This week, we're happy to be joined by one of the founders of our favorite escape rooms, Robert "Fro" Myers. Fro has been running Boxaroo with his cofounder Victor Hung for years and they both brought their engineering ingenuity to make extremely clever escape rooms.
Jordan Ugalde: Welcome to the Path of Passion Podcast the podcast where we meet people whose lives bring them joy, who are pursuing paths they love, I am your host Jordan, and this is my gorgeous co host.
Tyler T Hamer: and returning your gorgeous co host Tyler.
Jordan Ugalde: And today, we are interviewing Fro, Robert but also Fro either way words um so Fro runs an escape room in Boston and having gone there myself a few times.
Jordan Ugalde: It's, it's a lot of fun it's pretty ingenuitive in how you have to solve the problems which actually our starting question for you um did going to an engineering school, how did going to an engineering school leads you to being like a puzzle room creator.
Robert Myers: It's definitely a winding
Robert Myers: path, but fundamentally engineering and like puzzle creation, not that uh you know far afield, especially in the realm of MIT where there is such a strong puzzling community with things like the MIT mystery hunt.
Robert Myers: It's surprisingly second nature um but yeah my path from engineering was that I was always interested, interested in interactives and you know live action games and theatre, especially the technical side of theatre the, that was something I was very passionate about
Robert Myers: doing in my spare time and then kind of one thing led to another, and eventually.
Robert Myers: I was emailing escape rooms in the Boston area looking for work and I came across this one and
Robert Myers: it turns out, I knew my co owner Victor from taking many classes in college and also theatre classes, he had the same idea and yeah I mean the rest is history.
Tyler T Hamer: So then, did Victor like make the, make Boxarooh first and then you joined or was it you guys...
Robert Myers: Yeah essentially Victor had started
Robert Myers: Boxaroo in 2016.
Robert Myers: Oh God what is time, early, I want to say early 2016 that's when the Mystery of the Magician's Study opened.
Robert Myers: I joined late that late that year December 2016 and ended up
Robert Myers: moving into you know, a leadership position there on and we you know went on to build our second room, which opened in 2018 that's The Conundrum Museum and then we've kept doing things ever since.
Tyler T Hamer: Very cool so um so I assume Victor had a lot of, say, in the first escape the room, was the second one, like a equal collaboration between you guys or what is, I guess, the process of like who's designing what in the rooms?
Robert Myers: For sure yeah that's a great question it's definitely a team effort.
Robert Myers: Right Boxeroo is a collaborative it's a team Victor you know at the time was leading the design team, so you know that there was a museum, an art gallery where things are going to go wrong.
Robert Myers: And so, then it's a matter of curating puzzle ideas from the rest of our
Robert Myers: friends, volunteers, staff, things like that um and then you know it's a bit more entire you know speciality is in terms of who's doing what I can design some of the mechanisms and you know the some of the more mechanical side of things, Victor is a you know.
Robert Myers: Computer scientist graphic design person, so he would deal with the branding and programming the room to run on our software.
Robert Myers: And as we get going, we kept adding more and more people.
Robert Myers: You know, a fantastic carpenter
Robert Myers: who builds all the things also an MIT graduate.
Robert Myers: And you know more people to help with the electronic side of things, the programming and just yeah that's how we kept kept building things out.
Jordan Ugalde: Something I just realized that we should probably touch on just a bit sooner, can you explain just really quickly what an escape room is.
Jordan Ugalde: For anyone who hasn't been to one before.
Robert Myers: Right that's a very good question obviously you know what an escape room is in fact you've been to some of ours, you mentioned, but the way I like to define an escape room is that you and a group of friends colleagues or family are going to go into a room.
Robert Myers: And in that room, you are going to be solving puzzles collecting clues and eventually trying to complete a story.
Robert Myers: And that you know ends with you getting out of the room usually.
Robert Myers: So, but you know the this can vary, has a pretty wide umbrella right we have.
Robert Myers: one room called The Conundrum Museum it's an art gallery, as I mentioned something goes wrong when you're there, and you have to fix everything some art gets stolen, you have to find it I see I see a ferocious nodding, it seems like I'm guessing you've played that one.
Jordan Ugalde: Yeah I did that one it was a lot of fun, the final puzzle we struggled with, but it was really rewarding when we got it, I loved it.
Robert Myers: Yep so that's you know that's kind of that element there of we you know, want the room to have a story, we want all the puzzles to be connected to a theme and tie into the story.
Robert Myers: and solving them gives you a feeling of progression within that environment that we're creating.
Robert Myers: We want it to be immersive and magical feeling with effects and stuff that makes you feel more real and you know ultimately it's just a great fun way to spend an hour and get to bond with some people that you might not other otherwise get to experience.
Jordan Ugalde: Yeah and.
Jordan Ugalde: I mean like I've been exposed to these just because a lot of have popped up in the area since college, so I have gone, and like there have been events that happened at school, where I was like taken to them, and it was awesome and now that I know they exist.
Jordan Ugalde: I go to them frequently not as much during COVID but I try and get back into it, so how did you first find out about this like this isn't a path that I grew up thinking like this is something possible how did you find out about it?
Robert Myers: Yeah definitely you know this was not something that I thought about.
Robert Myers: I didn't grow up with and didn't think like oh yeah, this is the thing during my lifetime, it is wild in many ways, reflecting back to think oh yeah if you'd asked me 10 years ago told me about the concept of escape room, I would have said that's cool but I've never heard of it so.
Robert Myers: My experience immediately out of college, I had been I had a summer job working at a museum exhibit design firm.
Robert Myers: So it, you know they created both the like standard here's a display with all of the information about a given topic for the museum.
Robert Myers: But also here's some interactive games that people are playing.
Robert Myers: Things like that, so it, it was a very interesting experience and then, but their focus was always kind of on education, first, you know information first and then.
Robert Myers: The fun aspect secondary, so I kind of wanted to follow up on that with well what if the first goal was the entertainment right. Additionallu I had also had some association with the.
Robert Myers: Company Five Wits I did a.
Robert Myers: Basically, a one semester.
Robert Myers: internship with them and it.
Robert Myers: yeah it was pretty formative and oh they're doing like the escape room concept, but their own version of it.
Robert Myers: And they were doing it basically before anyone else in in the US so.
Robert Myers: Yeah and at that point, I.
Robert Myers: You know mid 2016 I was like hey This seems like a thing.
Robert Myers: I you know I'm gonna see if anyone's hiring, especially for somebody with like an engineering skill set who's interested in in doing more of this and.
Robert Myers: yeah one of them got back to me and yeah just having to work out.
Jordan Ugalde: So I'm not sure what your family, friends community is like, but how did they respond to you saying like I'm gonna go do this thing that hasn't happened to us before.
Robert Myers: yeah that's that's a great question.
Robert Myers: You know um I can speak definitely to my friends have been nothing but fantastically supportive.
Robert Myers: And you know, while a lot of them were in many ways, got to experience it on the ground floor with me right that's like hey.
Robert Myers: I need to learn rented an escape room is who wants to come and do this with me and having you know, a bunch of a number of friends who are into that sort of puzzle solving aspect.
Robert Myers: And like a you know fantastic partner who loved solving puzzles it was like great we can go explore this together and it's been incredibly supportive having that.
Robert Myers: Family, you know I believe the very first time I mentioned this to my dad he was like that's not that's not a thing um.
Robert Myers: And then I remember, I went home for thanksgiving beforehand and I had found a book, which was about.
Robert Myers: How to build an escape room and it not just how to build the actual room, but how to build an escape room business.
Robert Myers: As part of it, so it focused mostly on design, but it was also like these are the thing other things, to think about with that.
Robert Myers: And I had I had read it, I finished it over thanksgiving and he saw I was reviewing it's like Oh, I guess, he won't take this serious like can I borrow that book after you and afterwards yeah you he was pretty convinced.
Robert Myers: And so my family's been incredibly supportive ever since.
Jordan Ugalde: that's awesome that's that's great.
Tyler T Hamer: So, then, have has your family been to any of your escape rooms on or.
Robert Myers: They.
Robert Myers: have in fact played all of the escape rooms, we currently have.
Robert Myers: yeah they they did our online one.
Robert Myers: Our online puzzle hunt that we produced during COVID times when we were shut down.
Robert Myers: They haven't been up for any of our large live events, yet, but.
Robert Myers: You know at this point well we'll see when they start making a comeback and yeah love to get them up for that sometime.
Tyler T Hamer: I was gonna ask what the like the pandemic, so you mentioned you move to doing an online puzzle with like you know, possibly the pandemic extending are you guys thinking about doing a second online puzzle or what's kind of the plans for the future right now.
Robert Myers: yeah definitely for the time being we're you know, continuing to run our rooms as safe as we can, but for our staff and for guests, you know we think escape rooms, especially in small groups that are vaccinated that have you know, a bubble and a Community they trust that's great.
Robert Myers: Also escape rooms tend to be you know classified as one of the riskier things by the state here in Massachusetts so if things are having to shut it down I'm sure we will be the first.
Robert Myers: for whatever reason, so you know when that if that happens again.
Robert Myers: When that maybe happens again, we will see, we want to look at other online things we want to look at other.
Robert Myers: At home versions of play, you know things like the escape room in a box model, but you know.
Jordan Ugalde: Our sort of twist on it yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah that's really I like I've seen some of it's like almost like a board game you open and there's an outline element and you're like that seems really cool that's definitely.
Tyler T Hamer: Like I got I've gone to escape rooms by have yet to take the plunge into that board game take at home escape the box.
Robert Myers: there's definitely some yeah really cool space in.
Robert Myers: The Board game is a good word for it, the like escape room board game version.
Robert Myers: I you know I've played the two leading ones commercially for that which are unlocked and I think it's exit the game was the other one.
Robert Myers: And it's you know interesting it's it's a good system that they have there and that's really I think pulling from the board game side of things, you know.
Robert Myers: We at this point now have some experience in designing and making you know, like small scale interactive tools and and props that.
Robert Myers: You know, we have to immediately hand into people's hands, not just necessarily in the environment of the escape room but.
Robert Myers: In wherever customers are playing it so you know, the idea of could we repurpose that into something physical that people would take into their own homes.
Robert Myers: um you know, could we transfer those skills there um but also what kind of stories, do we want to tell something in that realm another online thing you know there's many different options at at this point.
Robert Myers: That that we want to look into.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah I've actually in the startup world I've heard of some businesses who are doing like ongoing mysteries not necessarily puzzles but like mystery problems where like new information gets trickled out every week every two weeks, and you have to solve the puzzle over time.
Jordan Ugalde: So there are a lot of opportunities in the space.
Robert Myers: Lately yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: But one thing I want to touch on relating to something earlier so obviously Kobe surprise everyone and such pretty much across the board, but more broadly on that subject of unexpected setbacks what has been your it's like.
Jordan Ugalde: The way you explained your start leaving college it didn't seem like you were going straight to being business owner So what have been some unexpected parts of running your own business.
Robert Myers: Oh.
Robert Myers: there's.
Robert Myers: been a lot of them.
Robert Myers: And you know, I will say, especially for escape rooms being such a new type of business.
Robert Myers: One of the very first things I had to interact with when I joined Boxer was the inspection services department in the city of Boston, these are the building inspectors who.
Robert Myers: You know.
Robert Myers: have to sign off on businesses make sure, yes, this place is safe it's meeting all the fire code and everything else for life safety I'm so.
Tyler T Hamer: Sad worse than like going to the dmv how painful is that experience.
Robert Myers: um I mean, I can tell you that going that you know.
Robert Myers: I don't think there's a risk of going to the dmv and having my business shut down right.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah that's.
Tyler T Hamer: that's things that's very.
Tyler T Hamer: So much higher stakes yeah so I guess the word can tag having a food inspector come by.
Robert Myers: yeah you could think of it as vit right very much if you know you know people in the restaurant industry on.
Robert Myers: bartending that sort of thing you know, this is the equivalent of that.
Robert Myers: And it is a it's not it's not fun, I will tell you, you know we got.
Robert Myers: yeah.
Robert Myers: We had a very interesting start because.
Robert Myers: The you know every state is going to be different in fact every jurisdiction is different because it turns out in the US they're just like you know states may be able to set codes, but at least in Massachusetts it's every city is its own separate jurisdiction.
Robert Myers: yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: Oh, why.
Tyler T Hamer: I do remit know because I, because I know from my dad so my dad's like was the electrician is electrician in Chicago.
Tyler T Hamer: And I know that the Boston electrical code is different than the surrounding cities electrical code like in Boston everything has to be running conduit and properly grounded, whereas like when you get out.
Tyler T Hamer: To the White House yes.
Tyler T Hamer: it's a lot Western mass is white wire and you know you drive a nail through the wall in your house burns burns down so.
Robert Myers: and on top of that everything in the commercial sector is you know, a tear above what you might get in residential.
Tyler T Hamer: Right yeah.
Robert Myers: So yeah everything has to be kind to it for sure.
Robert Myers: So.
Jordan Ugalde: Really quick along the along the lines of electricity.
Jordan Ugalde: One of the escape rooms that I've gone to how to puzzle, where there was like a magnetic ball and you had to like link arms and like a current would flow through you, to complete a circuit.
Jordan Ugalde: A to open up this one door, so how how legal is that for you to like try to get.
Robert Myers: That is a fantastic question and.
Robert Myers: You know there's a.
Robert Myers: Who.
Robert Myers: I mean the simple answer is yes, if you do it smart right, this is with most things right, you know the obvious answers, if you want to be 100% safe, you should work with you know your local inspector the local.
Robert Myers: authority to figure out hey is will this work, or what special requirements do you have to sign off on this.
Robert Myers: If you're going to take the more practical route, you know if you want to do something like that um you know don't be an idiot make sure it's a you know insanely low current or don't do current do you know capacitive detection right on multiple different points.
Robert Myers: there's so many ways to do it, and you know this is me having the engineering background.
Robert Myers: You know many ways to do it that don't put people at risk right.
Tyler T Hamer: it's it's almost like a like a magic trick right, you can tell people there's current flowing, but in reality it could be some like a safer technology like capacitive touch it's just the the illusion and that gets you.
Robert Myers: Like you know there's I mean.
Robert Myers: Even to this day there's tons of off the shelf devices that can help with things like this, you know I can think like.
Robert Myers: Making a key you know there's there's tons of hobbyist stuff that can be used for this and you can find and repurpose that for something, such as this, although that has its own level of problems which oh boy.
Robert Myers: I could talk about.
Robert Myers: But you know, to start with it's like you know, there are ways to do this, that are safe and you know do those don't reinvent the wheel, and you can tell customers, you know it's electricity and they'll usually shake your head and go I, yes, I understand.
Robert Myers: and
Robert Myers: As long as it didn't hurt.
Robert Myers: them, and you know you have a very convincing waiver it's fine.
Tyler T Hamer: So I guess from like I'm along the lines of like you mentioned like RC and hobbyist stuff like after all Boxer is a business so like.
Tyler T Hamer: I assume there's some kind of like trade off between like Oh, the hobbyist stuff is cheaper, you know more readily available.
Tyler T Hamer: But as its own issues versus like high end commercial grade stuff is going to be really expensive, so I guess is there, you know, is there some optimization that goes in do you guys prefer using open source hobbyist stuff or.
Tyler T Hamer: A.
Robert Myers: I mean yeah setting aside open source, because that is you know, a different bag of worms simply put.
Robert Myers: hobbies stuff is.
Robert Myers: Good if you are prototyping or making one off type things things that will have a limited shelf life, but as we discovered because we did start out using.
Robert Myers: You know arduino and raspberry pI's to do very hobbyists level items, and you know those pins you know that are controlling things, maybe only work.
Robert Myers: hundreds of times tops and you know we're having we need them to work thousands 10 thousands or more.
Robert Myers: So very you know quickly, it was like well, I have to replace this thing and fix it every week, this is dumb can we buy something that won't you know break and the answer is yes and that's when we we were introduced to.
Robert Myers: PCs and other industrial automation devices.
Robert Myers: And it turns out.
Robert Myers: that's.
Jordan Ugalde: that's the way to do it, so do you think that your guys's backgrounds as engineers has really helped you in creating escape rooms puzzle rooms, because I don't know if other.
Jordan Ugalde: Like there's puzzle rooms across the United States and I'm willing to bet not every one of those people are engineers so I'm gonna I'm wondering what your perspective on that is.
Robert Myers: yeah I mean, I think.
Robert Myers: there's a certain degree of like, if you want to make an escape room of of any kind right it's.
Robert Myers: You should look at what your background and your strengths are and play up on that, so we were engineers, we had theater experience.
Robert Myers: We leaned very hard into special effects and technology, you know technology based solves for puzzles right.
Robert Myers: it's not just Oh, I put the you know word in the lock it's oh I you know turn the dial and it magically made something pop open somewhere else that was the thing we can figure out.
Robert Myers: If you've got people who you know if you're if somebody else is doing this and you have a team of people with like.
Robert Myers: TV script writing experience I better believe you can come out with a fantastic story that you can can be accomplished and understood by players in an hour and you want to build on that, for your room right.
Robert Myers: So.
Tyler T Hamer: So then, in terms of.
Tyler T Hamer: I think our engineering background.
Robert Myers: helped helped us do our rooms, the way we wanted to yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: that's really cool So then, and obviously you guys have grown since so then like have you in terms of expanding have you been focusing on adding more engineers and you know leaning into that special effects or have you guys.
Tyler T Hamer: You know, got like a TV script writer, or like tried to make the team or well rounded.
Robert Myers: um I think we sort of started by trying to shore up you know whole like build upon the the things we could do and there's a certain degree of just who is interested in helping out and what were their specialties right, you know, we had somebody you know, apply to work here and.
Robert Myers: You know.
Robert Myers: name is bree fantastic carpenter had experience, making signs commercially and so could build just about anything we wanted.
Robert Myers: from any sort of you know, based sketch, or something would be able to draft it up and then build it.
Robert Myers: You know and that's like great I don't have to worry as much about building those things I can work on how are we going to get this electronic thing to work this moving bit I'm.
Robert Myers: Victor could focus on well how do we make the software for this room intuitive or even like self correcting and you know dynamic difficulty adjusting things like that.
Robert Myers: And you know we got to then specialize more into those things and we hired someone to be an operator to help run the rooms, who.
Robert Myers: is also a sound engineer for theatrical productions and so has been helping us do like much more professional level recordings for all of our sound effects narrations.
Robert Myers: recorded hints.
Robert Myers: So it's you know we haven't gone out necessarily looking for people, but everyone who comes to join us has some special talent some hidden skill.
Robert Myers: And we try to be an environment where we can let that shine in that flourish.
Jordan Ugalde: So along those lines of hiring and just bringing on new team members, but obviously you you do everything you can with the team, you have at the time.
Jordan Ugalde: But as you are getting on new team members, they each bring their own skills, but that also means there is less less hats that everyone else has to wear So what does that experience like for you, removing some of your hats and giving them to other people.
Robert Myers: Oh.
Robert Myers: yeah no genuinely that has been something I've been struggling with especially you know.
Robert Myers: A certain degree over the pandemic, we have had a lot of turnover, as you know, most everyone has you know we tried to keep as many people.
Robert Myers: As many spots open for people as we could not everyone could come back for one reason or another, and you know that sucks.
Robert Myers: It we were very tight knit we still are a very tight knit group tight knit team here and it it hurts losing you know people to circumstances such as that but you know that said it's I.
Robert Myers: don't have a background in business, I don't have necessarily the experience leading something like this, so I like to do things I like to learn, by doing so having to take a step back and say.
Robert Myers: hey you actually have a ton of operational experience because you've meant like you've run restaurants, before you know.
Robert Myers: I think I think I would like to tap into that and going to slowly, ask you to take on some some of the things I've been doing, like.
Robert Myers: The weekly schedule and you know time tracking and stuff like that and working with people on that, and you know there's a part of it is like Oh, is it going to be the way I was doing it they're going to do with their way, how do I feel about that and.
Robert Myers: I think I'm starting to realize that this one it's like well if I want the company to grow and get better I get I have to, I have to let go a little bit I can't do everything at at the stage where add much less if we want to grow so.
Robert Myers: yeah it's been a learning experience to to let go and trust other people to do things.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah I feel like there's very much It is especially if you are used to building stuff on your own there's so much learning and growing that you do, on your own that doesn't translate to once you have a larger group of people.
Jordan Ugalde: and letting that letting that almost intuition that that second nature go in order to grow, the beast that is a creature more than just yourself.
Jordan Ugalde: can be hard it can almost feel a non intuitive sometimes because it just feels so alien from your own experiences, but at the same time, you know, like this is what has to happen.
Robert Myers: For sure you know, in.
Robert Myers: In some ways.
Robert Myers: A thing I picked up a while ago before the pandemic happened and Boxer was on a very good upswing having open or third room.
Robert Myers: It was like Okay, we need to sort of systematized everything and ideally if I'm take a week off for vacation God forbid, I were to get hit by a lottery ticket that sort of thing I would just be able to.
Robert Myers: You know, things could still go on without me.
Robert Myers: as the case may be, so you know it's how do I let other people, you know become cogs in this machine that we're building.
Robert Myers: Right like I trust all the people to help with the build side of things, you know at the time I was still learning to let go of the operational side of things, in terms of how do we trust, not just that.
Robert Myers: You know everyone here can do their thing right, but how can I trust that the person.
Robert Myers: I'm in you know interesting to design the system, the up you know operations manual the training schedule and procedures and the hiring process that that will spin up and go in a way that represents the Boxer I want it to be right.
Robert Myers: And you know, having to reinvent everything every time things change it, you know what we're looking for now is very different than what we were looking for two years ago, before the pandemic happens.
Tyler T Hamer: that's fair, so I guess like in terms of like what is currently, I guess, like the trajectory you want to take Boxer on is it to you know open.
Tyler T Hamer: You know, get get a couple more stores develop um you know, like more of the online presence like what if you know, excluding the pandemic Where would you like to see the company go.
Robert Myers: Right what yeah what comes next is a great question and fundamentally I want I want Boxer to grow specifically I want more escape rooms, I want more of the rooms, we produce and the stories we telling them to exist.
Robert Myers: At our current location, we are full up on space right we have built out the the rooms, we can, where we can build them, and you know, the next step on that would have been hey let's get more space and do this.
Robert Myers: Obviously, a pandemic happens and it's like well we'll have to figure out what comes next now, I think it is still I you know my dream is let's find more space here second location something.
Robert Myers: And let's produce more escape rooms, we have so many good ideas in our back pocket that that we would love to get out there.
Robert Myers: um you know, at the same time, the realistic thing is hey to really make an escape room to the quality that we want and to give the value that people expect it costs a lot of money, it is not a small investment in money or time or you know people and and resources, so if we can't.
Robert Myers: Do that right now with the circumstances we have what is something smaller that we can find to do and that's That was really where our online puzzle hunt.
Robert Myers: Call bs curious cook off came from, and you know, at the same time, we might revisit something in that form factor we might do something, you know in in a different form factor that's that's more physical, but you know play at home.
Robert Myers: Those are really like the two non.
Robert Myers: built another escaper the non location based ones, if I would say that.
Jordan Ugalde: I feel like in some ways this ties into the same kind of challenges as scaling in terms of.
Jordan Ugalde: Like.
Jordan Ugalde: I was watching some like bio pitch on the founding of mcdonald's and the people who started the original business.
Jordan Ugalde: had very strong concerns about making sure that the quality was good that everything was up to their standards and then the person who was interested in transforming it into more of a franchise business.
Jordan Ugalde: was like, how can we operationalize this as efficiently as possible to make this a money making machine.
Jordan Ugalde: And there is some kind of push and pull between wanting your vision of a specific type of business entity versus wanting um something to become a profit, generating machine, so I guess what are your thoughts on that.
Robert Myers: yeah that is definitely the.
Robert Myers: I would politely say you know.
Robert Myers: The the tug of war between like what what does this business have to become right obviously it's a business, we need to make profits, we need to be profitable that's, the only way to survive.
Robert Myers: But at the same time right, you know, for most of us, this is a Community it's a Labor of love it's something we like doing and happened also get paid for right it's it's a nice.
Robert Myers: Creative outlet for so many people here.
Robert Myers: So you know I don't.
Robert Myers: You know Boxer becoming you know 40 franchises and a year and a half around the you know us and they're all you know kind of crappy like some escape room chains I don't I don't think that's the way for us right.
Robert Myers: You know we're not.
Robert Myers: out to be the next mcdonald's or.
Robert Myers: The next you know huge chain of things right, I think we have good, solid quality and deliver a very unique experience.
Robert Myers: And I'd like to keep doing that I'd like to do that more than we currently have you know what we have is great, I think we can do more and do better, and that will make us, you know, like for the business side more profitable and you know more durable and more world renowned so.
Tyler T Hamer: I think it's really important that when you mentioned like you know scaling maintaining quality It reminds me of like one of my favorite facts in history is um.
Tyler T Hamer: What happened to kfc when Colonel Sanders sold it originally so he, like salt way so Colonel Sanders makes the first kfc.
Tyler T Hamer: And, like the original gravy had like 26 like different spices in it, and now kfc is gravy has like four in it, or something and by the time that he died he hated kfc and he would go into different camps sees and rant about how terrible it is a good try to get people to leave so like.
Tyler T Hamer: it's like one of those things about like trying to grow and maintain quality is actually something that's really important.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: I know I'm in now.
Jordan Ugalde: in and out is a business where it's not franchise it's entirely owned.
Jordan Ugalde: By in and out.
Jordan Ugalde: And it's pretty consistent and coming from California damn I look like for the toss like cost value I think it's pretty worth it um but actually with.
Jordan Ugalde: In the Philippines, the best half see I ever had was in the Philippines, where they had chickens just in the back, so it was as fresh, as you can possibly know it was amazingly fresh.
Jordan Ugalde: Oh yeah but I, like you, can't really do that in the United States, so you know you but.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah but, like, I know there is one brewery in the area, who was making cider where they decide to shut down because they felt.
Jordan Ugalde: Like the only way for their business to continue existing in the current environment was for them to scale in a way that would decrease the quality of their product and they didn't want make that jump so they decided to close down the business and ended.
Jordan Ugalde: With their values intact and I can respect that, like it that's a hard decision but it's very much one I can respect.
Tyler T Hamer: That also led me to buy up like all the remaining cider I could.
Robert Myers: I mean it's a you know definitely a way to go out and you know the.
Robert Myers: In the escape room it's the you know, tried and true marketing technique of hey we're retiring this room at you know, this time and then suddenly it's booked out through through your closing date and you're like I guess I could run it for a little bit longer.
Robert Myers: You know, we have never at this point, replace the room.
Robert Myers: Most escape rooms in the Boston area, most of the independent ones haven't replaced rooms like that.
Robert Myers: And you know that's kind of just part of it, of life now but yeah.
Robert Myers: For me, anyway, the idea of wanting to.
Robert Myers: If something were to like when I started this a lot of us were you know it's like yep there's you know.
Robert Myers: there's that one guy he's got his escape room and he's reading it, you know 24 seven and it's just him and.
Robert Myers: turns out that's a great way to maybe make a lot of money and a great way to burn yourself out so you know.
Robert Myers: If you want to scale it you gotta hire people to help you know take shifts run other things, then you run the other parts of the business.
Robert Myers: um but at the same time, you can also still keep it small right, this is a kind of a niche industry where.
Robert Myers: At least, right now, you could just be a small company, you could just have the one or two locations, you could have the three to six rooms be decently profitable and you know, keep that going for a while.
Robert Myers: So there is some balance, where you wouldn't have to necessarily say.
Robert Myers: there's no light at the end of the tunnel, I guess, we better stop here.
Jordan Ugalde: So, what are your hours look like now versus when you started out with just the two of you.
Robert Myers: um.
Robert Myers: Well, well early on, it was a you know all the time, there were definitely days this my favorite Boston part you know I would get to get to work before 10am.
Robert Myers: No sun is up because it's Boston in the winter.
Robert Myers: I work in a basement.
Robert Myers: there's no sunlight down there no windows.
Robert Myers: In fact, one of our rooms isn't no bank fault there's definitely no sunlight there, and you know I leave like 678 pm, even if I got out on an early day at four o'clock there's no sun so yeah.
Robert Myers: So yeah I worked, basically, in some ways, all the time.
Robert Myers: My dad definitely jokingly said look if you're gonna start a business and you're going to be working 60 to 80 hours a week and that's just how it goes so good luck.
Robert Myers: and
Robert Myers: yeah turns out, he was right about that.
Robert Myers: Nowadays it's still you know.
Robert Myers: Maybe 60 hours a week, especially on a busy week but um you know my priorities have shifted I'm running the rooms less I'm interesting the people were hiring.
Robert Myers: To do that, and I'm focusing more on hey, how do we sell to these groups that are looking to do special bookings.
Robert Myers: How do we, you know plan a large event for this corporate client that we could we could run for them Oh, how do I get grant money to help fill some gaps because of COVID.
Robert Myers: You know the the reality of it is I in many ways I'm doing more seo work and less of the actual running of the rooms and less of the design in the build type thing which I was you know I am still really passionate about and I want to get back to we're just not quite at the stage yet.
Tyler T Hamer: that's fair, so I guess la a in the future, then, would you be looking to you know have someone that does operations full full time, so you could go back to being like the head of the designing the puzzles.
Robert Myers: yeah yeah I would say, like that's kind of the direction I'm hoping things head is is you know training people up now to be able to manage.
Robert Myers: All of the day to day operations and I'm a bit of a weird creature, I do like doing all of it at Boxer you know I love running rooms for customers, because it lets me actually see.
Robert Myers: The you know the rubber hit the road I get to see their faces and see the reactions and that is.
Robert Myers: extremely rewarding um you know it's it's like doing a live theater production, where you're like actually getting to see the magic happen and.
Robert Myers: Getting the feedback from the audience that is huge, to me, but I also don't want to do that all the time, I want to design and I want to build so.
Robert Myers: You know, in a certain way, I think the ideal situation is slowly spin up the different parts of it get people trained to run the operation side of thing and I'll get to you know we're still a small team right we.
Robert Myers: don't even have 10 people right now, so I still have to help out with that, but.
Robert Myers: You know we'll get people to deal with that maybe somebody will come along who's you know got a huge interest in the business side of things and bookkeeping or something I don't know um.
Robert Myers: And that can become a part of that and then suddenly it's like oh now I can check in on that, but I can still focus on the design and product development side of things that you know, has been stagnant for a while.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah that honestly from the stories I've heard and read that isn't necessarily uncommon like there are plenty of companies where.
Jordan Ugalde: The founders eventually end up hiring a CEO and then they just focus on what they are most passionate about so it's but and some of those companies are doing quite well but it's by no means like.
Jordan Ugalde: There are plenty there are a lot more paths in making a business run that I think are like commonly told or and honestly, a lot of this is just not not well known at all.
Robert Myers: No definitely not and like I you know.
Robert Myers: tried reading I will tell you my number one frustration is the number of times I tried to find a book on how'd you run or grow a business and.
Robert Myers: Every single one I picked up focuses on a tech based startup.
Robert Myers: And let me tell you what is not um.
Tyler T Hamer: But you have the magic you said, all the special effects, yes.
Robert Myers: uh and you know yeah I mean it turns out right like just because we have tech doesn't mean we're a startup either and we're not trying to act like one so it's you know the.
Robert Myers: That whole mindset annoys me so much because it's in many ways pollutes things it's like no, I would just like to know how to run and grow my you know small to medium sized business where are the books on this right.
Robert Myers: And it's.
Robert Myers: That has been a struggle, if anyone has any good books out there, I would love to hear them.
Robert Myers: So.
Jordan Ugalde: We aren't sponsored by them, I know, sponsorship at all, but I'm.
Robert Myers: What I'm known as.
Jordan Ugalde: Well, not not yet not yet except master class will never last lesson so um what I've actually found really valuable because I've been.
Jordan Ugalde: I've been trying not succeeding, but trying to start my own business this past year.
Jordan Ugalde: But I've found really helpful is our communities have other small business owners and entrepreneurs, so there is one that I'm part of told trends were.
Jordan Ugalde: Like honestly the newsletter is fine, but what's a lot more valuable is the Community where you can there's a lot of events, you can talk to a lot of people about any level of specific question like we have people talking about like.
Jordan Ugalde: m&a late like mergers and acquisitions at a small scale, we have people talking about like just their landing pages doing marketing for like very small companies, it and there is.
Jordan Ugalde: A wide variety of people in the group so it's really easy to find the information you have to find to find by the that you want found.
Jordan Ugalde: And I've always been able to get my questions answered so again, this is not sponsor at all it's just I've had a positive experience with them and I found that a community.
Jordan Ugalde: can be a lot more valuable than a book, because you can have an ongoing conversation and ask questions, but you can't really ask to put questions where you can, but the book is just going to.
Jordan Ugalde: be a book.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah so.
Robert Myers: that's my experience out and and to that end, I will say.
Robert Myers: The escape room community, and specifically the owner Community it's fantastic like there is a huge you know.
Robert Myers: it's funny because you think oh most businesses in the same you know industry right if you go to coffee shops surely they're competing right but here's the thing people can only do an escape room once.
Robert Myers: Unless you're that guy who's going to bring multiple different dates to the same room, which we have had and I'm you know if you ask any escape room under they will probably tell you the same story um so.
Robert Myers: yeah we.
Robert Myers: You know, we do kind of all have to work together and there's a sense of if you know if all escape rooms are good quality more people want to come do them and they will do you know your three rooms go down the street and do their four rooms and keep going so.
Robert Myers: And then spread the word to their friends about what to do so, you know and most.
Robert Myers: Most owners, especially like New England area is great there's a ton of independent owners here, and you know we've got our Facebook group and we chat and talk and go round and visit each other.
Robert Myers: Before the pandemic, we would do meetups and you know there'd be like 40 of us there um and you know it's fun it's it's great seeing these like minded people at the same time, a lot of us are also like.
Robert Myers: yeah how the heck do we grow this business and so it's like you know it would be nice to to learn from from the wisdom of others who have experienced doing other things you know.
Robert Myers: And there's always that you know oh I if I If I could just figure out how to make this business work then.
Robert Myers: I would do it, and you know, maybe you wouldn't necessarily share that that's always my feeling is like.
Robert Myers: yeah we're all friendly and we will you know talk shop and stuff, but if we had some deep secret to you know, the success of business, probably, we would just keep that to ourselves or write a book I don't know.
Jordan Ugalde: Well, so one thing I have found is that for trade secrets oh yeah no one's gonna tell you shit um but for general life.
Jordan Ugalde: For I guess intro level knowledge like non trade specific knowledge, but just how to be broadly successful which there's so much fucking shit to learn for that.
Jordan Ugalde: I found that people are pretty open about that because building that relationship of being someone who is helpful, who can give advice, who is who is reliable, to turn to that reputation is much more valuable than the information you gave away.
Jordan Ugalde: So that's at least what I found from the people I've tried to get answers from.
Tyler T Hamer: I mean.
Tyler T Hamer: I think that's.
Tyler T Hamer: fairly accurate like you know, was that our third up When did we interview Jared was that our second or second episode right so in the beginning of the pandemic Jared yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: I'm soldiers so Tina is our friend who is a bar, who is a bartender and now a bar consultant at the Caribbean main he on through.
Tyler T Hamer: patrol there was a class is called a academy patrol and he did spreadsheets for bar.
Tyler T Hamer: And he covered how to do that in the beginning, depend on MIC for bars that were struggling, so I definitely could definitely see what you're saying, where there's definitely people are very willing to spread that that base knowledge that everyone needs to be successful.
Robert Myers: know for sure, and I, you know there's a it's you know I I do remember that episode and I remember you know actually taking the.
Robert Myers: How to mix drinks class from Jared through during college oh that's that's fantastic.
Robert Myers: And you know there's a certain sense of when other owners come to visit it's like hey you played the room, do you want to see the behind the scenes, and you know we get to talk shop, you know and there's a certain again level of you know, a rising tide lifts all boats right.
Robert Myers: If you know we're talking tech and it's like oh we're using this and someone's like Oh, we use arduino it's like oh yeah.
Robert Myers: We had the problem where that kept burning out and they're like Oh well, what would you recommend instead it's like look into stuff like this, you know.
Robert Myers: we're not giving away our trade secrets we're not we're not sharing our code with anyone but uh you know, the idea of hey, this is the tool you'll probably want to use, you know it's it's been pretty helpful.
Tyler T Hamer: I think it also you know, and since you also took like the bartending class under Jared I think you know one commonality we all have is that MIT spirit like.
Tyler T Hamer: Yes, you know when you're at the top of your field and you're.
Tyler T Hamer: Doing you maybe like publications, you know you're not gonna like so you give away like what gives you the edge, but you also want to be the best of the best right, so you want to bring up people around you and be collaborative as much as you can.
Robert Myers: Oh for sure there's so much more to be gained by being collaborative than there is by being competitive necessarily right um and ultimately it's like.
Robert Myers: I I really feel especially an escape room where you know you, you are limited, on the number of times the customers coming back right.
Robert Myers: You know you are going to have to play nice with people, and it really helps you to to be you know have good networking and to be you know, a positive experience right if I you know.
Robert Myers: Like someone's escape room, I will recommend it to them, because I think they will enjoy it right, and you know if so if it's a bad escape room experience you don't want to send them there, because then they might be like hey escape rooms aren't great so you know it's it is.
Robert Myers: A very tight knit spirit.
Jordan Ugalde: So touching on that um.
Jordan Ugalde: So what I'm thinking right now is that, in some ways and escape room is like a hybrid follow me with this it's a hybrid between like a bar and a washing machine.
Jordan Ugalde: And that it is cultivating an experience but it's not like you buy a wash like you don't buy a washing machine every single day or every single week you buy a washing machine until it's time to get a new one, so.
Jordan Ugalde: How, how do you do, how, how do you make that kind of industry work like how how frequently, how do you decide when to make a new washing machine.
Jordan Ugalde: So to say, make a new escape room.
Robert Myers: No, I mean that's that's a great question and the simple answer is, you know when we started out, it was like whoa how you know big question is how long do we run these rooms for and because you know, in my experience.
Robert Myers: This industry, at least in the United States is less than a decade old right, the answer is nobody knows I'm you know.
Robert Myers: When I started the common wisdom was like oh you're going to get one maybe two years out of it we've had the magician study for five years now.
Robert Myers: And I don't think it's in danger of going away the simple answer is, it depends right turns out Austin is great because it's a huge metropolitan area.
Robert Myers: It has a lot of college kids, which is a transient population that's going to come and go, so cheers to that.
Robert Myers: You know, and like we you know, try to we try to bring a lot of college kids and it's like hey MIT people, we have the puzzle heavy room that's going to tax your minds and and they still stop it anyway um that's how it goes.
Robert Myers: You know we've got more artistically inclined ones it's like hey you know.
Robert Myers: Emerson and Suffolk kids come in and experience this room and it's you know they're also literally right on a doorstep, in this case.
Robert Myers: yeah just down the block from us there's a new Suffolk university dorm so whenever things returned to normal and there's college kids right there I sure hope we get a lot of them coming over to do the escape room.
Robert Myers: So yeah like personally I don't know when we're going to replace these rooms and that's why I know the next step is hey, we have to go find more space and produce more experiences, because all of our fans who played all three and love them.
Robert Myers: have to come back and do more, and they keep asking us when is more stuff going to come out so.
Jordan Ugalde: So you've maintained I'm actually I'm kind of surprised in a positive way that you've been able to keep the same room for five years.
Jordan Ugalde: like that is not something that I would have expected and that's awesome has from a business side has the finance has been like roughly the same throughout or has it like How does that work.
Robert Myers: yeah I mean it's funny.
Robert Myers: When we had one room, we were not making enough money to cover things.
Robert Myers: When we had two rooms, we were not making enough money to cover things, but it was like about it was more than one room, but not quite double.
Robert Myers: And then we opened our third room and things took off on it, it wasn't just like doubled, it was more than that people loved it people, we had a huge explosion of stuff.
Robert Myers: And that was September 2019 so.
Robert Myers: Not even six months later yeah.
Robert Myers: yeah.
Robert Myers: yeah we open storytellers secret, which was a phenomenal room is a phenomenal room.
Robert Myers: And will be again and it's a it's a yeah we got a huge ton of recognition we kept getting more people coming out business was picking up um you know and then covered happened, and here we are.
Tyler T Hamer: So I was gonna say um you know, in terms of like a growing is there also I just wonder is there, like initial spike when you open like a new room is there kind of like a grand opening or like is there, like a lot of it got a lot of excitement I'm just mailing list mailing list.
Robert Myers: Oh so maybe we kind of do this wrong, we tend to do like the soft open where it's like.
Robert Myers: yeah when there's a new you just look at our website and suddenly there's this new room, you can book.
Robert Myers: No grand announcement and it turns out yeah we have a lot of kinks to work out so we're just you know book The room come and do it it's open limited times per week, because we need to spend you know, four days a week, fixing it and and improving on it.
Robert Myers: yeah in little ways nothing like hugely shifting so you know those people who played first still are getting the full experience just maybe without all the bells and whistles or if that thing breaks we're really sorry.
Robert Myers: But you know we fix after that, and then we do the grand you know opening announcement.
Robert Myers: We tend to get a little bit of a spike like maybe when that happens, you know, send out to the mailing list announcing the thing um.
Robert Myers: I would say that the the biggest recognition is like after the biggest bump is, after some sort of recognition, so a review comes out that's you know they're usually pretty glowing and we always appreciate that.
Robert Myers: A you know award thing happens and and we play well with that those go a long way.
Robert Myers: yeah really the weird thing is since reopening, for you know.
Robert Myers: March of this year was when escape rooms finally got the green light to reopen in Boston since we've been able to do that people have just kept coming we haven't had to do anything and people just keep coming everyone cannot wait to get out and do anything it turns out.
Jordan Ugalde: That is like a business owners dream to like have to do no marketing and just ever own come inbound because the demand is so high, but also, I can completely understand because a year inside like I want to stay in this room.
Jordan Ugalde: so that I can save a different room yeah I know that completely makes sense to me.
Tyler T Hamer: I was asked to say, I wonder if there's, just like the popularity not are not just popular but also the exposure of escape rooms are increasing, because I know I'm, for example.
Tyler T Hamer: My girlfriend I one of the shows really like is shits creek and one of the characters and that's like a super popular show on netflix and Patrick in the show loves escape rooms like that, and then I'm.
Tyler T Hamer: magician I I fallen, I know you Chris ramsey like he has done virtual escape the room, so I just wonder.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah exploding in popularity now.
Robert Myers: it's.
Robert Myers: It you know it's a starting out again, it was the terrible thing of like oh I don't just have to like.
Robert Myers: Get the people I don't have to just advertise to people to say hey come to my thing I also have to explain everyone, this is what an escape room is, and this is why you want to do it right, you know.
Robert Myers: And I still think like maybe the number of people in the US, who know what an escape room is.
Robert Myers: But maybe 10% and not many of them have feel like maybe half of that has done it something in you know something in that ratio where it's like yeah there's no huge saturation yet.
Robert Myers: Even on what the concept of an escape room is so I do appreciate that it's starting to really enter pop culture and the the awareness of what an escape room is is getting out there.
Robert Myers: So definitely you know honestly that is probably part of it, maybe right around the time we were opening that third room, he was starting to pick up, I remember, there was that a you know good place episode that aired right around then it's like things kept going up from there, who knows.
Jordan Ugalde: I know, after Queens gambit came out a chest out on like chess a lot of these chests websites just got a huge sudden influx of new players so it's wild to see how many factors outside of business owners control can just massively change the.
Jordan Ugalde: The both the demand and the awareness that of different opportunities like.
Jordan Ugalde: The mainstreaming the mainstreaming of different things like escape rooms means that these businesses which ones were Nice are now like well no our mainstream so it's.
Jordan Ugalde: Like I imagine it's great for you, but at the same time.
Jordan Ugalde: it's not at all within your control, so how like, how do you feel about like previous experiences trying to market your business versus now just it's just coming.
Robert Myers: You know, in many ways, I actually I well, I think I definitely prefer now and I'm not just saying that from the rosy perspective of oh we're just opened again and I'm happy so many people are coming out.
Robert Myers: You know, I think it really saying a lot that people are coming out in kind of droves, you know, like we have been booking out more slots than ever before, even in our best months before.
Robert Myers: And you know that.
Robert Myers: I think it's also getting to the point now where escape rooms aren't do because also when it started, you had people comparing it to saw or heard movies.
Robert Myers: Related to that you know, maybe it's Okay, that a escape room the movie came out and now we're getting escape room to whatever the subtitle is.
Robert Myers: tournament of champions that's what it is, and so you know it's like okay it's time to go more mainstream but we're also getting away from the the horror death aspect, because you know that would be bad and bad things have happened with escape rooms before.
Robert Myers: Oh God January we yeah there was you know started one year there was you know, the biggest escape room news was there was a fire in an escape room in Poland that killed five teenagers.
Robert Myers: yeah so it's you know, this is one of those industries where actually yeah things could you could have bad news and bad publicity and you know, we had a few people calling asking like hey is this safe and we get to be like we're safe because we don't lock you in.
Robert Myers: And you know the subtext areas because we talked to the fire department and they told us not to.
Robert Myers: So.
Robert Myers: You know it's and and again this ties back to the hey.
Robert Myers: work with you know the instructional services make sure you, you are pulling your permits and getting approved for this stuff.
Robert Myers: Because it's important right safety is paramount to this, so you know I'm glad we're at today where people are just coming people are looking to have a good time.
Robert Myers: we're not battling any of that negative stigma from before and not having to educate, as many people about this is what an escape room is so you know I'm glad like.
Robert Myers: Business wise, we are where we are um obviously I wish we could have skipped the whole pandemic thing to get here but.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: it's interesting the to like how.
Tyler T Hamer: having to deal with that negatives, or that negative stigma dissipating it also reminds it looks like I'm.
Tyler T Hamer: I mean, I like playing dungeons and dragons and like you know back in the 70s, it was you know this is say tannic anymore yeah and now it's like you see it on stranger things, and now you have.
Tyler T Hamer: Popular people play playing it are celebrities also like I play like magic to, and you have like nfl players playing it post Malone place yeah.
Robert Myers: yep right just off screen from here is all of the magic decks that I haven't cleaned up by the way.
Tyler T Hamer: Is a commander is a.
Tyler T Hamer: Is a.
Robert Myers: A lots of Commander some Canadian highlander some packs of jumpstart.
Robert Myers: it's kind of a mess.
Robert Myers: yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: So, as someone who doesn't play magic none of these terms.
Jordan Ugalde: And having been explain these terms by Tyler before I think we're not going to explain right now.
Robert Myers: Though doesn't know.
Jordan Ugalde: How how detailed, they are but magic card game, and these are all different ways of playing the current them is that generally the case.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: I oh yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: I would say it's like mostly will have like regular playing like 52 playing cards, the different things were describing is like you can play solitaire you can play poker you can play rummy you know just diff same cards, but different formats.
Robert Myers: that's a good way to explain it the other one would be it's like you know if your baseball trading cards can also be used in a game right you're collecting these, and you can do things with them so yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: That, I know that they can sell for a.
Jordan Ugalde: ton of money.
Robert Myers: Yes.
Robert Myers: That that is luck, the important takeaway here is it's very important to have hobbies.
Robert Myers: outside of your work and things you're interested in.
Robert Myers: You know, especially when you're going to be trapped in a room for over a year, that is not the one you want to escape from.
Jordan Ugalde: directly on those lines of other hobbies outside of your business like what kind of life, do you live, what kind of like because I know early on your entire life was this business, but now that you have a bit more flexibility.
Jordan Ugalde: What.
Jordan Ugalde: Is your day to day life outside of work.
Robert Myers: yeah um you know it's definitely been kind of Nice being my own boss, in a sense of.
Robert Myers: Like yeah we have these set hours but otherwise I not having to you know show up or punch a clock, I do have the flexibility to decide what I'm doing here, so you know I get to you know wake up when I need to wake up.
Robert Myers: You know, make a nice breakfast for for myself and my partner, and you know we get to go about the rest for a day I'll go into the office sometimes to you know work on other stuff to run rooms.
Robert Myers: You know, sometimes I'll work from home doing you know spreadsheets and bookkeeping responding to sales emails or just in this case working around the House, you know we recently moved into this place and it needs a lot of work so.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah I was gonna say is that, did you buy them, you know, like because you know, usually if a place needs work and you're renting or like while the landlord could do that but I assume you bought if you're talking about doing it yourself.
Robert Myers: Yes, we recently we earlier this year we bought a house and moved in hilariously the day we closed on this House.
Robert Myers: We close it like say 1130 in the morning 1135 I get an email from the building inspector being like hey.
Robert Myers: We haven't been buying a while we need to inspect your place for business.
Robert Myers: You know that was about a week before we were allowed to reopen so I was like huh.
Robert Myers: Oh boy work and life are about to pick up at the same time.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah I.
Jordan Ugalde: I remember when I first moved here and the washing machine was very old.
Jordan Ugalde: It was so old that we didn't know where the water when.
Jordan Ugalde: We thought the water was just going straight into the gutter but it didn't So the first time we wash our washing machine our basement was flooded.
Jordan Ugalde: And it didn't have.
Jordan Ugalde: How, you would say event or any way of death, so we went to home depot bought a shop that.
Jordan Ugalde: Slowly like like back humid up hoarded outside back.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah That was a time uh yeah there's.
Jordan Ugalde: A lot they don't necessarily really yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah.
Tyler T Hamer: No, I mean that washer like you know you didn't want to.
Tyler T Hamer: repeat over and over you.
Robert Myers: know just just the ones right it's like an escape room um.
Robert Myers: it's you know it's funny we literally had a plumber and earlier today for.
Robert Myers: washing machine related issues and so it's like oh yeah hmm in many ways there's like a certain overlap, where it's like yeah I've had to like.
Robert Myers: paint and finish stuff and you know I'm getting to do some of that here for Boxer or sorry skills from Boxer transferring to real life and also dealing with contractors, which was something I picked up on the job having to do that a lot for your own home sure sure makes a difference.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah I'm thankful like well, so I mentioned my dad was slashes electrician me now flips houses so I'm also failure familiar.
Tyler T Hamer: familiar from talking to him, like dealing with contracts.
Robert Myers: yeah no it's it's it turns out.
Robert Myers: there's a skill to it it's it's a learned skill, you know it's you're not gonna learn that in school or anything you yeah so um.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah I will say I wish I remember the name of the business because I liked it so much that this is another one that I would hype without me like advertisements, but we should get them to sponsor us there.
Jordan Ugalde: But like I had gutter cleaning done like a few weeks ago, and that was the most pain free experience I've ever had I just told them.
Jordan Ugalde: They showed up not to my door said hey I'm gonna do it, and then like 20 minutes later they're like hey I did it give them a money and buy.
Jordan Ugalde: And that was just there is no upsell and it was just like very affordable done and really pleasant at, and that is not always the case if if you have worked with contractors before it is very rarely the case that goes that easily.
Jordan Ugalde: And you're nodding your head what has been some of your experiences.
Robert Myers: You know I mean like in in well in house related stuff it's simply been like Oh, I do having a call extra times to figure out when things are actually scheduled for right like oh yeah so I'm going to be by next week was like well hang on.
Robert Myers: A week is a long time right that's five whole days and I have stuff to do so, you know it's even worse than cable sometimes um but like for.
Robert Myers: You know the escape room side of things it's.
Robert Myers: Big you know there's so many annoying factors, especially in our case, where.
Robert Myers: Oh yeah, we have to hire them to do it at but they you know contracting company has to submit plans and get approval from you know fire department building and professional services and.
Robert Myers: we're talking huge chunks of money here and it's like yeah but hang on your contract says he would do this, and yet you're telling me you haven't actually gotten approval, yet, and even then it's still it's fast inspection and you want me to pay what.
Robert Myers: So you know we get stuck in weird loops like that, where they're like well you know we've done the work we need to be paid it's like well yeah but you haven't passed inspection, so your work doesn't mean anything, yet.
Robert Myers: And you know, and of course the city of Boston doesn't answer to anyone, so you know it's a.
Robert Myers: it's a weird triangle.
Jordan Ugalde: answer to themselves.
Robert Myers: All right, well, I wouldn't even go that.
Robert Myers: Far.
Jordan Ugalde: Oh it's very, very fair.
Tyler T Hamer: I was gonna say if they answered to themselves, the green light one have been crashing over and over dead.
Jordan Ugalde: For those who don't know the drain line is one of the subways in Boston.
Tyler T Hamer: anywhere subway next to the silver line.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah so.
Robert Myers: I mean.
Robert Myers: yeah you know yeah excuse the green line on fire and the.
Robert Myers: website just says, probably.
Robert Myers: God yeah.
Robert Myers: Right, the two the two reasons we get people late, the most.
Robert Myers: Are they can't find parking and my train got stuck right and then third behind that is my uber drivers done so, you know take that as you will but yeah it's it's a it's a fun it's a fun city to be in well.
Jordan Ugalde: I thought you enjoy Boston I thought, like Boston was a great home.
Robert Myers: So, like fundamentally I'm ragging on them, but you know.
Robert Myers: We do you know we are working with the city and I think.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah are.
Jordan Ugalde: doing important things right like.
Robert Myers: They say is a an acceptable level of bureaucracy in my mind right, you know it's like strictly speaking to everyone and important function, especially you look elsewhere disasters have happened.
Jordan Ugalde: And you know.
Robert Myers: You know the corners some.
Robert Myers: Companies cuts in certain places, right here like well hang on you know it sucks to feel like hey I jumped through all the right hoops.
Robert Myers: and had to open six months later than you did, and you, you know just did you know, whatever but there's a certain degree of like hey if there's a crackdown happening, we did all the right things and we're not going to get busted for it so.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah I think there's.
Jordan Ugalde: A difficult push and pull between like you want made sure that there are systems in place to make sure, things are safe.
Jordan Ugalde: But you also want made sure there's not so much over the top bureaucracy that nothing can happen without paying tons of money to pass all the inspections and stuff like that so yeah it's definitely a hard.
Jordan Ugalde: juggling act and I don't envy anyone who has to try and balance that from a legislative perspective because no matter what you don't make people upset.
Jordan Ugalde: um.
Robert Myers: I mean there's a certain degree of the answer is just.
Robert Myers: For people to do it right, and obviously that's going to be, you know challenging because yeah, this is the worst job of you have to be like you know, a narc or an inspector, or whatever you want to call it.
Robert Myers: And then.
Robert Myers: You also have to work for the government that's probably the two most hated parts of a job right.
Robert Myers: But you know they serve a hugely important function right in in keeping shady or dangerous businesses from existing so you know I I respect what they do you know, and especially you know I think we're super lucky the inspector, who is in our region also like plays escape rooms and so.
Robert Myers: No it's awesome you know he shows up at our places like oh.
Robert Myers: Oh, I know what this is, I know what you're doing.
Robert Myers: You I need you to do these things, and you know that's always been like.
Robert Myers: Pretty you know.
Robert Myers: Like honestly that's good at least we have someone who understands this and isn't going say like I'm sorry, you want to do what.
Jordan Ugalde: yeah yeah.
Robert Myers: So you know it's you know I you know hear many business owners talking about how much they hate having to do this stuff you know I hate certain parts of it but fundamentally I appreciate that the system is there.
Jordan Ugalde: So touching on that, though, like how much of the relationships that you build do you attribute your success in this space.
Jordan Ugalde: hmm.
Robert Myers: I mean, to a certain degree, it has to be all of them right, like every you know aspect of working with customers.
Robert Myers: To you know, make it yeah reaching out to customers to having major they're having the best time possible to working with the contractors and you know the connections there like.
Robert Myers: Having to call back the architects be like hey we now have to get this other permit process work, you know you were great last time, can you can you help us out here.
Robert Myers: You know there's a certain degree of it's like you know we're not trying to burn any bridges with anything here because we're in it for the long haul it's, how can we make sure everyone has the best experience right.
Robert Myers: I yeah I think it's not just like a Boxer isn't just a transactional company, it is really experiential and to a certain degree, that means it's based on the relationship between you know customer client contractor and us.
Tyler T Hamer: I feel like you know, since you're you're taking it from this long term perspective, like it has to it gets easier, also a time right once you have you know.
Tyler T Hamer: Like you just said, we use this architect previously so now you don't have to.
Tyler T Hamer: hunt through the list of all the architects and know who's going to be sketchy you know you have someone to rely on and if they're not in the industry or they're busy they're going to refer you to someone else.
Robert Myers: yeah I I'd say that's definitely part of it.
Robert Myers: So it's.
Jordan Ugalde: To go in a slightly different direction, something I'm curious about and and a common question we've asked all of our past guests, is what have been the highs like the highest high lowest low of your time working in escape rooms.
Tyler T Hamer: It might not be a different reaction low might be dealing with dealing with the city.
Robert Myers: Well, no, I you know.
Robert Myers: I'm very early on, when I joined some some things were not in order, permit wise and we were shut down for a period of time.
Robert Myers: That was pretty low technically the lowest low would have been I had a very fond memory of day when we needed a third party contractor, not the one we had you know hired to do some fire alarm work but.
Robert Myers: A third party that they had to interact with was coming in and just it was God awful should show that person arrived late, our contact at the fire alarm company had already left because he was like Walter late we can't do the thing is like I'm sure he's going to be here and he no doubt.
Robert Myers: And that was like my third day that week having to be in before 7am and out after like 10pm so I was completely ragged I'd say that is probably the lowest.
Robert Myers: point for me was like and you're telling me the work can't get done and I have you know the person in front of me and the other party bickering over the phone.
Robert Myers: And it's like Can somebody just just do their job I'm and I'm powerless to do it because you know I'm not a licensed contractor I can't you know somebody else has to do it right.
Robert Myers: You know, on the other hand, the highest high right like the moments, where we get to open the third room and we have people doing it.
Robert Myers: Having.
Robert Myers: I think actually one of my favorite times of the year is the weekend of the MIT mystery hot when so many puzzle enthusiasts are coming in and.
Robert Myers: We book out a lot of rooms that you know the Friday before and the the at the end of the weekend afterwards.
Robert Myers: And these are all people who love puzzles have done hundreds of escape rooms, they always beat our records for whatever the room is but they still take time to say how fantastic they loved all of it.
Robert Myers: That you know that we're working in the feedback from that is probably some of the most heartfelt so.
Robert Myers: yeah that's awesome yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: it's great.
Tyler T Hamer: I mean it's it's a testament to what you're saying, or like you know what you want to be that sets you apart from other escape rooms, is the quality, you know you leaning into the special effects leading and all that.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah no, I think.
Robert Myers: Getting the feedback that people love that really makes it all worth it.
Jordan Ugalde: Would you say that is what you primarily are doing this for to get to create these experiences and get that like positive feedback like yes, this experience he made for me was amazing.
Robert Myers: yeah.
Robert Myers: I mean.
Robert Myers: I think that's kind of why I wanted to get into it, I wanted to make cool things and have people enjoy them.
Robert Myers: Now it's you know that's how it started it's it's still I want that, but now it's also the subtext of.
Robert Myers: I want this business to exist, and like keep supporting the employees who are here, and you know make money to grow, but also like.
Robert Myers: build a good business side to the Community, and so the difference between yeah I wanted to start being an engineer and building things and making things, and now I kind of have to be a CEO and I want to build a company so.
Tyler T Hamer: So your motivation has kind of changed with the needs of the company, then.
Tyler T Hamer: yeah.
Robert Myers: I would definitely say so.
Jordan Ugalde: So.
Jordan Ugalde: One thing that I definitely knew for myself and I wasn't alone in this is back in college, I was very much in the.
Jordan Ugalde: If you build it, I think I mentioned it's definitely this line last time, if you build it right don't just come build a good product and people will come and I discounted any like business perspective because it seemed not grounded in what was important um so.
Jordan Ugalde: As someone who has worn both hats, how would you.
Jordan Ugalde: communicate to your past self the importance of what you're doing now.
Robert Myers: I mean, I have been on both sides of that fence where it's like oh let's just let's just do it let's you know spend the extra money spend the extra time just just make it awesome and people will love it.
Robert Myers: And at the same time, like hey, we need to get this open and we need to get it done now just put the things down call it good you know it doesn't have to be perfect.
Robert Myers: And and just get it out the door and then also the third head of oh crap I've made this thing now, I have to get people in the door, and I have to brag about it and sell it and actually talk myself up.
Robert Myers: I am not a natural born salesman and so it's having to learn how to do that has been a fun part of this experience, but you know, fundamentally, if our yeah essentially if I were to go back and tell myself it's like hey you know.
Robert Myers: Have a perhaps brag a bit more about it and, and you know actually try and sell it a bit right like that's been the hardest part for me you're going to have to sell you know sell rooms.
Tyler T Hamer: that's just kind of the natural.
Tyler T Hamer: I'd say the natural.
Tyler T Hamer: personality of engineers engineers tend to be on the more humble side, I think you know that's kind of I like I mean I've.
Tyler T Hamer: In undergrad there was definitely back before I prison appreciate the business side of it, certain project and be like oh we're getting people from the Business School at MIT on this project and that and I just be like and what are they going to contribute like if.
Jordan Ugalde: I think.
Jordan Ugalde: Without the experience it's hard to get a full appreciation of what really goes into making a self sustaining entity.
Jordan Ugalde: Like.
Jordan Ugalde: it's not easy, building a product building experience bill it's not it's not easy building something per se but it's also not easy, making it so that that can that thing can continue to exist yeah it can be provided to more than one person.
Jordan Ugalde: And everything that goes into making it so that this can actually continue which oftentimes that means more people, which means you need to pay these people, which means it needs to bring in money to be able to pay these people right like it's.
Jordan Ugalde: it's almost an inevitable consequence that there needs to be some business understanding in order to make.
Jordan Ugalde: The product dreams, sustainable and scalable.
Robert Myers: You know there's a certain degree of it's.
Robert Myers: Like you have to have somebody who is going to do, like sort of the grunt Labor and then you have to have someone who's going to do even more of the work.
Robert Myers: There might be a dog barking outside I apologize if that's coming through right I somebody explained this.
Robert Myers: As actually so one resource, I did find useful was the score is a program for executives who give advice to other business people and there happens to be one in Boston I went to a couple of times now in the before times when you could actually meet in person with people.
Robert Myers: And you know he he explained it as there's like 15 and our jobs 50 and our jobs and 150 hour per hour jobs and you have to hire the people to do the lower stuff so you can do the higher stuff right.
Robert Myers: And that's one way to grow, the business.
Robert Myers: And let's kind of learning that and then actually trying to apply it to completely different things, but you know, has been a little bit more instrumental and how do we raise this to the next level of a business, not just a product or an escape room experience.
Jordan Ugalde: Then I guess Just one final question to kind of wrap things up for.
Jordan Ugalde: For people who might have heard of escape rooms, but had never considered making their own what kind of advice would you give to them to start this as a business that they can continue doing.
Jordan Ugalde: um.
Robert Myers: If you want to do this as a business.
Robert Myers: definitely think about it.
Robert Myers: lots of people who want to do escape rooms are like I played a bunch and I think I can make one or I have a really great idea for one and.
Robert Myers: that's great I'm sure you have a great idea for one room.
Robert Myers: How is one room going to pay for the rent that you need for that space to do it, how is it going to pay for it, the supplies, you had to buy to set it up how's it going to pay this out, you know the wages for somebody to run it when you want to take a day off right.
Robert Myers: And you know that's the the business side of thinking about it, if you've got one great idea, do you have to do you have for who's going to build it for you are you going to do everything.
Robert Myers: You know it's think about the entire picture, not just the product right.
Robert Myers: You know, I was focused on building the room at first, and you know Victor was focusing on like not just programming it, but then also later, how do we make the best booking site.
Robert Myers: For our webpage, which is also entirely proprietary we haven't sold out to another, you know, one of the any standard number of E commerce platforms like that so.
Robert Myers: that's actually pretty cool too.
Tyler T Hamer: So it's really interesting that um you know, compared to a lot of other people we've interviewed you know Sean my was my dad is a dance my dance teacher Jared being a bartender Those are all very low capital initial initial.
Tyler T Hamer: passions you're going to start up and so it's I think it's really important.
Tyler T Hamer: That you what you were saying there is that when you're going to pursue a passion, as such a high initial capital investment, you really do have to consider the entire picture and.
Tyler T Hamer: Getting that revenue stream, whereas if you're taking a your passion is much lower capital it look a much lower um capital investment, the beginning, you can more just jump into a doing the creative side of it.
Robert Myers: And there's also sort of the long term this of this right, like you know, we had to rent a you know we've been in the place for six years that we started out leasing.
Robert Myers: You know if you're going to build an escape room you want that thing to last as long as possible right.
Robert Myers: I assume, if you are, you know working as a bartender you could move to a different bar it's pretty hard for me to move this escape room to that space without a lot more cost right.
Robert Myers: So you know, in some ways it's like well, I have this idea for the product, I also have to build the entire business around it so definitely think more holistically than just what you know what I want customers to feel in the room.
Robert Myers: that's, not to say ignore that, because that is hugely important.
Robert Myers: But if you want to get started there's more than that, and second, reach out to the community of business owners there's some hugely awesome things you know awesome people there's a Convention coming up later this month online by you know.
Robert Myers: From escape artists, a be review blog and just champions of the escape room industry in general, so there are huge resources to learn so much more about how to do escape rooms, then, when I was starting out so learn from people who have been there before you.
Jordan Ugalde: Right that's awesome.
Jordan Ugalde: um Thank you very much, before we let you go do you want to just mention what your website is any social is any any information you want to say to market yourself.
Robert Myers: Absolutely so we're Boxer ooh I like to say we're boston's best escape room.
Robert Myers: Our website is Boxer route dot m E and.
Robert Myers: We also have an online puzzle hunter called kirby's curious cook off at curious kickoff calm um yeah and so you can check us out there, or on Facebook at box through Boston.
Tyler T Hamer: And I guess one quick question for those who do follow up on this is there a recommended order for the escape the rooms.
Robert Myers: I'm you, I would say it is either chronologically which is mystery the magician study conundrum museum storyteller secrets or.
Robert Myers: immersive NIS increasing which would be Canadian museum first magician studies second and the storyteller secret third.
Tyler T Hamer: Thanks yeah.
Jordan Ugalde: I'm great thanks, hopefully, a lot, I mean you're already been pretty booked hopefully plenty more people will come your way and because I like I would agree that.
Jordan Ugalde: I think, plus room is definitely the best.
Jordan Ugalde: In Boston so best of luck for your future and was wonderful talking to you.
Robert Myers: It was wonderful talking to the both of you Thank you so much for having me.
Jordan Ugalde: Of course, have a good night take care.