A trio of businessmen from Redcar has created jobs for more than a dozen Teessiders whilst providing fun for thousands.
Graham Huntley, Nick Rodgers and Matt Collins opened Project Escape in Middlesbrough’s Dundas Centre 18 months ago. They have recruited 11 people – and will employ two or three more before Christmas – and, with plans to further expand their business, have signed a two-year extension to their lease.
Although the UK’s first escape room did not appear until 2012, there are now 1500. Participants are locked in a room and challenged to work together against the clock to discover clues and solve puzzles.
Project Escape has attracted more than 4,500 players since May 2018 and its popularity has seen it grow from two rooms to five. It uses sophisticated technology to create stunning backdrops for its games and, with rooms ranging from a Christmas theme to a haunted hospital, caters for all ages.
“Everyone can get involved in it. It’s got nothing to do with strenuous activity. It’s all to do with teamwork and teambuilding. The enjoyment of working together to accomplish something,” said Graham.
“It also gets people off their phones, tablets and laptops and games machines and brings them back out into the real world, to have something tangible in front of them that they can achieve and solve.”
On behalf of Contract Experts Limited – which owns The Dundas Centre – Richard Wilson, a senior associate with chartered surveyors and property consultants Dodds Brown, said Project Escape was a major asset.
“To be successful, High Streets and shopping centres need to provide additional attractions – not just shops – to attract visitors. Customers are spending more and more on experiences and less on products and this is a growing trend we are responding to. We are delighted for the owners and its staff that Project Escape has been so popular. Because of the large number of people it attracts it’s also of enormous benefit to all of the neighbouring businesses. It’s always great to see a Teesside business do so well in such a short time,” he said.
Project Escape was the idea of Nick Rodgers who took Graham – a friend since they were 10-years-old – to experience an escape room, and he was hooked. “We didn’t start it to make money or be successful, it was just meant to be a bit of fun,” said Graham. Matt, a friend of a friend, joined the pair and owns 10% of the business.
“We don’t take a wage out of the company. We put all of the money back into the business to make it better and keep it sustainable,” said Graham, who has a full-time job as a national account manager for a global chemical company. Nick is a data analyst with Teesside University and Matt is a software developer.
Project Escape was supported by Teesside University’s Launchpad scheme when it was set up in 2016.