A group of Montana State University students and recent graduates is betting on the collective cleverness of Bozeman with a new business that requires participants to put their heads together to solve timed puzzles.

That’s the idea behind Bozeman Breakout, a series of recently popularized “escape rooms” that opened in Bozeman in mid-February.

Groups of two to six people book the rooms, located near the University Square Shopping Center, where they are locked in and have an hour to solve various puzzles (correctly answering a riddle to receive the combination to a safe, for example) in order to escape. The rooms have themes such as “The Asylum,” as well as “The Heist” and “Apollo 13,” which are set to open in the next few weeks.

Rates start at $25 per person and reservations are required at least an hour in advance online or by phone.

Belgrade has its own escape room, Escape Room Montana, located on Madison Avenue.

Bozeman Breakout’s founding group of five friends, all of whom have a background in art or design, decided on an escape room as a way to give locals a more engaging and unique form of evening entertainment.

“I like going to the breweries as much as everyone else, but being a young person in Bozeman, it feels like that’s what everyone does every weekend,” said CEO Dylan McDowell. “This gives people a different option.”

“We think escape rooms are super awesome and the entertainment of the future,” McDowell added. “They’re one of the few things you do where you’re actually a part of it, rather than observing.”

McDowell, 24, who works as a landscape designer for Cashman Nursery during the day, was part of MSU’s Blackstone LaunchPad incubator, as well as entrepreneurial group LaunchCats, which he described as “tremendously helpful” in starting his own business.

McDowell’s girlfriend Christy Jacobson is Bozeman Breakout’s creative director, in addition to secretary/treasurer Sarah Cochran, head of set design Drew Sortaberg and head of construction management Gabe Mortenson.

“There are some difficulties with it but I wouldn’t want to be in business with anyone else,” McDowell said.

“Starting a business as a young person is a risky venture; you’re diving into the abyss in some sense. It’s been a really great experience, we’ve been really successful and hopefully it keeps trending that direction.”

Kendall can be reached at 406-582-2651 or lkendall@dailychronicle.com. He is on Twitter at @lewdak

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