Are you thinking about opening your own escape room? Learn everything you need to know with our ultimate guide on how to start an escape room business.
You've always wanted to own your own business, but you're not interested in running in a traditional one like a clothing shop, a marketing agency, or an office supply business. Instead, you want to start a business that gets the blood pumping, brings people together, and even allows you to flex your creative muscles and show off your storytelling skills.
Of course, you want this business to be incredibly lucrative, too. Why not consider starting an escape room business? You love the idea, but want to learn more about how to make it happen. Read on to learn what you need to know about how to start an escape room business that will thrive for years to come.
The first step in learning how to start an escape room business is to create a detailed business plan.
This plan needs to include past work experience and education that makes you qualified to run a successful escape room. Maybe you've worked in set design for years, perhaps you're a published author, and maybe you even have experience with video game design.
You'll also need to clearly define your long and short-term goals. For example, when do you expect to be able to turn a profit? Would you like to open up additional rooms one day? About how many times per year will you redo your escape room to keep your market interested? Speaking of, who is your target market? Is your escape room geared more towards locals who just love dressing up (meaning your room should have a vintage theme?) Or, are you primarily catering to tourists? What about corporate events, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and more?
You also need to outline your competitors in the business plan and be able to explain how you're doing something different from them. Finally, talk hard numbers. Create a detailed budget (spending on employees, cost of admission, spending on sets/costumes, etc.) and know how much money you'll need to get started. Especially if you're looking for funding options, the more numbers you can provide, the better.
You'll also need to decide if you want to open up a franchise of an existing escape room company, like Breakout Games, or if you want to open up a business that's entirely your own. Franchises will provide you with ready-made escape room scenarios and scripts, and they'll help you to cover much of the cost of building/production. However, you're also bound by the company's rules and game options.
If you go DIY, you'll be investing all your own money and the process to open will take longer, but you'll have total creative freedom. You can also look into outsourcing the kinds of tasks you know you need help with, like marketing, set-building, scriptwriting, and more.
One of the biggest secrets to escape room success is the location of your room itself. Look for an area that's in the center of town, especially if your target market is mainly tourists. You'll also need to look for a building with a large, open floorplan that allows you the space you need to create and build. The building will need to have multiple floors — especially a basement. Make sure it's easily accessible by public transportation or that there's enough room to install a large parking lot.
For many, the very best part of opening an escape room is getting to choose the themes of their rooms. Are you interested in a classic hardboiled detective room with a 1940s vibe? Would you like your room to involve a horror element by including characters like Freddy Krueger, the puppet from Saw, and Pennywise the clown?
Maybe you want to do a Western theme, have players find a cure for a mysterious disease, or even mimic a real-life disaster. Plane hijackings, kidnappings, and hostage scenarios are intense, but often, the more intense the experience, the more money you'll make. You can also provide different levels of both difficulty and fear so that everyone feels comfortable.
If you're starting an escape room business, you'll absolutely need to know how to market your brand.
In addition to more standard tactics like social media, think outside the box. Have some of the actors from your room dress up in costume and attend local events in character. They can then chat with attendees, tell them about the problems they're facing in the world of the escape room, and give them a percentage off of entry. Make sure you encourage everyone who pays your room a visit to leave you a review on Yelp or Google My Business. This is a great way to build legitimacy and get more people hyped up about visiting your room.
Now that you know the basics of how to start an escape room business, it's time to start turning your dreams into reality. Of course, this post is more of a way to get you going, and not a complete guide.
You'll still need to consider things like designing your logo, connecting with your local market, and finding the best actors and employees for your business. You've got a lot left to do — but we're here to make it easier. Keep checking in with our blog to learn more about how to master life as a self-employed business owner, and take control of your own destiny.