A Year of Thanks

By Thomas Dunagan

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As many of you know I’m not a big national holiday person. However, with that said there are a few that have always been important to me; Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving. Around this time last year, I was in the early stages of starting on an endeavor that was by far one of the greatest leaps of faith I have taken in my life. Starting my own small business. Now I could discuss the highs and lows and the emotional roller coaster of thoughts that I have endured during the process and continue to experience but that isn’t the focus of this post. There is only one word that comes to mind, thankfulness.

I think we forget to be thankful for all the little things that we have in our life. I know I catch myself often forgetting to be thankful. In taking a moment to sit down and spread my thoughts out on the table and think about what has come from this first year on this adventure I wanted to take a moment and share my thankfulness.

The famous aphorism, “knowledge is power”, is such a simple and subtle truth. When I began this endeavor, it wasn’t my own original idea. A little over 4 years ago I played my first escape room at Escape the Space in Athens, GA. The concept of an escape room blew my mind as one of the most brilliant entertainment concepts I had ever encountered. Then upon playing one I knew it was something I wanted to try again. Now over the next couple of years I played a few escape rooms here and there, but it was always an afterthought as it was never more than just a form of unique entertainment to me. These past two years then took a dramatic turn next. Two escape room conferences, over 40 escape room experiences, and hours upon hours of research led me to this point today. Now I don’t claim to know everything or even remotely close to scratching the surface of all the “in’s and out’s” in the industry. I am so thankful for the amount of information and knowledge I was able to acquire through experience, individuals, and research. I am thankful that Escape the Space in Athens impressed me enough with a concept that ultimately led to starting The Lost Room.

I often truthfully joke about wishing I had the financial flexibility needed to accomplish many things like a deeper budget for even greater room experiences, paying for a staff, paying for better marketing or maybe even afford to pay myself a little. Then I have to step back and remind myself that this wasn’t going to be an easy sacrifice to begin with. It was going to be hard work constantly on a tight budget. This meant I would be forced to do virtually everything “in-house” to save costs. Despite my trepidation in my skills and creativity thus far I believe the outcomes of what has been developed so far has met or exceeded my own expectations of what I thought I was capable of. That isn’t to say I’m trying to boast about what I’ve created, but to be thankful for the financial support to create what I have thus far and will hopefully build upon moving forward.

The guests that visit The Lost Room since opening in June have been by far some of the best people I have encountered. I constantly hear horror stories from other escape room companies about terrible guest experiences. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky or maybe we’ve somehow created an environment that draws in the best guests. Whatever the case may be, I have enjoyed encountering every guest that has visited The Lost Room to date. As most of you ma know, customer experience is the #1 priority for me. From the moment they step into our facility to the moment they depart we hope that we provide them an experience where they truly “get lost” in a moment with loved ones. I build the guest experience around my own experience as a customer in escape room companies. What would I want to experience? I hope more than anything I never lose sight of that. Thank you to the guests that have trusted us to provide for them an experience hopefully unlike any other.

The people that know me best know how much I value real relationships. I have always thought that people are the greatest gift on earth and that in today’s technological and social media driven world we’ve forgotten the value of deep relationships. If it wasn’t for the relationships,I have in my life today I never would have made it this far. The support I have received from a few individuals during this season of my life have been the most humbling realizations of seeing how much someone supports the efforts of what I’m doing without expectation of a return. I am thankful to those of you who have supported in so many ways, I can’t even begin to name all the names. I do want to give shout outs to a couple of individuals that have gone above and beyond to anything I could ever pay back with their support. To my friend Brittany who checks in on my sanity level and always offers a helping a hand even though I don’t take her up on it. To my cousin Ryan, who constantly tells people about The Lost Room and stays so positive about seeing the business become a success. To Anna, for supporting the business by talking it up to co-workers and willing to help in any capacity she can. To my brother Ray, for his newfound excitement of the industry and his passion for the theatrics with our adventure experiences. To my father, the willingness he has to take on any idea or project I throw his way and provide his engineering expertise to the test in the development process of our rooms and the constant hours spent working on them. To Michelle, for being a stronghold during the highs and lows of emotions, the unceasing exhaustion mentally and physically, and the ridiculous hours I work. Her patience and support is completely unmatched.

Thank you.