Underground Escape: A Social Justice Escape Room
In 2019 the Arkansas Women’s Business Center at Winrock International piloted Momentum, a first-of-its-kind business accelerator targeting minority women in Arkansas. Momentum provided 10 minority woman-owned businesses with professional development training, mentorship and $500 in seed funding for business development. The five-week accelerator led to the launch and expansion of 10 new minority woman-owned businesses in Arkansas.
Similar in concept to live-action experiences such as haunted houses, escape rooms have grown in popularity in the last decade for both entertainment and educational purposes. They require participants to solve a game or a puzzle, often with a theme such as solving a crime or pulling off a heist. Others are historical, giving participants the chance to experience firsthand, as it were, important moments from the past.
Due to their low startup costs, escape rooms have become an unlikely business success, with thousands opening in the last decade across the country. With the help of the Momentum accelerator, Juannena Williams expanded Underground Escape, an escape room in downtown Little Rock where participants experience key historical moments of the African-American experience, such as voting during the civil rights movement. Underground Escape has used their social justice themed escape rooms to train over 600 individuals in diversity and inclusion. Typical clients include schools and organizations for training on principles of diversity, social inclusion and social justice
“The technical support Momentum provided helped to pay for our business license, and even ads on Google,” Williams said. “This type of support means a lot to small business startups who sometimes just need a little help in the beginning. I hope to see Momentum continue and offer even more types of financial assistance to entrepreneurs who can make an impact on the local economy.”