Bringing old school video games to the next generation
Mia Mazadiego Guenther is the founder of Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena, California, which she co-owns with her husband Mark. After working for the US government in jobs that required a lot of travel, Mia and her husband began to feel rootless, missing their friends and family, and wanted to settle in one place. “My husband and I always had this dream of entrepreneurship-that desire to create and do something on our own.”
The couple opened Neon Retro Arcade in 2015, an all ages facility with over 50 games and pinball machines where customers pay $10 admission to play unlimited games. The arcade features video game classics such as Donkey Kong and Space Invaders, “the kind of games that a lot of people my age played when they were young,” said Mia. “We saw it as preserving a little bit of history because I think a lot of times video games don’t get perceived that way. They don’t get seen as art, when really they are, and they’re a big part of history.” Mia and her husband aimed to preserve that history and introduce the games to the next generation.
Creating a social gaming experience
Mia wanted the arcade to be a social place that brought human connection back into gaming, an element often lost in modern gaming technologies. “It’s really cool to see kids come in separately and leave as friends, and come back the following week at the same time because they know the other kid is going to be there again.”
“Not taking no for an answer”
Over the past two years, Neon Retro Arcade has grown tremendously in sales and is expanding to a second location. But this success did not come easily. “As a female entrepreneur, I feel like there are a lot of opportunities for women to excel and start their own businesses, but sometimes just not having the right resources to access capital can be extremely difficult.” Mia and her husband funded the arcade almost entirely themselves when they were unable to get a bank loan.
For Mia, perseverance was key to achieving success. “There are always going to be times when people say no, especially when you’re just starting out and you don’t really have a track record to support what you’re doing, people are very quick to say no to everything that you want to do.” But Mia said that creativity and persistence helped her get the results she was looking for.
Mia was no stranger to obstacles in the business world, as she recalled being left out from all-male social outings in her previous career. “One of the things I found the most frustrating was that social groups would form with a lot of the managers and the men that I worked with. The guys would get together with the managers and go play golf or go fishing, and they were kind of these little guy trips, but from a female’s perspective that was something that we were clearly excluded from.” This enabled the men on Mia’s teams to build stronger relationships with the managers in a setting where women were not included.
Transforming workplace culture
The experience inspired Mia to foster a culture of inclusivity when building her own business to ensure equal opportunities for everyone on their teams.
In addition to prioritizing inclusivity and gender equality in her workplace, Mia also values the importance of women supporting other women in business. Mia said she benefitted from having female entrepreneur mentors and hopes to offer similar guidance and support as she gains more experience.