After visiting an escape room in Prague, Carolyn Beyer had the idea to bring the excitement and mystery of an escape room back to Iowa City, Iowa. On Labor Day of 2015, Carolyn officially opened Outfox, which consisted of three themed rooms, Jurassic Iowa, Lost Will, and The Abducted Officer. An escape room is where participants are “locked” in a room for 60 minutes while working together to solve a series of puzzles and find clues in attempt to escape the room.
Carolyn received a number of recommendations to contact the University of Iowa (SBDC) Regional Director, Paul Heath. Because the escape room industry is up and coming, she had limited resources and knowledge of how exactly to operate an escape room. With the assistance of Paul, Carolyn was able to get an idea of the cost to run the business. Paul also assisted with sending financial numbers to banks.
Carolyn describes her experience with the SBDC as “entirely positive, I couldn’t believe it was free. Mr. Heath was a great sounding board. He had valuable suggestions.” Carolyn also says “It was helpful to have Mr. Heath because we were starting from scratch. He had the information that I needed to know to move forward.”
She first thought the business would be best suited for Iowa City, a vibrant college town. Because of Iowa City’s high rent, limited parking as well as limited handicap access, Paul suggested that she consider the Coralville area, which borders Iowa City. After further research of a location suggested by Paul, Carolyn settled on a premier location for Outfox. Her target market had transitioned from college students to families and 30 year olds.
Carolyn has a full-time job as a lawyer and operates Outfox with the help of 7 employees. Her future plans for the business are to continue to grow and add an alien theme room to replace Jurassic Iowa. In the long-term, she would like to be able to franchise the business.
Carolyn uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter, signage, fliers and buttons to market her business. Outfox also donates free sessions for silent auctions and other fundraising events. Within the year and half she has been in business, Carolyn has seen her sales significantly increase.
To learn more about Outfox, visit their website at www.outfoxescaperoom.com, or their Facebook page, Outfox.