With only two similar businesses in all of Iowa, David and Julie Betz knew they found a niche market with escape rooms. The couple opened Escape Cedar Valley in the heart of Cedar Falls in mid-November of 2015. The idea came from trips to similar business in 2013. They explored the idea of opening the business in Tennessee, where the market is large enough, but they saw potential in bringing their business to the Cedar Valley area. So far, the couple have seen a
“terrific outcome,” says David Betz.
The couple stumbled upon the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the Cedar Valley Leadership Institute. They attended an SBDC presentation and learned of the services that could be offered to them as small business owners. The couple then came into contact with University of Northern Iowa SBDC counselor, Jessica Marsh. Their experience with Jess was nothing short of wonderful.
Jess helped the two develop a business plan, create a path for success, gave suggestions for banks, reviewed rent/lease options, gave feedback on location and assisted in developing a marketing plan. David was impressed with Jess’s dedication to her work. “She met with us at 3:00 on a Friday, stayed for an hour and a half and really took the time to understand us and our business,” he says. “Jess is our counselor turned friend. She had the good will to help us. We aren’t from here, so it was all new to us.”
The timeline of the business began in March of 2015. Throughout the months of March and April, the couple began designing games and strategies and looking at facilities. In August, they found their location and began renting in September. The process of building and designing the business was not as simple as it seems, however. The two struggled with unresponsive contractors. Luckily, David spotted a contractor in the Menards parking lot, who was able to complete the process in a matter of six weeks.
While the two dedicate their free time to the business, both David and Julie have other full-time positions. They also have three part-time employees to help out. Through word of mouth, social media, radio and TV, they market their business to reach out to a wide range of customers. Corporations will often utilize their business for team building exercises for their company.
The couple especially recognizes the importance of involving the community and giving back. They serve on Main St. Cedar Falls, work with Greater Cedar Valley events, and with the Child Protection Center at Allen Hospital. They even have class rooms and conference rooms available for the community to reserve for special events. “It’s not about the game, it’s about the experience we can provide for the community,” says David.
To learn more about Escape Cedar Valley, visit their webpage at www.escapecedarvalley.com or their Facebook page, Escape Cedar Valley.