Jordan Brawner of Little Spider Creations is profiting off the love millennials have for experiences, instead of just products.
What do Amazon (shopping), Home Chef (cooking) and StitchFix (clothing) have as a common factor? Beyond the merchandise and services they deliver, all three companies (and more like them) offer something a lot more valuable to us: time .
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So, this begs the question, what exactly are consumers doing with all this more time saved by avoiding stores, lines, parking and the rest of the toils of shopping?
In terms of millennials, the answer is easy. Tests by the Harris Group and EventBrite discovered that three out of four millennials surveyed preferred experiences over things; and given these young consumers’ buying power of $600 billion, businesses ought to be attending to.
One small but convincing indicator of the trend may be the rapid rise of escape rooms, a business design where customers are locked for one hour in an area where they urgently solve riddles and puzzles to get out.
For more insight upon this fascinating industry — and how entrepreneurs can capitalize on the knowledge economy generally — I spoke with Jordan Brawner, CEO and creative director for Little Spider Creations (LSC), a company which has been creating and fabricating escape rooms for recent years. LSC is a family-run business which, for 25 years, produced custom props and themes for clients and only recently became associated with the escape room frenzy.
While Brawner knew of this industry through his use theme parks, he saw early that it had been a clear and compelling trend to explore. The numbers, he reasoned, simply didn’t lie.
According to RoomEscapeArtist.com, the U.S. industry grew from roughly 22 escape room companies towards the end of 2014 to almost 1,800 by the next quarter of 2017 — and the ones numbers didn’t include rooms create for temporary purposes (a favorite trend itself).
Moreover, this growth isn’t unique to america. Consider Beijing, which currently operates 181 venues, one for each 63,000 people, while NEW YORK operates 51, or one for each 167,000 people.
What’s important is that the escape-room trend shows no signs of slowing.
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Although LSC operated for many years as a designer and fabricator of custom theme projects for clients (think: towering figures within a theme park), the thought of pivoting to a fresh business design actually came easy. "Our previous direction no more seemed sustainable," Brawner explained, "so pivoting was necessary if we wished to continue, and entering this new market was the only path to accomplish it."
Granted, Brawner is relatively young (a millennial himself) and spent some time working his way up through his family’s business, but he was on target when he said that, "Pivoting may be the lifeblood of entrepreneurship.
"As I started to start to see the curve of where in fact the industry was going," Brawner said, "I made adjustments to your focus, with the escape room industry to take care of the shift. That’s precisely what entrepreneurs do."
Like any home based business or industry, the continuing future of escape rooms is uncertain. The existing industry is fragmented and fairly unpredictable, and companies will have to remain spry while constantly creating new experiences to support customer expectations.
"The escape room [companies] that may survive will be the ones that evolve," Brawner speculated, adding that he’s already looking to the near future. "This evolution appears like it will include more complex technology to improve interactive gameplay and more immersed theming to produce a more realistic feeling."
And, just like the evolution of all industries, Brawner admitted, "As the escape rooms evolve — or at least the ones that are able to evolve — the lesser entry-market escape rooms will be acquired or be confronted with moving away from business. They are harsh realities most business have to face."
Right now, though, the near future looks bright for the industry, and LSC is apparently in an excellent position to lead. Like any entrepreneurial story, Brawner’s had not been easy, therefore i asked him what advice he’d share with aspiring entrepreneurs in his position.
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"Seek and you shall find," he responded. "The very best I could advise is to keep seeking what opportunities exist that may align together with your vision and business. Most probably to them, and become ready to act.”
Are you associated with “the knowledge economy”? Please share your ideas with others in the comments below.