HOBBIES: Work is all-encompassing but I keep fit and travel as much as my schedule allows. FAVORITE DISH: Any seafood eaten on the beach on vacation. PEOPLE OFTEN DESCRIBE ME AS: Handsome, witty and a compulsive liar.
Creating the most ridiculously fun venue possible for everyone
BUILDING A BRICK AND MORTAR BRAND FROM EXPERIENCE. When Matt Grech-Smith set out to reinvent mini-golf for the adult market, he set out to create a fully immersive experience. As co-founder and co-CEO, Matt created the Institute of Competitive Socialising and a sub-brand called Swingers, which was built on the philosophy that while fun can be derived from competition, “it’s even better in fully immersive theatrical venues, such as an old-fashioned English country golf club.”
With two successful Swingers venues in London, one open in Washington D.C., and another in New York City opening in Spring 2022, Matt knows they’ve found a potent concoction of fun, hip, and inventiveness. “The venues are indoors but feel like they are outdoors with an old-school vibe,” he says, adding “but we also offer real caddies to give you tips and tricks to improve your game while bringing you world-class food and cocktails. What’s not to love?”
Creating these kinds of experiences is relatively new to Matt. “Right out of school before heading to college, I took a gap year and joined the British Army. I became an officer and believed that maybe military life was my true future.” When he went to college in Manchester, UK, he noticed a problem he could solve: “Bars weren’t very busy during the week, which was driving the owners crazy,” he explains, so he sold a service and “ended up creating a business selling tickets to unique events and club nights for college students, where we’d keep the ticket money, and the bars would get the drink revenue.”
This model worked incredibly well: “So while I’m a student at university, I’ve built up a fairly sizable business running about 25 events a week, selling over a million tickets a year across the UK and turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds a year —it was crazy.”
MAKING GOOD ON A PERSONAL JOURNEY. Matt recalled his frustrations providing a service to hospitality operators, saying “I remember times when we’d be working with an owner who might be sexist or unpleasant or even racist and it could get awkward. I was young and didn’t have the courage of my convictions. Also, I was in a service-provider relationship and you wanted to assert myself and stand-up for what’s right, but also needed to pay wages and sustain the business.”
Matt changed his tune when he came out publicly as gay. “I came out at 28, late by some standards, and my business was already pretty far down the road. My outlook changed, honestly. So, when I started Swingers, it became my second time around the block, and it allowed me to look at the things I got wrong previously. I developed a new perspective and became conscious that I had a blank slate to do establish my values all over again—better, smarter, with a different sense of social consciousness and conviction.”
This created a new mindset for developing the Institute of Competitive Socialising and Swingers, one that was hyper aware of their two-hundred employees in London and growing US market. “I’ve grown in my personal experience. I feel a responsibility to all of our team. As a gay man, I am in a unique position to do, see, and affect things differently as a leader... And as co-CEO, I sit in a position of privilege. I’m very keen that anybody in any kind of minority within our business should feel comfortable coming to work and not experience any kind of aggression for being their true self.”
The Institute of Competitive Socialising believes that life is better with competition, and that competition is best with friends. In the talented hands of Matt and his business partner and global team, there is also a belief that those experiences should be fun and safe too—for everyone involved, no matter who you are or who you love.