Kevin Kuznar always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When he was a kid, he would dream about walking through the doors of his own business. Life took him in a different direction, primarily in management of telecommunication retail stores, but on August 1st, 2018, Kuznar made that dream a reality when he purchased Escape Port Charlotte. According to Wikipedia, an escape room, also known as an "escape game", is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete the objectives at hand.
Escape rooms first started in Asia in the mid 2000s, but quickly gained popularity in the United States and other countries. Today, most major cities in the U.S. have escape rooms. The latest data shows that Florida has approximately 172 escape rooms, representing .82 escape rooms per 100,000 residents. When Escape Port Charlotte first opened in May of 2017, Kuznar was there and he quickly got hooked.
"My wife and I are definitely escape room enthusiasts," he said. "We've been to all the ones in our local area and have plans to go to Tampa and eventually New Orleans. Believe it or not, my first experience was two years ago with Escape Port Charlotte. I loved it. It's an intellectual adrenaline rush. You're trying to beat the clock and use your wits. There's nothing else like it."
That experience had such an impact on Kuznar that he reached out to the original owner about possibly buying the business. He knew it was an ideal time to get his foot in the door. She invited him to sit down and crunch the numbers. They did and eventually Kuznar made her an offer that she accepted. Kuznar, who still works as a manager at a Verizon store, explained some of the challenges he and his wife, Kayla, faced after they bought the business.
"The previous owner definitely cared about the business, but she started to lose her passion towards the end," he said. "There were some things we had to pick up where she left off. Coming in and trying to figure out everything to keep the business going was definitely an early challenge. Right now, we're working on a completely new room. To stay relevant and to keep things fresh you have to think of new ideas and what's popular right now. Our reviews on Google and Facebook reflect that. To keep people coming back, you simply decommission a room and build something new."
Looking ahead, Kuznar was very specific with his future plans for the business. Within three years, he plans to be debt free and will focus on a second location. Within five years, his goal is to add two additional locations on top of that, bringing the total to four locations. At that point in time, assuming the business is debt free, he'll consider quiting his day job to focus exclusively on the business. He's also exploring the possibility of acquiring a beer and wine license.
What advice does Kuznar have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Just do it," he said. "If you go into it worrying about failing, you won't be able to take the risks you need to take to succeed. If you have a dream to open a business, definitely pursue it."