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Two separate instances this week reminded me as to what Scene75 truly represents. And I’m glad to have a blog to share these encounters with you.
The first instance was inspired by a school assignment. I received a text from a dear friend’s mom, who happens to be a teacher in Cincinnati — yes, Cincinnati! The text read as follows:
“Hi Jonah. I just had to share this little tidbit with you before I forget. Today in class I gave an assignment to draw your most favorite thing you did this summer, and I gave the criteria of what they had to put in the picture. There were wonderful pictures of trips, islands, vacations, roller coasters at Kings Island, cruises, fishing and beaches. As I walked around I came upon one of my six year old students; he was working feverishly. In the middle of his picture he had, in big letters…CEEN75. I asked him, ‘What is that you are drawing?’ And he said ‘the happiest day of my life, when I went to Scene75 with my dad.’”
How sweet is that?!? Though we are still very much at our beginning stages, this story affirms that we are at least somewhere along the path we intend to pave, a path I outlined in my first ‘Thoughts from the CEO’ blog post last December:
“So what is it that I want Scene75 to become? … I want Scene75 to mean something to you beyond just a massive building that provides what I believe to be exceptional entertainment. I want Scene75 to be a facility that facilitates; a facility where you can meet new people, where you can catch up with old friends, where you can tell your grandkids years from now that this is where you took your wife or husband on a first date, and where you can share memorable, and I mean truly memorable, experiences with your entire family.”
The second instance occurred one afternoon while driving from Dayton to Cincinnati. Nearly that entire hour drive I found myself behind an SUV with a Scene75 bumper sticker on the bottom left corner of the rear windshield. Now this wasn’t one of those cars decked out with 50 bumper stickers (which would have been cool anyway to be included in the 50!), but rather it was a car with only one bumper sticker – that of Scene75. Again, how sweet is that?!? I wanted to honk, wave, and toss a Scene75 game card at the driver to thank her for her support, but alas, safety interfered with my desires and I let her ride into the sunset without knowing that she made my day. In truth, being unable to share my happiness with her made me sad; but my spirits were later uplifted in reflecting how this dream thankfully has made an impact on others.
I am thrilled to be where we are today. Yet I see so much potential ahead of us to continue to improve, to be not only the largest entertainment center in the country but also the best. And improvements are in order:
We recently signed a contract to upgrade our laser tag equipment from what is arguably already the best on the market to an even higher, newer standard – phasers that will feature real-time scoring and rankings on every phaser via an LCD display, new game modes including several adopted from popular video games, and power-up stations within the arena that allow players to upgrade weaponry in the middle of the game. We are rolling out brand new go-karts (replacing our existing fleet), including double seaters. They are on the track now and being rigorously tested and tweaked for operational performance improvements. And we are getting ready to launch one of the best fundraising campaigns in Ohio – including 25% kickbacks to community organizations in the restaurant and free use of volleyball, bocce and cornhole courts, providing the potential to raise thousands of dollars for community schools, groups, clubs, and more for a single event.
We will also continue to bring some of your favorite events back to the Scene in the coming months, including SlimeTime with the Real Ohio Ghostbusters (where you can slime me!), Indoor Trick or Treat, Breakfast with Santa, and more.
Thank you for your continued support. We are having fun. And I sincerely hope you are too. Our team is energized for the months ahead…
Last night I re-read a newspaper article from August 2012 that highlighted the recent opening of Scene75. The article reminded me of the journey to design and construct the establishment; but it also reminded me, given our imminent one year anniversary, to review the events of the past year to see what it is that we, as a community, actually accomplished within the establishment during our first year of operations. Here are just a few highlights that come to mind:
o Slime Time 2012 gave hundreds of guests the opportunity to meet the Real Ohio Ghostbusters (and slime me in the process with all proceeds benefiting charity)
o Halloween 2012 gave more than 2,500 community members a safe, warm and dry place to trick-or-treat for free
o Toys for Tots donation week in which Scene75 matched all prizes won in the prize redemption gallery with an equal contribution to Toys for Tots
o New Year’s Eve 2012/2013 provided a free, family-friendly atmosphere complete with balloon drops and live music
o Traffic Light Party 2013 gave more than 300 singles a chance to meet others in a fun, relaxed setting (and it was super cool to have community volunteers assist us with the event planning!)
o Sheamus, the WWE Superstar, visited us to teach 100 lucky contestant winners about the evil of bullying
o Learn to Earn continues to motivate and reward students across the community for academic excellence; we would love to welcome even more PTOs and administrators to the program
o More than 100 teams enjoy our volleyball leagues each and every week to create a summer-time party atmosphere on the patio
o 23,000 fans liked our Facebook page before our doors officially opened
o Asked to represent millions of small businesses and speak to 1,300 Facebook employees at its annual global sales meeting
o Scene75 was an international award finalist in 2012, competing against some of the best entertainment facilities, water parks, and amusement parks in the world
o Finding myself auctioned off for a date (for charity) on the one night I volunteered to bartend
o Meeting many of you who became Facebook fans and cheered us on long before we even opened (you all rock!)
o Thinking I was attending a team meeting only to learn that I was walking into a surprise 30th birthday party with nearly 100 teammates present
o Driving 45 minutes in a slime soaked outfit from Slime Time 2012 (and getting hit in the head with a pellet by my assistant when she was “testing” the various equipment…Ms. Jackie! LOL)
o Walking the parade at the Troy Strawberry Festival and actually hearing the crowd chant both my own name and that of Scene75
o Seeing hundreds of smiles each and every day I go to work
o Bonding with a team of passionate people who give 100% to deliver the best guest experience possible
We will be celebrating our first anniversary during the 4th of July weekend; we will have a number of fun activities and promotions planned. In addition, I look forward to July 20th in which we proudly present Salsa under the Stars! Stay tuned as details will be posted on Facebook soon. You won’t want to miss these events!
Thank you for supporting us and for making our first year so much fun! We look forward to bringing the same intensity and enthusiasm to the community in year two. We are nothing without you.
Without question, this has been one of the most fascinating times of my life.
Nearly two months ago, Facebook leadership asked me to represent more than 15 million small businesses at its global sales meeting in California. On Thursday morning, I did just that by sharing my personal journey and that of Scene75 with 1,300 Facebook employees. It was an incredible experience that can best be described as surreal.
I delivered a 15-minute presentation, with what must have been a 50-foot wide PowerPoint screen behind me, to arguably the most influential company in the world today. Though most in the room had never met me nor heard of Scene75, as I shared my story it quickly became clear to me that I was more than a page to them. I was a person with whom my story resonated at a personal level, much as it did with many of you. There were moments of applause, moments of tears, and moments of human connectivity. In the same light as my not being a page to them, they were no longer the virtual world to me; they were caring, kind-hearted people who were genuinely inspired by the footprints of my journey – particularly so given that they gave me the virtual ground to walk on.
As I sit at a coffee shop in California typing this, I am reminded as to how grateful I am for all of you. You made it possible. You are the reason Scene75 exists. You are the reason we have been successful (and will remain the reason for our success going forward). You are the reason Facebook took interest in our story. You are the reason Facebook asked me to stand before a crowd of 1,300 employees to represent millions of businesses at the conference. And you are the reason I now have a memory that I will cherish forever. Thank you for building this dream with me. It has been, and will always be, one of the highlights of my life.
“To dream the impossible dream.” Such is the name of the theme song of Man of La Mancha, a musical capturing the adventures of Don Quixote and his loyal squire Sancho Panza. And such is the musical of my life and the reason I aptly named my entertainment company the Quixotic Entertainment Group upon moving back to Ohio four years ago.
“To dream the impossible dream” has taken on even greater meaning in recent weeks. As I announced on the Scene75 Facebook page this week, Facebook leadership has asked me to present our story at its annual global sales conference. What I did not mention in my post, however, were some of the details, which I promised to share here in my Thoughts from the CEO blog.
Upon receiving the invitation to participate at the conference, I was informed by phone that of the millions of Facebook business pages in the world today, we were chosen to speak. Think about this for just one second (I have been thinking about this for a few days). Of all of the pages on the most popular global social media site in the world, that of Scene75 Entertainment Center – a bricks and mortar establishment in a relatively small town in Ohio – presented what leadership found to be a really compelling story. Wow!
I write this not to pat myself on the back as the genuinely proud, sometimes frustrated, often overworked yet always open and honest writer of our page; but rather to share how meaningful this accomplishment is with you, our fans who made it all possible. It is your achievement as much as it is my own. Had I shared my journey without your caring, your tenacious desire to push us to be better than we were yesterday, or your willingness to support us not only with your comments, likes and shares but also with your even more meaningful hard earned dollars, it is highly unlikely that I would be writing this today. Our journey may have started with me (and my dad), but we certainly aren’t the only characters in this book. I am supported by teammates who truly care about this business, this community, and each of our guests. The team works long hours to ensure we are providing the best guest experience possible. And they almost always do so with a smile – they genuinely love watching their work bring joy and memories to our guests, who we consider family, each and every week.
As those who have followed our page from its early days know, it has been one wild journey. And the journey started nearly three years prior to my first post with what my dad and I deemed less than a one percent chance of coming to fruition.
We truly are living “the impossible dream.” Thanks for making all of this happen and for continuing to support us. We simply cannot do it alone.
Your Chief Entertainment Officer,
If anyone thinks traveling alone is not a fun experience, they have yet to travel alone with me (sounds like a quote from Yogi Berra, doesn’t it?). Anyway, as a few of you may know from my personal facebook page, I stepped away this weekend. Yes, it’s true. I made a journey out of town for three days – my first full weekend away since we opened our doors last July; in these short three days, I learned a bit about people, a bit more about myself, and of course, quite a bit about the entertainment industry.
I decided I would book a next-day flight. Destination? Phoenix. Why? No agenda really, but I figured I could use more spontaneity in my life, and well, as a baseball fan, Reds Spring Training seemed like as good of a reason as any to go somewhere. So off I went. I saw the Reds play at two different stadiums (sadly, two in the ‘L’ column…but Votto looks good), caught up with a few friends who happened to be in town, visited one of the coolest museums I have ever seen (Musical Instrument Museum), talked with the locals, bonded with other baseball fans, tried a few unique restaurants, sorted through thoughts that had been weighing on my mind, and of course, drove all over the place visiting just about every entertainment center I could locate within a 100 mile radius (need to review my notes on the plane to be certain of how many I visited, but I’d imagine 8 to 10…rental car company may not be happy with me!).
But my purpose in writing today is not to expose the fun I had on my trip but rather to share an interesting story for those readers looking to start businesses of their own.
At a coffee shop this morning, I overheard a business adviser talking to a potential client about starting an interior design business. I am not one to listen to other people’s conversations, but the place was so small that it was challenging not to do so. The adviser asked his client the following questions in regard to her desire to start her business:
1.) How do you feel when others tell you “no way, that’s crazy talk, can’t happen” when they hear of your plan to start a business?
2.) How passionate are you about this? Are you willing to make it the center of your world? And what are your goals in starting this business?
I didn’t try to listen to her answers, as to tell you the truth, I was too busy reflecting on my own thoughts and how I would have answered those questions standing in her shoes only a few years ago. That being said, I think I would have answered the questions as follows had I been asked them then:
1.) It’s terrifying, really. There are those who just want to be nice and will say it will work without an understanding of the underlying business. There are those who will test you, forcing you to reevaluate every piece of your thesis. And then there are those who will just flat out say that it won’t work. When others tell me I can’t do something, I generally try harder. I push myself. I get fired up inside, eager to prove them wrong. But I do so with an understanding that I may indeed be crazy and that even the best intended plans sometimes go awry. But I’d certainly prefer that some people tell me it won’t work than everyone tell me it will; that’s what pushes me to improve and reassess – to become further convinced of my own beliefs.
2.) Extremely passionate. 20 hours of work per day just aren’t enough to contain the passion. I’m willing to make it the center of my universe; not because I’m passionate about the industry, the desire to run my own business, or the potential for personal financial gain. I think those options are all possible on my current career path. But rather, I’m willing to make it my world because everything else at this point just seems trivial. You see, in my current career, I don’t feel a commitment to a greater cause. I don’t feel I have a chance to make the impact for others that I desire. But with this vision, I see a path to achieve two very meaningful personal goals: to develop a strong connection with a community and to ease certain financial concerns of my family (by converting its investment group’s vacant building into something productive). Once I start and put my present path aside, I’ll know of no other option; I’ll be at the point of no return. I’m willing to take that risk at this point. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t express that I’m terrified to death of risking it all.
As I mentioned in a prior post, entrepreneurship is challenging. No matter the business or industry, it simply is not easy to start something from scratch; and it certainly is not easy to maintain a business either (and to get loved ones outside of the vision to understand is an equally trying undertaking as well).
In summary, I think the business adviser was right to ask these two specific questions. While there may be some who are fortunate in that business acumen and success just come natural to them, for most of us it is a prolonged process that tests one’s character, one’s fortitude, and one’s deepest desires. Maybe one day it will be a smooth path for me as it seems to be for those fortunate few. Maybe. But until then, I’ll continue to traverse the somewhat rocky terrain with my helmet on. Thankfully, due to your incredible support of Scene75, I have yet to unbox my elbow pads.
As always, thanks for continuing to support the dream.
Last week I had the privilege of hosting yet another presentation at Scene75 – Creating Scene75 and How Facebook Marketing Proved Invaluable. This presentation was particularly special to me for a number of reasons.
First, we had nearly 60 guests in attendance – my largest presentation on this subject to date. Interestingly, these individuals represented 25 different industries – a very fun, diverse group with great thoughts and questions. Thanks to all of those who attended!
Two, my parents and grandmother attended. Though they have unquestionably participated in the Scene75 journey from the onset, they never heard me speak at length to the ways in which I built our Facebook page. Furthermore, I believe that I may have shared some additional insight into the struggles I faced personally the last several years, and to some degree, still battle today. I think I found my eyes tearing up once or twice to be quite truthful.
Third, a few of my dear partners attended. While they were there primarily to support me, they also wanted to relive the excitement and learn, as it was their first time hearing, how I put our marketing strategy in place. I truly enjoyed being able to do this with them in the room given how challenging it was to attract Scene75 investors – few believed in Dayton and even fewer believed in both the vision and the opportunity.
And fourth, Facebook corporate actually attended. To my understanding, this was the first time Facebook sent a representative to a small business to listen to a presentation as to how it used its tool. It was awesome! Katy from Facebook was tremendous – in fact, I think my grandma wants to adopt her as her own grandchild…but alas, my grandmother is stuck with me. Hi Bub.
So. Here we are – eight months into understanding Scene75; truth be told, it feels like eight minutes in one capacity and eight years in another. Unquestionably though, it has been a fascinating journey for me and my team.
Despite my fascination with the process, creating anything, as you can imagine, along the lines of a Scene75, or for that matter being an entrepreneur in general, poses great challenges – challenges on both the business front and on the personal. For me, the most challenging piece of it all is not just in finding, but creating, balance. You see, I learned that when you pour 100% of your effort into something each and every day for such a long time (approaching four years), a piece of yourself (or perhaps in my case, several) gets lost in the process without necessarily knowing it is missing. I’m personally still tracking those pieces down to a) know what exact pieces are actually hiding and b) to figure out how to put them back where they came from upon finding them. Over the last few weeks, it became quite clear to me that I want, and well need, to get those pieces back. It may take some time, but given that they were once mine, I know they remain somewhere nearby waiting for me to find. My eyes are open.
Thank you for your continued support and for embracing our facility with open arms. We are so happy to be here in Dayton, and we look forward to many more months and years of continual improvement. We only want to be great — for you, our community…the reason we exist.
Since my last posting, I have spent a lot of time analyzing how Scene75 has evolved from the facility it was when we first opened only seven short months ago to what it is today.
From my perspective, our opening week could best be described, quite frankly, as drinking from a fire-hose. Within hours of announcing our opening, my team and I found ourselves nearly at capacity. It was an amazing feeling to see so many people come to support the dream, but at the same time, it was truly quite terrifying. Everything happened incredibly quickly. In fact, you know those sport highlights on television where the producer shows the running-back breaking tackles at normal speed before suddenly switching to turbo speed as he propels down the field? Well, I felt like I was the running-back, only I was sidling in slow motion as the entire defense was set to turbo mode gearing up to flatten me. Don’t get me wrong; I knew our undertaking would not be easy – opening a business of any size is challenging – but I never imagined that I would go to bed that week and wonder if it could actually have been any more difficult! Personally, my greatest challenge at that point in time was in directing my team as to how to respond to the unforeseen challenges that seemingly surfaced every few minutes; coaching others when you don’t have all of the answers or the experience in opening a 124,000 square foot facility is a difficult undertaking. There was no time to reflect while the doors were open and certainly less time to correct. Decisions had to be made instantly; policies that were set only hours before our opening already had to be revised. I don’t think I slept more than 4 hours that entire week combined.
Fast forward to where we are today. I tend to get more than 4 hours of sleep every night. Instead of running the ball every play, I get to coach more so from the sidelines, providing guidance while stepping in as necessary to ensure we maintain our focus of delivering a quality experience while pushing our team to be better than they were yesterday. I have gained complete confidence in my team and in their abilities to act as I expect of them; they share the passion and get just as disappointed as I do on that rare occasion when something goes awry. I have more answers today than when we started, but I continue to learn daily. The team no longer relies on my sole direction but rather on their own intuition, their own experiences, the guidance of our managers, and the high standards we all wish to uphold at Scene75. I am proud of them and the desire they demonstrate to enrich your experience.
Physically, the facility has evolved as well. We opened with 60 arcade games. We now have nearly 100 with several more on the way, including a shipment due in this week. We added a new attraction; we are among the first facilities in the world to have Atomic Rush. We started with a 2 page menu; we will be expanding to 4+ within the month. We opened without a dedicated toddler area; now Big Bad Bounce sets an industry standard with its private toddler bounce area.
If you haven’t visited recently, I’d encourage you to return to see our evolution. And if you have visited recently, I’d encourage you to return too!
Without question, we have room to improve. And without question, we will improve. We are still young, learning and changing. Scene75 is here, however, to set a standard not just for quality entertainment in Dayton, but with your patronage and feedback, for quality entertainment within the industry at large. We are making a splash and industry insiders are taking notice. I’m glad to be a part of this.
In case you missed a recent facebook posting, we were the cover story of this month’s Dayton B2B magazine. You can find the article here (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bwl5xWLDnhckdnd1RnpiaUVpczQ/edit). What an honor! And I’m thrilled that later this week I will be visiting the WDTN tv studio for a live one on one interview.
Thank you for your continued support and for making a dream come true. We would be nothing without you.
I look forward to seeing you later this week!
Many of you amazing people over the last six months have thanked me for building Scene75. Your e-mails, facebook comments, anecdotes, and in person gratitude mean more to me than many of you may ever know. It is truly touching. Thank you!
But as I reflected last night, I realized that I have a confession to make. Scene75 saved me. Truly. And for that, I genuinely thank you.
You see, three years ago I was in a relationship that nearly changed the entire direction of my life. I was in love with a woman, a woman who lived thousands of miles away. Yet my dedication to Putters Par-adise (Englewood), the Chaos Room (Centerville), and Scene75, motivated by my lone desire of helping my family and building something for a community, ended up pushing her away. When I finally realized that I was on the brink of losing her forever, I came within one failed ‘romantically strategic maneuver’ of packing up my belongings, burying my half developed vision of what is now Scene75, and tossing away several of my own goals in an attempt to be with her. Some may call it a moment of weakness. Perhaps. Others may call it a moment of strength. Perhaps. And still some may call it a moment of foolishness. Likely. But what I realize now that I had no way of understanding then is that there were reasons for all of this, including her going her separate way.
Without Scene75, I likely never would have explored the depth of my own abilities, understood the true power of a community, identified some of my life’s inner passions, met several of the most amazing people I have ever met, tested my own ability to bounce back from a self-defined rock-bottom status, seen so many smiling faces in one setting in which I played some role in creating, jumped out of bed each day with a stronger sense of purpose, surrounded myself with a team of people who are as passionate about what they do as I, and been able to genuinely try to ‘do good’ through a business channel in a motivated, values led way.
Given that we are only six months in, I know that my list will only get longer and hopefully more meaningful. But, for all of this to date, I am grateful for what you have done for me. Thank you.
Had Scene75 not been embraced by you all with such open arms, I would probably be lost right now in knowing that I had given up a woman, a career, a city of friends, and quite a few other nuggets of goodness along the way. Thankfully, though, many of you are as passionate about this facility as I am and thus, realize that I’m right where I need to be at this specific moment in time.
As we enter into 2013, I look forward to continuing many newly created Scene75 traditions in which so many of you participated. ‘Slime the Boss‘, ‘Indoor Trick or Treat’, and ‘Breakfast with Santa’ will all return in 2013. But I also very much look forward to creating many new traditions with the team, including our New Years Eve party where admission will be FREE, and we’ll be hosting our first live band performance to date. I hope you will join us for what will certainly be a fun-filled night.
On behalf of my family and my extended Scene75 family to yours, Merry Christmas to all of those who celebrate. And to each and every one of you, happy new year.
Best wishes in 2013,
Five months ago to this day we opened our doors for the very first time. I recall that sequence — unlocking the doors, announcing our opening on facebook, and greeting our first guests as they entered the facility — like it was yesterday. It was a moment filled with excitement, accomplishment and trepidation; without question, it was the beginning of the ultimate test— would my life’s work of the last three years be apparent in the product presented? More importantly, however, would the public, our soon to be dear guests, perceive Scene75 to be the facility I perceived it to be in my own mind? And equally important, what did I actually want Scene75 to become?
As I sit here typing and reflecting, my mind is overcome with thoughts beyond the elusive answers to these questions. The most pervasive of these thoughts, as our early followers will attest, is that my willingness to share the uncomfortable and the personal thankfully struck a chord with many. And through this sharing, I unquestionably learned a great deal about business, life, and most importantly, people. You see, the more truth I revealed, from the hardships of forming a business to the personal struggles at bay from laying it all on the line, the more support I received from you. And the more support I received from you, the easier it became to further unveil my truth. And the more I revealed that truth, the more I learned about myself and what I wanted Scene75 to become. And for that, I am forever grateful.
So what is it that I want Scene75 to become? In truth, I want it to evolve. Static is boring. Static is passé. So in knowing exactly what I want Scene75 to become, I would be defining something I don’t necessary want to have a definition.
But that’s a cop out answer no one wants to read. So that being said, here is what I do know.
I want Scene75 to mean something to you beyond just a massive building that provides what I believe to be exceptional entertainment. I want Scene75 to be a facility that facilitates; a facility where you can meet new people, where you can catch up with old friends, where you can tell your grandkids years from now that this is where you took your wife or husband on a first date, and where you can share memorable, and I mean truly memorable, experiences with your entire family.
I want Scene75 to be a part of the community. A vital part. I want it to be a place where you can escape the ordinary – not necessarily in a magical sense but rather in a ‘Scene75 made today different from yesterday’ sense.
Life is so often about the tomorrows – what we need to accomplish for work, where we need to be at a specific hour, etc. – and the yesterdays – what we should have done differently, where did the time go, etc. I am certainly guilty of living in both; in fact, I’d surmise, in all honesty, that the last 8 or so years of my life have been about living for the tomorrow. But I want Scene75, for all of us, to be about the now – I am having a blast, I don’t need to stress about tomorrow because I’m here enjoying myself with those who mean the most to me, etc. And in living in the now, I’d imagine that the yesterdays and the tomorrows will unquestionably appear all that much brighter.
Yes, this is what I want Scene75 to become.