Welcome to the #HOMETOWNHUSTLE – a new SweetwaterNOW exclusive series where we highlight hardworking business owners in our community.
This week we had a chance to catch up with the owners of VRcade, Jen and Ian Baird.
Jen and Ian Baird started their business venture as Hopz & Flopz, a party entertainment service including bouncy houses and other kid-friendly party services.
Jen and Ian wanted to give local children something else to do with their time. They noticed that their kids were doing the same things over and over and wanted to add some variety to the community.
One day Jen came home from a trip out of town where she had seen a place with bouncy houses, she came home and told Ian, “Let’s start a business,” and Ian was up for it!
When trying to establish Hopz & Flopz they ran into to some permitting troubles and later found out they weren’t able to rent the bouncy houses out because the bouncy houses weren’t allowed outside. So instead of giving up they just steered in a similar, but different direction.
“We were already looking for something geared towards teenagers, and that’s when we stumbled across VR (virtual reality). “
VRacade started out as a kiosk in the hallway of the White Mountian Mall, with just two virtual reality machines, they now have a variety of virtual reality equipment and a full-blown virtual reality arcade in the mall where they cater to ALL AGES.
VRarcade offers a range of different VR experiences from toddler games to roller coaster to trips to Iceland for the young at heart, to virtually being locked in a room trying to get away from a murderer. (Only two people have made it out “alive”)
When asked Jen and Ian about their biggest challenge in business so far, Jen exclaimed, “PAPERWORK! Figuring out permits, taxes and business licenses have been a challenge.”
“I have the sales in me and I can negotiate, but the paperwork side of it has been SO challenging.”
But with the help of nearby businesses, local organizations, and professionals they have been able to overcome the headaches of paperwork.
Their neighbors in the mall have always been willing to help. Jen mentioned Legendary Laser Tag and Our Brother’s Keeper Bookstore being kind enough to answer questions and offer advice during as Jen put it “their first year of business-hood.”
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Jen and Ian both agreed their most satisfying moment of their business journey has been moving into their current location.
“Just seeing how much everything has changed since moving into our own location, and expanding each step of the way has been great.” Ian explained.
Jen then added, “We started with 2 machines and now we have 9!”
Jen also told me about some of her favorite experiences with customers. “I just love when a grandparent comes in with a grandkid and they both leave smiling and talking about their experience. It’s getting kids off their phones and giving parents and their kids something to talk about.”
VRcade has become a reward for some kids for doing chores, improving their grades, etc. “We had one kid come in and he had a “D” in one of his classes and he worked to get it up to a “B” so his mom brought him as a reward.”
Business success isn’t just one concrete accomplishment, for Jen and Ian.
Jen explained she believes business success involves multiple steps. “For us, our first step was just opening, getting started, and becoming established. The second step was growing and adding more equipment, and I think our third step will be to just keep growing and finding our own place so we can continue to expand.”
“It’s all of those little steps that have lead up to the bigger picture.”
During their first year of “business-hood,” Ian and Jen have a few wise words of advice they would like to share with aspiring business owners.
Ian stressed a couple of things to keep in mind.
“Make sure you go into it wholeheartedly. You have to put all of your energy into the business. If possible try and do as much as you can with cash, and avoid loans at first if you can.”
Jen agreed that not having to pay off a loan right away helped a bunch.
Ian also mentioned the importance of doing your research. “Research any legal aspects, taxes, licenses, permits… anything. There’s a lot of logistics involved.”
Jen also added to ask for help when you need it!