The Eureka Room will have its last day at the Cesar Chavez location on September 24th.
It was definitely a difficult decision, but looking back it’s important for me to remember that the intent was to throw it out there and see what happens and learn from it. I’ve learned a lot and will be documenting those things in the coming weeks, perhaps even collecting them into a short how-to book.
Here’s the main reasons I’m moving it back into my house for the time being.
- It’s hard to have just eight customers every hour and a half at a ticket price of $25 and get a profit. I knew this going in, but went ahead anyway so I could learn. If it started selling out weeks in advance, grow it. If not, we shut down and try the next thing.
- It is easier to find customers on the weekend than weekdays. The demand on weekends was way way higher than the weekdays – far more than I had imagined. Additionally, Sundays were usually only about half as busy as Saturdays. But we’d often sell out our best slots on Saturdays and I wondered how much business we lost if we could serve more people.
- I don’t like running a brick and mortar business. The brick and mortar experience is probably one of the most valuable lessons I’ve gotten from this experiment. Even with a manager, it was nearly impossible to get to where I’m working on the business and not in the business. (If I was making lots of money this might have been a smaller issue, but still a challenge.)
- Getting customers was harder than expected. I’ve suffered the “better mousetrap” fallacy many times before, but still fell for it again.
For the first two points, I think the solution is: bigger room on the weekends. I think a room that can hold 25 people would be closer to the ideal. The numbers work out way better.
For the third point, some solutions might be: find a business partner that wants to do that side of it. Or license the content – I make the arcade game and someone else runs the arcade. I’m partial to the latter. Even with a business partner, I fear I would get sucked in to the business side of things. I want to work on content and I can produce far more value working on the product than the business.
For the fourth point, the path forward is less clear. It’s possible that anyone who would have liked to see the room saw it and then we ran out of customers. I could create more content to have repeat customers. But to do it again I think I would do a much much bigger promotional effort. PR, ads, social media. Really go big and strong on it. Put a sizeable amount of money in it up front. There’s also the “team building” angle, which helps bookings on weekdays and doesn’t compete for many weekend seats.
I certainly wish things would have worked out better, but once the decision was made I felt good about it. Moving it back into my house will let me work on more programs and figure out what the next iteration looks like. It will also take away many complications. Plus, I can do maybe a few showings a week to keep it “real” for me and probably make more profit than we were in the brick and mortar.