early mornings are so important to Pelaez. He enjoys driving the empty streets and being able to work without interruption.

“I’m so used to it,” he said. “Most of my day’s work gets done then.”

Sitting at a small table in his office overlooking Fourth Street on a recent day, Pelaez shuffled the deck of the Cards vs. Dice game, coming up with new ideas again.

He has another game in the prototype stage now, he said, a sequel: “Cards vs. Dice: Strategically Evil.”

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Online:

http://www.pelaezcreative.com

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Information from: Winona Daily News, http://www.winonadailynews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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