An Interview with the owners of Improbable Escapes: Emma Rochon and Melissa Eapen

Improbable Escapes (IE), an escape business based in Kingston Ontario was founded in 2015 by Melissa Eapen and Emma Rochon. Improbable Escapes  started off as a passion project and fastly branched into an international success with escape rooms all over the world. In light of the pandemic, we had the opportunity to interview the owners about the history of their business and how Covid-19 has changed the way their business operates. 

Anisha Imtiaz (AI): So for the people who don’t know, what exactly is Improbable Escapes?

IE: Improbable Escapes is an escape room company that opened up in 2015 in Kingston, ON, Canada. It has since grown to be an immersive experience company, including online escape rooms, in-real-life escape rooms, immersive theatre and a board game store! The concept of an escape room at Improbable Escapes is that you are tasked with a mission that you must solve, by solving clues and puzzles. 

(AI) Why did you decide to enter the business industry you entered?

IE: The two business owners of Improbable Escapes wanted to make a company where people would have positive experiences; ranging from employees to customers. We wanted to be what drew people together to create a memorable experience!

(AI) From your website, I learned that you moved to Kingston to establish Improbable Escapes here. What was the reason for that and what importance does location have for a business?

IE: We were seeking a medium sized city, with a high turnover population (i.e. university, college, and military demographics). Kingston was a perfect fit for us, as it checked all of the boxes we were looking for, as well as a strong small business community with a general population that has a strong “shop local” mentality. Location is very important if you’re opening a brick and mortar business, the wrong location could easily put you out of business. You want to ensure that your target demographic can access your location, and if it’s not a destination location, ensure that there’s adequate ways of travelling and accessibility at your location.

(AI) Do you think that Kingston’s demographic has changed over the years?

IE: In the 6 years we’ve been in Kingston, I believe it has changed. There’s a lot more diversity in Kingston recently, whether it’s cultural diversity or even seeing more women holding executive positions.

(AI) In the early stages of Improbable Escapes, what were some of the challenges you faced?

IE: It was a bit challenging starting a business in a city where we didn’t have any connections, but we were able to overcome that fairly fast. Other challenges involved learning how to financially plan and manage your business, including financial projections. It was a steep learning curve, especially understanding everything that goes into taxes and contributions. 

(AI) Have you ever wanted to expand your business or enter a new field?

IE: Constantly. We’re always expanding and entering new fields and markets. We have never been stagnant since starting this business; almost every quarter or so, we’ve added a new offering for our business.

(AI) In light of the pandemic, how did you have to change your protocols?

IE: We have implemented a wide variety of safety precautions, including but not limited to, UVC lights for sanitization, barriers, sanitization stations, and we’ve had to change our games to accommodate the provincial recommendations and requirements. We’ve also created new revenue streams for the business, such as online escape rooms and board game deliveries. 

(AI) What do you think will be the future of small businesses after the pandemic?

IE: I think the reality of the situation that we’re facing, is that many small businesses will be closing their doors during and after the pandemic. Many business owners are struggling immensely, and with a new stay-at-home order, this will get even harder. I think the overall future depends on the industry of the small business, I think some industries will become more popular, while others will decrease in popularity. 

(AI) If you could recommend, which business industry seems the most lucrative at this time?

IE: Sanitization/cleaning product manufacturers, delivery services, financial services, and auto services. These are all services and products that we need both during the pandemic and outside of the pandemic. 

(AI) Did you have an interest in business during highschool? Did you expect to become a young entrepreneur?

IE: I definitely never thought I’d be a business owner, and I definitely didn’t have any interest in business during high school. My passion at that time was art, which has been integrated into my position now. For us, it kind of organically happened, and our natural skill sets are what made our business successful.

(AI) What is your advice for any youth who want to become an entrepreneur?

IE: Be passionate about whatever you’re looking to do. If you’re not passionate, you won’t have the drive or motivation to push you through obstacles and difficult times. Reach out to people that hold positions that you’re interested in, or own businesses in industries that you would like to work in. While you’re a student, try to get an internship or volunteer position (or better yet, a paid position), to learn the specific skill sets in the industry you’d like to pursue. 

Thank you so much for this interview! Check out everything Melissa Eapen and Emma Rochon have to offer at improbable Escapes by clicking on this link for their website at  https://improbableescapes.com 

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