“In my eyes, success can be boiled down to an idea and timing.”
Try to think of one commonality with a game of hide and seek, a Where’s Waldo illustration and the board game Clue. Give up? All three conjure up the thrill of a hunt.
With a good bit of intellect and a sliver of luck the most audacious can ultimately catch the holed-up hider, find the wandering Waldo and solve the menacing murder mystery. You may be thinking that these are nothing but frivolous, childish games. Very true, but do we ever actually outgrow the adrenaline rush of a good ol’, thrill-seeking quest to find the unfindable?
Seriously, doubtful. After all, there’s a little bit of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes in all of us. You may have to dig deep to find your inner sleuth, but it’s there. And once you find it, there’s no way to put it back. It’s virtually impossible to suppress the “must solve mystery — now” urge.
Thank goodness for Waco Escape Rooms (WER). According to the WER website, WER builds rooms around a story or theme and invites you to test your wits against the challenging clues, perplexing puzzles, and maddening mysteries embedded in the rooms. Basically what that means is that they lock a small group of people in a themed room and the group has 60 minutes to solve a series of puzzles and clues that will help them escape the room.
What kind of insidious mastermind could come up with such an ingenious idea? Oh, just your average, run-of-the-mill Baylor grad. That’s right. Baylor graduate Cory Dickman is the top dog behind WER. This communications undergrad (2010) with a master’s degree in sports management (2013) concocted the idea with his trusted business partner Jared Dauenhauer.
Cory grew up in a small town just outside of Portland, Oregon. He made the trip south to attend Baylor and it was during the time at Baylor that Cory and Jared had the dream to open a business in Waco, Texas.
After graduation, Cory went back to his hometown for a while and Jared landed in Tennessee where he and his wife launched an escape room there. In July 2015 Cory and Jared decided it was time to turn their college dream into a reality. It was time to open an escape room in Waco.
If you were to ask Cory why he chose Waco he would most likely respond with something like, why not Waco. Cory explains it like this, “Waco deserves to have some fun and exciting businesses.” He continues, “As a Baylor graduate, nothing made me more excited than the idea of moving back to Waco to start a small business.”
The WER soft opening was October 31, 2015 and the official grand opening was the following weekend on November 6. WER opened with three theme rooms — The Waco Room (4-6 players), Child’s Play (5-8 players) and Code Breaker (6-10 players). And for Valentine’s Day 2016, WER debuted the Dinner for Two Room, a two-person room ideal for first-time WER visitors.
The short-term goal for WER was simply to get people to play. Cory wanted as many people as possible to know about WER. Social media was a key factor in gaining a loyal following. By utilizing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram WER slowly became a local, household name.
One thing that makes WER so unique is that the business concept appeals to customers wanting to have fun on a Saturday night as well as companies wanting to promote team building with employees. Participants need communication, critical thinking and teamwork in order to beat the 60-minute clock and unlock the door to freedom. Cory likes to use the term EnterTrainment when describing WER.
But one unexpected twist for this premier EnterTrainment business is Cory has been a cohort in two escape room marriage proposals. Fortunately, both proposals had happily-ever-after endings. Could promposals be next?
It’s obvious that the local community is embracing WER and all that WER has to offer. Cory’s now looking at the big picture vision for his business, which is actually two-fold. First he wants to help make Waco a destination city. He wants people to include WER in their “we have to do” list when visiting Waco. Second, Cory wants to help the Waco community foster a growth for small business.
WER is definitely going places, literally. WER will be moving to a new downtown Waco location in late June. The new location at 711 Washington Avenue will be twice the size of the existing location. What a great addition WER will be to the #WACOTOWN movement.
For more information about Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise/.