County Durham is set to get its first Virtual Reality family entertainment centre after the North East entrepreneurs behind the concept secured a six-figure investment from the North East Growth Capital Fund Supported by The European Regional Development Fund.
Rachel and Kaiyn Crooks opened their first Gaming Hideaway in Thornaby last year after spotting a gap in the market for a family-focused venue that brought a range of different VR and gaming technologies together under one roof.
Having proved and refined the concept over the last year, they are now set to open a second Gaming Hideaway on Newgate Street in Bishop Auckland town centre that’s almost twice the size of the original.
The 6,000 sq ft venue, which is set to open in July, spreads over two floors and will include virtual reality gaming and simulators, top of the range gaming PCs and consoles, and racing stations with 65-inch screens.
A private party area and catering will be available, while customers will be able to hire out the whole venue for private and corporate events.
Rachel and Kaiyn worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to bring in the £150,000 Growth Capital Fund investment, while Andy Briggs of business growth specialists IA Growth has been supporting them with preparing and implementing their growth strategy.
Around a dozen new jobs will be created at the new Bishop Auckland premises, which will take the total number of people employed by The Gaming Hideaway up to 24.
Rachel and Kaiyn are already looking at possible North East locations for a third venue, which they hope to have open by the end of the year.
Rachel Crooks says: “The idea behind The Gaming Hideaway was to offer a cost-effective destination venue that would offer something for people of all ages and would enable families to spend quality time together.
“Bringing all these advanced gaming technologies together under one roof is something that hadn’t been done before, but the success of our Thornaby venue has shown that we’ve got the concept right and we’re excited to now be bringing it to County Durham.
“Bishop Auckland is an ideal location that will draw in customers from communities right across the region and we can’t wait to welcome everyone into the new venue in just a few weeks’ time.
“We’re developing and installing all the gaming concepts ourselves, and our ambition is to have a third Gaming Hideaway up and running in the North East before the end of the year.
“We met NEL at last year’s Start Up Awards North East and quickly struck up a really good working relationship. Their enthusiasm for our ideas was clear and completing the investment application process was a very positive experience.”
Jane Siddle, senior investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Rachel and Kaiyn have proved that their concept for The Gaming Hideaway appeals to every generation at their first facility, and we’re very pleased to be helping them launch it on an even bigger scale in Bishop Auckland.”
Andy Briggs of IA Growth says: “It’s been brilliant being able to help and support Rachel and Kaiyn on their journey so far, and it’s incredibly exciting to think that we’re just getting started.
“Working with the team at The Gaming Hideaway has been refreshing and they certainly have an energy and passion for creating a top-class family environment. We’ve created a bespoke business plan and are now helping with the implementation as well as supporting their funding application.”
The North East Growth Capital Fund has been designed to create around 790 jobs in more than 70 regional firms over the life of the programme and offers unsecured investments of up to £500,000 to established businesses looking to realise their growth potential.
The overarching £120m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.
For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0345 369 7007.