An interview with Kelaine Brand
Picture this: a zombie apocalypse has taken over the world for the past 5 years. You’ve made it this long, but now you’re surrounded. How would you escape? Or perhaps you are trapped in a research centre in the middle of the wilderness, or an artificially intelligent house that has turned against you. All of these scenarios would never occur in Camrose, Alberta, right? While these stories are far-fetched, you can experience them all at The Escape Squad.
Escape rooms simulate scenarios where you would be trapped, and through puzzle solving skills and quick wit, you must escape in 45 minutes. The Medium sat down with Augustana environmental science alum and co-owner of The Escape Squad, Kelaine Brand.
Did you find your degree helped you at all in starting a business?
There are definitely aspects of any degree that help you to start a business. My minor was economics so that helped with the money side. When my partner and I started the business, we wanted to run it on as few resources as possible, for environmental reasons and because we were short on startup capital.
What inspired you to start an escape room business?
Josh and I played one in Edmonton in 2015 and loved it. We joked about building one in our garage, and by that May we had a business.
Did you ever build one in your garage?
No, it was just a running joke in our friend group. We found a space in Camrose we liked and started it from there. It was just an open concrete space. The owner let us build what we wanted in the space, so we could design all our rooms.
What were some of the biggest problems you faced when it first opened?
Advertising was a big one, we had a big opening date and two groups came in. We thought we had made a terrible decision. Word of mouth really helped it take off.
What kinds of people would like an escape room?
We initially thought our audience would be high school and university students, but in reality, we get a lot of middle age adults out for an evening.
What kind of personalities would enjoy an escape room?
All of them. Sometimes the people you wouldn’t expect to like it get in the room and within 15 minutes they are the ones leading the group solving the puzzles and by the time they break out, they are excited.
How do you come up with the themes for your rooms?
We watch a lot of movies. We sit on the couch and discuss what we’ve played before and what works. It’s a lot of bouncing ideas off people we know. We’ve tried reaching out on social media asking our fans for suggestions and we usually get some good ideas from them.
What about coming up with the puzzles in each room?
That’s the hardest part. You don’t want them to be too easy or too hard, you want to have a variety of types so the visual people can get some and the auditory people can get some, and the people that build stuff with their hands can get some. We also don’t want to repeat puzzles.