Bryant Wilcox has created a one-stop shop on Milwaukee’s north side for fans of games and gaming-related collectibles. That covers buying, selling, and trading of games and consoles, action figures, animé merchandise—in a word, “everything!”
The retail store includes a gaming lounge, soon to be expanded into a full-service café serving food and beverages for lunch and dinner. For entertainment, Battlebox Studios hosts tournaments, raffles, and contests for young people and adults who respect the house rules.
Bryant has two partners in his business: his wife Joyce Wilcox, and son Bryant, who represents the fourth generation gamer in the family. Bryant got excited about gaming while visiting his grandfather’s tavern, which featured video consoles. His mother was an avid gamer who set up a home gameroom and repair station, leading Bryant into doing repairs and collecting as well.
Home-grown gaming, organic growth
The current business grew from the family’s longtime hobby. Over the years they had focused on just one aspect of the industry—repairs, customization, a gaming club, and retail both local and online.“Battlebox Studios combines everything we’ve done in the past 17 years, finally in one place,” Bryant explained. He’s purchased a building at 5431 W. Lisbon Avenue and plans to merge with adjoining properties as the business expands.
Battlebox Studios has followed a practical route from home to “pro” business. Today the company has a fan base of over 4600 members who will be the first to have access to the private lounge when it opens.
Gamers make good neighbors
Every year Battlebox Studios celebrates the holiday season with its Battlebox Toy Box gift give-away, designed to provide gaming-related gifts to underprivileged children of Milwaukee and surrounding counties. Bryant has also launched the “Help the ‘Hood” initiative, a nonprofit group of volunteers who give an hour on an occasional Sunday to care for a Milwaukee neighborhood. “We vote to select the worst areas and tackle them. We’re six or seven guys, one block at a time. Nothing world-saving, but doing our piece, that’s the objective,” he said.
Battlebox Studio’s “good neighbors” efforts extend to passing out hats and gloves during the winter months, bimonthly art contests, and a reward program for honor roll students, who receive a Battlebox token and also a fiscal lesson. “The five-dollar token can be spent in-store or saved. When they have acquired four tokens technically worth twenty dollars, we double the amount to forty dollars,” Bryant said. “I believe the ability to save is critical in succeeding in life, and this helps teach that with a small incentive.”
Accomplishments with the SBDC at UW-Milwaukee:
- Business plan using LivePlan
- $50,000 loan from WWBIC
- Homework finding financing
SBDC advice has been instrumental
Bryant found Cheryl Mitchell, a consultant with the Small Business Center at UW-Milwaukee, through networking. The timing was right. “Because of Cheryl, we were able to actually put our business plan together, using LivePlan, which was major,” Bryant said. “She critiqued every piece, even when I thought I had it perfect. Cheryl gave us homework until we got it right.”
Cheryl recalled, “Bryant Sr. and Jr. came in looking to get their business plan done in about three days! I explained it would take four to six weeks, maybe longer. Bryant Sr. worked on everything I asked him to, checking in regularly about his progress and questions. He submitted it to meet WWBIC’s deadline for their loan committee. Less than ONE WEEK later, he had his approval! Battlebox Studios had a business plan and a $50,000 loan in less than six weeks.” Bryant said, “The WWBIC loan approval was instrumental for us. I credit Cheryl for that.”
At the end of 2017, one year into their new “one-stop shop” business, Bryant is carefully planning his next steps. It will soon be time to hire employees. “Most of the folks in there now are family and friends, volunteering to help,” Bryant explained. Now he is focused on preparations for the new café and lounge. “We’re getting bids from different contractors. Putting that kitchen together is pricey, but we’re close to good to go.”