Sparkler Spotlight: Kat "The Puzzle Guru" Nelson

Sparkler Spotlight: Kat "The Puzzle Guru" Nelson

Proving that businesses can flourish during a global pandemic, Kat Nelson's online scavenger hunt company has become a global hit thanks to her adaptation to the virtual world. By taking inspiration from the motto of her home town Austin, Kat has curated a range of creative, compelling and at times weird ("Keep Austin Weird") games that help teams connect despite their remote locations.

Read on to find out how Kat and her team turn everyday household objects into your next team bonding session with her Spark "Hilarious Team Fun with the Puzzle Guru".

Tell us about yourself and your Spark – “Hilarious team fun with a puzzle guru”.

I am the founder and creative director of Alley Kat Adventures, based in Austin, Texas. This is where my family and I live and where the motto is Keep Austin Weird! All of our adventures capitalize on that mentality, which is all about spreading joy, embracing everyone, and just being yourself! We are a global event design company that focuses on city-wide scavenger hunt races in 30 cities in North America, but also offers virtual games to our global audience – we host over 3500 guests per month!

Our Spark has been designed to help teams escape into a world of hilarity and creativity for 15 minutes, but ultimately, we are helping teams’ bond during this difficult time, which we all need right now! The games we play on our Spark are based on our best-selling online experience, Living Room Legends Scavenger Hunt. For a sneak peek, during one of the games we play guests must search their homes high and low for random objects to use in new and fun ways. 

When did you first start playing these scavenger hunts, and how did you choose which games to play on your Spark?

I founded in my company in May 2017 with one city-wide scavenger hunt race in Austin, Texas. By the end of the year we had expanded to multiple cities throughout Texas, and by early 2020we had grown to include city hunts in 30 locations and the United States, plus Cabo San Lucas and Vancouver.

After the pandemic hit, our shift and virtual adaptation of our scavenger hunts launched in May 2020. It was easy and fun to create the online games, as they were inspired by the wacky and creative challenges in our city hunts. For our 15-minute Spark, we include a few of our favorite missions but also can alter the Sparks again and again for return guests.

What has been the most challenging part about adjusting to the online experience world?

Keeping up with our extremely rapid growth that our company has continued to experience!

Fortunately I have connections in the entertainment, experiential marketing, and other industries that have helped us quickly build, train, and develop my talented team on the virtual side of the business. But we have a few hosts who were “discovered” in our virtual games or on actual city hunts, because I guess they had the right kind of crazy when they initially played our games! 

What has been you most memorable online experience moment?

My team and I have experienced countless poignant, exhilarating, serendipitous, priceless, and inspiring moments in our virtual experiences. However, my degrees, national board certification, and experience are in special education. So perhaps the most precious and unforgettable moment I have experienced to date has been when two ladies joined us from a group home for adults with disabilities. They played with a large family from Seattle and could not have been more joyful and their approach!

The family’s young children seemed to have an incredible learning experience as they played the game with these ladies. The family showed such empathy for them, the children bonded with and encouraged them in such a beautiful way, and the two women appeared to benefit greatly from having had such an outlet for their creativity and senses of fun in such uncertain times. Everyone bonded and became a family for that hour, and that’s always our goal and purpose!

We’ve left the most important question for last: Would you rather live in the ocean or on the moon?

I’d rather live in the ocean, because I am part mermaid. My favorite Disney movie is The Little Mermaid, and my daughters still believe in mermaids (even the oldest one who is nine years old)! Healthy and vivid imaginations run in the family!

I have so many personal “happy places” on earth, as my career involves curating for my guests the best of the best hidden gems in many magical cities, but my ultimate go-to destination would be the beach! My favorite tropical paradise I have visited so far is Bonaire. My husband even proposed to me underwater in Cozumel while we were scuba diving. So when it comes down to it, it doesn’t take much for this girl! Just add water!

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