I was lying in bed one night, exactly one year after I told myself, that if my interest in Escape Rooms didn’t die, then I would work towards opening an escape room. After having worked at Off the Couch, investing time into playing escape rooms, and just thinking about the possibilities of what could have been after each escape experience, it was more than the right time to open one. I knew from the games we booked that I am a true fan of thriller/horror type escape rooms. What came next was a moment I could recall over and over again, it was that very moment that I grabbed my iPad, and started to draft up my version of what I would open as my first room. The feeling was exhilarating, inspiration hit and hit hard, that not within 4 hours, I had the blueprints I would need, including materials list, locks list, gimmicks list, floor space, furniture, I’m talking the entire escape room written down on 17 pages of Good Notes.
Once I knew what I wanted to do, and the blueprints were ready to go, and that exciting feeling just bursting out of me, the next step would be the most intricate. Knowing that I could never give up my day job because I love what I do, and seeing the dynamics of Off the Couch, with their original five owners, I knew what I had to do to be able to open and run this shop. I also knew that I didn’t want to hire anyone initially until I had all three rooms built. By chance, the next moment felt like that one scene from Naruto, where The Fifth Hokage, Tsunade, calls Shikamaru to find and lead a squad of genin to follow the invaders from the sound village, and rescue Sasuke. I thought and thought about what the pitch would be, what each person would have to contribute, what each person would have to give up, and above all, that I wouldn’t be asking anyone to give up their day job.
The first person I wanted to invite was the most critical. This person would have to be a leader, to be able to understand my vision and be able to complement my strengths. Luckily, I knew who that person would be, and have been working with him for a long time. I knew that he would be able to do everything I couldn’t, and most importantly had the ability and eye to make visions come to life. I had my speech ready to go and then waited for him to arrive at work, and in that instance, another person walked in.
This person would have been third on my list, but because I was eager to take the opportunities that literally came knocking on my office door, it seemed like the perfect time to drop the thoughts of an Escape Room. Not within seconds, we talked, we laughed, and we agreed, that Jonathan Ho, would be the CFO to the company. Coming with a finance background, being a graduate of UPenn, and most importantly having a very keen eye on how money can be frugally spent, he was onboard, almost as fast as I asked if he was interested.
Immediately when he walked out, and I swear, I can’t make things like this up, not within minutes, the person I was waiting for walked into the office. As busy as I usually would be in the mornings, it just seemed that fate dealt me a favor and said it would help keep my calendar clear that morning because it knew I needed to have these conversations. I asked if he had time to talk about something non-work related and then dropped that ball. It was like verbal diarrhea had taken control of my mouth, and everything I wanted to say came out two or three words at the same time. We talked, and laughed, and we agreed what our first game would be. I did ask him to not say anything until I gathered the rest of the squad, which he said he would.
Once the conversations were over that morning, I dropped into my seat, looked at the list of people I had in mind, texted and emailed them to talk, and knew that this would be the start to something great. With the two most important people on board, I remember going through my list of people twice, thinking about the order in which I would ask, and then finished my workday, went for a run, and met with number 3.