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Entrepreneur creates spy-like missions for the general population

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

March 11, 2015

From left to right, Sara Rudesill, Francine Scott, Diana Green, Fayette Ames and Keiza Clubb work to solve a mission in Escape MSP. 
Submitted photo

WAUWATOSA - Many children - and yes, even a lot of adults - fantasize about going on a James Bond-style mission to save Queen and country. Entrepreneur Matt Ames is giving them the chance to fulfill that dream by locking small groups in a room with clues to unlock the door within 60 minutes to complete the mission - and stop an imaginary bomb from detonating.

With the success of Escape MSP in Minneapolis, Ames and business partner, Ryan Muhlbauer, are building an Escape MKE in Wauwatosa near Mayfair Mall.

Escape MKE co-founders Matt Ames, left, and Ryan Muhlbauer wanted to create memories with their spy-style missions.  
Submitted photo

With a success rate of only 25 percent, Escape MSP is no Clue board game.

There are two rooms with individual missions. One is based around fictional Mr. Dupree and is a CIA-themed story. The other is James Bomb, which sends a group of four to 10 people to intercept information for foiling a terrorist attack on the Bank of England. According to Escape MSP’s website, the team of MI6 agents has been captured by Count David of Liverpool, who has shackled the team in the basement of the World Bank with the bomb. The team members must free themselves, find the deactivation mechanism and escape the room before it explodes.

A detail photo of Mr. Dupree’s Office in which a group of people must solve a CIA-themed mission.  
Submitted photo

The plan is to open the Wauwatosa location at 3333 N. Mayfair Road by April 3. Ames and Muhlbauer are overseeing the build-out of the 2,000-square-feet location.

The business aims to create special experiences for participants, because “experiences create memories and memories are the most powerful thing we have as people,” Ames said.

In order to create that strong emotional connection to the mission, Ames said, there has to be a risk component. “It’s you at your core,” he said. “We want you to be present.”

That means leaving your cellphone and gadgets with Escape MKE employees.

The mission is challenging, especially without the aid of electronic devices. There is also a physical element to successfully completing the missions, during which Escape employees are watching the team work.

“It’s going to be a challenge. People like to compete,” Ames said. “If you get out you should feel good.”

A detail photo of Mr. Dupree’s Office in which a group of people must solve a CIA-themed mission.  
Submitted photo

Of the approximately 7,000 people who have participated in missions at Escape MSP since June, the most popular age range is 25 to 34, followed by 35 to 45. This is about equally divided between men and women.

In addition to groups of friends buying tickets to Escape MSP, it has been a popular site for corporate team-building exercises, as well as meet-and-greet dating nights.

Escape MSP was the third business in the United States centered on people going on a mission inside a locked room, Ames said.

As the owner of a paintball business in Minneapolis for the past 14 years, Ames felt like Escape MSP was a strong business idea.

“We want to bring these cool experiences to the people who would never have a chance to do it,” he said.

In the future, Ames said, he would like to expand further into the Midwest and develop new missions.
 

At a glance

What: Escape MKE
When: To open April 3
Where: 3333 N. Mayfair Road, Wauwatosa
Cost: $29.95
Info: www.escapemke.com, 414-301-7183
Video:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJmSDf7L27A

Email: kmichalets@conleynet.com