For Live Action Escapes, unlocking success is no longer a mystery

“Uncle Henry is on vacation. He left behind a series of encrypted notes for his grandson, Mason,” says, Amanda Paquin, your host for the evening. “Help Mason unlock the clues to find Henry’s Gold!”

Before closing the door, the co-owner of Live Action Escapes lays out the rules of the game: “You have 45 minutes to solve the puzzles inside and escape the room.”

It sounds like the beginning of an Indiana Jones movie, with a plot twist that leaves the characters in the midst of a life-and-death situation. Instead it is a night at Worcester’s second escape-the-room game complex, with up to 10 daring people who paid $25 each to be locked in a riddle-filled room.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

It;s easy to find your way in to Live Action Escapes. Getting out? Not so much.

The clues and your collective cunning are the only way out.

Escape rooms — a growing entertainment business — attempt to breathe interactive life back into a world dominated by touchscreens, emojicons and digital communication.

A Mother’s Journey [Part 45]: The collaboration realization

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

After a series of workshops held by community leaders, endless peer presentations reflecting our leadership skills, and extensive discussions about what Worcester needs, Leadership Worcester has come to an end for the 2016-17 class.

In this joint initiative of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and Greater Worcester Community Foundation, 25 “promising new professionals” connected through their various professional and personal backgrounds to talk about the future of Worcester — and quite honestly, they couldn’t have selected a better group of motivated, strong-minded and opinionated individuals.

On a mission to keep us all inspired up to the last minute — after months of skills development, training and networking — our final project was to sum up our experience in a six-word memoir. After a few minutes of debating and battling to bring the program full circle in only a few words, I stumbled upon my “ah-ha!” moment.

I realized Leadership Worcester was never really about building leaders. Instead, for me, it was about helping existing leaders learn to collaborate with others, to be the change we want to see.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The one dedicated to mom, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

A Mother’s Journey [Part 44]: The one dedicated to mom

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Being a parent is the most undervalued job in America. It is sometimes mocked by those running the corporate world — if not by their words, then by their actions — and often is deemed as less-than by those who haven’t fallen in love with the idea of unconditional love.

Parenting, to me, could be seen as the human equivalent of entrepreneurship. Parents are chauffeurs, doctors, professional cuddlers, assistants, chefs — but most of all, parents are the building blocks of what the future will look like.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and while that statement may be true, I think it just takes one special person to make a world of a difference.

While our world today is in a political uproar, we, as parents, must ensure that our children are raised to understand that political climates should never steer someone from doing the right thing. As parents, it is our job to make sure we raise children with an impeccable sense of empathy, an overwhelming allowance for free-thinking and a lack of fear to express their individualism.

I dedicate this week’s column to the parents of the future. To single moms everywhere making the impossible happen. To single dads braiding the hairs of their little girls and playing dress-up. To the co-parenting parents, making it work for the sake of their children. And to the married couple, trying to keep a cheerful home while each working forty-plus hours a week.

This column is for you, but most importantly, this column is for my mom.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The road less traveled, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Altea’s Eatery offers brunch lovers an everyday entree to France

On a cloudy spring day, Altea’s Eatery, a breakfast-and-lunch restaurant with a French twist nestled on a bustling stretch of Park Avenue, seems capable of transporting customers from the dark, cloud-covered streets of Worcester to the bright, minimalist flair of France.

The exposed brick walls, brightly lit and sparely decorated tables, and the soothing sounds of French music playing in the background gives one the feeling that Worcester has a few secret connections to Old Paree.

With wall-length windows beckoning the sun, the unrelenting street traffic and increasing numbers of Park Avenue pedestrians, Altea’s felt like the place to be on a recent Monday morning. Bright, full and in good spirit, the eatery represents a mini-break from the demands of the everyday.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

Altea’s Eatery, 259 Park Ave.

Co-owner Oriola Koci greets customers as they enter and frequently checks on patrons to see if they are “in need of anything else.”

The friendly, close-knit atmosphere is exactly what Koci set out to create when she opened Altea’s Eatery in October 2016 with her husband, chef Enton Mehillaj. The pair began their culinary journey in Worcester in 2013 by opening the popular Livia’s Dish near Leicester at the far end of Main Street.

Hidden Gem: Uncle Jay’s Twisted Fork

A Mother’s Journey [Part 43]: The road less traveled

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Entrepreneurs can be viewed as larger-than-life characters. Always fighting against the preconceived notions of society and breaking the confining molds of the status quo.

While entrepreneurs may seem to be a group of outliers with hard-to-duplicate qualities, the truth is, entrepreneurs embody the same traits as the rest of the world. We just put them to use.

Creativity. Imagination. Risk-taking. Vision. These are traits we are all born with.

As children, we thrive on imagination and creating worlds of our own, and we succeed as novice risk-takers because our vision and goals are clear.

Children tend to live simply. No over-complications. Our dreams are big, our passions are pure and our ideas are innovative. But something happens between childhood and adulthood that changes our view of what we consider possible.

That world of possibility is the underlying motivator for entrepreneurs.

It is the silent reminder that all things are possible. “All things are within reach, if you are willing to work for it,” can be the staple slogan for entrepreneurship, but these ideas don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Working hard, using creativity and taking risk for the sake of our own personal improvement must be a model implemented in all walks of life and not only on the path of entrepreneurship.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The accidental perspective, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

You bet your purdy neck, Worcester loves its Bushel N Peck

It’s an old-fashioned sensibility that keeps the popular deli standing strong: putting the customer first. Which also makes it a perfect addition to our Survivor Series menu, highlighting Worcester small businesses standing the test of time.

A Mother’s Journey [Part 42]: The accidental perspective

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Entrepreneurs need motivation.

Motivation to continue with our mission. Motivation to wake up in the morning and face our challenges. Motivation to move past an obstacle even when everyone says we can’t.

Entrepreneur, best-selling author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk has been tabbed by some with saying the “most motivational statement ever.” In a direct effort to wake people up from a monotonous life filled with complaints about unhappiness and regret, Vaynerchuk strikes a chord by hitting a note most people don’t want to hear: “You’re gonna die.”

Life is precious – no doubt about it – but there is nothing that validates your existence more than a near-death experience. To see the fragility of life firsthand is more than an eye-opener. At times, it is a life-awakener.

Growing up, I was always the adventurous girl in my group of friends. Always riding on the back pegs of bikes without a helmet, rollerblading through traffic down the middle of the New York City streets during a rainstorm. I even consistently found myself a part of car racing groups.

I was fearless then, and nothing seemed dangerous. My mom would plead with me to wear helmets and kneepads. I would sigh and roll my eyes. All I wanted was the feeling of freedom as I raced down the streets and watched the city come to life around me.

I always just thought that she didn’t get me.

Recently on the rainiest of days, my little sister was on her way to New York to enjoy time with friends. As she was driving down I-95 South, she flipped her Ford Explorer and was rushed to the hospital.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The place to start, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 41]: The place to start?

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

There is something magical in the air and many people in the know are starting to feel it.

With its strong local collaborations and emerging businesses, Worcester is beginning to be recognized outside the city limits as much as inside them as a new leader in the startup world — and rightfully so.

Per recent data released by TechNet and the Progressive Policy Institute and reported by Axios.com, Worcester is lumped in with larger cities — from Philadelphia; to Nashville, Tennessee; to Portland, Oregon — as being among the nation’s emerging startup hubs.

While statistics are starting to add up to recognition that Worcester is a hub of innovative entrepreneurs, we have known this for quite some time.

Known as a center of manufacturing as far back as 150 years ago, Worcester has always served as an incubator for industries, so it is no surprise to me that we are collectively regaining our title.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The stress test, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 40]: The stress test

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

I recently shared on Facebook an article by Inc. magazine titled “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship” and it led to a serious discussion about the demons within the entrepreneurial spirit.

Throughout this series for Worcester Sun, I have written often in broad terms about the struggles of entrepreneurship while being sure to highlight the many positives. I have boasted about the ability to take back my time. Above all things, I consistently try to impress upon my readers that entrepreneurship has been a savior for me.

It is a lifeline that can change everything — but after reading this article, I realized that entrepreneurship is not the hero in everyone’s story.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The parent trap, or scroll down to explore more of her story

A Mother’s Journey [Part 39]: The parent trap

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a nonprofit tutoring collaborative that began officially in late January 2016 but has transformed considerably since. During her journey she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

We have seven family vacation blocks every year, and the February school break is one.

Normally, this is our week to drive to Washington, D.C., to enjoy the Smithsonian museums and add a little more creative education for the girls. This year, we had to take a detour.

Not only is this is our first February vacation as a full-on homeschooling family, but Evian and Brooklyn had recently been battling the flu. So we put down the books, gave the girls a break and tried to enjoy the week on a local scale.

With an abbreviated schedule of classes at The Learning Hub last week, there was extra time to spend with the family, and it was a break we all needed.

Accustomed to a full schedule, I, of course, packed the week with daily entertainment and activities. With no less than 10 outings since President’s Day, we were able to forget about D.C. and focus on enjoying our time together. But guess who has the flu now?

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The time trials, or scroll down to explore more of her story