2022 Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year
“Have you ever wished, just for a moment, you could live inside an adventure movie? Want to be the hero that solves the cold case or saves the world?”
You can – and more – at The Riddle Room! Headquartered in North Scituate with facilities in Warwick and East Greenwich, The Riddle Room is an escape room entertainment venue where you can work with friends, family members, or co-workers and, in an exciting hour of teamwork and immersive experiences, “solve interactive puzzles, riddles, and clues to live each game story as if you were really there. You’ll be the one to rob the bank, solve the mystery, save the world, and hopefully, walk away a champion,” its website claims.
The Riddle Room brand was developed by RI native Byron Delmonico, who with a middle school friend established the business in 2016; it now has 16 employees and offers digital as well as physical games. Each escape room is a work of art encompassing an interactive movie-quality set where groups of ten people solve puzzles to complete a goal. Byron is passionate about every aspect of the industry, and he is actively involved in the business: he himself made, by hand, eight of the different interactive escape rooms. In the early days he even stayed late and cleaned the facility! As the business grew, Byron hired additional game-masters and took on a considerable expansion that elevated the games’ level to its current movie set-quality.
Byron has sought and received the assistance of the US Small Business Administration (SBA) a number of times over the years, allowing him most recently not merely to pivot the company during the pandemic, but also to grow the company’s offerings and increase its income. Several times since 2017, the business sought guidance from and worked with the RI Small Business Development Center (RISBDC), an SBA grantee that nominated Byron for this award. Byron’s RISBDC counselor helped him develop and execute marketing strategies, create introductions, identify opportunities, and advise on challenges as they arose both early in the business’s development and throughout its growth.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, the SBA’s loan programs also helped The Riddle Room by allowing it to implement a viable survival plan. Specifically, the business received two rounds of funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Riddle Room also took advantage of the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program and its Advance, which allowed it, for example, to turn short-term liabilities into long-term liabilities and to use crucial marketing reasonably and opportunistically. This funding was, as Byron said, the business’s “central saving grace” during the pandemic shutdown, allowing it to develop new games that expanded product life by 700%; acquire a new facility that permitted games to generate revenue for seven years instead of one; and increase the number of rooms and, thereby, customer experience, capacity, and return visits.
Through money, time, and resources, The Riddle Room is a generous supporter of community and charitable causes. That support runs the gambit, from sponsoring baseball and soccer teams to contributing to police departments and veterans organizations to donating – to every nonprofit that contacts it – a four-pack of tickets worth $116 (totaling over $50,000 in free access since the business began). In addition to membership in a number of business organizations, Byron also serves on the Board of Directors of the Central RI Chamber of Commerce and, this year, his business will donate to a new business an annual membership in the Chamber.
“Because his entrepreneurial curiosity, creativity, and drive benefit both business and community in our state, and his ability to pivot his business model and seek support during the pandemic, the SBA is excited to award Byron its 2022 RI Small Business Person of the Year Award,” said Mark S. Hayward, the District Director.