In 2012, Adventure Games was founded by Teddy Alecos. He began working on a business plan while he was deployed with the Army in Afghanistan. Shortly after he returned home, he rented a 700-square-foot retail space and started offering tabletop games and a place for Oshkosh residents to get together and play.
For the next year, his customer base continued to grow and soon his wife Charlene left her full time job to help run the business. With double the amount of man power, and twice as much determination, the co-owners worked hard to continue growing. They often stayed until 2 or 3 a.m. sorting collectible cards, and they even hosted midnight events to release new products.
During one of these midnight events, they had customers in every chair, setting up games in the storage area, playing cards in the window sills and even attempting to find space on the floor. It became apparent that the space was too small for the loyal following, so they went to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance.
Colleen Merrill, a consultant at the UW-Oshkosh SBDC, had lots of advice and resources to help. She connected Teddy and Charlene with a local banker who helped them set up a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. Then, Colleen encouraged them to contact the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce who helped with funding for the expansion project through a Revolving Loan Fund.
This funding allowed the small business to celebrate its two-year anniversary in the new 2,400-square-foot location. The new location of Adventure Games provided plenty of space for permanent fixtures and seating for nearly 100 players, as well as increased exposure and opportunities for three new employees.
The company continued to grow, running popular weekly tournaments. It was important to the owners that everyone who entered the store felt welcomed and experienced a sense of belonging. That inclusivity fostered a growing community and just four short years later, that giant new store was once again too small.
One of the goals for Adventure Games was to show Oshkosh residents who did not consider themselves “gamers” what the business was all about, so moving closer to downtown to allow participants to really enjoy their offerings made perfect sense. Teddy and Charlene found themselves back at the SBDC for help with purchasing a 6,000-square-foot building downtown.
And purchase it they did! Friends, family and other downtown business owners were eager to help paint, install flooring and move more boxes than anyone could have imagined. The business added more learn-to-play events as the walk-by traffic at the new space increased and they became part of the downtown community in every way possible. The number of league participants grew, sales increased and two more employees were hired.
Accomplishments with UW-Oshkosh SBDC:
- Expansion strategies
- Funding resources
- Funding strategies
Adventure Games was in the new location for less than six months when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and they had to shut down. Funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped them avoid laying off employees, and they pivoted as needed. Employees worked from home, and the owners created a brand new web store and shipped orders every morning.
They were once again lucky enough to qualify for relief funding, this time through the We’re All In small business grant sponsored by Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. They also received support from the gaming community. Their loyal customers were purchasing games to ship to family and friends all across the state, and the business could not keep jigsaw puzzles in stock for more than a day or two.
The SBDC has been an invaluable resource for this small business through counseling, education and introductions to other business owners and industry leaders. Keep an eye turned to Adventure Games to see what success the future brings next.