It is slightly puzzling how quickly life can change.
Just ask Sarah Swoboda. Seven months ago, she went to work every day as a dental hygienist and spent much of her off time with her family.
Now, Swoboda is officially an entrepreneur and a business owner, and much of the off time she has from her daily hygienist position is spent working on her new business and creating exciting new experiences for her customers.
Swoboda opened her new business, PerplEXIT at 750 Swift Blvd. in Richland in mid-January. The company offers puzzle rooms and escape games for small group experiences.
Although the idea is new to the Tri-Cities, puzzle rooms have become quite popular in larger metropolitan areas.
Swoboda said players come in small groups, five or six is ideal, and are locked inside the puzzle room. They have one hour to search for clues and solve a series of puzzles and challenges that provide them information to help them escape the room.
“Puzzle rooms encourage teamwork and promotes problem solve skills,” she said. “They are a great way to work on communication and teambuilding.”
The experience is fun for families, but also can be a useful tool and a good teambuilding opportunity for small businesses, Swoboda said.
Swoboda first heard about escape rooms from friends who had participated in one in California.
Then, last August, while she was on a family vacation, she played a game with her nieces and nephews that was very similar, and that’s when she truly saw the opportunity that was available to her.
“When I saw how my family reacted to that, then I knew,” Swoboda said.
She started researching the history of puzzle and escape rooms, and looking at many of the successful models that were already in operation.
She got some mentorship through the Tri-Cities Chapter of SCORE and participated in a Launch University event through Fuse.
“That was really helpful,” she said.
From there, it was all about putting her imagination to work to create the rooms and the puzzles.
Her first room, Gemini, revolves around a mystery centered on twin brothers. One of the brothers is an astrologist and the other plays poker.
One of the brothers has vanished and the other is attacked and in the hospital. Visitors must solve the puzzles within the room to gain clues and evidence, and escape the room with an hour.
Swoboda said she has rough drafts finished for nine rooms and hopes to roll out a new room every six months or so, to capture repeat customers. Once you have participated in a room, it won’t be as challenging or fun to repeat.
In the future, Swoboda would like to create a more mobile version that can be taken into businesses and used with groups of 30-40 for team building exercises.
Players must be 16 years or older, however, those who are 14 or 15 may be accompanied by an adult. Groups must have a minimum of three players and cannot exceed six players.
Swoboda said her family has been by her side in helping her roll out the new business and she’s happy to be able to offer a new experience for those in the Tri-Cities.
PerplEXIT offers games starting at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, and starting at Noon on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations can be made online only and the cost is $25 per person.
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