Karl Ross – Laserdome
In the 90’s, Karl Ross owned his own computer repair business. He enjoyed being an entrepreneur and wanted to do something bigger and more tangible. “It seemed like entertainment would be a fun way to spend my time,” commented Karl. He spent a couple years researching and planning, which included a cross-country road trip to visit multiple laser tag manufacturers. The planning and development culminated with him opening Laserdome in 1999.
His role in the company has changed quite a bit in the last 15 years. At the beginning, he worked extremely long hours. “For the first probably 6-7 years, it was 80 hours a week; many nights sleeping at the business.” He even spent a couple years living in a room at his parent’s house to save money. That hard work at the beginning has paid off and made his life more enjoyable now. “A typical day for me is a quiet day in the office where I am supporting my managers…as well as starting new creative projects.”
For Mike Peverill, paintball was a passion. He started playing competitively almost 30 years ago; traveling all over the world, competing in tournaments, and winning equipment as prizes. He didn’t really have a need for the equipment, so he simply let his collection grow inside a garage. During his travels, he met a lot of people who were interested in purchasing some of his stock-piled equipment. At the time, the only way to purchase new equipment was through mail-order catalogs, so Mike thought it would be a good business idea to open a pro shop. A family friend let him use some property close by as a playing field, and he was in business. “Back in 1993, we opened up a pro shop and a paintball park, and that’s how it all came to be,” said Mike.
His paintball park has moved locations a couple times since opening. In 2000, they moved to a second location, but leased instead of buying. After a few years, the owners wanted to sell the land, so Mike was forced to move a final time to a 48 acre plot that he was able to purchase.
Scott Newberry – Rollarama Skating Center
Scott Newberry was indoctrinated into the world of roller skating at a very early age. His father started Rollarama Skating Center in 1957, and Scott began working in the skate room when he was twelve years old; handing out skates and doing maintenance. Scott began managing and running the business alongside his father in 1984. When his dad passed away, he took over the reigns and has been running it ever since.
Rollarama Skating Center has now been operating for more than 50 years, and it takes a lot of work to keep a small business successful for such a long period of time. Scott and his wife, Sue, attribute a lot of their success to having a good reputation in the community and great customer service. Even with customer service being a strong suit, they are always looking for ways to improve their business. To that end, they hired Bill Carlson as an industry consultant to help them tweak their operations. “In the last four or five years, our customer service and customer loyalty has been increased greatly,” commented Scott.
Elaina Herber – WiggleWorks Kids
Elaina Herber didn’t dream of getting into the entertainment business. It was more by coincidence than anything else. She had been a successful IT consultant for 15 years, while simultaneously starting several businesses. When her first child was about 16 months old, she moved to San Francisco. With such a young child, she spent some time looking through parent resources online to find activities for toddlers in the area. She came across a business that eventually became the model for WiggleWorks Kids.
Elaina met with the owner and they became great friends. After some time, she found out she would be relocating to the Seattle area, and she knew that her new home offered nothing in the way of fun or enrichment for toddlers. The owner of the San Francisco facility had no desire to expand her business or franchise other locations, so Elaina took that model and brought it with her to Seattle.
Elaina opened her first WiggleWorks Kids location in November of 2012 in Bellevue, WA. The business was greeted with extreme enthusiasm by the local community. With her entrepreneurial nature, she wanted to keep expanding this business. But she wanted to do the next location outside of the Bellevue area, which was very high in gross and discretionary income. “If this model is going to work, it has to work in everywhere America,” commented Elaina.
Craig Buster – Wild Island Family Adventure Park
April 19, 1993 is an important date for Craig Buster. That was his first day as a go-kart employee at Wild Island Family Adventure Park, but he knew right away that he could have an impact on the facility. “Within two weeks, I decided to go to our owner and tell him I could do a better job and run the place,” commented Craig. He did just that, and his bold move was rewarded. The owner terminated Craig’s boss and gave Craig his old position, running the three go-kart tracks. As time went on, he gradually took on more responsibilities, running the miniature golf course and the redemption arcade. Within another ten years, Wild Island added a roller coaster and the indoor facility, both of which fell under Craig’s supervision. At that point, he was promoted to General Manager of Wild Island, and he’s held that roll the past 12 years.
Jeff Willy, the current owner of Loveland Laser Tag Fun Center, got an early start in the entertainment industry. During his college years, he worked at a laser tag arena in Texas, and this early experience was a catalyst to his love for the entertainment industry. After college, Jeff took a slight detour into software, but after a decade, he and his wife jumped on the opportunity to purchase Loveland Laser Tag Fun Center.
Although he is a small business owner like most other operators, Jeff’s situation is a bit unique since he has more than one job. “My days are anything but typical since I split my time between running Laserforce USA and running Loveland Laser Tag Fun Center,” said Jeff. But this time-split allows him to assign a fairly high level of responsibility to his employees. “Because of this, I empower my staff to handle a lot of day-to-day operations such as scheduling and ordering. At any given time, I have a few dozen small projects delegated to my staff, which I consult with them on.”