Founder Stories: Chris Waters On Building Constructed Adventures

In today’s Founder Story, we feature Chris Waters, Founder of Constructed Adventures!

Read on for lessons he has learned from launching and marketing his business.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role. 

The goal of Constructed Adventures is to create a seemingly serendipitous perfect day for someone. Oftentimes, these days are for special occasions like milestone birthdays or marriage proposals. Some days involve challenges and puzzles (think “escape room around the city”). Others are more whimsical.  They’re always custom-tailored to a specific person and location. 

Aside from custom building individual and large group games, I’ve built an extensive community that fosters and celebrates building Adventures large and small alike. Many people hire me to consult. I also sell physical and digital wares in my shop. 

2. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch?

The business kind of happened by accident. It all started with the Reddit Secret santa gift exchange. (here’s the Wikipedia) In short, 100k people sign up, get matched with someone, and send them a gift for the holidays! I’d been participating for years. I’d sent and received some really incredible gifts. 

Then 2015 rolled around. I got matched with my giftee. I immediately looked at his location. It was literally 21 minutes away. I had this grand opportunity to do something really fucking cool for an internet stranger. 

So I started planning. 

The recommended amount for Reddit Secret Santa is always $20. Some people send $20 gifts. Some people don’t send anything. Some people spend wayyyyyy more. I was one of those people. Frankly, I just kept coming up with cooler and cooler ideas. “What if they open an envelope here and there’s two tickets to the zoo and they need to decode messages on the plaques on animal pens! Then they’ll go to a restaurant where everything has been covered!” It continued like that. 

Luckily at the time, I was making good money as an account manager for a software company and hosting a weekly poker game. I’m not a spectacular poker player, but I’d somehow taken down the game 4-5 weeks in a row. I still joke with my buddies that they financed the start of my business. 

Anyway, the day of the adventure, I had a bunch of people willing to help put on a big production for an internet stranger. One of them was the boyfriend of a coworker. He was willing to hand deliver the century-old suitcase at 8:00 am to my giftee. Once my giftee and his girlfriend were at the zoo, I took him to breakfast as a “thank you.” 

He told me this was a cool thing that people would pay for. He insisted that I start a business and he was going to build me a website. He said, “What’s your business name?”

“uhhhh…Constructed Adventures?”

“Cool, let me see if the URL is available. Yep! Just bought it. Give me a day.”

The Reddit gifts adventure ended at this speakeasy bar where I met my giftee and his girlfriend. They were exhausted (In hindsight, I made the day WAY too long) but still blown away. Through our conversation I let him know I’m going to try to do this as a side business. 

A day or two later he posted it to Reddit, it hit the front page, my business page got linked, and the business blew up. The next night, it was all over the local news and I got another huge spike in publicity.  Here is the Imgur Album 

I was still working full time but by mid-January, Constructed Adventures was booked out through June. 

3. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

In the past, the vast majority of my marketing has been through Reddit. Running a yearly Adventure and doing an AMA has pretty much booked me out. I also take the “teaching” angle and have a YouTube channel and Blog 

4. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

I really appreciate the experiential perfection that Disney goes for (namely in regard to their theme parks). They’ve just thought about every little detail. 

4. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

Aside from Squarespace, the only other tool I is use is Brevo for my monthly Newsletter

5. Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

After a year and a half of constant travel, it’s been really great settling down in my new home in Long Beach. I’ve been slowing down the amount of Adventures I’ve run. Allowing myself to be picky about the clients I take on. In that same vein, I’ve been ramping up the consulting and digital events. Creating ARGs (Alternate reality games) for promotional pieces for clients. 

6. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

The big goal is to shake up the everyday routine in people’s lives and create excitement and intrigue. 

7. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

The biggest hurdle I see for people starting out in this space is to just start. Come up with a name (Google it to make sure it’s available), grab the URL and social media handles, and just create. Your biggest weakness (nobody knows about you) is also your biggest strength. I see so many people afraid to launch until “everything is perfect.” 

It’ll never be perfect. Just start. 

8. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

I think good entrepreneurs need to be a little bit crazy, very tenacious, and very optimistic. Honestly, if you don’t believe you’re going to succeed in the first place, why start? 

With that said, you need to be pragmatic and tactical. Running in blindly, no matter how positive you are, is a recipe for disaster. 

9. Let us know where we can go to learn more!