Games bring people together at Connect E-Sports

August 16, 2022

By Katie Aldridge

Can’t seem to connect with your kiddo who loves video games? Bring them out to Connect E-Sports.

Owners Mary and Bob Baldino built the Connect E-Sports space in downtown Dayton to connect people online and in real life through video games.  They have classic games like Fortnite, but they also have multiplayer games designed so groups can connect and play together.

Mary Baldino was a member of the 2020 cohort of the Downtown Dayton Retail Lab, powered by Launch Dayton partner Downtown Dayton Partnership. We recently caught up with Mary and Bob to learn more about Connect E-Sports and their entrepreneurial journey.

Launch Dayton: How did your company start?

Bob: Mary and I knew we wanted to do something together. She has always been in the grind of corporate office, and I am an engineer. We went on a personal trip to Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea; it was such an important part of the culture to have places like our space in their neighborhoods and in the city. We thought it would be cool to bring to Dayton.

Why this idea?

Bob: We figured that E-Sports is what the next generation and future generations are going to be interested in. It’s people competing with technology and games that anyone can play right now. Anybody can pick up a video game and get enough familiarity with it to associate with the professionals. With that knowledge of the industry, we wanted to create a space where people can participate together. Not only can you rent our space, but we also host tournaments and leagues.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Bob: Mary knew she wanted to do something on her own. I always had the passion to, but I liked my current job. My parents were entrepreneurs. I saw the success with that and thought it was cool. Mary and I talked more and more about starting a business, and once we went to Japan, we realized we could do this, we could write our own content and business model. It took time and preparation, but it was worth it.

What identities do you bring to entrepreneurship that helped prepare you for this lifestyle?

Bob: I knew I wanted to be an engineer, I love building things. That’s a reason why we chose this business because I got to build the computers, the structure of how the business was to run with the internet, and the server. Mary’s design inputs and leadership with how things should look determined how the business should present. We didn’t know we had those skills until we jumped in there.

What is the biggest barrier you’ve faced in entrepreneurship?

Mary: We signed our lease in 2019 for a physical space and were set to open in spring of 2020. Our landlord gave us some wiggle room with opening and construction, but we had to open in the winter of 2020. Although our business plan was built on people coming to our space and having physical contact, we were able to make new connections and build events solely around online tournaments and events.

Why do you love what do you?

Mary: Being able to see people connect with friends and parents through video games. It is common for us to see younger kids host their birthday parties at our location and they turn to their parents excited that they are able to play with their friends right next to them rather than isolated in their own homes.

How did you get connected to the Launch Dayton community?

Mary: I attended the Early Risers pitch events back in 2018 and 2019 when I was forming the business plan of Connect and was first introduced to the Launch Dayton community. I also had several connections through an organization I was a part of, Generation Dayton, early in my career that were a part of the Launch Dayton community.

How can the Launch Dayton community support you?

Spread the word! Our space downtown is for people to rent for groups or birthday parties, and for people who want to play with their friends or who might not have the best equipment.

Learn more about Connect E-Sports online or by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Curious if the Downtown Dayton Retail Lab might be a fit for your business? Learn more and apply here.