Simon is joined by Katie and Andrew from TimeTrap Escape Rooms as we discover how they’ve had to pivot and share their StartUp story of borrowing space for free to test their business idea. TimeTrap – https://timetrapescaperooms.com/onlin…
Note: This transcription has been generated with AI and there may be errors present.
This is very exciting, because the red button is on Andrew and Katie from time trap escape rooms. And from the very famous episode of the rebel entrepreneur podcast that came out this week. welcome Andrew and Katie, all the way from sunny reading this evening. It’s absolutely brilliant to see you both you look very relaxed, and very chilled out very happy. Is that the truth? Or is that smoke and mirrors or a bit of both?
Well, we sort of had two months. Yeah, we’re pretty chilled. Yeah. Despite all the bad things, it has been less stressful in a way. Yeah.
I think I think like a lot of people, there’s like days where you’re like, oh, no, so awful. And then you get days realise it’s okay. It’s gonna get better. And then you get another day where it’s all awful. But so yeah, I think I think that’s the same with a lot of people. But you’ve got just got to manage that avenue.
You just got to get on with it. You’ve got no choice. Sophie. We were here on the Facebook Live. We’re just waiting for a few more folks to join us. We’ve already got Carrie and Joanne, and we’ve got Russell, brilliant to see you guys. And tonight’s live stream is a special one for a few reasons. The first reason is, this is our 20th Facebook live stream, which is unbelievable. Since the lockdown happened, Jack and I have abandoned Tuesday and Thursday evenings, they don’t exist anymore for us. And we’ve devoted ourselves to these live streams. And we’ve had nearly 30,000 views which is works out something like 75,000 minutes of live streams. So that’s super special. And thirdly, you guys came to a pop up business school. I think Katie, we met you in was it 2016? Was that the early that you came along? Was it earlier than that?
Yeah, it was February 2016. And we
were just saying before this before the live tonight. You came along to the pop up business school. Had you finished your degree? Or were you in the process of finishing your degree? You can’t quite remember?
I do. Yeah, I just finished it. You just finished it. He was still doing his I just finished.
Right. So you you left him in university doing his dissertation? Yeah. And you can learn to pop up business school. And like we were saying a little earlier. I think you guys were 21 when you started time trap escape rooms. But that wasn’t your first business because the first thing that I saw you doing? You had an Etsy store and you were painting lamps. Your business was called Shadow lamps. Let’s talk about that first nevermind, time trap. We’ll get to that in a minute. Which was the lamps was shadow lamps, your first entrepreneurial venture or had you done a couple of things before that?
Depends how you define entrepreneurial in a way. But that was probably the first thing done had made any sort of significant money. Yeah. Was chatting. Sure.
Okay, it’s not your first experiment.
Well, this is super random, but when I was in uni, we had automatic lights in the bathroom and if you went in the middle of the night, they blinded you. So I made a lot kind of light switch for mine to stop that from happening. And then everybody loved it. And I ended up meeting them for like a whole flat these lights which I made them out of your pots. So I was doing weird, entrepreneurial, things like that. But yeah, Charlemagne to the first time I made any money from doing weird things, probably. And that started at uni as well. I made a lamp just for myself. And again, people saw it and then people started asking for them. And so I made a couple for other people. And then someone was like, why are you selling leads? So I got an Etsy shop. And then I came to a proper business.
So cakes with this Oliver afterdark Haley’s with Teresa. Teresa has been to every single one of the live streams which is fantastic Theresa, your absolute legend. Elizabeth is here. My friend good friend Doug McKenzie from way back is watching from Auckland, New Zealand. So we have a global reach Dave Moore’s watching. Great to see all of these folk here, please, share this post. We’re gonna be diving into starting a business without spending any money, debt free entrepreneurship as a little bit of the topic. We’re going to talk about what it’s like to grow a business, how you can make friends with Fortune 500 companies, how you can launch your business in Germany, how you can hire 14 people, and you still haven’t reached your 26th birthday yet. Is that right? Did I get that number right? Have I gotten if I got the wrong number?
For me? Yeah, in one month, Andrew world will be 27
Okay, excellent. Well, that makes me feel slightly happier. chatting to you guys does make me wonder why on earth I’ve been doing with my life. So starting, you’re starting a business time trap escape rooms, we’re going to talk about that very shortly. But you started that at 21. Both of you graduated from university with degrees, this is not the thing you’re supposed to do. When you’re when you leave university, you’re supposed to go and get a proper job. And, and use your degree. What was going through your mind as you hit your final years in uni? What, what made you think, you know, actually, I don’t think I want to go down the corporate route. I don’t think I want to be on a grad scheme. I don’t think I want to do the conventional route. I want to create something for myself. When did that idea first come about?
Yeah. For me, it was a bit different to Casey because I been doing a business degree. And I’d had a placement year, where I’ve been able to sort of go out and see what the corporate world was, was like, I was at Nissan for a year in a marketing role. And I think I enjoyed that year as a whole. But overall, I sort of sense that, you know, working for a big, big company wasn’t quite for me. And that’s when I got the, the sense that I’d want to work for a small company, at least, I didn’t know, right, until they maybe, right until the point where we discussed setting time trap, that would actually be our own company I’d be working for. So for me, I think I’d always wanted to work for myself one day, but I just didn’t know what it’d be straight after university. And then from your
point, mine was a bit different. I think, for Andrew, he wanted to work for a start up. And to me, I wanted to do something I enjoyed. I didn’t know that it like Andre didn’t know it would be our own business necessarily. I did have, I had two jobs since graduating while I was waiting for Andrew to do his last year. The first one I hated. That was boring. And the second one was in interior designs, but it was creative. And I actually use a lot of the things I learned running our business now. But I got made redundant and that was really that was why I came to a pop up business school. And that was where everything started from that point leading to leading to time trap, basically.
Right, outstanding. Now for anybody that’s watching this that’s been to a pop up business school or is thinking about coming to them. I know we’ve got a lady from Wales is here. Hi, Louise, it’s great to see you as well. I remember this very clearly we chatted about this just before you came on tonight, that we were running our first event in a shopping centre. So we’re in the Oracle Shopping Centre in Redding. And there’s about 100 or so people in the room. And I remember you sat in the audience for the first day. And I think it might have been maybe even the first two days, but I’m not sure I can’t quite remember, I think I don’t remember, you sat there for very long. And it was almost like you suddenly went, Okay, well, this is quite interesting. I’ll listen. But because there’s a shop front here, inside the Oracle shopping centre, I’m just going to sit myself in the window, and listen to the stuff that’s happening at the event, the other side of the room, but I’m going to pitch up my business, and I’m going to do it in the window of the shopping centre. And you made you made money faster than anyone else. Probably a pop up business school ever, just by doing that. So please take note, everybody. If you’re coming to an event, yeah, of course you listen. But it was the action that you took that really impressed me. And I thought and I remember when you said that you weren’t going to continue with the shallow lambs. I thought it was just a matter of time before you guys were going to do something. So firstly, kudos to you guys for making that happen. You know, getting the lamp sold and then launching something at 21 Where did the escape room thing come from? What? What possessed you to start an escape room business
came up at that pop up events. So I was making the lamps and yeah, people were buying them which was great. But I was talking about scaling up in order to you know, make a proper living from it. And from talking to all of your pop up, I realised that I was going to have to mass produce them or something and I was going to lose the hand painting that was what I really enjoyed about them. So while some still like that pop up event, I started thinking, what else do I love doing? And that’s where Escape Rooms came from. They were still really new then. Bad played a couple. And I think really what it’s going to come down to is fun puzzles and awesome sets. And I really enjoy Interior Design, I really enjoy making puzzles and quizzes and all of that kind of thing. So Escape Rooms are kind of just like putting two of my hobbies together. So obviously that equals something you love if you make money doing that. So that’s where it came from. So yeah, I actually I didn’t actually abandon the lamp straightaway I’ve carried on making them for I think about the first year of times up, I kept making them because we weren’t earning money at that point. So yeah, I did keep it up. But yeah, so I think that was February, March. And then by April, Andrew was on board with the idea. I just needed a bit of backup in the business department. I so how we split it now is Bandidos, the business side, and I do the creative side. And then we’re both doing the part we love most. So yeah. So for my for we trotted, and then in June, we officially went for it started the business. So it’s nearly our fourth birthday.
Great. Wow. That’s amazing. So, Andrew, so it’s mainly Katie’s fault that you got roped into this is that is that? What what?
Yeah, I can’t imagine what we’d be doing. Otherwise, it’d be quite an interesting, it’d be quite interesting to look at what we’d be doing if we hadn’t started. I’d like to see that sometimes. But yeah, it’s completely hurtful.
And you have relevant was your business degree and the experience, you had the marketing at nit, and to what you’re doing now.
I say this a lot. But a business degree doesn’t set you up for running a business. You don’t sort of, they don’t teach you how to start up and how to finance your startup. They don’t teach you how to start a book without without any debt. They do teach you certain things like accountancy or marketing, brand strategy, like those kinds of things, but you don’t get the practical skills needed to start a business. And I think you can never really know how to start a business. I think what you teach a lot is that you just got to do it. And I think a lot of the time you do learn on the job, you can definitely gain knowledge from different resources. But if you want to do it, and you have a passion for it, then you just do you need to start doing it. And I think that’s what we did. And it’s been useful since but, I mean, could we have done it without a business degree? Maybe. But yeah, it’s been useful, but not essential, basically.
Cool. So probably, as we see you guys grow and take over the world, maybe it’ll become more useful as time goes on. I think what was going through my mind is when you decided to, so almost four years ago, you decided to launch the business? How did you go about launching a business? Because I’m guessing you haven’t been to pop up business school, you weren’t excited about taking on a loan to start a business. You didn’t want to borrow money. But you needed a space to run an escape room. It’s it at the time for you. I mean, we’ll talk about what’s happened since since the pandemic and I think you’ve adapted your business brilliantly. We’re going to talk about that for sure. But what went through your mind when you went okay, well, we need a premises because we need an escape room. What was the activity? That what was the first few things that you did? How did you go about getting a venue?
Yeah, so um, yeah, Casey came to the first, the first pop up in April of 2016. Next reading, yeah, the first round pop up, and then there was February sorry. And then there was a, we went through another one that you did in reading in June 2016. And it was that week that we sort of really knuckle down. And, again, whilst the talks are ongoing, we were listening, but we’re also sending off emails to different people asking if they had any, any spare space. And one of the people we approached, we actually approached someone asking if we could use reading prison, which is, which is empty, which is empty.
It’s important to note.
Yes, yeah. And basically, that was a massive, long shot. We, yeah, we weren’t going to
get it. We should explain that it’s Victorian prison. It’s very characterful, it would have been a good setting for an escape.
Yeah. For anyone that doesn’t know. Yeah. And basically, we didn’t get that. But the person that we emailed, came back to us and said, We can’t, you know, we can’t give you the soul present. But we can give you a slot at the running Fringe Festival, which was in 2016, which was in July, July 21. I think it was 2016. And that’s that was our first gig basically. So we got that space.
Magnification really quickly. Yeah, like
a paid gig or did you do it for free?
No, we so they sold the tickets for us. We didn’t have any infrastructure to do that yet. So we were just like any artists at the Fringe Festival, they sold the tickets and split the, the funds. So we did make a little bit of money. But it costs so much to make the game that we did make a bit of a loss. But we really did it to test the idea to test our capabilities. So we achieved that.
So I’m guessing you enjoyed it. I just a quick question about the emails that you sent to try and get something, you know, to get the first gig and get the first premises. Do you remember how many how many different people you approached? And what sort of things you said in the email to Blogger space?
Gosh, do you remember? We we did we try to target them? I remember that we didn’t just blanket email. Like, everybody. We tried to target them, at first, to places that we thought were most likely.
It wasn’t wasn’t mass it was, I think, because it was targeted, we sort of understood the people that might reply, perhaps. And so it wasn’t loads, but it was certainly enough that we got a few responses. And yeah, one of those responses worked out in the end.
I think what we did that is a better is a more realistic example of how to do hard work. Because once we are done that pop up at the writing for interest, but we want to do another pop up to borrow some other space. And for that we walked around in person instead of sending emails around reading and went into any establishment and we thought we’d have some empty space. And that we really did walk around all day for miles. And the last place we went in, who was the only one that said yes. So that’s more realistic example of how you have to put in a lot of hard work sometimes to get the right people to listen to you.
Right. So basically, you went on a pub crawl and called it work. Yeah, pretty much.
But we didn’t get any
credit person, again, is all the different probes in the industry.
And what was your pitch when you were going into the those places? What was your What was your approach? And I’m fascinated to? Because it’s so funny, I’m chatting to you like, like I’ve known you for years. I mean, we did meet about four or five years ago, but we’re four years ago, but I tell your story. And it’s so funny to hear you actually saying the same words that I say, I feel like you guys really well. But I don’t know what you said in the pitch. That’s fascinating to me, you know, what was your approach? And, you know, how nervous did you feel when you were asking for premises for free? Because we get that question all the time. People think they need to spend money on our premises. What was the flag? You know, what was your strategy? And how did you make friends? What was your pitch? Do you remember?
I think, I think we saw use what we already had. So we use that we were we were at the fringe for for the two days and that we we got in the newspaper and we got on radio Batcher. So that was definitely we tried to give ourselves some gravitas. Even though we didn’t have tried to we tried to use what we had. And I think it was just being sort of open and honest and
just quite genuine. Yeah. People appreciate that. We did worry that people would look at us and think, what what are these children think they’re doing? But I think potentially, The upside to that was that they wanted to help us more because we were just there with our little face.
We had a few people, a few people asking if it was for college.
Honour, we got that for a while and did get a little bastards after a while. Yeah, although you’d ask like, Well, we were when we were open in our proper venue. They’d say like, is this your Saturday? But it’s quite fun to say, No, I own the business. But yeah, what, for what we actually I can only remember talking to pull. The guy that eventually gave he was the one that gave us the space, our big break.
I described the space to me that the first event that you ran, what was the How long did you have it for? And what are the what are the space look and feel like?
So it was in a pub called Great Expectations, which is Charles Dickens themed. And there’s a room at the front, which they sort of used for functions. And it was great because it was already decorated in like a Dickensian way. So we did a trial second team game. Of course, that helped a lot because This surrounding was already kind of done for us in a way. We had it for six weeks. And they gave it to us for free. We we sort of suggested that we’d be open to share the profits. But he was just like No, no, it’s fine. Just have it for free. Like they understood that people would say, for a drink, or food afterwards, or that they might do. And that was that was enough for them really. I also just think he was a genuinely nice guy. And if you can find genuinely nice people to help you, then definitely don’t lose them. Because, yeah, we owe them a lot. And I think they honestly would have actually had us back as well. The only reason we had an end date was because it was it was October, November by this point, and they had Christmas events in that room. But I think they would have taken us back in January, but we had our eye on premises by that point.
Right? And at what point did you decide that? We’re going to go for this? Was it when you were cooking up the idea in June? When you’re, you know, at the second event that you came to? Did you decide that? No, no, we’re absolutely going to make this happened? Or was it during the the fringe? Or was it during that six week experiment? When uh, when did it become clear to you guys? And it might be a different answer from both of which will be interesting. Like, when did it become clear that we’re going to know it? This is a thing, we’re going to absolutely make this happen.
I think, I think one of the things that you guys sort of teaches that you take little risks, rather than one massive risk, take little risks and work at each time. So you get bigger and bigger. I think that’s what we did, we at the fringe we put in, I think at the very start, we put in 1000 pounds each have savings. And that’s what we used to create the first basically two games. And so it was just seeing if it works. If it works, we do it a little bit bigger. So we start with a two day event, then we had a six week event. And then eventually, apparently,
still trying to see if it’s gonna work like we’ve never had the conversation open, like, okay, it’s working. We’ve just done, we’ve just done bigger and bigger projects. And we never talked about it. So yeah, I think that’s hard. I guess when we decided to take on a permanent venue that was a serious jump, because that was obviously some sort of liability and things like that. We decided to do that. It’s actually quite near the beginning of the dickens game, I think we so we started selling tickets for the dickens game before it was open. And it went really well considering we hadn’t had that much time to create a presence on social media or in the local community
or something. But because Escape Rooms are still quite new at the stage, press, local press, we’re picking it up and be like, Oh, an escape room in town that’s quite cool. So that that helps a lot.
And people that were getting interested in Escape Rooms were sort of actively looking for them. So that helps a lot of people are like trying to find you. So yeah, tickets were going really well. And so I think it was like, maybe two weeks into the six weeks, we were did we view the building, then? I think we went to view our building two, three weeks into the pop up. And then we view it maybe a week later. And then we said yeah, we want it. So I guess that was when we were like, Okay, maybe this is definitely gonna happen.
Yeah, that’s super cool. And before I’m gonna dive into something in a minute to find out from you guys, how, you know, the the process that you went through to make sales and sell tickets and all that kind of thing. We’ll die there in a second. But just before I do, how did your families react to you? Being entrepreneurial? You know, do you come from an entrepreneurial background? Do your parents brothers and sisters have businesses? You the first you know, because you you spent three and four years respectively in uni. You know, what was that? Like in terms of how your family reacted to you starting at 21?
Yeah. Yeah. I think my mom and dad are watching so.
So obviously, they’re very supportive. Yeah.
Yeah. So my, yeah, they were, I don’t know if they were like, will support him, but we’re not sure if it’s gonna work out. I think I think we had belief. But yeah, my dad set up his his own business and even my granddad So his dad as well designed business. So yes, definitely sort of an entrepreneurial gene, I guess. And then my mom actually came to pop up business school in Newport. So no way. Fantastic. We’re in business now as well. So she sells personalised greeting cards. So yeah, it’s Yeah, there’s definitely a bit of that there so that they were really supportive and yeah, we’re very, very thankful for that. It’s
humblebee if anyone needs a card
humblebee cards you heard it here. So Jack will try and find the link. Now if you Not wanting a movie or, or cooking up some sort of Master Chef meal. Great stuff. And how about you, Katie? What was that like for you?
Um, so my parents are divorced. So I think they, they had a quite different reaction, but both positive Oh, my dad was pretty similar to Andrews parents as well. He’s very chilled out. He’s very chilled out. And I just, I think he just believes in me. So I don’t think he would worry about us not being able to do it. I think he believed that we’d work hard and do our best. And that’s all parents want really, isn’t it? My mum was equally supportive. But she, whenever people asked what I was doing, for a couple of years after uni, she’d say, Oh, she’s just finding her way. And it was fine. I let her I let her say that. she I think she she doesn’t. She worries that things will go negatively. So she doesn’t want to put too much into like believing they’ll go positivity. And that’s just her. But she was still she was still supportive. And I think in a way, the day when she started saying she runs her own business, it kind of meant more than that we’d have to work even longer together. But all parents helped out a lot. They came to reading None. None of them live in reading. They came and helped paint. They understand printed things for us. My dad has electrical knowledge that he helped us with taught to me so I can make our puzzles that are electric at the moment electronic. So yeah, they were all given
grandparents, my nan supplied. She was we even have that assignment. She had a lot of stuff that was really cool. And old, some of it and then she was like, Do you want this? And we’re like, yeah, that’ll fit in quite nicely.
And she she also she like crocheted things for us. So parents and grandparents weren’t very helpful. Yeah,
wait a minute. Okay. This is this is fascinating. So instead of spending money on staff, you managed to get your family to become your voluntary donations of equipment, and, you know, furnishings and various artefacts. Yeah. So did you pitch to them? Because, like, I’m thinking, I really interested to know, how did you manage to get them involved? Did they just sort of put their hand up and go, like, I’m going to help you guys. You seem like you need some help? Or I’m interested to help? Or did you go? I just, we just need could you? Did you find yourself pitching to your family to you to get a pitch from you? Andrew, that’s the question. I need to ask you guys.
I think we definitely we definitely asked at the beginning. I I think a lot of when we’ve kind of achieved things is it is because we just asked like when we went around looking for space for pop up games. We just went and asked people because if you don’t ask you don’t get and I always I’m a bit more a bit more reserved, aren’t you? Oh, wait
until someone offers rose Katie’s? Like, can you do this?
I’m always like, they can say no, like, you may as well ask them. So. Yeah, I think we read your food. And yeah, we always gave pizza to help us. Oh, actually, we have quite a few friends also helped. It wasn’t just parents. Yeah. When we couldn’t afford staff, we definitely made use of the kind offerings or friends and family. Yeah.
I love that. I love that. So let’s talk about let’s talk about marketing. And I’m, I think it’s my favourite subject in business, you know how you actually can promote a business and grab people by the face that are in reading, they’ve got no interest in going to an escape room, they’ve already decided what they’re doing for the next six months, because it’s the same as what they were doing for the previous six months. And they’re quite happy with how they’re spending their money. Thank you very much. But somehow you managed to reach out of a phone or a computer screen, or into the streets or off of a newspaper, grab people by the face and bring them to a place where they buy tickets. What were the what are the things that you did in the early days to get customers? What sort of activity did you do that was practical that when this is going to get us business?
Yeah, I think again, same with me, I think marketing and brand and brand strategy. My favourite thing is my favourite sort of, they were my favourite modules in university. So I think we recognise the importance of having a strong brand right from the beginning. And I watched the livestream you did with on Tuesday. Oh, cool. Yeah. So yeah, I think we realised that escape rooms are found on the internet. So a lot of our presence needed to be on on the internet. So we made The website, basically more or less for free on Wix site wasn’t amazing. It’s definitely got better. And, yeah, we put a lot into social media because again, social media is free, you don’t need to pay to have a Facebook Twitter Instagram account, it was just sort of being considered consistent with it and dedicating time into it. There’s obviously a lot. There wasn’t a lot of time that we had, because we’re busy building the venue out and the games, but it was sort of given people a little teasers of what was to come. So our first game was a apparent value was a mediaeval themed experience. So we had all these cool props that were sort of showing them off on social media and on our website. And it was Yeah, trying to get the press involved as well. So we been employee got up in a venue on yet get reading at the time, BBC barsha, BBC south through basically you guys. So we’d already had good exposure, and it was just sort of making use of that as well, which was important.
I love that. Did you? Did you have to do any extra activity to engage local media? Or had you done enough already that they were sort of interested in what you were doing, and they picked it up on social media, and we’ve seen these guys on the telly, we should go and talk to them about the paper? What what how did that come about?
I think it was, we’ve made a contact at the fringe through the both the radio and the paper, the local newspaper, so we sort of got back in touch with those guys. So I think having contacts in the right areas is really, really, really important. I think that’s one of the most important things you’ll find when when owning a business is having contacts that you can constantly go back to. I didn’t even try to have a almost a press night where the for the opening of our game, I sent out a few invitations to actual addresses in the post and none of them replied. So that wasn’t worth it. Might be worth it. Someone else. But it didn’t work for us. But no, it was it was basically the contacts we already had that we got in touch with.
I love that you tried it though. I love that you tried it. We’ve got a couple of people that you might recognise the names of someone called Glen and someone called Louise. We’re active on the chat tonight, I think you might know who they are. Hey, mom, dad, Glen and said that it was great building into the dream. So they’ve enjoyed that. And I think your parents are very proud of you both. So I’m not surprised either. I’m just in awe of you guys. Because when I was checking out the website, and in preparation for this evening, I was looking on your about us page. Actually, I’ve looked at all of the pages of your website. I’ve gone through it in fine detail. Does that worry.
So any recent mean? Done? So
I’ll tell you what it was I think my favourite bit of all is the pictures of UT with microphones make you look like full of gravitas and important, Professor pooch. I mean, you really like the folks that are watching this really need to look at time job escape rooms.com, Professor poche and Professor pooch that top line of team members is brilliant. You’ve got 14 members of the team.
Yeah, a couple a couple are missing from that page. But most of the guys,
this is amazing. And you’ve got these experience makers. Everybody looks like they’re having fun. And I think you know, in my image, I think the bit we’re going to get onto in a moment is about when you’re running in a business that’s got a physical premises. The world’s changed a little bit over the last few weeks, no doubt that’s impacted you massively and how you’ve managed to pivot your business and do some stuff online is super interesting. We’re gonna dive into that. Before we get there, I want to talk about growing the team. Because I know there’s some folks that will be watching this thinking, Well, you know, as soon as this lockdown nonsense is finished, and hopefully the world returns to some sort of normality. I know there’ll be some people that are interested in building their business further and taking advantage of new opportunities that are out there in the world right now. So that might mean growing in terms of the staff that you hire. What was it like getting your first kind of team members that weren’t family or friends that have been pressganged into emptying their lounge and giving you all their stuff? But you know, the first team member proper? What did that feel like for you guys? How did that come about?
I think for me, I always said that when we I thought if I said it but I always thought that once we once we employ our first sort of employee that will be when I sort of say we’ve made it almost because I think when you can not only support yourself enough, but then To be able to start supporting other people. That was really, that that was quite rewarding. And it’s quite nice feeling.
Yeah, we didn’t really know what we were doing. I do the HR side of the business. So I’ve si did a lot of research and read a lot about hiring. Um, we tried. Well, you were in recruitment for a little bit idea, the job I hated was in recruitment. So I sort of slightly knew some things,
almost like you planned it, Katie.
I think, well, we firstly put an application together, which we made it enough, it needed enough work to fill in the only people that really wanted a job would bother to do it. So that was definitely a good move. It also kind of tried to get our personality, the timecard personality across a bit. So hopefully, attract the right people, which again, I think, I think it did, and we had a lot of people say, I really liked your application, but not before they got the job. But even after they got the job, they still say that. And then when we did interviews, they were probably probably quite long, because at first we just hired part time roles. But we probably spoke to people for one to even two hours sometimes. And way we kind of just hire people that we would like to be friends with. And it works like obviously, they need to have the skills that we’re looking for. That comes first. But I think we’ve built a really lovely team who genuinely like each other and get on. We even have a couple now in the team, because we’re we’ve brought people together, obviously. Right, and their personalities match. And I think yeah, I think that’s the secret to a team that works well together is to almost make it a group of friends.
I think it was even like the experience maker title, a lot of most escape rooms. Employees are called games masters. And we wanted to sort of reflect it’s almost like a take on the Disney, they call their employees cast members at that the theme parks was almost like mirror mirroring that everyone’s to sort of say that we give it we make experiences. So you’re going to be experience maker. So there was a lot of thought went into the whole
process, the role was to make the make the experience for our customers, not just to run a game, but to be a face. Yeah, that was. Yeah. And yeah, and since then, we do have some full time members now. But we, we kind of, we always take people in at the bottom, and then they grow. And they fill those roles. So I think we we kind of train people from the start into the right mindset. And the first person we ever hired, Rachel is still with us. And over half the team have been with us at least a year. And I think retaining people is also super important. And then growing and taking responsibility with the business means that they end up doing the best job possible. I think.
I’m enjoying this conversation so much. And I’m learning so much from you guys. I’m 20 years older than you. And it’s very frustrating that you have these insights already. And I’m very, very excited for you and very proud of what you’ve done. And you’re like benchmarking yourselves on Disney. Now I’ve heard Disney a reasonable business. So I think that makes a lot of sense to me to role model to look at role models and apply that to your own business. I think that’s absolutely fantastic. I was going to invite some folks that are watching. So just to let you know, there’s a few comments coming in. So Katie Coombs, who is one of our top presenters that pop up, you probably haven’t met Katie, she joined the chamber a couple of years ago. almost to the day actually, she says that she loves real stories and real life people making it work well done. And with one of these emojis. I can’t agree with her more. I think it’s absolutely phenomenal. And Fran has said that she’s enjoying that she says well done Katie and Andrews is enjoying the live streams that we’ve been doing and well done to you guys for what you’ve achieved. So there’s there’s three things on my mind. Now one is about, about what happened with Germany. One is about when you did your first sort of kind of corporate gig and found a different kind of customer what that meant for you guys. And third thing is about running online games. And you know what’s happened since the virus and maybe it was in your mind before the virus happened. So it’d be good to chat about that stuff. So which came First, was it launching something in Germany? Or was it the the the corporate sector,
the corporate, and it was by accident. So even running the dickens pop up, so this is right. To not say the name, keep the name, okay with Cisco.
They won’t tell anyone, it’s fine.
They found us. We don’t know how they found our website, even though it was very new, that we were doing this pop up. And they asked us if we bring it to team building events that they were running in, like the conference parts of hotels. So we did that. And that was quite a quite a break. So we did one event for them, and they liked it. So then we did another event for them. And the hotel that it was at, then asked if they could put us on conference add on programme to offer to other people. So then we also did some team events for other people. And that filled the gap between the end of the dickens game and when we actually got the keys to our building. So that was basically January, February of 2017. So that was another brief. So we do get quite a lot of breaks. And I think we weren’t planning to probably target corporate that early. I think we were kind of going for what we knew was the main scape room. customer base, which is friends and family, regular public. Not our friends. No. groups of friends tell them to take their money too. Yeah, but we did. We did do that then. And then we I think Andrew did quite early on after we got our permanent venue, specifically target corporate customers, as well.
As I think one of the reasons we chose to SAP in writing was because Escape Rooms are good. On the weekend for locate you said friends and family. Keep stroking.
And then in the week, they started
screaming you can go to and I can just, I can just fill in. And
yeah, on the weekend, it’s friends and family staff do Sunday’s that kind of thing. And then during the week, where you can make sort of little extra money is through the corporates and reading, obviously, as a big, huge X Factor. So yeah, that’s, that’s one of the main reasons we chose to start then running.
Great stuff. And how did you actually do that? Andrew, did you reach out on social media? Did you you know, how did you specifically promote yourselves to those corporate organisations? Was it an email thing? Or what went What went through your mind? And how did that happen? She’s okay. Yeah, we’re worried about you, Katie. The internet is not interested. So it’s fine that I’m sure they’re concerned about you too. But we’re glad that you’re back in one piece. Very good.
It was I think one of the main ways we’ve done is that we we’ve always had a team building to a corporate section on our website, and we focused on the SEO for that quite a lot. And then eventually, we started advertising on Google. So spending a bit of money on advertising, which we didn’t do that right at the start, but eventually we did. So it’s just yeah, it’s mainly digital, online that we do it. I think having a just even having a corporate team building page just says to people that they can easily access that information. If you don’t have that, sort of as an escape room. Or if for any events company that you want to target corporates, then. It’s just a very easy thing to do. And that’s what we did. And I think that’s the main way we’ve attracted corporates.
Very nice. So how did you get time chap escape rooms to show up on Google before you started spending money with Google? Where did you learn your SEO knowledge from so you type in escape room reading into Google? I’m guessing time trap escape rooms would do pretty well on that. Where did that knowledge come from?
Again, so that was from university. So we had a Digital Marketing Module in I think it was second or final year. So I had a sort of a basic knowledge from there. And then there’s, there’s so many resources on YouTube. I think Google have quite a good resource themselves. I think it’s Google digital garage. I think it was called at the time. So I did a lot of sort of YouTube training, I guess, and just yet working my way through them. So there’s so many resources online for SEO and learning that Yeah, I think so. can access that really
good stuff. Helen Lawson fabulous Helen, who’s a well being consultant from, from the southeast, she says that you don’t get breaks, you make breaks. I think you’re being very humble about getting breaks. But you guys have worked really hard, haven’t you? Alan?
Yeah, I’ll always hug you for that. I think it’s if you do the setup, then they they’ll, they’ll follow. But it always seems like they’re just coming from nowhere.
So because you get your your brand. Yeah, yeah, you
do the legwork. And then that happens.
Great stuff. So you launched in Germany. I remember Henry telling me this. You launched in Germany. How on earth did that happen?
Oh, I’ll do the beginning you do the end. So it started with another small business in reading a barber shop. And Chris was a man who owned it. And he messaged us out of the blue to say that he had spare space and didn’t want to do a pop up game. I think. Thanks to Andrews great social media work. Ever since the beginning, he could see that we’ve done pop ups before and he’s you’d get a feel for us because he could have approached another escape room and running because there were some by this point, but he picked us. And we went to the other space. And to cut a long story short, we decided to do a game raising money for a local charity that prevents homelessness or works to prevent homelessness. And when when we were thinking about exactly the game, we would create the theme. That’s always how we start and create a game. I just felt like it was really wrong to make a game that was frivolous and fun, like most escape rooms, and then just give some money to charity like in the background. So we decided to actually use the game to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness, which was a bit risky, because no one had really done that before with escape rooms. It’s not what people expect from the playing scape room, we have to be really sensitive because you don’t want to look like you’re trivialising the issue. But it all went well. It was well received by the escape room industry and also the Qumran community of writing. And because it was unique, it just generated a buzz and it got noticed. We were asked to speak at the UK escape from industry conference, and the European has given industry conference because of that. And that was how it was noted by a couple chord, Shawn and Donna, who are based in Germany, a couple sorry, two people who’ve worked together and happened to be in Germany, attended the conference. And they basically, were wanting to do something socially conscious. And they wanted to basically licence that game, it was called the divide is called dassit. STEM in Germany because it had to be translated. So carry on for the second part about how we actually did it.
Yeah, so yeah, like, like you said, there is us with the mic. That’s that’s us at the conference. They there. They saw our presentation. And it was from that they they talked to us and said, This looks really cool. We’d like to do something like this in Germany. It was quite interesting. Just working with them, because how people donate to charity in the UK, as they said, it’s very different in Germany. I think. They said the UK is more sort of giving. And so it was was interesting to see if it would work. But yeah, they they’re a really good team over there. So they made it work really well. And yeah, it’s really cool. That sort of our product is now International. And we did have interest from the US as well, which didn’t materially materialise, but yeah, it’s really cool to see that your brand that you’ve created is sort of going worldwide.
Yeah. He is also touring in the UK. So we had some interest from fellow skate promoters, because they knew that it was just a three month pop up in Redding. And so we had interest to take it. So it went when it closed and reading, went to Brighton. And then it went to Portsmouth, which is where it is now. Not running sadly. But we hope it will also move on in due course, so it’s still going
to go idea. I know the CEO of shelter. So when we get off this live stream, I’m going to send him an email, because I think you’d be fascinated to hear about What that is, and maybe there’s a tie up there for you guys. So I think I know exactly what you mean about, about having an international flavour and you sort of pinch yourself and go. Yeah, I think it’s running in Morocco. Now it’s not a normal thing, and you’re escaping. Idea is happening in Germany, it’s just normal. This is normal life, you guys, I’m sure, America is only a matter of time. A matter of time. Brilliant. So, look, the pandemic happened, the world changed. And you’ve got a venue that people can’t go to at the moment. Talk to us about the online thing. I think Jack has stuck a link to it. He’s put a link at the bottom of the thread to the online games. Was that something that you had already planned that you’re already doing? Or is this something that came about as a response to adapting the business?
Yeah, so once, once, it was quite clear that we were going to have to close we we did start sort of creating an online play at home game, we then decided that we weren’t going to go down that route. We wanted to try and save costs as quickly as we could. So we sort of almost went into hibernation for a little bit. And then so the online game isn’t actually our product that we created. It actually came about through another escape room in Brighton again. So the escape room industry itself is massively collaborative and very open to ideas sharing. And yeah, it’s really friendly. So you don’t get sort of there’s not much competition. There is competition, but you’re not sort of you know, there’s not much. Yeah, you’re not fighting for the control market, basically. So yeah, it’s actually created by guys in Brighton called ball the box. And they said, Do you want to good friends with them? So they said, Do you want to resell it? And we said, yeah, and yes, that’s, that’s come out of that. And it’s done really well.
I think it’s definitely worth talking about that. It’s not always right to just do everything that you think of that you could do. Like we’d started developing this game, it was a paper based game. So it wasn’t like print at home, not web based. We started developing it. But we,
we looked at how much money it could make. Yeah, and the furlough
scheme was announced, see, and we have three of our team working on it. And economically, the sales of it, because it was so much less than coming to our normal escape rooms. It economically was better to follow the team than to carry on with it. And I think, like running a business successfully, it’s sometimes about deciding not to do things like that.
And we have gone, we’ve gone in a different direction, in that we’ve, we started, we started consulting more on sort of bespoke projects. So someone, a friend referred to so when he wanted an escape room style event at his wedding, we’re working with the writing Fringe Festival on a online digital permission. And then we’re also working with local authority on something else that hopefully we’ll be able to put on after lockdown. And we’re thinking about creating our own outside game. So I think, looking at the way the government strategy is shifting, I think we’re not going to be able to open for another couple months, at least I’d imagine. But I think people will be able to walk people are able to go outside and exercise and if they can match that exercise up with us in Escape Room style game, then hopefully we’re gonna try and deliver that to them. So it’ll be I’ll be reading based, it won’t be something you can do everywhere. But um, yeah, we’re, we’re looking into that now as well.
We’ve taken each stage of that comes and re evaluated what we’re doing. So yeah, I learned is that at first we just hide noted for a bit and watch what’s happening. Because this is, this is weird, like, no one knows how to react to this necessarily. Nobody can predict what’s going to happen. So we sat tight for a while whilst we made our decisions. And then we had about 500 plans of where we could go depending on what happened. And I think the online game that we’re selling bits is great because and was able to use our existing sort of social media our our reach to sell that it didn’t require a lot of input from us. So that’s been great. And then the consulting projects, those that were those are things we were doing before and that they tend it tends to be Andrew and I that work on those projects rather than our staff. So with them furloughed, we keep working on that keeps our costs down but our We’re still producing something.
Great stuff we’ve got. So we had a viewer from New Zealand we’ve had people from Namibia watching. So, my friend, Doris is a lawyer in Namibia. She’s been watching our live stream tonight. I’ve got Chad from California that’s joined us. I think Chad’s watched every single live stream that we’ve done. We’ve also had someone from favish him. So Russell’s tagged Robert Duffy from you guys must know Robert from clever dilemma in Fabrice. Yeah, games very well office. So he hasn’t said he’s hasn’t said anything nasty about you. So it’s sort of support the view that, that it’s a very friendly community, which is fantastic. Chad is offering some ideas for games if you want them. So he is a very creative guy. He’s full of ideas. He shared some ideas with pop up too. So Chad, get in contact with Andrew and Katie, if you guys want some extra ideas, always and Helen saying that adaptability is what we all need to foster. Not just for now, but in our entire future. Uncertainty is the only certainty
cannon is very wise indeed. very philosophical stuff so. So folks for Thank you very much for watching tonight’s live stream. If you jump onto the link at the bottom of the thread, it will take you through to the online game that Andrew and Katie have been promoting. And there’s a very scary looking dude in the video. It looks like a lot of fun. I think the pop up team should do it. Because it’s only for the summer 15 English pants. And for 15 English pounds you can be entertained for up to six players for a multiplayer online escape room adventure. Sounds styling?
Yes, good is accessed. You can access it from different homes you can play with, you know, people that you’re not with.
Perfect. Well, I think we should give it a go. Guys. I’m absolutely enthralled with your story. I’ve learned so much from you tonight, which is which is really cool. And I’m going to steal all of your best ideas and implement them on the pop up business school, about how we can hire staff how we can grow the team, how we can launch in Germany, and pivot our business online. We’ve covered lots of lots of ground tonight. Thank you so much for giving up an hour. We’re very proud of what you’ve achieved. And it looks like some of your friends and family are too. So reservations and stay safe. And well. Thank you to everybody for watching next week. On Tuesday evening. We have got Laurie Laurie is Laurie is phenomenal. She is a hypnosis expert. And she’s got so much incredible value to give to all of us about her. Well being about make lifestyle changes. She’s made her own lifestyle changes, which I’m sure we’ll talk about next week. So if you’re curious about hypnosis, if you want to listen to someone who’s got fantastic energy, ideas, information inspiration, then we’ll see you on Tuesday evening next week at 9pm. Thank you for Jack who behind the scenes has been well it’s actually drunk. It’s why it’s not on tonight. It’s been drinking too much. Thank you to Jack for all of his help. Andrew and Katie it’s an absolute pleasure as always, if you want to find out more about these guys, the rebel entrepreneur podcast featuring Andrew and Katie specifically about how you can start a business without spending without spending money that doesn’t belong to you you know debt free entrepreneurship is what these guys have role modelled. They chatted to Alan for a good chunk of time. That episode came out on Monday. Stay safe everybody thanks again for watching and we’ll see you all soon. Right Jack hopefully you’re gonna click the button and then you know we can go off into the sunset for the night. See you soon guys.