We had the good fortune of connecting with Hareem Idris and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hareem, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
I would say, that was definitely, to choose to complete my BA in Business & Management plus Masters in Law degree online from University of Essex (A British University) while working fulltime for my Dad’s group of companies in the US.
I did my Freshman Year at Middlesex University in 2011-2012 at the Campus in Dubai. However, end of 2012 we chose to move back to the US, & I decided to opt out the campus life and go online. I do agree 100% studying on-campus is a lifetime experience of its own but in my case I wanted to speed fast my career by learning from the books alongside gaining practical experience. The other aspect of choosing to complete my degree’s with a British University was, I found the assessment based learning more interactive and less stressful than all the online degree programmes being offered by American Universities which had very little too almost no interaction with peers/colleagues/tutors and grades were based on quizes and lock browser exams, where I felt like its less of understanding its more of memorizing theories/terms and concepts and I didnt see myself as a great fit, and believe it or not studying with a British University was a dream experience. Moreover, I found myself lucky again, as My Dad was the one who gave me my first break to start as a front desk receptionist at his Medical Office. Now, the problem was; it didn’t bother me that I was starting small which is how you learn your steps forward ideally, nonetheless I was a new kid around the block but, I wasn’t interested in the healthcare industry in the first place, I wanted to work for the family entertainment center project My Dad was in plans of developing. So, in the meanwhile, My Dad said to me, which I say was one of his golden words at that time, which I can never forget were, “You’ll not get the opportunity of doing what you prefer each time, learn it all you never know where you end up”. Basically, My Dad had pushed me in to working at his Medical Office, and I say “push”, which may seem harsh but because of that, I learned how to unfold my wings. I may have struggled and hated being in the healthcare industry in the beginning but over time realized that it was the best breakthrough I could’ve never even imagined off. In fact, once I had established a firm grip at work, I was easily able to relate my day to day practical experience with my studies which enhanced my understanding to some other level, and I was enjoying every bit of it. I even ended up writing my dissertation for my BA degree on the healthcare industry and was awarded a distinction, which I am really proud off and around the same-time I had been promoted as Managing Director of the Medical Office. I remember, those days as pure hard work, intense long hours and immense level of patience every step of the way.
What should our readers know about your business?
End of 2019, we finally opened the doors to my dream project our family fun center, Funtania, something we had worked towards for the last 5 years. Dad & I put in a lot for this one, we would stay up past midnight, discussing ideas, sharing plans, ordering stuff, and whatnot, some priceless moments we shared. Our concept was simple, we wanted to set up an arena with multiple attractions in smaller experiences that would cater to all ages, rather than focusing on just arcade games or a certain age group like traditionally designed indoor entertainment centers do. We have a unique range of indoor attractions, a synthetic ice-skating rink, VR 9D movie simulator rides, bumper cars, virtual reality escape games (btw we are the only ones in Orlando, so if you are ever in the area that’s a must-try, the most trendiest and immersive entertainment experience ever), then our glow kids birthday party lounges are super EPIC and the most hottest thing in the market right now. And of course, we have real-life escape rooms also which are focused on pure family fun.
The real-life escape rooms are an original, Dad & my last masterpiece (the reason I say last is because I lost him an year ago) Nonetheless, coming back to the duo’s creative escape rooms, we both had a great time creating them, coming up with the scripts to theme designing, mechanics and props, and then game mastering. It’s been a lovely journey. Developing these Escape Rooms for Funtania, became my thing, it was something that I saw myself passionate about, and my dad kept supporting my crazy ideas to incorporate immense levels of innovation. I wanted to grow and expand that line of products, but then the pandemic came in the way in 2020.
That period of time was full of uncertainty, as we saw so many successful and much older businesses in the industry close down overnight. We were blessed by God that we were able to make it through that phase. During this time of the shutdown, the idea of the remote escape game concept struck me as numerous escape room businesses innovated to offer online games in order to keep the operation cycle moving so that they can survive the pandemic. I diverted directions towards an alternative plan, and I started Grand Escape Game, which is an online remote escape room experience, played virtually on online platforms from anywhere in the world at any time. At the moment we are offering 8 virtual escape games. By incorporating this platform into our existing business of ours we were able to diversify lines of product offerings, and this expansion assisted in generating additional revenue as a backup to the business.
I am very proud of the collection of our games. I think each one is beautiful in its own way; they all have an element that sets them apart from one another as well as unlike the usual traditional escape room themes, we tried to keep it different, and when you play them, you’ll know exactly what I mean. We are working towards going global, taking this forward and adding leaderboards tournaments, and developing more games. In the industry we sit in, I believe the customer base is not limited; the exposure is vast, especially at the national or even international level. Our main focus is the idea of competitive play and interaction. When we were planning these games, I wanted to stay on top of keeping it real-time so that the team players could communicate with one another or work together to understand what happened that made something else happen, this was the prime idea when escape rooms actually started and I wanted to keep that idea alive in the virtual play. Secondly, we have created games that make you feel you are actually a part of that storyline, so it’s not only escaping rooms; it’s in fact, escaping the storyline. Lastly, it’s a conceptualized online game-playing experience, incorporating old and new puzzles which excite all generations that have been put together by a mastermind global team from the USA, UK, Australia & Netherlands.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Orlando, has the best of the best of everything. Apart from visiting Disney World, Universal and all the other theme parks, definitely, stroll down on I-drive, great hang-out places, food options. And, take some time away from Orlando, maybe drive all the way to Miami, making it a 3 day trip, stop over at the beaches in Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood area and stay at a nice hotel in the downtown area.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Hero, My Dad, Idris MS hands down, not just “some credit” I would say entire credit goes to none other… He’s an award-winning, serial entrepreneur who has developed, established and successfully operated around 15 small businesses in various industries across North America & the Middle East in a span of 30 years. I grew up admiring; his journey, the decisions he took for his family for the betterment, his style of approaching risk-taking challenges, his positivity throughout the ups and downs he faced in life, the way he would invest himself into his adventurous ventures, these are a few things out of a million that not only fascinated me but encouraged me to try to follow his footsteps…
If it wasn’t for My Dad, and his critical decision making skills he made for me, I would’ve just not be were I am today, as a person nor as a business operator in a small span of time. Every step of the way, he was molding the best version of me, and now when I reflect back, it was all part of my training without even knowing it.
My Dad has been very supportive in letting me get immense exposure in the business world by involving me in his businesses from a very, very young age. At that time I would just go with him and hang around after school on weekends, even holidays and sooner that hanging around revolved me into starting to take small initiative’s towards helping out, later it turned into actually shadowing him behind the scenes and then he giving me the space to actually step on board into the real business world side by side with him and eventually, I was able to take over so he could take the back seat and enjoy the show. These layers just made me more passionate about the entire aura of running a series of businesses. My Dad have always been very encouraging towards learning different things, to exploring different career fields and guiding me throughout the journey instead of enforcing his orders on me, and that has really impacted positively on my life.