Meet the Speakers
Co-founder and operator of Escape Games Canada and the face behind www.escapegamespro.com, Shawn and his team have dedicated themselves to breaking down the science of Escape Games and Escape Rooms. With a background in aerospace engineering and years of specialization in financial and customer data analytics with game theory applications, Shawn’s unique experiences have led to unique successes in the fabrication, design, and operation of escape room facilities.
Shawn became familiar with escape rooms in 2009-2010 while working in Shanghai as a marketing loyalty analyst. That inevitably led him and his wife back to his home city of Toronto, Canada to design and build the next generation of Escape Rooms.
In addition to working with other local owners and keeping Escape Games Canada running in best-of-class quality, Shawn dedicates his time to developing rock-solid games that rely on scientifically tested principles. Focusing on adapting techniques developed in the video game industry over the past 20 years, Shawn and his team are striving to make games more streamlined, more accessible, and most importantly more fun for players. His passion for developing the industry and setting standards of quality is his current prime directive.
Shawn also enjoys video games, competitive e-sports, trading card games, and practically anything to do with the gaming industry. This passion comes through if you ever take a visit to Escape Games Canada.
Renee is the founder of Escape Countdown, with locations in three Florida markets, Tampa, Sarasota and Fort Myers. She received her BSN from the University of North Dakota, and an MBA from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. After pursuing a career as an executive in health care administration, she turned her focus to entrepreneurship. In 2009, she founded an online book business which has garnered over $25 million in revenue since inception. Next, she turned her passion for escape rooms into a successful trio of Escape Countdown locations.
Recently Escape Countdown was recognized as an Emerging Business of the Year by the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, and nominated as Small Tourism & Hospitality Business of the Year by the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to establishing Escape Countdown, Ms. Ryckman is committed to philanthropy and giving back to the community. She is active in many non-profit organizations, and has a special interest in women and children’s health and education. She is a member of several business organizations in Tampa, Sarasota and Fort Myers, helping to support and educate other business owners.
She currently resides in Sarasota, Florida with her husband Brent and their two young sons. When not busy encouraging her guests to “escape”, she can be found traveling the world in search of adventure and escape games!
Tone Purzycki was born with a relentless need to learn the entertainment industry. It brought him to the doors of some of the industries finest whom were willing to share. As a result, Tone and the Trap Door team started out trying to make movies, but accidentally discovered their true calling- Live Immersive Entertainment! Since then the team has produced The Ratred Prophecy, Find Me Event, Buried Alive, Fool’s Gold: Caging a Killer, The Slasher Demo, the in-person interactive theater show, Windward Hotel, and 1 World Alliance. Tone has also been involved with creating the interactive experiences, Dexter: Return of the Dark Defender, and Homeland: Mission of Detail for Showtime. He is currently working on a brand new experience for Six Flags Great Adventure.
Since opening Trap Door in Red Bank, he has Produced Escape The Architect, and the record breaking Cure Z. This past November, Trap Door opened a new location in Morristown, NJ, and premiered Witch Hunt, and the now under construction F5, a Tornado Escape. Tone also spends time working on new episodes of Unlocked, an industry insider youtube series.
Nicole Ginsburg is the creator and co-owner of Escape the Estate, Central New York’s first “escape room”. Nicole holds a degree in marketing from Columbia College and has over 20 years of experience in the performing arts and entertainment industry; almost half of this time has been spent in her role as Production Director for Frightmare Farms, one of the most critically acclaimed haunted attractions in Upstate New York. Nicole introduced the escape room industry to the region by utilizing existing space at the previously-existing haunted attraction. At that time, Nicole was one of very few pioneers attempting this technique.
Escape the Estate, with its theatrically-detailed sets, was a runaway hit. Within a matter of weeks, the Frightmare Farms location had sold out its available bookings for their entire season. Fueled by this success, Nicole and her team opened a second location in just six months, crafting whole-new escape rooms in a shopping mall. Since then she has helped with games ranging from 3 minutes to Mega- games lasting a few hours.
Because of her work, Nicole has caught the attention of numerous media outlets in the area. In December 2015, she was named one of the “9 Most Creative People in Central New York.” Soon after, she was featured in an article about women in business, discussing her contributions to the often male-dominated industries of escape rooms and haunted attractions. Nicole has presented at educational institutions, universities, and conferences on topics ranging from young entrepreneurship to surviving a zombie outbreak.
Nicole juggles many professional roles on a daily basis.Her favorite role is wife to her uber supportive husband, Jeremy and mom to her quick witted, very busy, young twin boys!
Melissa Eapen is the Co-Founder and Director of Business Development of Improbable Escapes and Co-Founder of The Kingston Collective. With her educational background in Psychology, Computer Science and Pre-service Firefighter Training & Education, she started her career in property management and then quickly followed her passion for gamification and teaching through play to be on the front line of second generation escape rooms. She just finished expanding her puzzle rooms to a new space that is over 4 times the size of her first location.
During the day you can find her working with local partners to write, and produce historical games all over the city including Kingston City Hall, Fort Henry National Historic Site, St. Lawrence College, the Kingston Public Library, Bellevue House, Murney Tower National Historic Site and many others.
Melissa and her business partner are currently opening up their third business, HipStory, a cross between escape rooms and tours through national historic sites and museums.
Dave Ferrier helped design, build and currently manages Trapped PHL escape room. He has become an escape room industry “go to guy” on booking systems and running Groupon / Living Social campaigns. Dave has worked in the haunt industry for seven years as a performer and four years as casting director for Fright Factory in Philadelphia.
Dave is also a trainer, Marine Corps veteran and professional actor, with dozens of credits including House of Cards, VEEP, Investigation Discovery, The Travel Channel and various major motion pictures.
AJ Hughes has been an escape room owner at Escape Room Tucson www.EscapeRoomTucson.com since 2014. She has designed, created and built all of her escape rooms from the ground up. She also owns www.EscapeRoomGamesForSale.comand has built, designed and created 122 escape rooms all around the world.
Prior to owning an escape room, AJ has owned her own retail business that featured in the Kentucky Derby three years in a row, Miss America Pageant and the Grammy Awards.
Coming from an extensive marketing background, AJ has also served as the national marketing director for the third largest company in the world.
AJ has a bachelors in marketing and masters in business.
AJ is an avid escape room gamer, having played as many as 15 escape rooms in three days. She is also a book collector and has a collection of books that date as far back as the 15th century.
Brian Warner’s technical background comes from 18 years as a machinist and machine manufacturer, building multi-million dollar machinery for large beverage corporations, as well as 13 years in the haunted attraction industry, with his company Evilusions, designing and constructing entire attractions. This includes all the CAD drawings, technical systems (air, electric, sound), and all animatronic manufacturing. For the last year, he has been designing and installing escape rooms, from one simple puzzle, to entire rooms and facilites, including the 2d and 3d CAD drawings, and game flow design.
Steel Owl is led by Elisabeth Garson, Creative Director for Steel Owl Games & Steel Owl Tech. The group is famed for “Escape The 1980s” and is creating additional, UX based escape games for large companies including The Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia PA. The company’s initiatives have attracted great deal of press, investor interest, tech requests and has ultimately spawned the birth of Steel Owl Tech, producers of the industry’s most advanced telephone game prop.
Prior to Steel Owl, Garson worked Advertising and UX (user experience) for 20 years as a Creative Director, with a focus on branding and experience. Her clients included large companies (Comcast, Advanta, Xfinity) to medium sized business and start-ups. From craft beer…to cable TV — all of Garson’s creative work explored consumer experience, from the perspective of targeted audience research. This knowledge acted as the primary building block for the Steel Owl business model, including game development, company branding, and puzzles to create player engagement.
In addition to her advertising work, Garson created several team-oriented events, and experiences in the Philadelphia area including the sold-out “Dating Game Live” (set up like the 1980s show) and a sold out “Happening Event” where participants purchased tickets to something that was happening (but they didn’t know what it was). She was also the co-creator of an independent short film that created outlandish experiences for unsuspecting deliverymen. She’s the concept founder of The Philadelphia Arts Market, which is still in the process of development, and on-hold for the moment.
Over the years, Garson’s endeavors have attracted press from The Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS 3, KYW News Radio, Time Magazine and dozens of others.
Marty Lee Parker is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for the performing arts. He founded a company called Life Learning Devices, LLC that worked with world-renowned motivational speakers to create motivational products for businesses and corporations. Life Learning Devices, LLC evolved into Bucket List Productions, LLC- a company that produces events that motivate people to live fulfilled and passionate lives. Bucket List Productions became a leader in the mob event industry of active entertainment by creating and producing Mud Ninja, Bubble Palooza, The Tomato Bash, and The Cincinnati and Columbus Color Paloozas.
One day in 2013, Marty received an email from a friend that said, “I don’t want tomatoes thrown at me. I don’t want the colored corn starch in my hair, and there is no way I am jumping into a pit of mud … but if you produce a room escape, I’d go to that!” The very next week, Marty flew to San Francisco to attend the only room escape in the country he could find. A week after that, as he was driving to Ohio from Florida after producing a Bubble Palooza (a 5k where you run through colored bubbles that stain your skin so you look like you got pooped on by a unicorn!), he busted up laughing, for over an hour, thinking how entertainingly hysterical it would be if someone combined the murder mystery concept, a room escape and one of the most watched TV shows, “The Walking Dead.”
And that’s exactly what he did! Immediately after getting home, he sat down and wrote the comedic show “Trapped In A Room With A Zombie”. Three weeks later he was doing test runs in his garage. One week after that it was being performed live in Chicago. Seeing that this interactive theater piece was identical to a mud run in almost every aspect, minus the mud, he quickly set out to open the show in every major city. “Trapped In A Room With A Zombie” is now being performed in twenty-five major cities around the world, including London, Toronto and Madrid.
Apart from producing the interactive theater “Trapped” series, Marty is part owner in thirteen other room escape companies that write and produce traditional room escape experiences. Marty has helped write a traveling room escape for Pepsi and has produced a large room escape event at a resort in Mexico.
Marty is super excited to share with you what he has learned from producing this comedic, interactive theater piece, including all the tips and techniques the show uses to continually deliver unforgettable experiences!
Nate Martin is the Co-Founder & CEO of Puzzle Break (www.puzzlebreak.com), the first contemporary American Escape Room company. Puzzle Break is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Long Island, Boston, and on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. He is a regular speaker, writer, and podcast guest on the subjects of escape rooms, game design, and entrepreneurship. He has appeared on MSNBC where he was referred to as the "Founding Father of Escape Rooms". He has been profiled by Entrepreneur Magazine, and his interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, Marketwatch, USA Today, Cracked.com, The Guardian, and countless other media outlets.
Prior to Puzzle Break, he was a senior executive at Microsoft and Electronic Arts. He has shipped software used by billions of users as well as some of the most beloved video games of a generation.
Nate is the owner of Escape Room Master, the most popular software suite in the industry for managing almost every facet of your escape room business. ERM additionally builds tech insides for props, full props, and even complete escape rooms, while providing consulting and industry insight to current and prospective owners. Nate has been writing software for his entire career, and when escape rooms began cropping up, combining his love for puzzles with software came naturally.
William worked 15 years as a resort real estate developer, conceiving and overseeing the construction of leading 4-season destinations such as Mont Tremblant, Sandestin, Stratton, Snowshoe, Whistler, and Vail.
As the workload shifted away from exciting resort destinations and skewed towards suburban tract housing, William decided to pursue a new challenge. In January 2016, William resigned from his role and c0-founded Mission Liberté escape games. On February 4th, Mission Liberté opened its first escape game. Growth continued quickly, and by July 1st, Mission Liberté was offering 6 different escape rooms and 1 Virtual Reality experience. William is also the father of 2 children who have been very influential in steering direction of Mission Liberté.
Chantelle, a flight attendant with a leading North American airline, co-founded Mission Liberté.
Previously, Chantelle worked many front line positions at the Mont Tremblant resort, including as hotel receptionist, Rocky Mountain Chocolate chocolatier, and ski instructor. This eclectic set of experiences ensured a proper understanding of resort traffic patterns and helped to anticipate demand loads and human resources norms and protocols. She is also the mother of 2 energetic boys.
Megan Mouton is the founder and owner of Clue Carré, the first escape game in the state of Louisiana, opening in January of 2015. Starting with two games, Clue Carré quickly expanded to a new location with five total games within a year of opening. Megan was named one of Gambit Magazine's top 40 under 40 in 2015. This prestigious award recognizes professionals and entrepreneurs making a difference in the City of New Orleans.
Previously, Megan was the Vice President of the largest Special Event Rental company in the state, managing three locations with approximately 150 employees reporting directly to her. Her strong connections and business reputation within the special events community, as well as the destination management community, helped the rapid growth and success of Clue Carré. Megan is excited to be a member of such a wonderful industry and is constantly striving to improve her customer's experience as well as encourage the growth and evolution of the industry as a whole.
Krystle Ann Griffin
Krystle Ann Griffin is the assistant manager and lead game master at Escape the 1980s, Philadelphia. While she has only been in the industry shy of two years, her life's work is a culmination that makes her one of the best at what she does. An actor, writer, director, producer in the independent film scene in the tri-state area, a behavior therapist, nanny and once teacher, and a plethora of customer service and managerial experience starting from a very young age, Krystle brings an arsenal of life experience that is just ripe for the game escape picking.
Jono Naito is a writer, performer, and puzzle designer residing in Syracuse, NY. They currently work at Escape the Estate as Lead Designer for New Development and study fiction writing at the MFA program at Syracuse University. Their background includes experience in event planning, game design, and performing with the Surrealist Training Circus in the Hudson Valley.
Andrew DeRuiter has spent over 30 years as a magician and illusion engineer, and is a professional designer and builder of multiple escape rooms. He is currently co-owner of Escape the Estate in Palermo and Syracuse, NY, as well as a haunted attraction in Washington DC, and has designed illusions for several leading haunts across the US. An author of a series of prop and illusion concept/design books entitled Andrew’s Black Books, he has inspired and advised many set designers, builders, and artists. His background in magic gives him a unique ability to create some of the most effective illusions in the industry, and he has been able to use this knowledge particularly in creating effective escape rooms.
Matthew DuPlessie is founder and CEO of the 5 Wits Companies, with seventeen attractions in four states, and more on the way.
After completing his bachelors in mechanical engineering at MIT, Matthew DuPlessie went to work in South Florida managing specialty design/build projects for major theme parks, museums, and aquariums. Returning to Massachusetts to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School, Matt raised private financing and founded one of the earliest “escape room” style attractions, in Boston in 2004.
For the last twelve years, 5 Wits has designed, built, and operated award-winning walk-through “adventures” like Tomb, Espionage, 20,000 Leagues, Drago’s Castle, and Deep Space, enjoyed by well over a million guests. www.5-wits.com
In 2006, Matt formed a second company, 5 Wits Productions Inc., in order to pursue a wide range of design/build work for third party clients, in addition to 5 Wits’ own public venues. The team at 5 Wits Productions specializes in the concept development, detailed design, quality fabrication, and profitable operation of exhibits, attractions, interactive adventures, and group challenges for a variety of public venues, such as the Smithsonian, Blue Man Group, Walt Disney Imagineering, and dozens of science and children’s museums. www.5witsproductions.com
In addition to his work with the 5 Wits’ Companies, Matt teaches a couple of design classes in the mechanical engineering department at MIT. Matt and his wife Beth live in Stoneham, MA with their three energetic children.