To mark World Creativity and Innovation Day, third year International Business Student Lewis Squire talks about hitting on an innovative and unique idea through our Business Start Up Journey…
The escape room. It’s now as mainstay in the social activity economy as the humble pub. A mix of Crystal Maze style nostalgia and collaborative, yet competitive team building activities, even a global pandemic couldn’t stop the spread of the new craze, with countless virtual escape rooms being completed to ease the humdrum of lockdown.
It was in March 2020 when Lewis Squire, then a second year Business and Management student, came up with the notion of an escape room with a twist and won The Business Start Up Awards that year for the idea.
“I joined the Business Start Up Journey in 2019 when I was in my first year,” he explains. “Having entrepreneurs like Adam Smith on hand and staff including Rebecca Smith to support me along the way, I soon moved on from wanting to manage someone else’s business to developing a desire to launch a start-up.”
As his teachers encouraged him to meet a demand in the market and explore something he was passionate about, Lewis hit upon an idea.
“My friends and I had loved going to escape rooms around Canterbury but once we’d completed them we knew all the secrets – there was no repeat business. I discovered many were going bust for that reason. Once you’d done them, you’d done them.”
Using his keen interest in computing and technology he began to explore the idea of an escape room with a difference – using augmented and virtual reality, together. His business, Reality Rooms, was born.
“Blend of the physical and virtual”
“Virtual reality, wearing a headset, is exciting but for me augmented reality is where it is at. It allows you to be in a physical space and see things that aren’t real. It is ultimately immersive.
“I decided that I could use both forms of computer technology to create a physical space, where people could experience absolutely anything they wanted to. I could change the room on the fly and provide a blend of the physical and virtual. It would also enable me to use even a very physically limited space and create something that felt much bigger, using all the latest techniques.”
Lewis aims to provide a mix of puzzles, games and mysteries with a spin on history and folklore to tap into the local culture of Canterbury. He is now using 3D printing to add to his experience allowing him to print objects on demand that fit with his themes and enabling visitors to physically feel something that will then be implemented visually, digitally.
“3D printing has opened all sorts of doors for me to offer something really unique. I am now in the process of exploring creating 3D models of things like the human body or various organs for schools and universities. They can be created so cheaply and are fully recyclable. I have had a lot of interest in that too.”
Lewis’ expertise has been snapped up in other forms already, he is currently assisting a nuclear energy company with virtual reality training sessions for staff, valuable during a pandemic and new and exciting for staff members.
“The technology just works in so many ways, it fascinates me every day. To be on the payroll of a company already using something inspired by the Start Up Journey is great, but when my business idea goes national, I will be truly elated.”
Lewis is taking a post graduate degree in Computer Science at University of Kent next year, to enable him to learn everything he needs to know to enable him to launch his escape rooms in 2022.
“I am looking at a pop up option initially, to test it out. After that, I want to procure sites all over the country and really run with it.”
Lewis credits all of his passion for his business to the Business Start up Journey.
“It taught me steps and processes of finding a business idea that will work. Nowhere else will you learn how to formulate an idea and let it grow.”
He also credits the pandemic as fuelling his passion and drive to get the business going.
“I had so much more spare time which I channelled in to learning everything I needed to know about augmented reality.”
Click here for more information on the Business Start Up Journey or email ASPIRE@kent.ac.uk.