Scott Beskid said he couldn't imagine a better job than the one he has had the past eight years: stay-at-home dad for his two boys, Nathan and John.
But now that the boys are getting older, Beskid said he has found some time to add another dimension to his busy life.
The former social worker took a giant leap into the world of business as a franchise owner of GameTruck, a fully furnished video game room that can be towed to homes for family parties or to day-care centers and schools for educational programs.
Beskid, who said one client called his trailer "a family room on steroids," launched his operation a month ago.
Thanks to some advertising, a lot of word of mouth and hours of cold calls to potential clients, Beskid put 13 parties under his belt in April.
He admits it has been an exciting, though scary, adventure for someone with no business background.
"It was a big investment, and I didn't know if it would work," Beskid said.
Adding to the challenge is having to educate people on exactly what he offers.
"You say 'patented mobile game video theater' and people have no clue what you mean," he said.
What it is
GameTruck is a customized, 33-foot-long wheelchair-accessible trailer pulled by a heavy-duty truck. Inside the climate-controlled trailer are six 3-D TVs connected to Wii and Xbox consoles. There is also one PlayStation, one XB Connect with room enough for dance games and a concession window that opens access to a seventh TV facing outside for some outdoor play beneath an awning.
Inside, large cushioned leather seats can be retracted if party-goers need room for more interactive games, like baseball. Up to 24 people can play inside at the same time, with up to another four on the outside-facing TV.
A large window allows parents to peek in and watch the fun if they don't want to go in and enjoy the activity themselves.
Parents can decide what games are available for the party, and Beskid puts the menu on the wall for gamers to choose.
"The parents are in control," Beskid said. "If the parents didn't want a certain game, the kids don't even know it's missing."
Beskid said GameTruck also serves as a mobile classroom of sorts. He already has lined up visits to two day-care centers.
Educational programming ranges from Planets and Popsicles, where preschoolers and adolescents can learn what it takes to be an astronaut, to opportunities for older kids to team up on physics challenges or run animation programs that let them create their own videos.
"I love the education component because it calls on my social work skills," Beskid said.
He also likes being able to control his own schedule so he can remain chief day-care provider for his sons, ages 7 and 9.
When Beskid and his wife, Tina, started a family, Scott cut back to part-time hours while Tina, an accountant, remained at her job full time.
But even working part time, social workers can be called to work at a moment's notice, and it can be challenging to respond with a baby at home. So Scott decided to devote full-time attention to their home and sons.
Tina Beskid took advantage of job opportunities that moved the family around for a few years -- including some time in Mississippi, where "it's a foreign idea that a man would want to stay home to take care of the kids," Beskid said.
He admits there were uncomfortable moments, but "I can small talk just as good as anyone else," he said, and he soon won over Southern moms who at first weren't sure of what to make of him.
Eight years later, it has become far more acceptable to be a stay-at-home dad, Beskid said.
"Dads always say, 'You have the coolest job,'ââ‚¬‰" Beskid said. And they're right, although Beskid said he is always quick to remind them that the job includes cleaning, doing laundry, keeping doctor's appointments and making three meals a day.
"I don't think they always realize what's involved, what their own wives are doing every day," he said.
Finding a franchise
Last year, Beskid's long-unused social worker's license was coming up for renewal. He had to decide whether to bother.
That's when he started looking into a business opportunity that would allow him to still have squirt gun fights and throw footballs to his boys on summer afternoons.
He and Tina looked at lots of franchise options, from senior care to food to handyman services, before settling on GameTruck.
Because families use the truck on weekends, and day-cares and schools can use it during the week, he knows the job "may turn into a full-time one for me," he said, "but I'll always be able to run it from home, and I'll always know my schedule in advance."
Scott Novis, founder and chief executive of GameTruck, said his idea for the business was born in 2004, when he held a birthday party for his son at a pizza arcade -- what a comedian once quipped was the equivalent of "casinos for kids."
Novis started thinking how kids could drop a $50 bill in an arcade playing 10- and 20-year-old games; he thought of the trend toward more kids playing their own videos from home.
"But the desire to play together has never abated," Novis said.
So Novis said he "envisioned creating some kind of living room where there were no barriers to play, but it had to be portable, something we could easily take to people's [homes]."
Today, GameTruck has 82 units owned by 65 franchisees serving 50 major metropolitan areas. With only one other GameTruck in this state, "there is tremendous opportunity in Ohio," Novis said.
"Ohio is a great state with amazing people and strong families that love their kids. I would love to see us grow more in that area," he said.
GameTruck can be rented Monday through Thursday for two hours for $275. Friday through Sunday, it rents for $325. Discounted rates are available for longer rentals.
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