Be Creative: Do Things Differently

Be Creative: Do Things Differently

25 August 2016

Following a successful first UK appearance in London last November, the 10th edition of Dublin’s Creative Festival OFFSET will be taking place in Sheffield on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 October 2016 at the Crucible Theatre. To celebrate this event, as well as all our fantastic creative start-ups already set-up in Sheffield, we will be hearing from some of them and learning about their journey.

The Great Escape Game Sheffield is situated in Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter and opened in January 2014. The game, which has proved very popular amongst Sheffielders, sees players work in teams to solve puzzles against a clock to try and escape the room. There are four rooms all with different themes: ALCATRAZ, HOMICIDE, MAD SCIENTIST ESCAPE ROOM and PLACEBO.

We speak to Aaron Giles, Marketing Manager at The Great Escape Game Sheffield, who tells us about using his creative side at work, expanding the business and the benefits of setting up a creative business in Sheffield.

I know not many people say this, but I love my job! I studied Marketing at Sheffield Hallam University and really wanted to work somewhere where I could use my creativity without being restricted by regulations and systems. So when the job as Marketing Assistant for The Great Escape Game Sheffield was advertised on Sheffield Hallam’s intranet I knew I had to go for it.

Being part of a creative start-up I get involved in all aspects of the business, this means I get to do everything from writing the stories for each room, coming up with different themes, designing the rooms and creating different clues. I also manage the bookings, HR, marketing and advertising, it’s fantastic – I particularly love creating new worlds for people to experience. We tend to work together to think up new themes but we also ask customers after they’ve played the game what they want to see next – that’s how we came up with the Homicide Room which is a cross between CSI and Saw.

The idea for the business came about when Hannah and Peter, the cofounders, went travelling around Asia. Over there it’s a really popular game and they loved playing it, so when they returned to the UK they saw a gap in the market and set up their very own Escape Game. They received lots of help from Sheffield Hallam University (Hannah studied a PGCE there) who provided them with business advice, and now it’s doing really well. In fact, the place only opened in January 2014 and already we are expanding to Leeds and looking to move to bigger premises in Sheffield (we currently run at 95% capacity at the weekends). We have lots of ideas for new rooms and hope that in our new building we can increase our rooms from four to around ten.

We have a strong team behind us with 17 members of staff and we’ll be looking to take on five more employees when we move to our new premises (we are currently looking for a Manager to run the Sheffield branch). In terms of clients, we get everybody and anybody coming to play our escape games but our main clients are aged between 25 and 34. It can be quite challenging at times, for example, although we have all these amazing creative rooms that we want to show off, the point of the game is that it’s all a mystery so when it comes to marketing and advertising we have to be quite inventive!

Sheffield is a great place to set up a creative business. We received help from CADS, a charity which helps artists and creative industries by providing affordable space to run their business. Our premises are in an old office space which we have redesigned and it has been great as the rent is really cheap for the location and we could mould the room to suit our business. I’m from Peterborough originally but came to Sheffield to study and never want to leave – I just love the contrast of the beautiful countryside with the big industrial warehouses and how these spaces are now being recycled from long forgotten industry buildings to art studios, music venues and creative hubs. 

If I had any advice for those who are tempted to start-up on their own, I would say: do things differently. If it is a creative business you want to set up then create a unique style and make sure your marketing and advertising techniques match that too (you don’t need to spend loads of money on marketing – it’s about being creative and standing out from the crowd). One major creative revelation for us was that people actually like to feel scared in escape rooms, so we realised that we had to make a shift from marketing to people's hopes and dreams, to toying with their nightmares.

Do you think you have what it takes to escape the room? We dare you to try it out:

If you would like to learn more about the advice and support available in Sheffield for creative start-ups and other services Business Sheffield can provide, please contact  a member of the Business Gateway team on  0114 224 5000 or email Rob King