Imagine a place where you can get away from the stresses of work and blow off steam by engaging in activities with others.
This is what Michele Ware has created with Hoodwinked Escape in Harlem. Ware’s Escape rooms let people spend 60 minutes in a space where they can get together with friends to solve puzzles and discover hidden doors and clues.
Escape rooms are growing across the globe, but this is the first in Harlem.
“I had worked in corporate America for more than two decades and wanted a change. While I enjoyed my job, I wanted to start a venture that could be more rewarding mentally. I started to investigate different opportunities and I believe you should always work a job that you are passionate about. That’s where the escape rooms come in. About three years ago, I saw the rise of escape rooms across Europe and started investigating. I thought it was the perfect entrepreneurship venture for me. This would become my new venture, future and life,” explains Ware.
It’s one thing to have a great idea; it’s another to get it off the ground. As with most entrepreneurs, Ware faced some startup challenges. “There’s always startup challenges. And like all entrepreneurs, capital and staffing are numbers one and two on our list. We have a great staff now, but I am always looking for more bright, hardworking, creative and passionate employees,” explains Ware. “It’s an idea that is very international. There are many opportunities online–but Hoodwinked Escape puts you live in the setting to escape. In the 2010s, real-life room escape adventure games became popular in Japan, Taiwan, and mainland China and seeped into the U.S. around 2013. Each adventure game integrates local concepts or original themes to settings.”
The idea of Escape rooms started in the early 2000s. “The first escape room opened in 2008 in Kyoto, Asia. I actually learned from some of the originators. I partnered with a Romanian company to assist in creating some of Hoodwinked Escape’s tricks,” Ware points out. “Mark Cuban stated on the hit show Shark Tank that ‘experiential adventures’ are the next biggest leap in entertainment. I know that Hoodwinked IS the next biggest opportunity adventure in entertainment–a must attend! As of 2015, there were more than 2,800 real-life room escape venues worldwide.”
After the business was up and running, Ware presented a very unique concept. ”It’s very simple: Four Rooms. Infinite Possibilities. One escape,” she says. “Hoodwinked Escape is a real-life escape game experience that’s literally a physical adventure game. Our guests must use their analytical and cognitive skills to review clues, puzzles, and facts to try to escape the four walls they have voluntarily locked themselves in within 60 minutes.”
The fee is $28 per person for one hour in an escape room. “Hoodwinked is priced compatibly to the IMAX movie price in New York City but the difference is that this is an event you don’t just watch–Hoodwinked is an experiential adventure,” says Ware, who adds, “We will offer a special Valentine’s Day special. Check out our website for more details.”
Even though recently opened, Ware is already looking ahead for her next Hoodwinked. “We hope to open more escape rooms around the tri-state area and beyond. We are currently offering mix and mingles for singles groups and plan to hold more mixers. We also have several clinical psychologists along with a corporate team building coach on our team that will analyze how couples solve the puzzles,” she shares.
In the long-term, she hopes to engage more people into becoming interactive and participate in live activities and enjoy communicating with friends and co-workers. “I love technology as much as the next, but there’s nothing like interacting live!” she says.
She adds, “Additionally, our rooms will change and offer guests different adventures because we want to create a relationship with our customers so they can come back over and over to see our new adventures.”
Finally, something to get people to put down their digital devices and interact personally.