Business epiphanies can come at unusual times — and in unusual places. Just ask Tim Williams of Wanaque.
One night at home — after he had been let go from an IT operations manager job that paid the bills but offered little happiness; after he had begun the process of “What am I going to do for the rest of my life?”; and after he had given the job boards a once-over — he was playing video games with his two boys when he saw the future.
“I remember just looking over and seeing them laughing and realizing how much fun we were having,” he said. “I remember thinking, 'I'm on to something; there's something I can do with my kids and have fun,' so I started coming up with a business plan.”
A few months later — after he used six figures of his severance package to buy a 32-by-18-foot trailer; after he customized it with five televisions measuring at least 55 inches, two rows of stadium seating and every video game system you could want; and after he started marketing his “Game Away” idea of a mobile video game center — he had a moment that told him he had made the right choice.
At a gas station.
He was filling up what he likes to call his mobile video game theater, which measures 55 feet long from the end of the trailer to the start of the truck that pulls it, when he got the attention he always gets on the road.
“It's an eye-catcher,” he said. “So while I'm filling up, one person comes over and wants to see inside. And then another, and another. And before I know it, I've got seven people looking it over. I did a booking right there.”
Williams, who celebrates his first year in business this month, said the first 12 months were not as much about revenues as mapping a road to success.
His main source of business are kids' parties, but he feels there's room for him in the corporate events world — he recently booked his first party in that space. Williams also is in talks with school districts about using the theater. And he has done many fundraisers for free.
“We want to be part of the community,” he said.
After his initial startup investments, costs are limited. He said the games and game systems are durable. Aside from gas and batteries, there's little to buy.
He's experimenting with marketing and advertising, but finds word of mouth works best. That, and the unit itself.
“I had someone book a party after seeing me on the road,” he said.
And while there are some competitors in the market, Williams feels his background gives him an edge. It's not just his technical background, but the customer service he learned from servicing employees all over the globe at Pfizer.
Oh yeah, the Pfizer days. Those 70-hour workweeks when he rarely saw his family are gone.
And he couldn't be happier. Williams, 46, feels he has the ultimate family business.
His wife, who works full-time as a teacher, finds time to manage all the logistics. His boys? Aside from now having the coolest dad in town, they lead product development.
“They tell me what games I have to have,” Williams said.
Lori Bergeron is a freelance writer from Morris Plains.
THE BIZ IN BRIEF
Name: Game Away
Location: West Milford
Employees: One full-time, but Williams hires kids to help run the parties.
One more thing: Williams looked into parking his unit at MetLife Stadium to draw tailgaters looking for a different idea. The cost of a license to do so — more than $10,000 for the season — was too much to handle this year.