How a bar trivia company went digital during COVID-19

April 21, 2021

When COVID-19 forced bars and restaurants to close, bar trivia company Trivia Mafia grew its business after switching to livestream games.

Restaurants and bars were hit hard by COVID-19, and so too was bar trivia. Founder and owner Chuck Terhark took Trivia Mafia, a trivia company based in Minneapolis, Minn., from the bars and met people where they were: online. When they couldn’t host games live in-person, they hosted them live on Zoom and Twitch, a growing streaming platform where creators can broadcast anything from video games to trivia. 

 

How was Trivia Mafia doing before the pandemic?

“We were experiencing a lot of the growing pains that small businesses go through when they find themselves suddenly becoming medium businesses. But, an influx in revenue thanks to PPP allowed us to use the last year to improve our services and grow our staff in a way that would have been difficult to do otherwise. I sound like I'm thankful for [2020]. Which is weird, but in a way, it's kind of true.”

 

What did you do when you found out bar trivia would have to pause?

“I called around to a couple other people I know who own trivia companies, and we all agreed to pull the plug at the same time. At that point our thinking was, "Okay, let's ride this out for a few months and see what the summer is like." At the same time, I estimated that, if we cut costs down to nearly zero but kept myself and one or two others on the payroll, we could survive for about a year.”

 

How did you decide to start playing games on Zoom and Twitch?

“A couple of our hosts tossed Zoom out as a way to run virtual trivia, and a few of our senior staffers took the idea and ran with it. We became Zoom experts, and in no time were running private events, mostly for companies who were adjusting to having a newly remote workforce and needing a way to keep them engaged and entertained. That side of the business really took off at that point, and hasn't slowed down since.
Twitch, meanwhile, was something that I'd always been thinking about in the back of my mind as a possible outlet for Trivia Mafia. In late March, I really threw myself into learning as much about it as I could. We launched our official Twitch channel in April, and we've been livestreaming on there twice a week ever since.”

 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to move their business to a digital landscape?

“Focus on the opportunity that's hidden in the crisis. It's tempting to fret and dismay in moments of upheaval, but those moments are great opportunities to refocus on the basics of your business. What do you do well, and how can you do it better? And worry about the financials later. When you do good work and can find a way to deliver it to the people who want it, the financial stuff tends to work out in the end.”

 

Continue reading more stories about how small business owners pivoted their business and navigated unprecedented times.

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