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ClueJob could be the symbol of hard work and dedication. It all paid off: the Cyprus-based escape room has been a huge success. The co-owner-founder Filios Sazeides talked about the difficulties and creative process of building ClueJob from scratch.
ClueJob. A name that is widely known among travelers and escape room fans. Even though Cyprus has a rich cultural and natural heritage - not to mention the flawless beaches - ClueJob managed to take the island experience to another level. History meets innovation and creativity here. The founders, Filios and Panayiotis had a dream: to create something that represents their passion for gaming.
We had the chance to interview Filios, a brave entrepreneur, who created a successful business from scratch. He is someone who not only built his own game, but designed the website for his business and wrote the scripts as well. If you are looking for ways to advertise your room or just want to find motivation, you can get both as Filios provides advice and valuable insight.
Escape-rooms: Filios, as a young and successful businessman, you surely have strong entrepreneurial foundations. What led to ClueJob? Did you try your hand in running a business before?
Filios: I did. I already had my own business, teaching kitesurfing, repairing kites, selling sports equipment. In it’s nature, of course, it was not similar to what I am doing right now. What it indeed gave me is the experience. Being versatile surely helps.
Escape-rooms.com: Have you traveled a lot before setting up the escape room up here in Limassol?
Filios: I left Cyprus for Greece, to study Marketing & Communications. I knew early on, that my skills at sales were pretty good. I started to get involved in entertainment, I worked for various companies, took part in team building games, treasure hunts and bicycle tours. It seemed obvious, that I am going to end up running my own business of some kind.
Also, in the same period, I was working as a recruiter for surveys.I created www.pocketmoney.gr back then which was a website were people would leave their personal details in order to participate in surveys.This was a great experience, learning how companies would investigate a product, service before launching in the market.Pocketmoney was solved after I finished my studies.
Escape-rooms.com: In our interviews, we always want to find out more about the beginnings. Many of our readers are dreaming of opening their own business somewhere while others just enjoy the little details. Who came up with the idea first?
Filios: It was Panayiotis, who came up with the idea, during a conversation in Cambridge years and years ago. Back then real life escape rooms did not exist anywhere around the world.
We started to develop the idea into something more concrete during that very day. We had experience with computer games, we both loved locks and puzzles.However, years passed, and we were both into our own careers. The original idea seemed to be a bit far away by then.
On the 11th of November 2014, I had a phone call by a friend of mine. He was raving about a place in Greece - a place where he got locked up and had to escape by solving puzzles. Boom. I got really excited and the next thing I did was calling Panayiotis. Then we stayed up all night, sharing ideas and brainstorming. That is where it’s started.
12th of November I left on a volunteering trip to Belgium while at the same time I started building the ClueJob website and Panayiotis stayed in Cyprus working on various stuff that needed to be done.
Escape-rooms.com: Sounds like a movie, what a story! Big franchises might hire professional builders, designers, but that is not the case with most escape rooms. Did you already have a place for the escape room?
Filios: My ancestors had an empty, old, locked up house, not far from the city center. It seemed to be your typical scary place. But the amount of work ahead of us, was even scarier. It was 45 days of work, can you imagine? We did everything by ourselves. We painted the walls, fixed the roof, removed the old, dusty floor and in the meantime, I learned webdesign. It was as intense as anything. Then we went out to the garden and cut some trees, we pretty much cleared up the whole place. We had a limited budget to say the least. It was crazy.
Escape-rooms.com: It is safe to say that you invested tons of energy into this project. What a great inspiration for all future business owners. Who wrote the scripts?
Filios: We did. Panayiotis had his own touch into puzzles, i had another touch which together made the rooms, interesting and likeable to people. I had too many ideas, and during the construction, I was coming up with new ones all the time.The place was given- we had enough rooms.
Escape-rooms.com: Did you visit other escape rooms before the big construction?
Filios: No, we did not. We did later on when we started operating as we wanted to play as well.Off course at first there weren’t any other escape rooms in Cyprus since we were the first that started operating 1st of January 2015.I had my own intuition how an escape room should be and since we were on a ridiculous budget we did not want to really be restricted by looking at other established businesses.Our creativity, short period of time and never stopping engine made it possible. I am a strong believer of MVP (minimum viable product) and I believe in the holistic approach. Before you start a business, you might try out at first. In most business ventures i had and crazy concepts i believe in the gut instinct plus the strenghts i have in my hands at that period of time.
Escape-rooms.com: Did you have a test period?
Filios: Yes, we had enough of them. On the 22th of December we had our first test from people. We figured that we had to change certain things, especially the way players interacted with the game. We removed most of the abstract items. In a way, we created a stylish, minimalistic game, that makes people think more. Every element leads into another, there is a sequence to everything. Then, the first feedbacks were really positive from the players.
Escape-rooms.com: Now, let’s move on to the marketing part. Cyprus is definitely not full of escape rooms. Is it an advantage or a disadvantage?
Filios: We used a number of forums to advertise ClueJob, but first on a low budget of course. Not a lot of Cypriots had tried escape games at the time, so we had to push it on social media, on the local radio channel, magazines. We started going to schools with flyers. It was the follow-up of the crazy contruction period.
Escape-rooms.com: Were you confident that it was going to be a success story?
Filios: We did not know what it is going to be like. There was no ‘final image’ in our heads. It was a creative process, with a lot of effort, and it turned out to be successful. With time, we were able to improve the place from people’s feedback and interraction in the rooms. We make notes about people’s behavior and that gives us a lot of information. We try things that sometimes they do really work and are embraced by people.
Escape-rooms.com: Even though ClueJob is not a franchise as of yet, I am sure you were approached by a number of businesses so far. What are the pros and cons of such direction? How do you see the future of ClueJob - and, in general, the escape room industry?
Filios: We surely had been approached by a number of people but still not something solid. We are under discussion currently with 2 possible locations outside of Cyprus. The pros are too many I would say. A person can start right away without testing a lot, not spending time, money, effort here and there. We were able to create ClueJob because we had a lot of knowhow on a lot of things generally. I had worked in construction, entertainment, sales, marketing and Panayiotis was into music, videos, gaming for years. Also we had a number of people that all gave a piece into the whole puzzle to be created. Cons is that there is a cost at start which if there is a good location and people with energy then I can say with certainty that ClueJob can be a succesful business for the owners and smileful for the customers.
The escape room industry, well I can say with certainty it is growing and changing at the same time. We believe that the European style (3-6 players) will dominate compared to US style (8-12 players) and that rooms can have increased time for completion rather than 60 minutes to 180 minutes with food included into a more real life, survival mode. That will increase the cost for people but also increase the reality of the whole game.