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Exploring Life & Business with Jeff Ciafone of GameTruck Orlando

Hi Jeff, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
My wife and I are originally from Connecticut and moved down to Florida in 1998. We decided a few years after our daughter was born that we were tired of winters, so we basically picked up and moved south. My background is in Information Technology, and I started working at a cellular company when we moved here. I worked my way up from a temp employee to managing the IT department for Florida. After several years of rumored layoffs and mergers, we were eventually outsourced to a third-party IT company. Which eventually led to further layoffs. So after having been through the stress of the corporate environment, I decided to go into business for myself and started a small IT company with a friend of mine. After 20+ years in IT and several years of working at a startup, I got burned out and decided I needed to do something else. That’s when my wife and I were looking at franchises and found GameTruck. I’ve been a gamer my entire life and after having two kids, we knew there was an unfulfilled niche for birthday parties for kids in the 8-12 year old range. We saw this as an incredible opportunity to fill that niche, and here we are 10 years later.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It has definitely not been a smooth road, as any entrepreneur can tell you. When you start a new business there is a huge learning curve on everything from operations to marketing and to execution. One of the first challenges I faced was learning to drive (and where not to drive) a 32’ trailer. You gain a whole new respect for tractor trailer drivers. Beyond that, our biggest struggle was learning how to market not only a new business, but a new idea. GameTruck invented the mobile video game theater, so when we started it was literally an unknown concept. We were looking for that “magic bullet” in advertising to reach our target market and with trial and error realized one does not really exist. Turns out social media and word of mouth seem to work best because nothing conveys enthusiasm like a happy mother telling her friends about the awesome party they just had for their child. Or when guests enter the trailer for the first time and have that “Wow” moment.

We’ve been impressed with GameTruck Orlando, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our tagline is “We Deliver Excitement”, and that is just what we do. With our mobile video game theater and mobile laser tag arenas, we host the most amazing birthday party and large format experiences. From 5 to 500 people, we can provide an experience that everyone will enjoy and remember. Even though we are known for our video games and/or laser tag, we are all about bringing people together for a fun and memorable event. Moms and Dads love working with us because we make throwing a party easy and stress free. Once we park and set up, we handle everything inside the trailer or the laser tag arena, so parents don’t have to worry about kids being inside the house. I believe our reputation, experience and partnership with Nintendo set us apart from our competition. We stay up to date with the latest consoles and games from XBox, PlayStation and Nintendo. We have been in the business long enough to have seen many competitors come and go. But because we have the backing of an awesome franchise who is committed to our success, we have been able to prosper. It took some time to solidify our partnership with Nintendo, but they saw an opportunity to work with a reliable company to help promote their brand in front of tens of thousands of kids and adults each month nationwide.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Aside from running a successful business, and making my family, as well as other people happy, I love helping shelter animals get adopted. My wife and I have been involved with animal rescue for quite some time. I’ve been a volunteer shelter dog photographer for many years and have worked with organizations like Pet Rescue by Judy and Orange County Animal Shelter. After having photographed about a thousand dogs with them for the last few years I’ve also recently joined the board of directors for Pawsitive Shelter Photography. An organization that works with different shelters to help promote adoptions through better pictures that show an animal’s personality. We also have a house full of rescue cats, foster kittens and a foster dog.

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