Escape room startups are just like any other startup, in that they require an entrepreneur to have a myriad of skills to get the business started and make it successful. But starting up your own escape room can be more complicated than a typical business startup, because the skills an entrepreneur needs to be successful are varied and unrelated. Entrepreneurs in the escape room world need to have skills in many areas, including general business skills, hardware and installation skills, and advanced technology skills.
Knowing Your Business
The challenges associated with creating a successful escape room business are often the unique draw that many entrepreneurs have for entering in the business. Often, the most important aspect of having a successful escape room business is knowing what kind of business that you plan to have. One of the main distinctions in escape room businesses is determining whether you are going to work in your business or on your business. If you are working in your business, then you are going to act as a project manager with a hands-on approach -- you probably have strong engineering skills. If you are working on your business, then you are going to hire a manager and be more hands off -- as a business owner, you probably recognize your skills are more in the creative and administrative aspects of a business.
Managing Cross-Level Expertise
Regardless of the type of business owner you intend to be, as the owner of an escape room business you will need to manage the cross-level expertise on your team. Cross-level expertise is important because in designing and building a room, there is a lot of room to miss things. If you are like most people and you recognize that you cannot cover every aspect of the escape room business, then get a partner to help you through the process. Your business partner can both identify and cover your blind spots in the business so that all your bases are covered. Having the best people on your team will help you succeed.
One of the most important and impactful people that you can hire for your team is the escape room builder. We explored some of the challenges in building an escape room in this post: “Should You Hire an Escape Room Builder?”
Business Considerations of Starting an Escape Room Business
An escape room is a business, just like any other in the traditional sense, with a few characteristics that make it more challenging than your average entrepreneurial undertaking. The main characteristics that make starting an escape room difficult are the need for creativity, engineering skill, and business proficiency. The truth is, most people who get involved in the escape room business either come from the creative side or the business side, and neither might appreciate all the aspects that are involved in the business.
The building of an escape room requires efforts in many different areas. Creativity is one of the most important facets, because each escape room needs a design that is a puzzle or a story. Designing the room also requires understanding of general engineering to include prop building, construction, and configuration.
On the administrative side, often overlooked in the process of starting an escape room business are the requirements for due diligence to submit permits, stipulations for acquiring a lease, and meeting all regulations governing businesses and escape rooms.
Once an escape room is built, the business aspect of the endeavor begins with marketing, advertising, and branding the escape room. Staffing is also a key aspect of the business side. Many escape room employees tend to be young and inexperienced, requiring a significant amount of the manager's time to train them. Also important is navigating the irregular customer base. Escape rooms don’t run like a normal business. They’re an entertainment business, so you should expect to have fewer clients during the week, but be booked out on the weekends.
The Cost of Building an Escape Room Business
It can be expensive to build a good escape room business, and often builders come into the build project with a lower than ideal budget restriction. In fact, most builds take longer than initially expected. This was not the case during the early years of the emergence of escape room businesses, but business was less competitive, so there was a lower financial bar to entry. This is no longer the case. There is more competition, and with that, expectations and costs rise.
There are numerous considerations that need to be made as an entrepreneur depending on the local market location of your future business. For example, consider how much of a room you can afford to build. You need to build to the market size that you expect for your business. Your business needs to reflect how many customers you can expect at peak demand, and will determine whether you should build just one room or multiple. If there are numerous competitors in the area you may need to significantly increase your startup capital to build a competitive room. In that case, the necessity for repeat business to keep your business afloat will also be crucial. If you plan to build in a small market and to rely on repeat customers, you will need to build multiple rooms to cater to their needs.
Establishing a loyal customer following for repeat business is tough, and you most likely won’t want to have just one room for your customers to do. The importance of this consideration decreases slightly if you are first to enter the escape room market in your area, however even in that case your first mover advantage could be short lived. And of course, you can’t forget that game design is imperative. If the game that you provide is not fun, your business will suffer. Likewise, if the game is not durable, your capability to repeatedly buy replacement parts will dwindle.
Finally, consider that an escape room takes a while to break even. As in any business, how long are you prepared to cover your expenses? Six months to a year? Even with success, competition will eventually show up in your area. You will need to manage this competition by potentially coming out of pocket early in the operation to build new rooms and attract additional clients.
Should You Start Your Own Escape Room Business?
In consideration of all these factors, should you start your own escape room business? Escape rooms can be exciting for owners. The escape room business is often enjoyed by owners because it is a business where their customers come to enjoy themselves. For the creative entrepreneur, an escape room business can be a method to express themselves.
If you can look at all the different aspects of starting and running your own escape room business and know that you can manage each different piece, you should go forward with the business investment. If you are considering starting an escape room, our team at Escape Room Techs is a great resource. We will help with project management, engineering and design, and implementation for your escape room. Starting an escape room business can be complicated—you need someone who has experience in all the above to help you do it. Escape Room Techs has the skills.