Immersive entertainment is the latest trend in the team-building space and entrepreneur Gareth Beeston used a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp to launch Other World Escapes and bring his own concept to Southampton. This type of startup is based in the experience economy: the concept that consumers now prefer to spend money on creating memories and experiencing something new, rather than passively consuming. We asked Gareth a few questions to see how he went about getting started.

1. Explain your business in thirty seconds or less.

Sensory and immersive team building!  It’s all about people working together and collaborating to solve puzzles – currently we have 1 games room with capacity to eventually have 3 rooms.

2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?

We are based in Southampton. We live locally too so it’s easy to get to the premises if a booking is made at short notice. We work with cruise companies and offer land excursions. There are lots of small businesses in the area who are interested in team building exercises and there are two universities in the area too – so we have a broad client base.

3. How did you come up with the idea?

The idea was in the pipeline for approx. 18 months and during that time we went around the country seeing who are competitors were and what they offered. This research means we feel our level of ‘story’ is more solid and greater than competitors and offers better engagement for our clients.

4. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?

Very early stages as we needed to complete all our planning and have a comprehensive business plan in place.

5. How have you used it to grow your business?

We developed the first room having found high quality, large premises with enough space for 3-4 games, enabling us to expand quickly if we needed to.

6. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?

In addition to our Enterprise First Business Adviser Lisa Harding, we have been appointed a VSU mentor (Julian Bewley) who has helped the company develop a long term business model.

7. Biggest achievement so far?

Personal achievement was to build the actual room without having any building or carpentry experience. I did it with the assistance of family and friends and my partner so did not need to pay for external labour.

From a business point of view, the company would like to use Southampton as a showroom for people with real estate who would like a similar games room on their premises.

8. What’s next for your business?

Plan to open a second room (1930’s lounge theme) in October and third room at Christmas (Abyss – outerspace). In 2018 we would like to obtain a licence to hold the events in hotels as some have already shown an interest. Longer term they would like to open a similar venture in Barbados as they are familiar with the island and feel it would work.

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