This blog is meant to show you the steps we took to start up our business, and provide you with some of the tools we encountered along the way. One of the tools is the Small Business Administration website: www.sba.gov . At the moment, it is one of the only websites that offers small businesses an interactive way of creating a business plan for free.
Now that I have shared that with you, let's talk about why you'll need a business plan! The short answer is: we didn't have one and spent a lot of money (and time, so much time) making wrong decisions based on our feelings rather than our thought out process.
When you start a business off an idea, you don't have a plan, you simply have a hope. When you start a business off an opportunity, you have taken that idea and worked out some of the potential kinks. You have a goal and you can make decisions based on whether they support that goal or not. Your business plan helps turn the idea into an opportunity.
Michael Ames, author of “Small Business Management” and Gustav Berle, author of “The Do-It-Yourself Business Book”suggest the following 10 reasons for small business failure:
Lack of experience
Insufficient capital (money)
Poor inventory management
Over-investment in fixed assets
Poor credit arrangement management
Personal use of business funds
According to Prospera, a nonprofit organization specialized in providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs trying to establish or expand their business, the main reason small businesses fail in Central Florida, is #3: poor location.
So while we are on the subject, let me share that the whole reason we decided to start our business this year, was because the Seminole Towne Center Mall was interested in having and escape room (ER) operate in their center.
Many ER's are located in strip malls or unusual areas because rent is less expensive and we need large square footage to accommodate several rooms. The fact that we could open inside a mall, where parents could drop off their teenagers more comfortably, seemed like a great idea. Florida's high temperatures and rain are always a consideration. Being inside a facility that offers thorough shelter from both was important to us. Finally, malls are slowly transitioning into large entertainment centers. We wanted to be part of this transition.
If you are considering opening an escape room, or any business for that matter, make sure location is a priority for you. Make a list of necessities and a list of "wants". Search calmly and thoroughly for a place that fits your needs and hopefully has a good amount of your "wants" too. I know its scary to think that it may be "taking too long", but a rushed decision on location can really hurt you in the end.
I cannot stress this enough, find out the regulations that the city will require of you when opening a business, BEFORE you sign a lease. We have good friends who are genius game and prop makers who can't open their Escape Room because the city they chose is extremely rigid. We have known some ER owners who have had to close their doors because they were too far from main roads. If a city or landlord seems put off by escape rooms, then they may not be a right fit for you either. This is a new industry and you will need the support of the city and the building you are leasing from. You already have a lot to deal with, you shouldn't have to convince your landlord constantly about your value as a business.
Bathroom access is important. Unlike a store, your clients pay for every minute they spend in your ER. They need to be able to take care of their needs quickly and get back in the game.
There are many reasons why were hopeful that our choice in location is a positive one. Now, a year into this journey, we are happy to say we made the right choice. Seminole Towne Center has been a terrific landlord to us. They have supported us through some very tough times and through some joyous ones too. The city of Sanford has welcomed Locksmith Escape Games with open arms and we truly appreciate the love.
On the next post we will explore Ames and Berle's first reason of small business failure: lack of experience.
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