There’s No Escaping It

Paul Harvey, Founder, Mobile Escape

Paul Harvey (Business Administration 2014) is quickly discovering what he learned at Ambrose University is the ideal preparation for a business that’s on a roll.

Harvey and brother-in-law Eric Reynolds launched Mobile Escape in April 2017 at the high-profile Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. The first mobile escape room business in Canada, their enterprise rides the crest of a global trend in which people solve clues, riddles and puzzles in order to “escape” from a locked room.

What sets Mobile Escape apart, in addition to its ability to go almost anywhere, is its unique social enterprise focus. Early in business planning, the co-founders recognized escape rooms could be more than a fun phenomenon — they could be creative learning environments for students.

Awakening a social enterprise

Mobile Escape
“I graduated from Ambrose very interested in social enterprise, in using business for economic and social benefit,” Harvey explains. “And I wanted to serve an overlooked market.”

“From my own experience in elementary school, I know some kids don’t thrive in a traditional learning environment. They believe they’re not smart because they aren’t good at reading, writing or sitting and being still. I felt that way as a kid because my learning style didn’t fit the traditional classroom.”

While teachers and schools want to be innovative, funding realities can stand in the way of creative learning opportunities, and limit the number of field trips that offer hands-on learning. This is where Mobile Escape comes in.

The hands-on collaborative challenge of solving an escape room gives kids with all kinds of different learning styles opportunities to thrive, bringing the “outside experience” to schools. The customized 30-ft. trailer features two escape rooms and can be located at a school for days or weeks, letting students get outside the classroom and into an exciting new learning environment.

Learning by creating

Mobile Escape can serve as an on-site field trip, but it’s what happens after students “escape” that really excites Harvey.

“Once students are done participating in our escape rooms, they get to become makers and create their own puzzles to challenge classmates, parents and even the community,” he says. “It’s amazing to see them so energized by learning.”

Tailoring escape room challenges to the school curriculum enables teachers to deliver core content, adding value to what Mobile Escape offers. “Teachers are very interested in being creative, but it can be challenging and time-consuming to come up with new learning opportunities,” Harvey explains. “If we can create these opportunities, teachers respond.”

And so do students. They not only learn their intended lessons, they’ll benefit long-term from the teamwork, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills they hone by working together on a shared puzzle.

The business boost from Ambrose

“I’m so thankful for Ambrose,” Harvey says. “I don’t think I would have been equipped to enter the social enterprise space — wouldn’t have had the knowledge to walk a blended value line — without having the opportunity to see how my passion for developing communities fit with business.”

As an added benefit, Ambrose’s small class sizes offered plenty of opportunities to present to peers, developing a skill of great value to anyone launching and growing a business.

“The Business Administration program really weaves it all together, but it was always my choice as to what direction I would take it. My professors really cared. They wanted to see me — and every student — succeed, regardless of what I chose.”

What Harvey experienced as a student continues now that he’s an entrepreneur.

“Randy Poon (Associate Professor of Business Administration) has been a business coach along the way, and Sherry Martens (Associate Dean of Education) is helping us confirm that escape rooms are great for education. Their involvement validates and adds legitimacy to where we’re going.”

“It’s so amazing that they’re genuinely excited about what we’re doing, about seeing me succeed, and that they’re willing to offer such great support,” Paul says. “We’re already looking at ways to scale the business and to develop more in-school programs, both within Calgary and beyond the city.”

The long-term vision is clear. “We are happiest when we’re contributing to social innovation in the school system,” Harvey says. “That’s when we awaken wonder.”

Learn more

While bringing the escape room experience to schools is the primary focus of Mobile Escape, its programs are highly effective for corporate teambuilding, and add a new level of excitement to festivals, wedding and other events. Challenges can be customized to all audiences. Learn more at mobileescape.ca.

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