Seven tips to help you build an escape room business
The escape room craze popped up almost overnight and it’s still going strong across the country.
Going from 22 companies in 2014 to more than 2,000 in 2018, the demand for building an escape room business remains promising.
People just can’t seem to get enough of the mystery, craftiness, and adventure that escape rooms have become synonymous with. Some of them require skill and intellect. Other times, it’s sheer dumb luck.
But one thing that’s fairly consistent is that the people who own these businesses tend to love what they do.
Is building an escape business right for you? These seven tips will help you take the guesswork out of being successful.
1) Experience escape rooms for yourself
If you’re considering starting an escape room business, chances are you’ve already experienced one for yourself. But don’t stop there!
Escape games can vary in theme, puzzles, and level of detail, each one offering something different than the rest. Visit as many as you can to get a feel for what works well and what doesn’t, then put that knowledge to work.
2) Network with other escape room business owners
As an escape room business owner, you never feel like you’re in business by yourself. The community of other escape room business owners is welcoming (even though technically they’re competitors), and you can learn a lot from their experiences.
Take time to network with other owners in your area and beyond. They’re the best resources for giving you the good, the bad, and the downright unexpected facts on running the business you might not have considered.
In fact, some business owners have been known to pull the curtain all the way back. You might get a tour of the facility and some real behind-the-scenes info to help you start your business.
3) Consider your legal liabilities
Escape rooms come with plenty of legal hurdles and considerations that will impact how you do business. Here are a few you’ll want to investigate:
Everything from signage to fire escapes to lighting to trip hazards will impact how your rooms are set up. Your escape room business will likely be inspected before you’re able to open up to customers.
The fun and frenzy of an escape room can lead to injuries. And while lawsuits aren’t common, you still don’t want to be held liable for a customer or employee getting hurt.
Work with a local insurance agent to figure out how much business insurance you’ll need.
You can also check with your local municipality to see if your chosen location is zoned for an escape room business. Typically, most escape rooms are zoned in commercial areas, but some municipalities may approve you for an industrial zone, too.
Escape rooms aren’t exempt from intellectual property laws. If your storyline portrays the likeness of someone else’s work, such as a popular movie or book, then you could be sued if you don’t follow the proper legal channels.
For example, if you create a Harry Potter-themed escape puzzle, then J.K. Rowling may be able to sue you.
Aside from monetary penalties, you could end up facing an injunction. This is where legal authorities can shut down your business.
4) Investigate the business side
Running an escape room is similar to running any other type of business. You’ll need an official business license from your local municipality, along with a business plan, insurance, and a tax ID.
You’ll set up a business bank account to handle your transactions. You’ll hire employees and will need to handle all aspects of payroll (e.g. employee tax withholdings, employer payroll taxes, etc.).
You will need some sort of marketing strategy to attract people to your business (more on that in a moment). A website, business email, social media profiles, and paid ads are all expenses you need to budget for.
Finally, you need some financial literacy to know how profitable you are. Hiring a business bookkeeper can be beneficial to a degree, but ultimately you need your own knowledge on cash flow, P&L, and taxes so you can make informed business decisions.
5) Get creative with marketing
Even though there are thousands of escape rooms and many people have experienced them already, you’ll still find a significant portion of people are still in the dark.
Strong marketing will not only bring people through your door but also set you apart from nearby competitors.
Common marketing practices like local SEO, social media, content marketing, and organic search can help you get found online.
But don’t neglect ways to connect with people in the physical world, too. For example, you might set up booths at local events and give demos. Connecting with local businesses can also be valuable if they invest in team-building exercises.
6). Invest in ongoing professional development
There is such a thing as escape room conferences, and you’ll want to plan on attending them for ongoing development.
Escape room conferences offer tons of seminars that can help you run your business more effectively. Ask questions, network with other business owners, and watch your profits soar!
7) Think big
Keep in mind you aren’t limited to your local market. Some companies like Breakout Games have escape rooms all over the country to capitalize on the movement.
It’s actually a pretty smart business move. You can develop several storylines and puzzles, then distribute them at scale to all of your locations.
Granted, it’s a good idea to start with just one. But eventually, branching out might be the fastest way to grow your profits.
Building an escape room: do you have what it takes?
Building an escape room business takes more than a love for the game. If your goal is to make a profit, you need to have some business sense to make it worth the effort.
Still, it’s hard to beat the change of making a living by doing what you love. With enough research and thought, you’ll be able to crack the code and start a business you can be proud of.
Need help getting started? Check out our business resources page for more inspiration.