‘Something from nothing’; how Funlab is using Zoom to build a fast growing new virtual business

Like every business built on in-person events Funlab faced an existential crisis when the coronavirus restrictions kicked in. Overnight the business had to close its doors to the public leaving 1600 staff members in limbo.

With the company’s brand built on Strike Bowling Bars, Holey Moley mini golf and escape rooms catering to a large corporate market looking for team building events, Funlab needed to think outside the box to survive.

“We quickly launched a ‘fun-in-isolation’ calendar of events, with [our staff’s] mental wellbeing at the forefront of our mind,” said Funlab business development manager Richard Currer.

“This saw our people across the country jumping on zoom calls to play weekly trivia together, partake in cocktail and food making classes and physical workouts, all run by our staff!”

As the restrictions dragged on it became apparent that socialising virtually wasn’t just a fad “it was here to stay in a big way”. So again, Funlab decided to lend a helping hand beyond its own team.

“We soon decided to expand our internal morale-boosting activities into virtual kids parties, available for free to the public,” Currer said.

“We wanted to give our amazing party hosts something positive to do while making sure that all of the kids out there weren’t missing out on their birthday parties.”

While this kept the team busy it was not making up for the lost revenue. And even when restrictions for venues began easing, Funlab saw that the corporate functions market would be one of the last to return.

“Our venues have also been popular spots for work celebrations, especially around EOFY and Christmas times and in 2020 these sort of events didn’t seem likely, so we decided to launch a suite of virtual products that could replace your normal work function,” said Currer.

“Initially we were inundated with requests from our family and friends to organise virtual events and then as word of mouth spread our suppliers and clients wanted a piece of the action. Now we are seeing demand increase day by day as the world as we knew it adapts.”

Funlab developed three activities hosted on Zoom based around virtual escape rooms that replicate the problem solving and teamwork required in their physical counterpart and virtual trivia.

“The hosts really are key to the virtual experience,” said Currer. “We are blessed to have a wealth of talented individuals working in our business who have recreated the fun experience in our venues, virtually.

“We’re also constantly evolving the experiences to keep them fresh and make sure they are aligned to what our guests are needing.”

In June Funlab were running 24 virtual events a month, which grew to more than 80 in August. The company says it is on track to be running 100 virtual events a week by late September.

“This journey has really underlined the importance of being agile and reacting to changes in the marketplace,” said Currer.

“It has also blown me away with how quickly something can be built from nothing when you have a team of highly motivated, adaptable individuals, who are all pulling in the same direction.

“With two new products, Christmas and the potential for international expansion on the horizon we can’t see where the ceiling is yet on this part of our business.”