ANNAOPLIS, MARYLAND “We reinforced what we already knew about the power of the internet when it comes to marketing,” said Jason Cherry, owner of a new business here named Mission Escape Rooms. “We got 460 email subscribers with just our coming soon page, and in the first six hours after we launched the website we booked two birthday parties and a corporate event.”
Mission Escape Rooms, which will open for business on May 7, is part of the latest entertainment craze to sweep the nation. Participants will be locked for 50 minutes in a room furnished with props where they will team up with co-workers, friends, family members and sometimes strangers to solve a mystery based on clues to “escape” from the room.
Cherry got the idea for MER after his family went to similar places while on vacation in other states and came back raving about their experiences. He had been wanting to start a business and was looking for a good business idea.
“I knew escape rooms would be popular with millennials,” said Cherry. “Millennials are the future market of business, and the interactive nature of the clues is what appeals to them so much.”
Cherry, who will soon turn 20, should know what millennials like. They are his peers.
“Yes, it’s a fad, but not a short-lived one. Escape room venues started in Europe and are still going strong after four years,” Cherry said.
Cherry built his business in downtown Annapolis mostly because he was familiar with the area having grown up there, and partly to be near prospective customers. “Some escape rooms tend to be out of the city. The concept is a destination location- people will come regardless of where it is located. However, I decided to put my rooms in the heart of a tourist town where people are already on vacation. Plus, my target audience tends to go downtown to hang out anyway. Why not give them something to do?”
MER’s West Street location consists of four rooms, including one with an Edgar Allan Poe theme, that can each host up to 8-12 participants at a time. Each room has a theme and a corresponding mystery. “A lot of interior design went into the rooms,” said Cherry.
Before starting MER, Cherry tried a 9-5 corporate job but decided it wasn’t for him. “It was a great environment, but I wanted to be in business for myself. It’s a lot of fun to watch people get locked in rooms and try to escape,” he said.
“Jason Cherry has more entrepreneurial DNA in his pinky finger than most people have in their entire beings,” said Lynne D’Autrechy, president of Buzzquake Marketing, a web design firm based in Ellicott City that was hired to build the MER website. “He was destined to do something like this. It’s his calling.”
The website that D’Autrechy built included integrated software that allowed customers to read about, book and pay for rooms online.
“I wanted to have a user-friendly interface. It took a lot of effort to make the website easy to navigate,” said Cherry. “This site is not too content heavy. It’s intuitive. The layout is the key to helping customers book and reschedule with ease. I love that it’s automated. The less manpower we have put on scheduling sessions, the more time we have to put toward making sure people have an enjoyable experience.”
“Working with Jason was fun. His passion and excitement are contagious,” said D’Autrechy. “I felt like we laughed our way through most of our meetings.”
“I love working with Lynne. She’s willing to do some hand-holding when I need it and her common-sense approach to websites is refreshing. Plus, she doesn’t get bent out of shape when I tell her to make changes,” said Cherry.
For more information or to schedule an escape session, visit missionescaperooms.com or call 410-263-3333.