TUPELO • Stacked almost from floor to ceiling in the warehouse of the Deadbolt Mystery Society, thousands of “mystery boxes” are sent not only to members and customers in the United States, but also to some 40 other countries.
Created by brothers Jason and Shawn Brannon about four years ago, the Deadbolt Mystery Society is a monthly subscription box service that sends out a new mystery folder to members every month.
Thing of each box like the Clue board game, but raised several notches.
“It’s like a ‘Criminal Minds’ themed escape room,” Jason said. “The way you unlock information is by solving puzzles, which is the escape room component. But the story component is heavily based on mystery and crime. You get to the rest of the story by taking out these puzzles and things that might be based on evidence.
And it’s an escape company – Deadbolt – that the Brannons opened in 2017 where the Deadbolt Mystery Society boxes debuted.
The Brannons had to find more room for their business and have grown several times. But that wasn’t quite enough, and earlier this year they moved into an even larger facility on Graham Drive, where some 40 employees – half of them full-time – help with drafting, design, marketing and distribution of boxes.
“We have grown, but our business has changed,” Shawn said. “We started out as an escape room, but this component of the boxes was a very small idea that we were hoping to be an addition to the escape room so people could take something home with them. This is what we hoped it would be.
It became all that and then some.
“We quickly saw that this was what needed our full attention,” Jason said. “It got a lot bigger than we expected in a short period of time.”
The first subscription box shipped in March 2018, from Jason’s kitchen table, the first of around 25 boxes this month.
“It just kept growing every month after that,” he said. “People would just find us. We would show up in front of people without even advertising to them. We send to 40 countries like Singapore, Japan, Australia, Canada … one way or another people have found us and we have people doing it all over the world. We’re not complaining at all, it’s just great.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the main reasons for the explosive growth of the Deadbolt Mystery Society. As more and more people stayed at home, they looked for things to do. Family game nights are becoming popular again, with board games finding their way into lounges. With a chance to solve a different mystery at least once a month, Deadbolt was in the right place at the right time.
“People were stuck at home and they found us to help them get through the pandemic,” Shawn said.
Although restrictions eased last fall, reopening the escape room was not possible, as there were still capacity limits initially. Plus, an escape room usually involves a small group of people grouped together in a small room, and with social distancing guidelines in place, it just wasn’t going to work well. So the Brannons have completely pivoted to the Deadbolt subscription box business model.
“We heard from people all over this about the boxes that were helping them divert their attention and have fun,” Jason said. “We had people playing through Zoom, and we even had free activities, and we had people playing everywhere. People were looking for something to do and we were lucky they found us.
“People kept their sanity by hunting down a serial killer in their homes,” Shawn said with a laugh.
Of course, not all of the boxes involve a serial killer, but they often focus on a similar event as it’s all about solving clues. Ironically, the most popular box during the pandemic that was developed a year earlier was the “Infected” box.
“It wasn’t planned for the pandemic,” Jason said.
Subscriptions entitle members to one box per month and to all special boxes that may develop along the way. The cost is $ 24.99 per month plus tax, but discounts are given to longer term subscriptions. Boxes can also be purchased individually if a customer does not wish to join.
Among the customers of the Deadbolt Mystery Society, there is none other than Amazon.
The Brannons signed their company’s first Hollywood contract in December, which culminated in the release of the Amazon Prime TV series “Tell Me Your Secrets” earlier this year.
The Brannons were asked if they would be interested in developing a promotional mystery box to send to influencers, actors and others to market the series.
They were hesitant at first because they faced a tight deadline to release another monthly box, and the holidays were a notoriously busy time.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth between us and the producers on where to go,” Shawn said.
The series was already written, and the Brannons had to design a box that had to have a strong connection to what had already been done. They got to see the show ahead of time and they designed the box from there.
“If it was a different company, we might have said we didn’t have the time, but when it’s Amazon approaching you to do a TV show, of course we will. do, ”Jason said.
Other companies have also approached them to make boxes. Some have given up because of the pandemic, but others are still under discussion.
So what started out as a simple two-person team with Deadbolt has grown out of necessity. The business grew during the pandemic as demand and interest skyrocketed, and having to deliver a new box per month also prompted the Brannons to find a little extra help.
At the height of the pandemic, the Deadbolt Mystery Society was sending some 25,000 boxes per month. This number has declined, but interest remains strong.
“Other than the two of us, we have a great team,” said Sean. “We have two other writers, a graphic designer, customer service, marketing and shipping. We wore so many hats that we are now thankful that we have a great core team that can manage their estates and contribute to our success.