Escape Room’s biggest impact seems to be with company team building events. Businesses use the escape room experience to build leaders, create synergy, observe employee interactions, improve communications, and to motivate their team prior to taking on large projects. A lot can happen when you put people to the test to escape a room within 60 minutes.
Name: Escape Room
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Product / Service Offering: Live escape room experience, team building
Co-founder Interviewed: Kristen Sill, Managing Partner and General Manager
Other Key Management Team Members: Co-founder – Xerxes Nabong, Assistant Manager – David Blackstock
This article is part of our Women Entrepreneurs Spotlight Series featuring female entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
I have always been determined to start my own business. Growing up and seeing my father who started his own engineering company 25 years ago has been a huge inspiration to me. From his persistence and dedication, I was able to see the freedom he was able to eventually achieve. I like seeing the results from hard work and also being able to contribute and create something bigger than myself. It is so incredible to see the power behind a strong team and its counterparts. Whether it is people from outside of the company or within, they are my biggest motivator when it comes to going the extra mile and thinking of the next step to take.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
The company was established in April, 2015 after co-founder Xerxes Nabong experienced an escape room in Washington, DC. He did some initial research and found that the escape room concept had yet to come to Hampton Roads and immediately sought to open the first escape room in our area. Real-life escape games have been around for over 10 years and continue to see increased popularity throughout the United States and the entire world.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
We serve several needs. There’s a growing number of escape room enthusiasts that seek escape rooms to challenge their minds, often when traveling. We’re a great option for friends and family to enjoy an activity together. Our biggest impact seems to be with company team building events. Businesses use the escape room experience to build leaders, create synergy, observe employee interactions, improve communications, and to motivate their team prior to taking on large projects. A lot can happen when you put people to the test to escape a room within 60 minutes.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Our games are made in house and are designed by our team members, many of which are high school and college students with creative and brilliant minds. We foster the creativity of our team to develop, build, and improve our escape room scenarios.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
We had a business plan. We knew what we wanted. Ideas were flowing and as many business owners know, there are a lot of moving parts. Everything seemed to be a priority. We took steps back to do what we knew we would be good at (creating escape room scenarios and marketing the business) and then built our team, outside and within, to handle the things that we couldn’t do or do as well we would want (create website, graphics, videos, etc.). In the end it made us effective early on and even more effective now.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
We attended our local Chamber series on starting a new business. We had lots of visions when it came to design of our space, our clues, videos, ads, etc. Business owners often try to do everything and we knew we were good at the escape room business so we hired a media team to handle all the marketing/design activities.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We managed to open our doors without a very big investment so we relied on cash savings to get our doors open. We utilized some 0% credit cards as well but we paid those off within six months. Because people book online before stepping foot through our doors, it was absolutely necessary that we locate our business to be visibly seen in a high traffic area. It was a combination of finding a good space that didn’t need a lot of work along with having lower rent with where we are located. We could essentially look at the increased rent in a visible area as a cost of advertising that we could cut out elsewhere. When our lease is up, moving our location is certainly a consideration and will hopefully create some buzz when we change our look, rooms, and scenarios.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
I would say one of the questions we had in the beginning was how to make sure we handled all employee situations and documentations appropriately and legally.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
There are low barriers to entry with opening an escape room. We were the first to open and were able to capture a lot of the popularity with being so new to the area. There are six to seven other competitors in our space now so we’ve felt an impact. I wouldn’t necessarily say that competition is a bad thing or a challenge. So long as people are having good experiences at escape rooms, the business may very well trickle to all of us over time. The goal for us is to be the first that people find and try.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
When it comes to advertising, don’t try and find your customers. Go where they already are. In today’s world, that’s social media, in particular, Facebook. Your success of advertising through Facebook will vary based on your industry, but in our world, it was the best investment of our time.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
We’re in the process of opening a second location in the Peninsula Town Center in Hampton.
Advice to Women Entrepreneurs…
Being only 24 years old, I know there is still so much to learn within the business world. I believe that having strong mentors, who are dedicated to your growth and success, both within your career field as well as outside of it, can be an incredible benefit that should not be taken for granted. Whether you have a mentor now or not, it is never too late to find one and tap into their resources and knowledge. Make sure to find someone you vibe with and has the experience that you respect and admire.
Are you familiar with other Women led startups? Are you a Woman Entrepreneur? If so, we would like to hear from you, leave us a comment below.