We had the good fortune of connecting with Heather Chandler and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Heather, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
Be focused, flexible, and fearless.

Focus on where you want to go, be flexible about how you will get there, and be fearless in saying “this is what I want,” then go for it!

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
When I left the corporate world and became an entrepreneur in 2018, there was a lot I didn’t know about starting and growing a business – including marketing, sales, HR, PR, payroll, branding, and the list goes on! Luckily, I was able to find some wonderful people to help me learn these things. Some of these people are Cherith Roberson and Katie Gailes at the small business center, Larry Long and Amie Thompson (both of whom I met at the Start-up Summit), and all of my peers in my Launch Apex Cohort. There are many, many others, and I am still learning from people in my network and new people I meet. I opened the doors to Whole Brain Escape in Jan 2019 and it was a great year of growth for my company. I looked forward to building on this success in 2020.

Then Covid-19 hit.

I had to shut the business down for most of 2020. I turned off the lights. They stayed off for 8 months. Rent and other expenses were still due. The business that I’d spent so much time and energy creating? It was dark and empty, gathering dust. I got to work.

While I didn’t know what the solution was, I was confident that I’d figure it out. My time working at video game companies taught me to re-purpose what you have, be nimble, fail fast, and that there’s always a solution, it just may not be the one you were looking for. The crux of my business was creating ways for people to work together, solve problems, and have fun. I focused on ways to create this experience outside of a physical escape room. I experimented with different things, quickly saw what worked, what didn’t, and then revised my road map.

I shifted priorities to socially-distanced outdoor puzzle adventures. I partnered up with the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Downtown Business Association, and local neighborhoods to offer these outdoor puzzle experiences to the community.

I built relationships with other business owners and helped them find ways to pivot their services and attain their goals. We all had to support each to make it through tough times. Whole Brain Escape re-opened in November 2020 and I am back to actively rebuilding the business. I’m lucky to have several folks in my corner who are interested in helping me succeed and office advice and guidance on how to navigate these times. I look forward to meeting more people and paying it forward. There’s always something new to learn or a new way to do business.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The Raleigh-Durham area definitely has something for everyone. There are tons of museums, parks, local breweries, and other amusements. The week would start with a trip to my escape room – Whole Brain Escape in Apex! After working up an appetite from using all that brain power, we’d walk to downtown Apex for a slice of pizza at Anna’s Pizza, followed by some delicious homemade ice cream at Fresh Local. The rest of the afternoon would be spent browsing some of the wonderful retail shops of downtown Apex – including the Rusty Bucket!

The next day, we’d grab some breakfast at Mustang Charlie’s Diner before heading up to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. This is a wonderful museum with both indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits. They have a small petting zoo, butterfly house, and all kinds of fun things to do keep you busy for the day. Afterwards, we’d stop by the Scrap Exchange, which is a creative reuse arts center and thrift stuff. I always walk out with a bucket of supplies for various creative projects. There are lots of great places to eat in Durham, including Dame’s Chicken and Waffles.

Day 3 would be spent at Umstead Park – which has hiking and biking trails, paddle boats, picnics areas, and playgrounds. A picnic lunch from Sassool in Cary is just the ticket!

For the remaining time, I’d see what the guests were most interested in. Live shows? Raleigh’s got you covered with several places including Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill and Good Night’s Comedy Club. Breweries? You could spend a whole day doing a tour at places like Brueprint, Mason Jar, and Aviator. BBQ? Yes, we have it – both eastern and western NC style – Danny’s. BBQ, Mike’s Brew and Q, among others.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to give a shout out to Cherith Roberson and Katie Gailes of the Start-Up at WakeTech program. They’ve been with me on my entrepreneurial journey.

Website: www.wholebrainescape.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heathermakesgames/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heathermakesgames/

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/whole-brain-escape-apex

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