View Full Version : your first year
03-18-2011, 02:32 PM
Hello all, I'm starting to develop a business plan. so i was just wondering what all of your first year was like. amount of costumers, how much did you spend on advertising,did you sell other items like glow sticks, did you rent your first year. just need some point of reference to give to a bank about expected turn outs and possible other proceeds from other sale of items. i have a good idea of what i will spend to build the haunt and put props in it and start up costs. just need to give them some comparable industry data from other haunts.
03-18-2011, 03:46 PM
.. IF you can prove that you don't need it.
Or have a ton of collateroooolll!
Business figures from 20 or 30 haunts might show some similar numbers? But there are so many reasons and ways to fail, maybe we need to list those too, right up-front?
I could not afford to fail at all. It took me years of slowly working at this every day and most nights too, devoting every conscious thought to this haunting/thing, asking many questions of other unusual types of tourist businesses , trying to gauge the market for a different type of peculair entertainment.
Medieval Feast, ran for maybe 10 years , people loved it when it was a free-for-all of vulgar behavior, throwing food , grabbing waitreses. then ... a divorce ended that business.
Themed restaurants are popular, but I'm not selling food.
The only way I managed to find success was to work at it ALOT and doing 98% of all the work myself and maintaining every night hours all year long with very rare exceptions because of very nasty weather when no one should be out driving anywhere anyway.
How long have you been studying this business? Have you ever been a part of it before in any capacity?
Knowing these things will help us here to respond better without wasting our time covering old ground.
03-18-2011, 08:27 PM
Don't borrow money if you can somehow get or acquire the cash other ways, maybe pick up an extra weekend job...etc There's just too much risk, or, if you think your plan is convincing seek investors possible.
03-19-2011, 11:20 AM
.. IF you can prove that you don't need it.
Or have a ton of collateroooolll!
Business figures from 20 or 30 haunts might show some similar numbers? But there are so many reasons and ways to fail, maybe we need to list those too, right up-front?
I could not afford to fail at all. It took me years of slowly working at this every day and most nights too, devoting every conscious thought to this haunting/thing, asking many questions of other unusual types of tourist businesses , trying to gauge the market for a different type of peculair entertainment.
Medieval Feast, ran for maybe 10 years , people loved it when it was a free-for-all of vulgar behavior, throwing food , grabbing waitreses. then ... a divorce ended that business.
Themed restaurants are popular, but I'm not selling food.
The only way I managed to find success was to work at it ALOT and doing 98% of all the work myself and maintaining every night hours all year long with very rare exceptions because of very nasty weather when no one should be out driving anywhere anyway.
How long have you been studying this business? Have you ever been a part of it before in any capacity?
Knowing these things will help us here to respond better without wasting our time covering old ground.
Well Jim, i have been a home haunter for about ten years. getting bigger each year. building my own props, and designing rooms and working year round too. as my wife puts it.. I (she) comes down stairs at 2 in the morning and he (me) is on the computer, not looking at porn but in the Halloween forums always looking at Halloween stuff.....lol
I also have worked in the haunt business for the last five years at a local haunt that does about 8 to 10 thousand people a year. I help them put it up and take it down, work as an actor in it. and helped design a few rooms for them. This last year they wanted me to bring my stuff and add on to them. you most likely read my post. well now i believe that if I am going to take the leap to pro i will have to do it on my own. although i still talk to the owners of that haunt, I'm getting the run around about joining them. I told them that i did not want to just bring my little bit of props and things, that if i was to bring anything i wanted to bring a haunt, something that would really add to theirs. as i found out they just wanted my stuff and and for me to get little for it. I have lent some of my props before and got the satisfaction that they enhanced their haunt. If this is old ground for you point me in the direction of some threads or info that you think would help. I'm just trying to figure out what i might expect for a first year attendance from the people that are in the business. I have talked to two haunts in my area already but getting info from them isn't always easy. i am (Or will be) the competition you know. I have read Kelly Allens Book. Haunt Entrepreneur,lol (btw great info thanks) was a subscriber to haunt world mag. Been in countless forum threads reading them looking for info. I was going to try this many years ago but the non profit pulled out on me six weeks before opening...Thanks to the lawyers. It just left a bad taste at the time. now I'm getting the courage to try again. but i want to do things right this time. all the adice i can get would be great. I hope this gives you a n answer to what you asked...
03-19-2011, 07:05 PM
I like what you are telling us. I had read your previous posting concerning possibly joining a haunt-in-progress.
There are a great many "deals" out there but most people creating the body of the deal figure their piece of the pie large for them, possibly inflating their own worth, knowledge, experience, financial contribution.
I could have had a deal that sounded pretty good with alot of artistic freedom, getting to see some more of my strange ideas coming to "life" but the deal-breaker was when he said I would be his partner for "?X" amount of money, then simply "Walk Away" after the first five years!?? No thanks. He pleaded that he needed the money so he would have something to leave his kids!
I also have "Kids". If I had his money I might be considering not ever "working" again! (He has enough for many familys of "Kids".)
Stay sharp, look at any deal from both sides, success or semi-success or calling it quits, who walks away with how much and with what?
Any contract is really only as good as the people who are signing it, illreguardless of legal phrases and clauses.
Where do you think that you will be able to find your employees? Do you already have a number of friends/relatives who would really want to help out? If so, this is great , as long as they do show up as promised. This can be the most frustrating part of this business, getting and keeping viable, talent.
As far as many aspects of building and running a show, mostly what I know and have done here would not help anyone else because my idea of haunt-entertainment is very different from the majority of those doing this sort of thing. (I said, "Different" not Better.) "Viva La Difference!?"
Although I think I do owe popularity to those differences I have luckilly enjoyed throughout the years, amassing a wealth of free storys, articles in magazines, listings on numerous "Bests" lists and tv shows, which all does help, but none of any one of them are really bank-breakers or even close.
Mostly what I "Know" is what has worked for me, here. I have many patrons who support me with their ticket money, so I must be doing something half-way "Right".
I play this mostly for fun, not fear, or revulsion or embarrassingly messed pants.
A scream, a jump, then a laugh because what made rhem react like they did was so silly, stupid, simple-minded. Nothing to ellict any bad dreams or new phobias... unless they are just scared of my basic looks, voice, percieved personality, which has happened too.
03-20-2011, 12:57 AM
I've been starting running and selling, taking over businesses since 1982. If I had only had a plan. Anyone that says they had a plan and it all worked out started out on a trust fund and they are lieing like a pro blohard on top of that.
Plan number one, earn the money somehow and never let someone or some entity take all the profits and potential the money you worked so hard to accumulate to make your business solvent by not paying intrest or having short term deadline pay back plans that amot to taking away your money. In other words go to work, report to only paying customers, yourself and collect the money. A bank, an accountant, a financial advisor all have plans to show you how you need to pay THEM and they don't really do anything except make work for YOU, add attorneys to that. Un less you are already driving around in a limo with an attorney and an accountant in the jump seats recording every time you give a hobo $3, plan to do these things yourself. Ask this question: Okay I give my money to a bald guy and then what happens? Answer, you don't have your money anymore.
Any further plans will not work out. Plans will not meet a schedule, someone elses approval and only be a waste of time talking instead of doing what makes money someday. I would want to know how these other guys got 8,000 to 10,000 attendees and there is the plan. It might have sounded so cool to only have a location for as long as you need it seasonally but really, if they made that much money and saw that many people 25% could easily have covered rent for a whole year so part of the plan is not to have money hogs around. Hogs that take money that could have paid rent somewhere for a long term stake in a business. And beware the you seem like a nice guy, this could be YOUR business! Chances are quiters walked away with the money you earned the hardway. I have taken over businesses and done people great favors getting them out from under all sorts of illusions and middle men they once had and you learn all mistakes you can possibly fall for that way.
Plan two, actually have some skilz that equate to money being earned rather than paying contractors to do things. You can only know by doing and chances are you have it all down and there is no reason to worry, you are already organized in your head and heart.
Plan three, forget the word business plan, it really pisses me off. It means you are totally scared or overwhelmed by having your own enterprise and have all the wrong people giving you advice. It is also pretty much an immediate laughable term if you talk to anyone that has made enough money they might be of assistance to you if not monitarily, with direction. Perhaps you think businesses become successful with really smart people with buzz words? Nope most of the best businesses dropped out of academia at some point (usually early) because there was an opportunity to engage in. How many haunted house owners learned this business in Princeton, Yale, MIT or that place in California oh yeah Stanford. Nope none. Those are the only people that like buzz words. The hedgemonic masses. You think it takes a big stack of cash to have your own business? Who told you that?
Plan four, step back and really determine if someone you would like to be like is a success or not. They can be a financial flop and actually quite happy or they may have a cash flow system and a belly full of 50 pounds of undigested meat that is going to put them into an early grave so what is the point of their stupid life anyhow? Even when evaluating haunts that claim to be successful, have they been in the same town and actually grown a business to something that is a load of fun or is a money machine or have they been a gypsy that thinks they are pretty clever. There have been some self proclaimed authors out there that several decades didn't really seem to work out and their college degree didn't seem to translate into real work. In fact I think college gave them all the idea that you try to get everyone to do something for you because you are somehow smart and that never seems to work out right because they never really did it themselves to be able to tell anyone else how to do something.
Really how difficult is it? Just keep working your butt off enduring pain and injuries and near death experiences while everyone laughs until you need counciling only you don't talk to mind benders you go to the laundromat and go back to work. Eventually decades later you have something that works and has proven to work in your town. Then it is even then not a business plan, it is a sort of formula you try to go by. A network of people that evolves over time and changes with every dip and rise of the economy that can never be planned for.
Plan five, plan for failure. If you don't see what doesn't work, how will you ever identify what does work? If you don't work you aren't learing. If you fail then what? Did you simply go for decades not having a vacation or do you owe someone a lot of money? What is your exist strategy? Build the stuff nice enough that it actually has some sales value? Have a trailer big enough to take everything to the land fill? Give it away to younger aspiring haunters? Are you gonna pay storage bills on all of this stuff until it rots? You want a plan the guarentees success? Spend $375,000 for a good subway sandwitch francise location and become a sandwitch artist when people don't show up. Get about 30 locations and you might make about $300 a week with out ever having to punch the time clock, after taxes. It is so simple.
Plan six, to have a sustainable business means doing the same thing over and over and getting results. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.
Plan seven, do what you have to do with the least amount of overhead and stuff. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to fix all the time and there are relative costs to that.
Plan eight, if you don't plan on seeing 8,000 to 10,000 people in a town that just proved there is such a market, then you better have something. If it is okay to just exist with even lower numbers, you need to own the property outright or that this is the ultimate plan that is saves money over great time in the property and anything over $20 a day is a party. Or do the haunt for charity. A great number of successful haunts that have lasted the test of time began trying to make a charity work or took over an existing attraction that they had worked at for a few years in positions where the could see everything. Not a few days.
Plan nine, just say no to bugs.
03-22-2011, 12:14 AM
Plan 10: Somehow turn your existing stash of props and walls into money all year round as a side business. Even if your regular income means you don't need this money and so you won't do such a lowly thing. Reason being you begin developing contacts with like minded contacts in the same region and this becomes a big part of spreading the word before you have anything set up.
Plan 11: Even if no one orders your services, you might take your home haunt and simply expand it to the home and secondly for other locations that generate money. You can be a side decoration offer at a party rental store or independent costume shop actually renting props for parties. This way you pay your storage costs as the thing gets rather large. Perhaps local independent film makers and students, weird photographers if there are no takers create your own party that costs money to get in. The reason you do this is to take that community of people you have found and show off your skilz. Second If you really are looking for an investor you have a past performance record of how much existing crap can make if viewed by a paying patron. So imagine you see 10,000 people.
Plan 12: you can make money, either flat rate service or a percentage of the ticket sales at a pro haunt just by having all the props and walls. The opportunis are out there where a big haunt wants to try a different location but wants the original to keep going as a back up and instantly you could fill that gap with people that already have the advertising budget and network plus the location. It might require travel but equates to a big shot of capital and some great contacts for the future. WaLa you never have to explain what a haunted house was to someone that had no idea what that was but had a billion dollars and got this money because they kind of hated everyone they ever saw including you right now and had no problem taking their money, thats how they got so much or making sure the deal was heavily toward their pocket. Or they waste weeks of your time because there isn't much on TV.
Plan 13: You legitimately help every haunted house in traveling distance from your home as much as you possibly can for free. These later become your advertising freinds and references for customers and they get the same back. Plus you get to trim all of your ideas to what is really necessary either raising your bar to pro level or lowering how much you fuss on detail that may be overkill.
My very first pro haunt cost $475 and a crap load of labor extorted from one of my companies. It was actually the purchase of an old attraction with so many walls we refinished over a few years to scenic design level. It was 3,000 SF and maybe $1000 into props and masks combined with a charity that had at that time been using black plastic prior for 20 years. Someone had a sound system, someone else had a bunch of electrical harnesses for their christmas lights, The rest was free junk it took a few years to round up. The charity had the location the insurance, the actor skills and I had the haunt and a hearse. Sponsors donated all the posters and fliers and so on. I was in from day one at 20% of what ever money came in the door. Of course this was all a learning lesson and I shoud have been in at much higher a rate. I wanted it to be accepted in the beginning, it was a bargain for them. The second year I went a little nuts and spent way too much money. I doubled the size with new materials and paid to tear down buildings for the decor materials and it was the best year ever. Then people died, having nothing to do with the haunt except removing quite a few contributors. Other large groups came in and brought their customers with them unfortunately over the years those people took charge and kind of changed how many hours it would be run, how much it would charge, much lower than what I had it set at which of course did two things. One it meant no one came because if it was that cheap it must be crap and two it wasn't open long enough in the season to develop and capture word of mouth and 3, 20 % of nothing is nothing. I did kind of demand at least as much money as previous years and got not quite that amount and sold the whole haunt and hearse to become a second attraction to some younger guys that were seeing big numbers. As this was a win win situation I know what happens in the future and all of this was a big investment in developing the regional markets, testing how many people come and to what kind of haunt and how it was marketed to get those kind of customers. Every location has to be developed and tested in that manner over the course of decades. Then you can file a plan in your head. The really big guys have no less than about 25 haunts they built over the years in varied degrees to learn what to do. Or kept building on the same one for one or several decades and developed their own customers.
Plan 14: Pay special attention to off season storage expenses. Even buying semi trailers on property you already has isn't necessarily cheaper than paying storage rent. Plus tear down and set up labor if really compensated probably equals the rent on a good sized building all year long.
Plan 15: Charity haunts, Home haunts and Pro haunts have all unique and different customers. There might be a small over lap buthey generally do not travel from one to the other or follow you to the next level. It used to be the big thing that haunts would completely change their haunts total theme every year as an advertising gimmick. Still haunt customers might only come by every 3 years so why change everything that much when you simply can pick and choose which customers you want to come this year? That's a little trippy but very high level getting money from what ever resources you have kind of thing. There is no way in hell all these 20,000 SF and larger haunts can get tremendous detail if it is in a town that only sees 10,000 customers per year and so they tend to be underdone. The actors feel it and the over all performance is adequate but the customers never come back. Not 3 years later, never. The haunt can be marginally changed and the detail and where things are rotated and it fits the bill, even develops greater fandom as people love to inventory things. They were trained by Walmart to see if the coffee makers offered are all the same or not. I went to one detailed haunt 30 times over a few years and caught myself doing this. Seen it 100 items, there is 3 things new, a bunch of things changed sequence and I felt like I got my $20 worth. Imagine you had to buy a ticket to see what is in Walmart? Well, it costs $35 to see what is in Sam's club! Wanna go see pallets of stuff? Wheee!
Plan 16: Pick a better location. If your town does 10,000 people potential that means 30 to 50 miles away there is another town that would bring 10,000 so find a spot in the middle of the two towns and see 20,000. Don't figure this after being in just your town for a couple years. If you move it might be like starting all over.
Plan 17: If you are paying for storage or rent, every square foot is cost per month or year and some totally free prop might really have cost $100 to keep hanging onto so have haunted garage sales or outright sell outs every 5 years or so, sell before it rots. Scrap prices are up big time every January and huge things made out of metal are thus tremendously fun. One hearse I had $400 in, I sold to another haunt and it at last check had entertained nearly 60,000 customers so how much did that $400 make? Also a square footage calculation. When you get big you think like a retail store requiring $150 per square foot for building and fixtures but it can all be done an started by adapting what you have in your storage garage right now and no more money than that. It is just a different perspective of turning things into money. There is a fine line between selling a product and renting out the viewing of the item like a paid museum.
03-22-2011, 12:14 AM
Plan 18: It takes many people and hundreds of thousands of dollars to actually build a regional market. That doesn't mean you need 5 partners in one location, it means all the haunts work together carving out the customers that work for their style and share what works and what doesn't. Some doofus in Texas can't really tell some guy in new York if he will ever get back his 7.5 million dollar per year location expenses. They don't but of course before things go down the tubes everyone collected a regular salary. And you can develop an overwhelming debt in lower population cities. Wonder if some of these haunter really died or figured out how to get out of debt? Like the haunted version of the witness protection program? In other words don't even do it, go into debt. I know of only a few haunts that routinely cycle investor money every year to great success. Yet, they never get out from the routine of having to gather investor money every year. It isn't just haunts though lots of business operate this way and credit has been deemed to be the american way. Still guess what happens when the credit markets dry up? And they never became independently solvent? Game over. So why not be solvent from the beginning and develop your market, matching the resources of the haunt to the customer demand. You can actually later have many haunts you are affiliated with rotating props for that new show every year and yet they may all be at different performance levels in design, still matching what the markets deserve or crave.
Plan 19: Do everything in secret. What you have and what you dont have is on a need to know basis. Filling out a form and leaving it off to be evaluated by a banker might as well be telling everything to some gossiping spinster. All of a sudden people you could care less about are forming judgements that make things a little harder to make things happen in the money circles. Everyone has a great laugh and only rarely do you get to show them by making a more than expected deposit. It is about the same way as screwing up your credit rating by filling out every credit card offer you get in the mail. Make the financial guys wonder and leave it at that.
Plan 20: When giving out tons of free advise, spell check is optional.
03-22-2011, 09:55 AM
If no one has mentioned it, find a copy of Kelly Allen's (Raycliff Manor on the HW board) So You Want to be a Haunt Entrepreneur. I hear that's the best place to really start, especially with creating a business plan...
03-22-2011, 09:39 PM
Plan 21: Any information you need to set up or operate any business is available free on line somewhere, especially items relate to local state and federal government. Now in your education I must say, you can buy all the videos, see the DVDs, Buy all the books, spend a couple thousand going to conventions and another couple thousand visiting pro haunts whether you get in for free or chose to remain anonymous so you can really experience the haunt rather than turn it into a 2 hour social event.
Just saying what if you spent that $5,000 worth of money and the hundreds of hours it took to do all of those things to, and actually put all of that energy into your dsplays, props and such and listened to your customers and let the commnity tell you what they would like to see. Just starting out you will have beprayed upon and bought a whole lot of hoover sweepers, sent money in advance for things that show up 3 months later and you want to do things NOW. If you go to bigger conventions you simply discover there are lots of things out there for sale that you can't afford or should not buy until you have figured out how to make that first dollar.
Plan 22: Value that money you earned, understand what it took to make it and base value judgements on that. If my fantastical dream world costs 6 hours hanging on a grinder was that magical product really worth it?
Plan 23: Exchange the concept of I'm going to have a pro haunt with I'm going to have a hobby collecting haunt videos, books magazines and taking courses. Sounds like great fun, quite the achievement but, in retrospect is is not. Then what are supposed to do? Now you know the media rather than haunting so you are going to have to write a book or start a DVD collection to keep attending all the parties? You are going to replace hours and hours of your time on forums and taking phone calls and meeting people out in the real world instead of buying materials and building something original for your haunt. If you just went ahead and did it, you won't have to borrow money, fill out forms, think like how some corporate entity wants you to express things and your haunt will be better for it. Do you want to be a fan of haunters or do your want to be a haunter with perhaps an original take on something that works for you?
Plan 24: Many of the haunts that have stood the test of time were begun and operated and developed before AL Gore invented the internet. Now I will say I do not type all of this crap because I want to hear myself or be someone. Contributing is also a form of learning only if you notice I seem to put stuff out there and kill threads. no one agrees disagrees or had anything much to add. If you contribute, more information is out there to help, morefacts are filled in to the many haunt equations possible and free advice is available right here.
Plan 25: My "haunt education" if totalled up cost about $25,000 before I made the first $400 off of a charity haunt. Was that necessary? I wil say I did find one freind that has been long term that showed me it was okay to be nuts and clever. A life changing kind of sickeness. But for the most part I was participating in things that could have been done after I made my first million. How does spending $1000 to travel somewhere to discover that there are props you can buy for $18,000 really help you go from home haunt to pro haunt.
Plan 26: If you really had spent this same $5,000 to $20,000 on your displays you would run into someone that says you should put this into my building and have an attraction. All the time you spend making travel plans and deciding what you are going to wear can be put into cheap number 2 pencil designs of your next thing you are going to build.
Plan 27: Don't let this preoccupation destroy your day job or core businesses. Only at the point where money comes in that pays the expenses is it something to so passionately spend every waking moment.
Plan 28: In formation of a business it is "customary" to spend upwards of $25,000 on developing a market study. Well, some towns aren't worth that much investment and that would be customary for a company marketing to much larger regions with a location or product. Why do you think so many businesses do fail? They borrow money and then spend it on things that don't actually move the business forward. Then they just owe money. How are you going to pay that money back? sell your magazine collection? Sure there is an industry out there and ways to make money but that is a seperate life style to having a successful haunt. Being a haunt celebrity is an entirely different matter. Everyone that passionately wants more haunts out there are the people that have something to sell whether is it the fears you must face when talking to the fire marshal, I'll tell you how for $30 to I really hate to point out specifics but what makes anyone a genius or a success? The haunts that I know that actually pulled in the bucks quickly didn't actually want another haunt 3 blocks away.
03-23-2011, 03:20 AM
Keep it coming Greg, I will absorb as much as i can... Thanks for all of it so far.
03-23-2011, 05:23 PM
yes i read kellys book front to back, back to front.....its the best thing u can read... it tells u about starting a business plan all the way through operating and everything in the middle!!!
03-23-2011, 08:47 PM
I have nothing against Kelly's book but lets put a few things in perspective here. Kelly already had a business running a hotel. He already had a partner and they had ultimately some amount of equity in this business that was leveraged or sold ultimately and used as reference for all the things he did. So what do al of you that have nothing but rent or house payments, car payments and phone bills and not so much disposable income do? Will you ever make it? Will knowing how to fill out forms make you feel like you are accomplishing something?
Also it says right on the front bio that Kelly actually began haunting in 2004 but the book didn't come out until 2008 or so I'm guessing. So what happened the first three years before Kelly decided to get all serious? Did he not somehow educate himself on what he could do, what he wanted to do, what he found as a passion for doing this thing? I'm guessing there were some smaller events that proved that it has potential and he found his style and THEN it was time to get investment capital that could surely be guarenteed to be repayed. I'll bet he didn't start out with the business plan first.
So there are services on the internet you can pay $200 and get a business plan program to fill out. Have you noticed that no institution is lending money yet? Filling out forms or answering questions to yourself might be highly organizational. Going to all the haunt events might be very inspirational, the line Larry Kirchner uses all the time if you got one piece of information, only one from any DVD or book or article it was well worth the investment. Thats from a guy who has literally made millions. I have talked to Larry and he has some skills in business before agreeing to take over the business that was the Darkness. He had learned by owning a bar that if you put new furnitings the place is very popular for a while and makes lots of money. When he got the opportunity to run the Darkness, he maxed out his credit cards and even got loans on his car hoping that sprucing it up would bring in lots of customers and it worked. He didn't lose his car. Was there a business plan there?
Even me, I will tell you this is what I do, I learn and take over businesses and operate them for a few years then sell or liquidate them or in the most recent case about 17 years still doing crap. I didn't get into a haunt as my first ever business. After a few years of feeding myself with everyone's information I was able to just walk into a place and set up 3,000 SF and have it open in 19 days never having one ever before.
However, here we are talking home haunt skills and passion. We are also talking business plan so this means limited money. How many people are in that boat? Guess what most of the long term successful haunts you can look at a financial chart of exactly when no one was hiring, country wide economy was in a recession or stalled and that's when people got out and started a haunt. They wanted something better or something to do at all that made some money and didnt necessarily have any money to eat every day let alone thousands from grandma in their birthday cards.
I have a lot of people's stories of how they did it besides my own. One guy went from home haunt to being a second attraction somewhere and now has two haunts that each see about 16,000 people a year. Wanna know how much the first haunt cost and did it profit? Another guy worked at one that was following the state fair, agreed to pay what the scrap value would be on it and actually had times where he had no choice but to live in the thing. Some other guys gathered all their friends after helping the Jaycees out for a few years and immediately kicked ass because they knew what not to waste advertising money on. Some other guys had lots of money and transformed 18 acres into a community demanded event with a slow start and years to crash 10,000 people but enjoyed what they did enough to sell all their other busineses and buy 174 acres that will be something someday, they added an indoor haunt building and the rest is history.
Another guy well eductated spent the better part of decades, years getting people to sign contracts and some one got screwed a large amount of the time. Other guys developed a passion for building animatronics and having the best charity haunt they could possibly have but then they had families and financial responcibilities and had to disband.
A lot of people that made it from absolutely nothing have a story but they didn't write a book about it. I have this business book I probably paid $60 for that has in great detail anything you would ever think or wonder about. The book is 4 inches thick. I bought it and thumbed through it one afternoon and realized something big time. I had even run companies that had attorneys sitting there with every estimate and such, I have done government contract daily reporting and reqirements documents and I have this damn book. You want it? I will mail it to you. The piece of the puzzle is I did spend $60 but, this book describes the mannerism to about 90% the kind of business I do not get into. I know how stocks work, how to valuate your business for investment or resale I know how to do all the accounting with reuards to quarterly reports and I know how to get 1.5 million dollar jobs accepted. No where in that book does it mention masks, lighting, art detail, or pretty much crying when the season is over because it was so much fun and it is over. No where does that 4 inch thick book descrbe how people come up to you crying and thanking you for setting a haunt up for them and it is a highlight of their life to have done it. No where in that book does it describe getting things at a garage sale or a flea market or having a freind spot something you can get and modify that equates to money someday down the road. No where in that book does it really describe sweat equity or any institution giving you credit for that.
I guess I will just sit here and wait until everyone has developed enough credit and start up capital to pull this off, filled out all the forms and sounds like something. Maybe I will write a book while I'm waiting for everyone to catch up.
So when filling out this business plan, what do you fill in for expected per year income? $2,000 or $60,000 or $200,000 or 1.4 million?
03-23-2011, 09:38 PM
There are old pros out there that can be in trouble in debt and get the haunt out of a freaking horse barn and make half a million dollars. There are out and out thieves that some sectors of the county have been like haunted teamster wars stealing trailers full of props. There have been haunts that began as $164,000 SBA loans that ended up on the action block, gone for the first guy that can write a check for $10,000 and move the contents out of 6 semi trailers in 24 hours. Go! There are people that on a measely budget of $3,000 per year have a wonderful haunt that is 20,000 SF and renouned among other haunters but can't figure out how to get out of low attendance. They could be seeing 10,000 people after being in business for 20 years. There are people that have read Kelly's book that have thousands of dollars of crap on their property that may never open or see more than 80 people.
It is all more than filling out a business plan. It is doing something.
Now back to the gentleman in New York. His town is easily good for about 24,000 people in attendance, the haunt that rcently said they may not open next year really didn't have it going on and saw some intresting skills and concepts in his props and he is so lucky he didn't get weaseled. But, I'm seeing enough formation in those 72 pictures that can be greatly expanded on and it doesn't require a lot of money to go to the next level if he desires to. On my way to my job I thought specific to New York and their laws concerning fire detection systems and such and at some point any haunt in even the rural areas is going to get hit with a $20,000 system. It might not be until year 3 but it will happen or it may go 20 years before someone says you should really do this or else. So this means there has to be $20,000 made and saved to me, it doesn't mean a loan.
You can actually have a haunt that is no larger than about 15 Square feet and make $2500 to $10,000 per year. Yes, fifteen square feet, no joke. Wanna hear how? So 2 years of doing that and the fire detection devil is paid off. Or how about a display that is about 4 panels by 10 that can make the same amount or even more and where to put it with cheap rent?
But, what will happen here is instead all the haunt owners are going to say don't quit your day job until you have $150,000 to start your first haunt. Of course they all started out with nothing but that is what you should do. This ground has been covered before. I attended one consultants talk where he had 3 pages of hand out neatly stapled together that says really look into yourself and decide if having a haunt is really something you want to do? Really. He went on to discuss all the things you will find disillusioning and could cost your whole life savings, your home etc. Oh, you think this doesn't apply to you? Do you have $75,000? Sure, sign right here. Feel free to use my good pen. Is this what we would like to discuss or list as something to avoid?
When is Kelly going to get hip enough to have an affiliate program that every time someone links to kellys book and buys it you make a dollar? That would be so much easier than trying to give advice.
03-23-2011, 09:50 PM
Some people have just plain figured out how to enjoy every moment of their life. Where is that paragraph on the business plan?
03-24-2011, 01:16 AM
Okay I read everything again and I don't sound too (insert the R word)
03-25-2011, 12:37 AM
The title of my new book and companion movie/theater experience to be performed in December 2012, is:
Dude, Where's my Business!?!
What has happened in the performance in the past 10 years has been a historical watching of the haunt market over the past 3 decades. Originally there was a Jaycees haunt that still exists every year and a small volunteer fire department in a crusty old building that got a new giant building 4 times the normal size of any area fire halls. In the old crusty building they would drape black plastic and someone under the influence of beer would put out a sign that said haunted house $5. Which I drove by never ever wanting to be attacked by drunks where they thought is was somehow great fun.
So the Jaycees used a money guy to do their books one year and so we had the charts of how much business they did for real. Most years hovered around 2800 people per year. One year all the magic came together for some reason and they saw 7500 people and then back to 2800. In a different location every year. Despite the fact that one crew got in there and increased the size and depth of the haunt from about 3,000 SF to 6,000 SF. And some of these locations they were getting from year to year were pretty sweet you would think population and traffic wise.
All of my studies of what haunted houses did when properly advertised made me think this is 12,000 ticket town. So I had done a biker party for 3,000 bikers, a one night deal pretty much for free but we had spent 6 weeks building strange things out of strange materials and it was fun. One or two items actually made it to the first haunt and on to our first free TV coverage. The biker party was a lot of work and someone got $10 a head and I got a free night in my own front yard and 6 weeks worth of work to be at the party. I guess it did have an intented purpose as on of my businesses at the time was being the secret airbrush and gold leaf guy to a motorcycle shop so perhaps it was advertising, culture and customer appreciation/initiation times.
I drove around to about a dozen haunts every year in a hearse which was a great conversation piece to get into everyones attendance, history and plans for the future. Everyone shared freely lloking for possible suggestions. Once my haunt was opened I lost contact due to timing to this cycle that was going on.
One night I decided to try the firehall haunt, that was in black plastic in a about a third of this building in a 3,000 SF open space. No one else was there and the radios chirped that they were going to get the guy in the hearse. So it is the guy in a hearse that has walked through hundreds of haunts to the point of not flinching versus everyone fueled by beer. Which brings me back to my child hood. It is all history. So I didn't flinch at the chainsaw, saw masks that were presidential candidates at the time, a fat girl on a hospital bed and a stupid horn and lights in the dark. It was $8 and I sat in the lobby for a good 20 minutes while the has a break before being told it was time. So everyone went to the back yard and had a beer. They were obviously SO busy they needed a break.
Now the biker pary and my motorcycle paint job business had me at the attitude that there are 3000 biker people of which there are per year at least 5 serious high dollar paint jobs done, it was a side business for me. I also am seeing air brush magazines doing lazer tags, side shows and haunted houses in addition to automotive graffix and commercial vehicle signage. My main business is at that time an automotive job, part time working in the summers with designer concrete companies, air brushing motorcycles, attending parties that bring the local motorcycle club big money with about 4 parties a year on laces that are 20 acres or more in the middle of nowhere transformed into kind of a burning man thing. Usually they charge $20 for a weekend and $40 for a vendor.
It turns out the guy that gave us the information about the books of the Jaycees is still a one that every few years wrecks and gets a new $4,000 paint job again, a regular customer also with a drinking problem. Which is why he always has the nearly most innovative bike to replace the old pieces. This is great because most people take my airbrush jobs and leave them in their man cave or living room nd maybe 2 people ever see it, it never hits the streets as they enjoy their own little museum of their life.
Many more motorcycle shops started up as it must have been so easy to do this stuff and it of course takes 5 shops to work on those 5 bikes that are spending real money. It took 2 or 3 years for every one to go out of business, get a divorce and the motorcycle enthusiasts would go to the big cities to get their work done rather than hear about how the divorce went down.
The design concrete company was something I had already entrepenriaized as an employee. I worked for this guy for 2 days and 4 years later I took over his company as his wife took off with his 5 kids and this business had not made them multi millionairs. When I found this guy, he was renting equipment, putting little door tags at high dollar houses to find work and buying materials from someone that charged about 3 times too much for it. And of course borrowing money to get to work and do all these "jobs". I came up with how about own the equipment, buy the materials direct and work for pool and commercial contractors instead of advertising like a newspaper route. When he left everyone was thrilled that the guy actually doing the fancy designs was who they got to talk to and it was successful.
03-25-2011, 01:11 AM
Meanwhile the halloween biker party thing got me into accumulating things, coffins found, dummies were made, my shop was a labarinth of haunted house just to come see the weird airbrush guru. You actually entered the shop and went through a hole in the wall, into a room with bridges and stobes like a swamp, then through a submarine door, into a room with rats and coffins with stupid purple lights and lots of skeletons to the door where the weird artist was. On the walls were tests of 3 D air brushing that I got pretty good at and every year I had a shopping spree to find halloween decor that also doubled as art references for motorcycle artwork.
JB Corn, had Castle Dragon. It had many years of raising money for a childrens theater school and had grown to being 5600 SF on a wood deck, with a metal roof. Every year on his website were his articles about how to scare someone and actually the 1986 design for Castle Dragon and more than half the lumber money came from Leonard Pickel. Instead of doing well it was sitting in 4 feet of water for 2 weeks. It got hosed out and only ran for a week. Following years it was open but never did great. It was intended to be a low profile fund raiser. It was decorated by JB Corn and had wild interpretational paintings done by children. Some of these children went on to work at other Texas Attractions later in life. Most of the attraction had been around and weird inventions cobbled into it since 1979. So JB Corn got Lukemia. It went to another place which after about a year split up and a good segment of what no one used in the 3 attractions there were the pay off to someone and I bought them.
For me it was the best way to understand how the walls were built. I had no idea how to lay out the floor pattern and they had been in a flood. They were double sided panels and very heavy. When ever things were slow at the concrete design jobs, we would take the panels apart, repaint them, and make them lighter and single sided. They had all kinds of weird things no one uses, wiring inside panels you just hook together with terminal strips, 12 volt systems, emergency lights embedded into the panels, special door panels and what I would call "crazy panels" All the ones no one else thought were "scary" to me were the ones that were the most creative. Cut out holes and chicken wire, several layers of wood to make spider web ooking things, jail cells, mouth shapes with prison bars, cathedral like arch windows and openings. Crazy swirly muticolor washes and little kids paintings of ghosts that I really should have kept like it was art. Some of it in the repainting I actually repainted the designs.
So how to do the floor layout? The solution was to pay Leonard Pickel $2500 I had heard as a consulting fee for a drawing or what. I didn't have a location or a plan really to have a haunt at all. I thought our rebuild would have been sold or rented to someone and we were in the scenic design business. The concrete design thing got me into haunts as we built an outdoor cave for an attraction with our equipment. Leonard was setting up in North Dallas and I was able to go help for free the day he was taking his napkin drawing and putting the marks on the floor. I laid the tape, and watched the measuring of the grid and saw how the doors and walls went together in a triangular grid patern and saved $2500. Infact I did a facade job for him that made money in concrete. That's just how I am.
He found us other facade jobs and I watched places that normally saw 25,000 people jump to 35,000 people just because we redid their facades. So for like $1200 I'm making people at $18 a ticket $180,000? How does that work out.
SO I went through the black plastic fire hall haunt and told them black plastic is very bad, you are fire fighters and should know better. They had been doing the haunt and drinking beer through several generations and this was a tradition that actually buys medical supplies for the medical team they have and puts tire on the fire trucks. I have Castle Dragon pieces in storage. The following year, they call like September 15th and are kind of thinking about halloween. A month later it was on TV, 3,000 SF. The lobby was also decorated and the queue line was outdoors in Texas. In later years we were able to have the queue line indoors in the other 3,000 SF and they added an outdoor trail through 2 acres of woods and creek beds. Every year it would increase in detail, the triangular grid designs would just get flopped and because there were 6 fire trucks each with 3,000 gallons of water and pumps, we never needed a sprinkler system. In fact the fire marshal never came. A building inspection was never sought. Yet, I had exits every 5o linear foot and had the core design built into 1000 SF sections. seperatated from each other with elaborate outdoor bridges and water effects. Kind of fire breaks and access corridors built in plus hundreds of secret ways actors get through the swiss cheese of things but the customers have no idea in a triangular grid where the are after the first 12 feet.
03-25-2011, 01:40 AM
So, if you went through oe of Leonard Pickel's attractions, there were very few props, actual rooms and all the acting was done from the other side of the walls. One guy would follow and torment a group from the other side of the walls. Not scary but they got the $8. So instead of one guy following your group I had so much crap in there and detail in props inspired by Verdun Manor, I had 45 actors working in 3,000 SF to where you rarely went more than 12 feet in a triangular grid unable to see around the next bend and something was happening. The combination actually had customers that just came from and evening at Verdun Manor with 3 attractions look at the outside of the building after going through and turn the head like a dog that just heard a weird noise and proclaim we really had something.
So this heavily detailed, high actor, triangular grid actually stood up to the 6,000 SF Jaycees length. Using triangles it was the same walking distance. With so much going on it took sometimes half an hour for groups to get through and there were no places where a group stopped and listened to a skit. It was how long it took people to recover from perhaps 25 crazy encounters.
So meanwhile. I have dinner with two advertising guys that want to open a haunt and tell them this town is good for 12,000 people. They end up working 2 years as the main contributors with the local Jaycees haunt and figure out what works with social media, bill boards. radio, size, designs and acting. They begin creating their own masks and characters and start a secret casting facility that I would regularly visit. I gave them big fans so they didn't kill themselves working with silicones and urethanes and watched young guys playing with sculpt pieces wondering how to engineer good molds. I relayed all the scenic design skills I had and the Jaycees haunt regularly went from 2800 people to 4,300 customers. For a third year they did what I was always wondering about and did side attactions at the Jaycees haunt. In otherwords they made money finally off of the greater number of customers they learned how to get for the Jaycees. Got connected with all the local independent film guys with lead them to a wide spread number of people that automatically wanted to be in if there was a new haunt.
This three year education and ad marketing skills now proven, they rented an 8,000 SF building and put up 200 walls with animatronics, and all the things in a modern haunt. They set up in town and had to go through all the fire retardant problems and ultimately install a fire detection and show shut down panel. Their first year they saw 7500 people, the same number that had existed that decade ago at the best Jaycees year. They had something.
In previous years the fire hall and the Jaycees fought and called the fire marshalls on each other. Now this new haunt, the Jaycees and the fire hall are made to all get along by us and trade advertising materials among each other. The secind year, the new haunt saw 10,000 people. I got screwed by the fire hall and had to do my attraction outdoors lke circa 1979 Castle dragon as the money now comes from the county and homeland security to buy 14 fire trucks. My charity money is now buying big screen TV's, automatic garage door openers and computers. The board of directors now is just deciding how much they will charge, not the original people I had a deal with percentage wise.
So I made a bold move. I sold Castle Dragon to the young advertising guys and my hearse to be their second attraction. They can now charge a combo ticket and see as many as parking will allow. The fire hall and the Jaycees got together last year and did a combined effort and word if they hate each other again.
SO in the mean time I had a few consulting leads to others in about a 50 mile radius wanting to have an attraction of sorts and did the marketing and population expectations to all the surrounding areas but never liked the deals. The young guys and I came up with the same conclusion for someone's business was to get near the major highway in between two major towns and buy the property. Yet there is no infastructure in those areas yet that can power a big water supply or sprinkler system so we are talking lakes, pumps, real buildings.
Of course the economy is down as well. The haunt seeing 10,000 people has a lease to play out and more success to experience.
03-25-2011, 02:26 AM
he motorcycle shop was my landlord and had a divorce. SO we moved closer to town into a more expensive shop building. The recession and weather dependent concrete design business watched other companies become formed from the original companies and old companies fold. Then the newer companies and my core job finders totally changed. Instead of corporate ordering, I now work for all the people those bigger companies fired and went out and started their own business. How tough is it I'm sure they think to find work, call in subcontractors and write out checks. One company lead to another and then lead to 8 seperate entities. Meanwhile the highest money year for my kind of business was probably 2005. No one told me, I was watching haunted house.
Haunted houses in Texas general had a hay day about a decade ago. There were too many, way too much spent on marketing and little spent on the actual haunts. Great sizes meant lack of ability to detail them properly and have effective acting and they generally sucked for $20 a pop. I had stopped doing my rounds of visiting haunts because even getting in free to all the places I have helped or freinds I now have didn't make up for $75 in gas in the hearse.
I had to spend the haunted house money on a new truck for the concrete design business. Now when I started this hobby, I had a helper that had been with me for 5 years I could rely on and was making $20,000 I had no idea what to do with. If I didn't spend it on something that was not a tax deduction it would just go away in taxes. I already had two of every kind of equipment. That helper died and so did the yearly amount of work available to contractors. Plus I kept comparing haunted house businesses to the construction trade and back and forth. Each made the other better and keep up a tremendous reputation. But, there is no money, enough to get by. That helpful helper died before seeing the haunt set up, or the new big shop. The custom paint job business died. Simply being 4 miles away meant they couldn't drop sheet metal off at 4AM and expect it back the next day.
Plus all the motorcycle guys were kind of retarded. They couldn't see do to age, had years of fumes in their brains, if you gave them a pencil to describe what flames or pinstiped design would look like it looked like a 3rd grader with muscular distrophy. Plus their real customer base is down to one customer a year and they have figured out how to do their own air brushing. I was needed at a point and it was all intresting. Now I can't see that well either. Maybe I'm getting a little retarded and the young guys have developed so many skills.
When I was their age there were no haunted houses. Art was discouraged unless you were going to live like a hobo or pay an art school and end up in a printing shop as a graphics designer and I was preoccupied being a genious for governent subcontractors. Trying to make that million dollars everyone said I would make if I just got out into the private sector. But, I was told I would make a million dollars from people that only knew how to get jobs, fill out applications, not people that had made more than a paycheck, filed for unemployment and showed up for work every day. What did they know. Back in the day if there was a 1.5 million dollar job the 70 year old guy that got the job stole all the money. The reagan trickle down economy only peed on me.
I have been though watching Pittsburgh PA completely shut down 8 major steel factory, the Japanese no longer being in the business of funding major private enterprise and 3.5 million people moved from that town in search of any jobs at all. I ended up in Tyler Texas which 20 years ago was a glorified truck stop and took over a major tire company shipping lot with 28 national carriers. I had taught a freind from high school how to take over a company and they decided they really didn't need to pay any taxes on the employees of federal or have insurance or have the trucks registered or for that matter brakes on the trucks used to move the trailers around. Who cares, just make sure the trailer air brakes realy work before going too far. So they had the IRS come in on them. I made some money in a car lot over a year and bought them out and that was kind of a distraction running a 24 hour a day business. Plus actually loading the trailers with 1700 tire in 6 hours. Actually making the money the old fashioned way in trailers out in the hot Texas sun and doing double shifts and answering the phone 24 hours a day, loading a trailer if someone didn't show up. Luckily after a year and a half the economy tore that one apart too. Trucking companies reorganized, got taken over and liquidated, some decided to not come to Texas at all. I sold it to the competitor with the good carriers gone and walked out into the world.
JB Corn died before I ever met him but I had his haunt. Lance Pop died and I was only occasionally able to talk to him. The town that was a glorified truck stop became a place to buy property on golf courses and around lakes that are McMansions with swimming pools and big screen TVS at a third the cost of what they would be in California or up north. So Big business owners move here and need concrete design to cover up crappy concrete work on thrown together properties. Two years ago I had no idea I needed to downsize my concrete company. Two months too late was all it took to have to get a bail out. And the only person that would loan me money of course was a haunted house investor that I'm still indebt to. The normal so called sources of capital were never available to a business or to someone that is an independent contractor. You are supposed to give the bank stacks of cash and they will loan you your own money secured to run you business. That sounds like a deal doesn't it.
If you have a job with a repeating pay check they will lend you money for a tuba or money to vaction in aruba but of course nothing meaningful like starting a business and then being in we don't know if you are going to make any money land. So a business is supposed to have stacks of cash, pay the government and it has to be a certain level they can prey on and demonstrated to be big money to be able to get any capital. A business plan is totally worthless. Who are you going to show it to? Are you going to do living room power point discussions to suckers that might loan you $50 like an Amway meeting or a Tuper ware party? I hear sex toy parties make money.
03-25-2011, 02:55 AM
When I had the charity haunt, every year they would hand me some money and I would let them keep a certain amount of the props and masks. I saw it as being like a party rental business and you get to steal the centerpiece. Most of the expensive props I have never went into the haunt to get destroyed or grabbed.
So I have a coffin, a nice werewolf, a mannequin girlfriend, a saw blade collection, 100 stryrofoam wig heads, 2 dogs, a company that has become more like a job only with no regular pay check, a debt and somehow I became old and retarded. We are in a recession, The local McMansions all have for sale by owner signs on them and the concrete design business instead of doing fancy designs and luxury cover up of concrete does repaints and pressure washing, cleaning off dog poop so people can sell their house or a hotel just doing a paint job on their pool instead of really fixing it. It has gone through a full cycle. We began redoing everyone's old poorly done jobs and this is where it is at now.
Yet, these young guys have proved to me the haunt market still works no matter what. Even in a down economy and maybe especially in a down economy. People go to be entertained to forget the real problems in their life even if it is only for 20 minutes.
Being a business owner, in all the different forms I have been, You kind of for go all the fancy expenses anyhow and put everything into your business. When times are tough people are crying and you have already gone years and years not having all this stuff they are whining about. It doesn't matter if you are making $8,000 a week or $300 a week or $700 a week or making someone 10 million dollars a month, you generally live on about $20 to $30 a day and everything else goes into overhead or investment that either may prove to be something or is just expected behavior.
With my current business I can run around and weasel $1000 in materials and go to work and have maybe $2500 in a few weeks. With a haunt, that $30 you spent might not get paid back for 5 years when it is actually out there a few years and customers have leased it for 3 seconds. The scale of justifying savings, investment and when you are going to get paid and paying storage on something that may never happen to the level you want it to is a hard road.
I miss my hearse. I miss the haunted house but someone took the market I helped develop and went with it. Plus even though their income sounds impressive, it really isn't. They were young advertising guys, expected yearly income between $50,000 and $100,000. With their extremely successful haunt and the advertising company nearly down the tubes maybe because of having a pro haunt and the feeling there was something more fun to do with their lives, I'll bet they are down to about $25,000 per year or less. They have gone from working for someone, to being self employed to doing what gypsys do entertaining the drunken villagers just crazy enough to go to the outskirts of town or to the wrong side of the rail road tracks. How is that a real business? Certainly that is what some $18,000 per year bank loan officer has been trained to think.
It isn't a business actually. Although everyone ries to make it all "industry" sounding. It is a life style. Or at the full on million dollar levels it migh be a quick promotion that is only going to last a year or two and never pay everyone. The other night on Hulu I found an episode of Shark Tank. These two old dude magicians wanted 1.4 million dollars to build a 25,000 SF event right on Times Square, how much does it cost in overhead per year? 7.4 million. FAIL. Yet I'm sure they got those numbers somewhere. I'll bet they even paid a consultant with some kind of vetting $25,000 to put all that in writing. Who cares no one will ever do it, here is a book of numbers that will be $25,000, it isn't my ass on the line. Fail again and there might have been no warning that it wasn't the right thing to do. Sure it will be the first EVER, no one has done it before! It will be stupendis.
03-25-2011, 03:17 AM
But, if you really want to, you can make money from anything and save as much as you want. You can spend a hundred years living on a fixed income and everyone thinks you are rich while they go to the movies and you sit and think about how to make money or what things should look like and how to build things. Can you find the time, the few spare dollars and pay for the storage for say 10 years?
Can you put yourself in the position to weasel not people but organizations to get a building, permits, fire codes, building codes, safty inspections? Can you weasel other organizations to sponsor your advertising campaign, to provide piza for your actors, to pay for your insurance? Sure you can.
How much does it cost? Absolutely nothing, draw it out with a pen you stole off the counter at a bank.
How big was it? How big can you make it? It should be big enough and detailed enough that people talk about it. It has to compare to ones in your area and be different somehow. It has to be better. It could be 100,000 SF of junk cars. Be creative and then cash in the scrap value every January. Or fill it with real antiques that you blow dust on for halloween and then polish and sell for $5,000 a piece, I would go with french furnitings.
If you drive around here, it always has been, that the signs say, airconditioning and then there is a sign for taxidermy or transmission repair and arts and crafts. No one business seems to get it or occupy the income needs and so the whole family has to work. If you don't have a family you have to somehow buy every friend you can. No one is going to hang around because they like your teeth or the way you smile or the way you gas out the bathroom. Everyone wants money or to hang around because you have sandwitches. So how are you going to provide this environment that people will come to your tuperware party. This year and every year?
For me the haunted house was the greatest thing ever because every year after setting it up all my workers would quit and I didn't have to lay anyone off for winter or have my unemployment insurance rates go up. By time the next season rolled around they would understand they were pretty much unemployable anywhere else. Get in the truck. But what they despised was not necessarily the work. Everyone quit because I was helping the community instead of handing them bigger stacks of cash. I was developing markets even though they had no understanding that the job we are jumping in the truck to go do day after day is someone I have talked to fo months or years. To an employee mind set it is all magic. You know what they say on TV about how to have a business. What some 2 year college student writting an article for Yahoo news thinks you should do to save money. How they think someone made a million dollars and you should do that too.
Of course they say you should save up 2 years total expenses before engaging in a business. Bullshit, you just go to work. No one would ever save that much or get that much in advance even if you were in silicon valley and had a cool glitter idea for facebook advertising or the latest iphone app.
Having your own business is more like the special olympics. Even if you win, you are still.................
03-25-2011, 03:52 AM
Oh yes, just before one season at the firehall haunt, it never happened because two fire fighters died so everything was like starting out completely over again in a new location with not as much help. And the first year they thought I guess that Walt Disney himself was here to give them a billion dollars worth of crap and he could do it all himself, perhps he would call in a few imagineers to offer their spare time.
Everybody dies. A great number of very succesful haunts have had partners die after so many years and that signaled the beginning of the end to what is once was.
So, is this a side job? A long term investment? Dabling in philanthropy? A hobby that just means no more vacation spending? A learning experience? A taste at independence and self fullfillment? Running away with the circus? Doing something crazy with out the lasting effects of a tattoo?
Is it a what can you get from the dumpster gameshow? What industrial waste can you make money on having customers rent to see it and then sell for scrap value? What bugs like to eat long term experiment? How to have your entire family tree freak out and think you are evil and weird and should not really be in any wills? A way to hire the most attractive personal assistant and costume coordinator? A way to provide work for people? A way to make sure other people develop some skills and self confidence as well? An opportunity to even have handicapped people scare people that other wise would never get out of the house? A way to feed a charity money that is buying things you don't even have or thought you could afford?
Is it something to fall back on? Something to fall forward to? Is is something to make your life a living hell because you are on the Hauntworld Forum at 4:48 in the morning and tomorrow have to paint a 1500 SF pool deck? In other words it already is tomorrow?
If you actually have a job, you might know you have little money, even run short and some will be available again with that next check. When you are self employed every check is your last and so you don't spend it. Maybe won't spend it unless you know there is a good outcome. When you run out of money you are in trouble. You have maybe an accounts recievable but that doesn't have a real time schedule. And you never know you are broke until you are in to the laundry money, having a net worth of $14 is a normal thing. Even if there is $20,000 on paper or in future projects. It is definitely a lifestyle difference.
Having a job with limited income and having failure doesn't work either. Burdens just pile up and accumulate over time. You can't plan for anything. The business cycles of the world in my life time have gone from every 30 years to every year. The entire global economy is working like a farmers harvest and then throw in a tsunami and some radiation.
But as an artist, you can build things of value out of nothing. Out of garbage. It could become 1.4 million dollars. Or it could be 80 people show up and eat all the free snacks and leave. Untill you put it out there you just don't know. And you aren't land locked. They might not like it here but they love it 50 miles or 500 miles away. Even 1500 miles away. Then you have to discover things that the two extreme locations desire and trade things back and forth. Ideas from Texas might not work in Michigan. The garbage you started out with is different.
03-25-2011, 09:38 AM
So who knows how money really works?
Somehow people that are $250,000 in debt need to take a cruise to get over it. You pay the land lord and they go off for a mini vacation. You finish a job and the company you did the work for has a new truck sitting there and of course for some reason your check isn't coming yet.
I came upon the $20 idea watching the slow operation at the motorcycle shop. The man's wide paid all the untilities, the parties were to pay the property taxes they had neglected every year, all the other buildings paid the mortgage and the insurances. So all he needed was to run his business and do just enough work to feed and cloth himself and bolt more things, paint more wild things on his motorcycle. A customer would come in that actually bought something rather than just come by to get an update about motorcycles in general and where the parties were or free advice. He would sell one thing with dismal commission and he was GONE! I would say as he left, what, did you make $20 already? Yes! so long! It was a joke but it was so true.
Buisness property being somehow paid for with no rent seems to be a big ingredient to alot of companies mixes. They had help by parents who wanted to make sure their son or daughter who was a little off could make it. Maybe the parents got the extra $100 a month from all the rent collections? Then even in the termil of a divorce or a bankruptsy somehow the guy who set up this ig weasel somehow gets to keep his plot of land and building that represents a business and everyone else's property gets sold out from under them when they were the one's paying anyhow. Then with out a wife, the man actually has to focus on paying the phone bill, the electric bill, the insurance payments and taxes on the property. No one comes to a party and he has gone from $20 and the ability to escape for a days entertainment to $2 a day and having to go sand a motorcycle tank for someone. He goes months not having any customers or jobs he is able to pull off successfully but still he is living the life. The solution or him seemed to be to get a new wife.
Many other businesses here work in such a slow fashion. People sit around visiting like it is the lets tell jokes part of hee haw. It realy means they have nothing to do right now and are waiting for the next thing to spring into action. I don't have that. I have rent to pay and all those other bills, there will be no jabber jawing or visiting. But I looked back in my head and precisely when these people did nothing was where the wall street journal graphs showed a recession spike. One old woman with nick nacks and a garden decor iron work stand is actually the land lord to several business and says if she had to make a rent payment, her business would not work. If you ponder this with a younger go getter kind of guy they think that is something wrong, not the way to be at all. But, the old dudes and dudettes did figure out how to not have so many payments and can get buy and keep intrested in magical products and spend the time to know their customers because they aren't burdened with the hype of do it now sales ads and a phone bank of operators standing by to take your order.
You can make a million dollars all at one time and somehow everyone hates you or decides to become you or you can make a millon dollars a little bit over time and no one knows you are holding or not.
03-26-2011, 10:02 AM
On my Yahoo music channel and advertisement comes is. Airbrush action dot com is having a trade show in Las Vegas, at some specific hotel, 5 days only! You too can learn how to make thousands full or part time airbrushing T-shirts, tanning and custom automotive graphics! Seminars on how to start and tun your own airbrush business, meet air brush masters! This makes me want to throw up and take all the airbrushes I have accumulated over the last 20 years, take them all outside and melt them together into a disgusting glob.
But, really what happens is all these people spend $1000 to get there, maybe buy $1700 worth of stuff, and have their head spinning about the wonders of making an extra $15 for 4 hours worth of work. Using paint that has been on the store shelves and in some cargo container on the high seas for a decade that won't blow through their expensive equipment and they are doomed to fail even if they are the top 2% that can actually move their hand the right way. Th hype phenomina is how I got thousands of dollars worth of airbrushes on the cheap as they never got cleaned the first time or alas the new owners were faced with the fact they had no skill and for them it meant using stencils and that is no fun.
In reality, you only need one good airbrush, brand new fresh paint and some practice no one seems to understand. You look at pictures of what has been done since the craze of the late 50's of old dudes smoking cigarettes on their knees putting some crude doodle on someone's car. The rest is history.
In all the scenarios I listed above for haunted house real performances, they all even when it appeared that magically their first year was stupendous? It was really about their 5th or 6th year of practicing. Experimenting with other people's money until they saw how to make money themselves. Their programs were already trimmed to what was absolutely necessary. The people that are trying to be really informative starting out telling you how they use a bug sprayer to apply blood in the movies are deemed insane and left behind.
So one way of getting into it is obviously buying what others realized for them was going to be a dissapointment or a financial burden. In haunted houses people sell things because they didn't make enough money to keep paying storage or never got that first just right situation but the accumulation of things is easy. Making the commitment to spend a couple hours per object is artistry. At least it is the total sum of what art school will teach for a fee. If you spend a couple of hours on something, it might look like something and keep a viewers attention. But then the art teacher writes Very Good A+ right on the drawing you spent hours on and defaces it, making it total garbage. Is this what I'm supposed to lean? Don't let some bald guy touch your drawing after you spent so much time on it? Someone will think they are somebody and tell you what they think and we really haven't seen the bald guy do anything so what gives him the right. What does he know anyhow? Maybe art sucks because it is treated like it is disposable like all the thing from Walmart? You are supposed to buy it cheap, let you pet poop on it and throw it away.
One of the funny twists of the haunted house is here, you not only don't get to buy and take away the art, you only get to pay to see it and can't see it just anywhere. Plus the final twist is, you just paid to see what you all threw ot last year and how scary that is? Being haunted by the rubbish you didn't take care of. Now it has little googly eyes and a voice and it is talking to you. It is wondering why you don't give a shit. Look deep into it's eyes.
Now going directly into $50,000 rent, insurance and advertising expense based in the life of crap is a very bold move. So lets say in reviewing all the scenarios of what haunts turned out to be a success, the first haunts and take overs generally only risked 5 to $10,000 and they were acculated over about 5 or 6 years. All the other heavy expenses were covered by people who somehow had money but no hands on talent. I haven't figured out how in life that happens, all the people that have money can perhaps see what they can't do and this becomes an opportunity over looked by the ones with talent? It really shouldn't have that high a value if everyone can do it but, the ones that can do it are kind of blind and confused that they actually have in their world every day skills others would pay big bucks for. Perhaps actually doing and getting money still over looks that fundamental situation.
Well, time to go do what I think is expected behavior.
Mad Wax Sculptor
03-27-2011, 01:04 PM
AWESOME advice Greg. You hit the nail on the head. Everything you pointed out is so true and is a valuable lesson for any haunter.
03-28-2011, 12:39 AM
Oh crap, it looks like I have been typing on the internet again.
03-28-2011, 07:20 AM
Are you in the middle of adjusting your meds Greg? Some pearls in all that though...lol.
03-28-2011, 08:13 AM
Nothing is for sale, I "Rent" them the experience. (Tee shirts, bumper stickers, a little book are for sale)
I knew a very successful and talented artist who had much trouble from those art gallery owners (Used car salesman?)
They would not do their part of promoting his shows, like forgetting to send him his money,or send out the invites from their customer list, good thing he told his patrons about the show and sold something like 43 works that first day out of 47 available! ( I was there with him) "Why am I paying you people?" I'm taliking about pieces that sold for $800 to $2,200! And this was 40 years ago! Yes he had much success by anyone's standards but too many art gallery people were really just wanna bees, hobbiests who had alot of money to play with, usually someone else's.
My artist friend/mentor said "Goodby" to gallerys many years ago, now after about 25 books published of his art.....
I am not supremely talented in any one area but I work hard, long hours and have unusual ideas that I work toward creating in this physical realm, anybody can have "ideas", and ideas is where everything entertaining starts but I bring them to life here.
My place is not typical as defined by the current definition of the term "Haunted House", and the "Not Typical" is what most of my customers seem to like(and pay for)
I adjust the tours to try to fit and entertain whatever type of a group is sitting there looking at me, which is fun for me!
03-29-2011, 02:51 PM
Thanks Greg i will have to read that one more time. but its great advice from what i have gotten out of it so far. will have to change a few things for this year have a few more things to look at. will let everyone know what will be ahead for this haunter. thanks everyone foe your input!!
03-29-2011, 10:56 PM
The last two years or so of what all has happened with the economy really rattled around some long term fundamental things. Real estate was supposed to be the best investment ever and increase in value from 4% to 10% every year no matter what. Fail. It became evident that all the big banks are leveraged out 32:1, just how global the economy has become is unraveling every day. Even big money players had their big investments they were all braggy about crash to it's original dollar figure from 10 years prior. All retirement plans are being questioned and under attack as non sustainable.
There is a silver lining to this. The spend it now crowd that spends money to somehow make a job or opportunity for someone else wins. Those that hoarded money got a spanking and the taxes will change to spank them in the future. Still there are literally 10,000 different haunt stories out there and just duplicating one version of it seems to limited. You have to determine what social networks and advertising works for you in you specific area. If I start giving away everyone's secret formula for success it will just cause problems. Those that are tageting 3 or 5 towns with big private investment groups they fashioned for themselves verses the village idiots of the world who have somehow paid for everything themselves and they aren't on anyone else's schedule of when things get done or to what extent they have to get done to look cool. Still there are benefits to being small and there is a coolness to not having corporate feel behind it.
Plan 22, starts getting into danger zones of having a back up plan. Kelly Allen's book describes Team building. I'm saying the crew from the movie from Armagedon is assembled when volunteers and employees attempt to show you how so dependent you are on them. Even volunteer haunts, no one shows up when it is time to tear things down and someone has to go in and get the haunt and package every thing up and haul it out. Once I began doing this entirely by myself and of all people my secretary came later in the evening and helped put walls on trailers and props into hearse and get it out. I described this to a haunter friend a year later or so and he remarked "she's a keeper". While stupid people stood and watched like it was none of their business or they had somehow paid for this. Of course the last time I moved the haunt, it was a big surprise. Me and a helper went in and disassembled it in about half a day and 6 people from the new owners and I moved it outin abot 2 hours. Every year the charity would bring up the idea of them providing storage for it. Well, if they had the whole thing in their possesion what do they need to pay me for? I have heard lots of when the parties over stories.
Plan 23, suggests watching the last 20 minutes of the Willie Nelson movie "On the road again" Sometimes everyone takes what they see as the goal of the day and the real pros have a bigger goal.
Plan 24, wonder why there aren't a bunch of infomercials anymore about how you can buy real estate for no money down, find deals to lip and take advanta of owner financed deals, you don't even have to speak the language! It seems the borrowing money thing and not really having earned what you have means filing bankruptsy at some point, not paying a bunch of debts and taking what ever is liquid to live your life in Venesuala where it is worth 10 times what it is here. Don't drink the water.
Plan 25, there used to be a for $300 you can learn about all the credit unions and become a credit card millionaire and buy houses and sell them before intrest is due for a profit, you can buy cars at a deal what ever and flip it. So what happens to the poor sucker when there are no buyers out there? Some stocks have dropped just because of this. They put up a sale order and there aren't the hoards of buyers holding up tickets or poised on the internet buying program so the stock just goes down as it is apparently not in demand and thus a lower value. However if you have equipment and skills that can go to work they seem to command the same amount of money. What I'm saying is a haunt investor I know explained what they were doing to a financial advisor and they were stunned and told them to keep doing that. In lue of having an investor because they work mega population areas, investing in yourself is cool. Despite what someone with only a 2 year economics degree has been lead to believe.
The old dudes I used to ask advice had stupid things to relate. Instead of saying they don't know, they would have little ben franklin phrases to whip on you like the early bird catched the worm, the sun is up, if you aren't true to your teeth they will be false to you and the mega fail advice, that making a business out of hobby is very difficult. This is where they screwed up being in some form of business poised waiting for those hobbies to all in decades later to become billion dollar plus markets. Yeah enjoy you social security grandpa.
Plan 26, don't stress, or like the hitch hikers guide to the galaxy, don't panic. I have wandered into many haunt planning meetings and war rooms and watched the flurry of stress and making sure things are done a specific way. Just like every year about this time I see waitresses stressing filling out their tax returns to make sure their part time $2.65 is reported SO correctly and hope they are doing it all right. The customers to a haunt have no idea of what to expect and are generally smiling by anything you have to offer. The happier and less waves put toward the customers the better. No move it along bouncers or self appointed crowd managers with made up rules. Unless there is a problem, then it is full on storm trooper action. Sweep up the debris and it never happened. The IRS isn't going to go crazy on you unless $40,000 seems to have been reported due to them. They will be glad to use federal funds to help you get that together. Just don't owe money.
Plan 27, I have actually sat in the hearse with a cell phone and called people and told them it was time, right now, a good time to come. Kind of dialing for dollars. You develop a list of people who said they would come and call them on it. Don't tell me you would like to come and think I will forget. Bring money. Then there is the balancing act too of knowing where semi drivers are to move a trailer for one reason or another at any hour of the day or night. If a haunt other than your own owes you money this is an intresting collection technique. That and having a hearse so you can collect anything. Unfortunately this is what it gets down to when dealing with people who use buzz words like "budget" early in conversations and "partners" is another one to watch out for. It all starts to sound like a used car lot, she was supposed to make the payment! I thought he made the payment! Yeah, well we have your car so get together and talk about it. And it doesn't matter where you go, there are repo men 3,000 miles away that will answer the phone. After many years of this, you begin to recognize when someone wants YOU to be the one to do something for them, you are that special person they have been looking for. Really, why me?
Plan 28, Hearses are cool for stubborn collection days, making sure you get paid just prior someone turning themselves into the loony bin and closing their business for ever. However, they don't really work driving around askng customers to come to yor haunt. Maybe an art car is better. A hearse sitting at the haunt is great but it weirds people out that are potential customers out in the real world or the waitress you kind of are wondering where they are, they are hidding in the kitchen waiting for the serial killer to leave the parking lot. I had no idea serial killers were so up front like that. I always though like in the movies they all drive a dodge van. So that's what I drive now. You can still move a coffin if you have to, move the occasional dead werewolf or bring bicycles to little children. The first day I bought the hearse and was driving it home a little white car with some chick came up around me and waved all happy. I thought wow, this is going to be great? A hearse is a chick magnet! That never happened again for decades of driving around a 7800 pound 10 mpg car. One time I pulled up to the haunt and a girl came up and was super excited jumping up and down with long black hair to tell me what a cool car! She had 5 kids already.
Usually the only ones that think driving a hearse around are in the lane next to you, at speed, in the middle of a Molly Hatchet CD on their 2nd trip back from the beer store and they aren't really the desired haunt demographic. Don't be fooled by who thinks you are cool.
03-29-2011, 10:57 PM
Plan 29, the signs that look hand made like huge garage sale today or wallermellons and potatoes here get more attention than the pro made signs on proffesional wire lawn carriers. So, it is nothing to spend lots of money on. Found materials are actually given credit by the paying population. High dollar graphix except on a web site seem to be a turn off. One place I went to off in the wilderness, you had to drive down a one lane road for about 4 miles at 25 miles per hour was about all you could do on a single lane roller coaster tar road. You would wonder if you were on the right country road. So this place had little signs up in the trees about 12 feet in the air on plywood with their haunt name. Each one progressively had one then two then a few more bloody hand prints on a white back ground at night. By the time I passed the 5th sign I was laughing my but off as the bloody hand prints were many by that time. Or there was the time I drove through 2 hours of cornfields talking through how everyone says you shouldn't actually go meet people you have met on the internet and I'm going hours into no where and that is where "they" are usually never discovered. In short making the journey to the haunt and all the finding of your information like a secret social game is a big plus. And all costs nothing but the time you put into it. There just isn't enough space in any of those little lines or the cover letter of a business plan are there. That cover letter ends up being a little short of full on hoop la for some reason. That's why they don't work. How do you spell Hoop Lah anyhow?
03-31-2011, 11:31 AM
Plan 30, There is something funadamental that makes your time worth more money. Some willingness on your part to provide a certain quality or over and above performance and passion for what you do that changes you from a $10 per hour employee and you are supposed to be thankful and making between $30 and $50 per hour and being thanked for your service.
In the mind of the artist, to really pull things off, you hear stories of masters charging a dollar a minute for things that are a skill. You may even have 10 hours into a display and try to rationalize how this could possibly be worth $300 in labor or get someone to pay that amount. The difference comes from actually putting in that 10 hours freely and this steps up the game. Even a prop that was bought may in fact have been made by a person working for $10 an hour being employed by someone else taking $10 an hour to sell it and another $10 goes to over head. It is kind of tough to feel the excitement in being part of the machine, doing the same thing over and over because you think you have to. You don't have to. If you put your passion and a level of professionalism into your work you don't even have to advertise. People with enough money and a desire will find you.
It isn't simply build it and they will come. It's make it special no matter how small it is and people will seek you out. There has to be a certain something. An effort put into objects over and beyond I bought this. An entire japanese village worked on this for a week. More like there isn't another one of these in the world. The compensation comes through ticket sales and many viewers rather than that'll be $300 plus sales tax. A much easier sale.
Getting your head around making an investment in things that don't obviously involve people walking up to you handing you $20 bills that very day is something that is learned over time. Yesterday I had someone offer me basically a $15 per hour job. Yeah right, I want the security of knowing I have lost $2.50 per day or occasionally banked big time a whole $10. Why don't I just spend my free time watching people buy things at a vending machine andpick up the pennies that fall out of their pockets. Now I might have days where I might work for that amount of money just to get by but, it isn't generally something I will be doing every day and every day counting the hours, watching the clock. It is might seem tough finding opportunities but it really isn't if the quality is in your work and samples of already done things.
Another thing happens when you magically decide you are worth $30 instead of $15 per hour. You only have to work half the time to make the same money. This frees up the energy of real work to be done at such a greater output because you aren't trying to pace yourself to go some hourly distance. You magically are spending that new found half the time maybe not getting richer but seriously using your brain. Being able to judge your own work, make it better, see over time what could be added, realizing what is missing. That's a whole lot better than someone esle being paid to keep an eye on you sneeking up all proud to tell you what you haven't done or figured out and so it is a fail.
When you can get rid of the clock life goes by fast. So transforming what you do in your own time into what is all your own time is the goal. You also all of a sudden have the fee time to consider those paying projects that might really help others and pop a profit when done of $2500 or so. If not a profit at least a savings of a chunk of money, a return on investment. A bunch of mini investments all collected as one.
So, before I suggested spending 2 hours on an object was good. Well spending 10 hours on an object is better. It steps up peoples wonderment to a level not seen everyday in the manufactured world where someone figured out how to get something done in under a minute. You might buy someones elses props and sets but, you have to add something and make it your own.
03-31-2011, 12:07 PM
Plan 31, the world is full of people that have figured out they can sit on momma;s couch, drive their girlfriends car, get their boss to pay their cell phone bill, use coupons at the pizza restaurant. These are not the people developing the markets and deciding how much things should cost. I have heard so many haunters starting their first haunt and tell me that the people in their area don't have any money and the ticket price needs to be pretty low. These same poor people can be found having a $100 per month cell phone plan, eating at a $23 per meal restaurant once a week to make themselves feel better.
Valueing the starting price of a haunt or a group of haunts needs to be a little higher so as to reflect a self esteme in the project. Cheap ticket prices will be percieved as a lacking offering. Something equally cheap, thrown together and not though out. It wll actually have far lower attendance than something higher priced and fully detailed. Simply not everyone is your customer. If they had a higher priority on a case of beer or a carton of cigarrettes, that isn't your fault. They simply were not your customers. In some businesses the phone can ring 100 times and only 2 of them are really the customers you want.
You are intrested in the self driven people, that seek out self driven displays and props and acting to admire a similar mind. The best customers are not mindless or non formed yet brains. The best and highest number of customers available are those you gave some credit to being something and deserving something they don't get to see everyday. Thats when you are no longer a haunt that starts out seeing 800 people the first year and one that start out seeing 7500. Realizing the customer is someone to impress and provide a service to, not a line of cattle to put tags on. Most people get into this business because it looks easy, they saw a haunt that sucked and think they can do better and that line should be their paying customers. Actually the perception should come from seeing a fully detailed awesome haunt and realize you can do this. Nothing to do with seeing the lines of people at first. More the end goal of what a haunt can be is realized first. What can a really good offering be. If this is the focus the lines will come. The advertisers will be making you offers not waiting for you to call in. The actors will have sought you out wanting to act. The set designers will come asking if they can help. It completely turns around everything being some chore or a things to do list that has to be done.
How do you communicate greatness on a business plan? Is it represented in a dollar figure? That doesn't work. Like what was said, a bank will offer you credit when you prove to them you already have that much money. If you have the skills and the sets you don't need them. So the business plan that just forecasts a budget and strikes out monthly expenses is heartless and thus doomed from the beginning. You just have to build the stuff and then crap seeks it's own level.
Plan 32, forget letting a TV camera into your haunt. They will only put the cute stuff on TV and you will end up with a line of 2 year old girls and their parents when these days the real money market is mid to late 20s. The demographic used to be ages 14 to 34. They grew up and now they have money.
03-31-2011, 12:41 PM
Plan 32, medication? We don need no stinking medication.
04-01-2011, 03:25 PM
lol...Some would say meds are needed... I dont think so. still alot to take in, in the process of reading through it again.
Thanks for the continuous feed back.
04-01-2011, 06:25 PM
A starter haunt can actually be quite small. My crew and I would joke that we were going to trademark and franchise VooDoo Hop Scotch of death. A piece of chaulk, some voodoo symbols on drawn squares and a rock you toss to and that one you have to skip over while being attacked by a chainsaw.
What is actually a haunt can be the trunk of your car! Simply lock someone in there on Halloween night and drive around, not letting them out until they give you money. We can sell you a video on how it is done and a spooky CD plays and being in the trunk they are real close to the speakers. Taking roller coaster roads becomes driving off into the bayou for all the customer/victim knows.
A transworld back in the oughts the 2000 ishes, John Denley set up a display that we decided was an entire haunt. It was maybe 10 foot by 20 foot and consisted of two rooms and a dark hallway. One actor making sure you paid attention to what the master had to say. Two rooms full of simple but effective animatronics. All detailed out. I was later told how some of the haunts that people started out with were well below 1000 SF. So how many rooms would be in 1000 SF? Maybe 10 the way I do it and everyone of those stations can be something completely interactive that takes 5 minutes each to enjoy.
Jim always jokes that all you need is a story and open field and a shovel about graves in the area.
People give ghost tours for $30 a pop to groups of 10 to 30 people and they don't even go inside or own or rent any of the buildings they tell tale of.
I had a stretched limosine that was getting kind of torn up and thought many times seriously about adding it to mine or another haunt that saw more people, literally driving out into the wilderness on country roads to locations where actors were waiting. Sort of the Limo from Hells tour. You could actually advertise and pick people up at their homes. I actually got the idea as I got pulled over one night and the hillbilly cops started wearing me a little thing. There was bird seed from a wedding and they decided they wanted to search my car. They said there aren't any dead babies or weapons in here? I think they just wanted to see what the inside of a limo looked like put I promised myself if I ever did get pulled over again it would be completely weirded out. Opening a little door and something would pop out at them, the trunk would infact be an entire little diarama of dead babies. Maybe the doors would lock on them and gas would start pouring in. The cops had a little form you sign that you agreed to letting them search your car. I would have my own form that if you have a heart attack in searching my vehicle I'm not responcible. Somehow I figured this on the road show would bring in about $5,000 per show as they later got sued searching a vehicle with no probably cause. Go ahead take 2 hours out of my life asshole.
I was offered money to bring the limo as a shuttle at a larger haunt but wasn't into really tearing it up going from a mud parking lot to the front of their event. I just liked my car too much and it could have been much more of a business. I liked going to the laundromat in a limosine. In restoring it, we discovered all kinds of frame damage like it had already been though the Chuck Strange Stunt Show and never put it back together or sunk lots of money into it. I really should have just chopped the roof completely off and made it into something crazy or used it anyhow. At spooky level when I wanted class level again.
In my region there are what are called trades days. Giant flea markets that have been there for years that cover miles and miles. Outdoor spaces and many pavilions. Infact a few little things have been there for years. For $3 you can pet a miniature donkey and go into something about 16 foot by 8 that is for kids to experience a gold mine. I haven't been inside but I can imagine rock walls and an old prospector, some mine carts, maybe a water effect. Maybe what is in my head is better than actually seeing it. Little kids can pan for gold over a little trough and get to take home what they find. The thing is I know some people that have worked one trade days for 20 years and in November they saw 1.5 million people. You have to do a lot of dividing because there are so many places for people to be that they may never walk by your little event but I figured it could make $3,000 to $4,000 a month as it is open 4 days per month only. It could be 1000 SF, set up and taken away each month. It could be a complete living if one wanted that lifestyle. Or was trying to gather funds for something much more elaborate. Renting the space is only $150 a month. Maybe it is a once a year Halloween season thing.
Someone had set up one of those Beast Inflateables and upon hearing about it jumped in the car and drove the 50 minutes to see how it was doing. Apparently it did so well they thought closing after dark in the cold was just fine. It was not running people through by time I got there. It looked like it rolled up and fit into a 20 foot trailer that was 4 foot high made into a black plywood crate and a nice truck. Nothing too fancy except the Beast itself is big bucks. You need a few people to roll up very heavy rolls of this tarp like material and put it on skids.
Many haunts I have spied have wheels on everything like rock band roadies where everything can be moved in a few hours into trailers and gone. Lots of people have car trailers, 16 foot trailers and you can simply pay the fee for a roll back tow truck for really big things or there are services that move little buildings and there are also PODS you can rent. haven't done it but I have one 8 foot trailer that is enclosed I keep imagining all the air compressors and sound system are in and it rolls in and the wiring harness is rolled out across the top of the haunt and it is sort of built in somewhere out of view. It does get used to deliver props and kind of fits in there anyhow.
The trailer that actually moves the walls is small 4 by eight open trailer with side metal bars and the walls go inon their side, 22 or so at a time wedged in and it has an old timey 2,000 pound axle and it could never be sold for what I have into that one trailer. Even though there are semis and storage facilities, the small trailers and gathering the assistance of anyone with a pickup and a trailer, even just a pickup is better than moving a semi trailer 4 times. Move it there, unload it, Move it out of the way, Move it back to load it, Take it back to where it is parked. For a while I had a fork truck but it is still quicker to just have lots of people grabbing things. I got too used to putting really big things way up high. That sucked when the fork truck was so worn out it wouldn't start anymore. Still there again, I paid $800 for it and 3 years later got $730 scrap price for it. So 3 years for $70?
I prefer building things people can actually carry or no more than 2 people are required to set something up. My back actually got better when the haunt got sold. I had dreamed of being able to use all the ADA features myself, rolling through setting up with a powered wheel chair that has an oxygen tank, an ashtray, some kind of sugar IV going all the time, a coffee mug holder and a bullhorn to bark out orders. Another thing that just might not happen.
04-01-2011, 07:05 PM
Seeing episodes of American Pickers reminds me of some of the old timey junk guys. One in particular had pretty much turned his pile of crap into mazes that the normal person would not walk through with out being distacted or feeling scared, lost? To me it was fun and actually inspiring. I was there to save a 67 hearse before the crusher got it. He took us to a second location that was wilder and more maze like that no one could have known how to get in and find something they might feel of value with out him giving the tour.
Buildings were assembled or more like cobbled from junk, there were sections of chain link fence where all the junk yard dogs would rush you in a limited pathway. He had taken hog fencing and made a canopy that things were hanging from 10 feet in the air. Large things like a cement mixer off the back of a truck was up on end and painted like a giant scary clown face.
I was able to make him laugh and he had some lines developed over the years. One of the dogs came up and I petted it. He said that's YOUR dog now, you have to come by and feed it everyday. When I got to the hearse the door had not opened for anyone since 1970. I walked up and the door opened. He said after all these years, that's your car. He was almost crying which got to me too. I had been wandering around in there describing what a haunted house was to a man who had been building crazy land for 60 years. Everytime I would tell him something, he would show me something else or similar.
So how much does it cost to have a haunt? How much does it cost to make a maze out of used refirgerators from trash day in an open area? How much does it cost to line up wrecked cars? Build spooy things only a demented mind would imagine building things out of? Or does a $300 vacuum form panel somehow impress you? Will it really give off that $300 feeling to your customers? Nope, they look like they are worth $7.50. Is that all you think your customers inteligence is worth?
I have experienced some cool outdoor crazy haunts as well. Pretty much a maze of junk dividing pathways and only the actors knew how to get through it. Since it really is junk it can be outside and rot. You will be surprised how a haunted house ends up doubling as a sales lot for old gas pumps and such. People saw it at Halloween time, How much?
You can have one small building with dozens of ways in and out that outdoor trails are shaped like flower pedals. The people go out into some amount of time and weirdness and return half a dozen times and the actual building only has maybe 3 rooms, moving walls and secret panels behind book cases. YOu will be financially rewarded for cleverness.
Plan 33, you must visit the Raven's Grin Inn, open all year long every night. Mount Carroll Illinois. Be There. Even worth the travel from New York. Or in my case Texas. Been there a few times. You will never recreate anything but it will support the entire theory of how much do things cost? Nothing but lots of imagination and physical work. $85,000 in welding rod, nails, screws, pizza. Not really. Maybe over 23 years? Maybe a million dollars? Yeah really. Yet the guys that write $150,000 checks for props at Transworld don't quite get it. Yeah we are scared that 24 foot tall flopping latex thing in the dark zone could really fall on someone. Thats all the scary it is.
I think to some degree, there is a larger part of the population that when they realize how much these toys cost, and someone was able to buy them it kind of pisses people off. You really like the old guy driving a red corvette right? He is now so cool. High dollar props are the same thing I think. It is better to have a hundred hours into something original that no one can pt a value on if they started digging. The other people that start digging are attorneys wondering if they can get something if they sue you. Here have an old water heater. If someone does over a 20 year period manage to get a cut that costs $160 at an out patient clinic to put a bandaid on a boo boo, and attorney sees $18,000 in toy buying power or ten times that.
04-01-2011, 07:52 PM
Certainly it costs money to go get things and haul it home. I got a little nuts and even before there was a craigs list found a building to tear down that was metal with a lumber frame. It was treated lumber and it became enough lumber for a complete 2,000 Sf wall system. Another place someone had dumped a 6 foot pile of 2 by 6's, an old lady I knew wanted it gone. To improve the property, make sure no animals live in there and the fear of fueling a fire. This became countless bridges, haunted porches, even the faces of buildings. It was actually a boat house someone had torn down and dumped. It had been on fire but tons of it were salvageable.
I kind of duplicated then surpassed the concept of a $75,000 haunt. I kept track. It cost $3500. I ran it for 5 years, probably stored things for 10 while it came together and off season, It sold for $4,000. So my real margine was intended all along to be storage costs versus how many paying customers I could get into. I can actually sit down and justify every expense that the man would have spent $75,000. I way exceeded how the haunt worked in creativity. I'm just wonky and refuse to let the bugs out of my wallet. Anybody can spend money. It is a skill to make money.
How much does it cost? I accidentally made $400 Crap! Of course it took 10 years to cash in. Nope how long ago was 1998? What year is this? I must have time traveled again. Crap again! I can't stay in one place. There is alot here still. All I need to do is have a miniature donkey or customers to pet and I'm livin the life!
Over the years I had conversations with people that had sold their haunts. It is both tramatic as well as a fresh start in many ways. It doesn't mean my next one will cost $75,000. There is always fresh junk out there, a new palet of colors if you will. There is also the overall option that it really is junk. You can actually just walk away from it. Knock yourself out, clean that mess up. Ride away in a Cadillac or on a $20 bicycle with a hobo bag, a dog and uncontrollable insane laughter. It's all good. Move place to place leaving behind you contribution to collected and catagorized toxic waste. What people will hold dear when it is presented to them of some value is actually quite hillarious. You just need to make sure in all this stone cold genius that you are indeed making a living. The money goes into your well being.
Plan 34, Invest in yourself, not stuff. Make sure you eat good things and sample the coffees of the world. Really good things. Make your brain work or what ever you call that, that is happening inside my head.
Back in the day when I was figuring out what doing business was I had another book that was only $8 circa 1979. Maybe that was a lot of money back then? In many essays it described an entrepenuerial challenge where a man was dropped off in a town with $100 and no luggage. He bought clean clothes, a hotel room for a week and a few dinners. He walked out a week later with $2600 just finding opportunity in a strange town no one else had realized was not complete. Someone had product they couldn't pay to ship, someone else needed the product shipped and he got a percentage of a very big deal he crafted.
Another story was a guy spent years finding out the value of a dollar. He organized 5 large farms of potatoes to get their produce to market, became partners with someone with refrigeration in rail road cars and developed a cutting machine. Every rail car full of potatoes now cut into french fries and cooled for travel all the way acrossed the country when sold paid $1. Of course it ended up being quite the sensation and there were lots of dollars and way many farms having problems selling things. Ever hear of McDonald's? Can you imagine driving around no where's ville in a model T ford trying to put all the pieces together changing tires pretty often? Even though Mickey D's started half a century later, this is who now ownes those farms. Can you say pay day boys and girls? Sure you can.
I have to say I have one weird freind that pops up to get paid to tear down buildings, comes by with coffins he found in a barn, finds connections of someone has to get rid of junk, has load something that weighs 8,000 pounds on a rented trailer skills. Again, most of these things happen off the grid where people haven't even come to the idea that maybe they should list this on craigs list? Oh that's a pain in the butt, who can help without all that mess? Ta Da! (Insert name here)
04-06-2011, 09:44 AM
I'll tell you what Greg, you seem to have an endless supply of awesome information. I love reading what you type. Alot of what you say scares me, but yet at the same time, clears alot of things up.
I was set on going to a bank and doing the whole "business plan" idea to take a loan out to start up a haunted house. Your posts may have just saved me the hassle.
One thing I am learning to do right now is to try to branch out, and make as many connections with people as possible. It can never hurt you to know alot of people.
I know you dont seem to like the idea of a partnership when it comes to operating a business, especially one like a haunted house, but I disagree with that one. I feel like that by having a partner, you can cut the risk of having a big loss out by a small margin, and have the whole "two heads are better than one" theory of coming up with ideas, and troubleshooting other ideas.
04-06-2011, 09:51 AM
At the end of the day, you are going to be splitting your net profits with your partner, but is that necessarily a bad thing?
And if you can begin to run a successful enough business, you could potentially save up and go open and operate a second business on your own. Just another thought.
04-06-2011, 08:33 PM
Old age kind of makes you cranky enough that you don't play well with others. Pretty much every business I had went on with out me for decades as I brought one good employee up to total speed or a partner that began with nothing but one skill that was needed by a specific business really had no better opportunities in life and with out a partner got rich or became 5 foot wide or took care of their extended families quite well.
There is some sociology that is happening. When you are young you feel like it doesn't matter, if you spend money you can just go make more, if you fail you just get up and do it again. But with partners it can happen right now. However can you really find that match that has as much to offer and no alterior motives and is equally willing to spend every penny like it is a savings account or does it work out that some how THEIR expenses are more important and you get your 50% of the proceeds AFTER THEIR investment is met. Well that is shark crap. Sometimes it might be the only means for people to feel like they have some backing or to get a leg up at all. Sort of a comfort zone.
I got into an argument with an old pro about taking over a high dollar attraction. It brought light to yes, there are all sorts of buzz words and ways of doing things that seem quite normal and the thing to do in business. If it is $650,000 you need you find a partner right? If you take over the right attaction you can just sit around and do other things and it will all work out. You can save or make sure you get some small percentage every year until it runs into the ground. You can go years somehow finding lunch money from some other source of income and turn a profit 10 year down the line.
However the one thing that people always forget about whether it is a business, home or car ownership in the first pride of ownership moments is that everything rots. Also there are taxes on things that no one seems to have any experience paying or calculating into all these wonderous deals that make sure they are never what it started out to be. For a business to really survive, pay all the bills and so much more it has to make serious margine in a short period of time before everything rots and has no intrinsic value.
50% of nothing is still nothing. 50% of some asset like the realestate or the overall inventory might sound good but it usually isn't as liquid as those sales people said, or the failed guys looking for partners hold 100% of the only thing that hasn't rotted somehow. In the beginning it was despiration and one chance or the tenth time trying out this formula that still has Las Vegas Odds of really making it to profit level.
With a haunt, not only do you have all the walls and electical systems but some how all the masks lighting fog machines and lots of the latex and props all was destroyed after a single year. Insurance money goes out the door never to be seen again, inspections rake up to higher standards every year, more compliance and advertising money is not something you spend money on once and it works for ever like a timex. More people involved expecting to have the whole system ramp up to meet the needs of the many usually ends up in just paying all the bills and no one person walking away with ven a portion of what they could do even having a McJob. So disillusionment sets in eventually.
In middle age I got a little smarter and pretended to be that one best employee and hopeful suggestion maker. I ended up being helpers that turned people's businesses around that gave me the businesses for super cheap liquidation of equipment for all the help I really did for them. Every where I worked in between businesses there was always one guy that is still there putting up with the shit 20 and 30 years later. Putting up with things I certainly would not and didn't.
It is human nature that at some point someone takes over and becomes an asshole and someone has to go and someone has actually earned something and either gets it or it is tough shit.
04-06-2011, 09:28 PM
You can be a serial entrepeuner, and just keep starting businesses and merger them, sell them, become a consultant. You can become a totally free advisor to 100 companies and be in on the stock options. A real study of businesses is that they can't for some reason stay just a normal little happy machine that does something and makes enough money to make a living. It has to grow and grow and try new things and adapt and grow and evey growth spirt is where you make the money, if some one made you get an insurance policy there is a mark up on that and everything else and you make money by the frequency of how you have to comply with things and get a pay check for everything you have to do. Even owning or becoming part owner of something thus becomes an ever more demanding job until wait a minute, it isn't able to grow anymore. Things are changing and we have to do something and it isn't going to pay something unless we sell out and grab a percentage. Or we have to go public or get a Japanese guy to buy all this or get a Chinese company to take it over and be the operating management company and on paper we have all these holdings. We don't care if the bank is making money because we are making 10 times that because we had to deal with the banking issues.
Okay none of that sounds like a haunted house. It sound like why the economy failed. A haunted house can be a business that over a ver long period of time, to the tune of 20 years become something. The only thing that has any intrinsic value is what is in you head as having worked, looks good, is enjoyable for the actors to do and thats the end of it. But, for some reason everyone has to go through all these false start issues and rely on previous experiences being an employee guessing what the banks reason for doing this or that. Or how this technique of problem solving might apply. Again way too complicated.
So after years of experience I began to ask myself why I helped all these idiots. Why did someone that needed the lowly help of me of all people get my help and get what they wanted, the dream of their life. Why have I made millions for people and if I was to walk in and ask to bum $25 or $20,000 they have a thousand conditions? Because I taught them to think that way. What ever money they make is theirs.
You can right now do anything that will make more money than some long drawn out haunt brand that is years in the making. You could find that one car in a barn somewhere or that one antique for $5,000 and double your money. You could even put the entire deal on someone's credit cards and flip it right now and have no fees. But now building something that is going to become a life style is another matter all together.
So, I made it a point to study those weirdo haunters that made the test of time by themselves and in all the stable deals and all the not so stable deals that sort of define where they are as a player and in the market as a whole. If you rely on anyone else, a partner a contractor or what ever to do any major portion of your deal, you haven't leaned how to do the whole deal. You only know the mechanics of getting someone to do this other part somehow and hoping they are as good. They won't be.
In some of the companies I deal with here it is actually hillarious. We are subcontractors and generally I make my deal with who ever actually owns the company but I might have 5 middle men calling me in the course of business calling for our services. So over time to incentivise all the long hours, gung ho commitment and such this one owner makes everyone a partner and vice president of this or that. To compensate I make my helpers vice president of troweling, vice president of hose holding and executive vice president of hand sanding. Because when it all went down, these people were still actually employees with fancy titles. When they screwed up or times were slow they always could be booted out the door and pop up at another business to continue what ever their drag was somewhere else. For some reason none of these people ever seemed to have some legal binding document that they were part owners because they would then also be part responcible for the billions in debt all these companies got themselves into, the reason everyone has to put in all these long hours anyhow to make sure they surpass the debt and their payroll every week.
In the real world even though they might have been made a partner or vice president and executive superintendent of something fancy, no one is actually going to work from 5 AM to 8 PM 6 days a week. They may put in the hours but they are just going to at some point go though the motions and have all the answers. Long term they are going to figure out all the got was a title and a demand to do this or hit the street. So there is presenteeism. The hours make them chronically sick, they realy only do aout 4 hours of real work aday and figure they are getting over making so many dollars for those 4 hours until the jig is up.
Now in reality, a haunted house is really only demanding of super long hours for a month or six weeks so maybe it can be done. It is the whole purpose of not really kiling yourself off season and pacing out the whole year but, when you do work it is like an olympic event and it gets done. If you chose to make it a fast paced deal to reach some super goal, it might pay off. Typically people given the right pressures will injure themselves, get into car accidents, forget they left the kitchen on fire, blow out a heart valve, put on the pounds, offend everyone they meet and all the while blow harding about how they are owners in a business instead of doing something with their hands that yeilds money.
You can't take someone with street smarts and someone with an academic pedigree mannerisms and make it work. Maybe for a short time the street smart guy plays along but as soon as all the little forms or mannerisms are revieled who needs the college degree guy and his high ass demand for money? A haunted house is not necessarily the type of business that has to list a professional engineer and a bar registered attorney on the board of directors or the payroll. Instead if you need these things you rent them for a short period of time. If they don't produce they don't get their final check. You might have to pay $50 to $375 per hour for some short term but that is SO much better than all the time it takes to make someone partners and disolve what ever is neccessary to get them out.
There will be so many other things like the entire population has had to leave town for lack of work, there are 5 competitors now, someone with serious money is coming to your town, they might not stay but, for a couple years are going to kick your ass for no reason what so ever. And you want to make you domestic life a serious hassle on top of that?
People in general totally over value what they think they are worth or what they are expecting to get out of this if something happens in the worst case scenario or if at some point they just simply find they want some free time. Everyone seems to think that the median income of the country is $43,000 and that's how much it is. Or they have "I want to be comfortable" in their mind. There is nothing comfortable about putting so many hours in you discover you are really making $2 an hour as so many real haunters discover. Of course it depends on what town and what market you are dealing with.
The problem is, all of these market that really are something have already been capitalized on. There are already household named haunts in those towns and you can't just walk in because they have given their all for 20 years. So what is left is all the small towns with much lower end yeilds. I'm just being totally realistic. Are you going to take you haunt panels that have been laying outdoors for a year to the big city and make half a million? It has been done actually. The guy I have in mind I thought for years was a doofus but years later I'm thinking this guy was a stone cold genius. Or at least he had learned from the past 25 partners how to do it all and own everything.
04-06-2011, 09:49 PM
What really ends up happening is down the road you have to find new younger people to be all excited to have an opportunity because they have no idea what they are doing but they are going to give it their all. If only for the sake of knowing everything.
So on the first day, do you hand some jack weasel the keys to your 25 year investment and say it's yours? I'm making you manager, partners even, fire everyone, hire a bunch of people who know nothing and run my shit into the ground? No. You get rid of the asshole that has no idea how much long term investment things really take. You empower people who really care no matter what their status and no matter how much it pays. That aren't fooled with titles or different colored uniforms, you want the people that literally cry because you gave them a 25 cent raise and it wasn't the $20 a month more it was that they were really noticed for working harder than everyone else. The ones that are passionate.
So when it comes right down to it, the word partners is a substitute for how can I use other peoples money, other peoples knowledge but rarely is it how can I get someone to do all the work for me. And what ever the deal is, at some point it will just become okay name that tune. It is rare to make a deal with someone and they didn't have some upper hand or alterior motive so maybe you are setting yourself up to be the sucker in the end?
But now we are doing partnerships like it is 1870 and here we have the internet where any information you can think of totally replaces any higher learning or information of how to do something. So what you really need is people that will actually do things. Possibly for delayed gratifcation but actually do something, not just think of things that could be done and debate about what would be so cool. Okay maybe we will do that in 5 years. Fail.
When all these businesses you read about everyday hit the fan, they go into bankrupsty court and get bought out of debt by some other group who will either advance the thing or liquidate everything just to make sure a competitor is totally gone and ruined. Still it works the same for the owners on getting paid to some degree even though they are the ones that ran it into the ground. When a haunt runs aground, there is nothing of value there. Some stake holder might get pennies on the dollar that they had in expenses but then it is way over. It isn't a growth oriented payday business. It is a cycle whether that is 5 years or 30 years in cycle. You too can be worth lots of money on paper. It won't get you anything. Just pieces of paper that supposedly say things. You can't take it to the paper store and cash it in.
All I'm saying is don't fantisize. Really do a poll of markets like yours, is it one guy, a family, two friends that have been together since high school, two families, two major foundation level organizations, a network of secret investors, a kid that has a day job in a fish market working for his mom?
04-06-2011, 10:13 PM
Some people need to experiment and learn. No problem. Others are actually quite capable of starting out with absolutely nothing and making it all the way on their own. They just need to realize that at some point being the haunt owner is no longer fun sometimes. You end up being at the casino behind the glass watching the tricksters try to take advantage of you. You actually let them take advantage of you as long as it achieves some goal. Then you shut them down and tell them the last 4 hours was for nothing cause you cheated. How much fun is that?
You discover your partner threw in a little management fee you didn't know about for a year or two, or you discover the guy you have been paying rent to didn't really own the property all along. Or late at night everyone is yelling at each other because they have been dumb and should have been millionares like the avon lady already instead of having their car repossessed. The secret there is the avon lady is really being subsidized somehow that isn't obvious but, she looks like a success. So is the young guy with the lawn mowers driving a $50,000 truck. It isn't real. It isn't paid for.
A haunt is something that can be totally paid for up front and reap the income. Even the word profits is kind of screwed up. Spend money, make money. Spend the money you make. Make some more money. Profits means paying yet some other obligation that doesn't have to exist unless you let it exist. And when markets are small, you want as few obligations as possible.
And you will have people offer to be your partner but they are already beholding to so many other partners in their lives that are somehow going to be making decisions for you. You might as well just run out into traffic right now and get over with it. If what ever you are planning is going to have some contract involved and that will certainly make sure all the agrements are kept straight?, guess what, you will end up in court and this magical word profits goes to the attorneys. Decades of profits. Thats how things work. No one give a crap until there is something to get.
So really if you are married or have a significant other, you already have a partner. If you are alone, just throwing that word out there isn't going to fix things. You need to just figure out what services and real hands on work you need from others and estimate how much that is going to cost. Or can you be a star and learn and do it yourself using the power of the internet?
We are all your partners if given enough information.
04-06-2011, 11:19 PM
What is at risk? Someone elses money? or your own achievement unlocked. You can get rid of all things scary and risky by simply being the one. Is it a waste? Is it the most expensive party ever or was it some deal that promised someone else something. Unfortunately in the real world these days even no intrest loans are hard to pay back. Don't have things hanging over your head or in your heart and start a haunt.
It isn't a high close sales job trying to get the non refundable deposit, or bank on restocking fees or late charges. There is no definite way to know you are going to make money until you make money. Everything is like that unfortunately. Sometimes you make money and then surprise, it no longer works that way. Sometimes it doesn't actually turn a profit after 5 years. Some times it is actually like being a philanthropist and it costs money every year no matter what you do or who helps.
Just be totally prepared. It might be a tax write off you have needed all along. That you didn't realize you could spend $6,000 a year on haunt materials instead of paying income taxes. And it was fun. I had someone say, shame on my charity event that if it doesn't make money you can't keep playing. Sure I can. It helps the community. I could until the core business that really fed it got slow. Then you discover the community was rather resourceful with out you giving your hard earned money. How fun is that?
In the real world business is sort of like a poker game. 6 people put up their money and over time everyone loses their money except one player gets the $150,000. Some how it all worked out that way, skill, luck of the draw? Strategy? It was just his time to hit? So this is like an advertising region or ticket buying population. But if you could lose that amount of money there were some odds you would win. Six to one you just spent some money. Now if you spent other peoples money and dreams you aren't going to be very popular. So to, who ever sponsors you to play that big card game needs to be daddy war bucks and already happy that he has a player in the game.
If you own everything, you can roll over and over until everything hits just right and have a payday. That might take 20 years of just going through the motions and then over night you are a success. Or you might have beginners luck and not know really how that happened and keep losing until you are labeled a loser. It is better to pace it and finally hit is 20 years later. Are the same people that started going to have 20 years worth of staying power? It does happen. Not for chump change.
Analysis of haunts that go big time every year, they cash out every year. Then miraculously find a way to make it all happen again for the next year and totally cash out. Except for the top 13 best haunts. But other than them, it is like a year long cycle of that story of dropping one guy off in a town with limited means and see if he can come up with something.
It is a total life style. I have had the pleasure of seeing so many people thinking they had some brilliant business hit rock bottom to discover they really only had a life style all along and all those days of not paying yourself, eating cheap to have money to do things with the business was all for nothing. Again sometimes 20 years down the line comes a holy crap moment. They thought big debts would bring amazingly huge pay outs, certainly it is 3rd grade math! It has to work, it always has! Nope.
None of this is any reason to stop. I'm just saying don't over extend money, friendship or family to do it. It should begin small and progress to something successful. If you are going to spend $150,000 and see 800 customers, you might as well poop yourself right now. There has to be something a little closer to break even spending unless you just can't stand those stacks of cash laying around. Even if you hope and dream for 7500 customers the first year the haunt needs to only cost $90,000 with all the expenses paid. Or it sure would be nice to take a $10,000 haunt and 3,000 in advertsing in a $20,000 building and make $90,000. That's more like it. But likely you aren't going to have more than a 30% increase per year in attendance no matter how much you spend. For 800 people you get a $25,000 building donated, sponsors do the advertising and the haunt costs $6,000 to $10,000.
Instead of going on a cruise or going to see Mickey every year you have a haunt.
04-07-2011, 09:13 AM
Greg, I guess what I am still stuck up on is...you gotta have money to make money. Its hard for me to save up a large amount of funds, when only making $10.30 an hour. I know its not a big excuse, but I find myself asking all the time...how am I going to be able to start up a successful haunt when i'm not making very much money at all to begin with beforehand? It makes me feel like I almost NEED to go to a loan officer to ask for money.
04-07-2011, 10:04 AM
Are you contemplating spending way too much on advertising? Do you have people vowing in their personal meditation spaces to make sure they never give you a dime because of your highly saturated low quality commercials? Have you become the obnoxious car salesman?
It used to be that you could expect to spend $2 to $3 per customer to get people to find out about your haunt. However the people spending that much never really proved to be a success and that was SO 10 years ago. Larry's history of haunted houses points out the value of the internet for adertising. With good websites, lots of social marketing, picking an easy to look up domain name and making sure it is on top of the search listing, a little radio and nice posters, I'm gonna say the actual cost is down below $1 a customer these days. Who does the work has changed and how much spam people are willing to take is something they are sensitive to.
The goal should be the add doesn't repeat as often as the listener might want so they have to investigate the web and see your ticket information, prices and further information.
If you have a long complicated domain name, there are other haunts with the same name that are huge but in other parts of the country that are going to squelch anything you put out there, life is going to suck for you.
Participate in or start a little booth or billboard for all haunts at the seasonal Halloween stores. Be the one with the glossy professional postcard sized information.
Even though people will indeed come from 150 miles away, the core of attendance will be from a 30 mile radius. Using census information what is that population? The 30 mile radius is how far people have no problem traveling for a special event with a limited time to see it. You should have a goal of reaching 1% of that population. Try as you might, some will see only 70% or 0.7% and others will have no problems reaching 1.5% of this population. Figuring out why it is not happening is a long list of things that just spending tons more advertising money is not going to make up for.
If you are intrested in making money or a decent return on your investment, you can't be picturing all your 65 year old friends at a Halloween hoe down as the big spectacular event, your children making a buck selling cider and all the kids from church coming in droves. You might have to be multi lingual depending on where you are at. Multi cultural and as far as customers go have no bias as to what backgrounds they might have. Otherwise you are going to have a big private party and there is no resaon to advertise to a wider population. Some locations a 30 mile radius includes the ghettos of the world and these might be your customers like it or not.
People start out with a location because it is affordable or available rather than where is a good market that has no dense competition. Yet in fact the ghettos of the world are actually great high turn out customers. Your advertising can subtley display whether it is okay for them to attend. Do you show all races going through the haunt? Does your web site have choices for other languages? I watched an old guy get up and attempt to give a speech and the young haunt crowd was like yeah what ever grandpa but, he proved it, his attendance was a lot higher than everyone elses. Of course no one ever noticed that or had any idea who he was or got any feed back. He spent all his time appealing to potential customers rather than other haunts. He remained totally unnoticed and made the big bucks and returned back to his little town to buy major property and no one noticed. No one had the time to complain or declare to other customers it isn't any good or anything.
Are you going to spend money hoping other haunts will send you customers and impress them? It isn't going to happen. Not to any dramatic degree. Why would they start an information booth completely manned to let everyone know where the next closest haunt is. Or one you should see unless they are very good friends of yours. Even then we are talking 3 potential customers out of thousands you do need to focus on.
Are your actors good looking people? Are they totally corn fed or zombies on meth? If you are running it as a business this does matter. It will cost you and you won't even know it.
Are you asking people to park their car in a swamp? Or what is about to become a swamp if it rains just a little bit?
You should have a facade that makes the place sort of a sight seeing venue off season as well. Is it on the wrong side of the building? Shouldn't it face the more traveled road? Able to be seen? Is the ugly side of your compound all that people see and make them wonder who would care? It is possible to have many facades to accomlish this. Some of it is not the entry of the house but all displays to give off a certain quality. If those non entry facades are just as detailed as the main entry you really have it going on.
Do you really have nice signage or are you putting up just a vinyl banner that proclaims "haunted house"
IS your event one long string of 3 attractions or are there 3 seperate entry queue lines with each having a nice facade to keep everyone excited. What you offer at the attraction is your word of mouth that either happens or does not. There are opportunities and then there are that's all you have chosen to consider for the customers prespective.
04-10-2011, 12:09 PM
My town is a poplation of 95,000. With all the little towns in a 30 mile radius the total population is about 120,000. Some of the web marketing is going to be available to the whole country but in reality I might see 10 people from other lands and am still only going to spend real money targeting the local market.
If I had no idea what I was doing I would over spend the following.
4 radio stations at $1000 each all types of music and some live remotes total $4,000
A web site paid too much for good grafix and pictures $4,000
Fliers Posters and signs $1000.
Grand total so far $9,000 that I can actually do myself for half that price.
So this puts me at into a market that sees 10,000 at one haunt and 4,000 at another two smaller haunts, actual market redeveloped over about 10 years total 14,000 proven patrons that can increase 20 to 30% per year depending on the economy and what is happening with the population segments. This is actually 11.66% of the local population go to haunts where as in a huge town it might be 1% to 1.5% as a goal
The desired demographic is the haunt that see 10,000 people which would be about 8.3% of the public. At 9,000 I have wil have spent 90 cents per customer to get them here. Not including spending the entire year on all free advertising and on going social media that is built over time. Lets say I'm somehow going to be disiplined and spend 5 hours a week on solid social marketing. I want to make my involvement have some value so I will say I just hired myself for $30 per hour. $150 per week for 52 weeks is $7800. We'll say this took another $200 in office expenses such as coffee, cream and sugar for a nice round figure of $8,000.
My grand total is now $17,000 only I'm not really going to spend that money because it hasn't been made yet. It doesn't get made or paid until tickets are sold and customers are happy. So I'm really only spending $4500 as only 3 radio stations actually want compensated, the fourth is on a trial basis and wants to participate. That's $3,000. The website s really only going to cost $1000 because I will find some one with skills that is actually needing the work rather than call some marketing firm in New York City. I still need at least $500 into posters and fliers. So to me, this means I have to cover $4500 in expenses somehow and this means I need 5 sponsors that will benefit from the advertising campaign or want to be somebody or feel charitable or want to be part of something bigger than themselves. The coffee budget is still going to exist so I have about $300 really taken in fo my efforts before any tickets have been sold other than spending So many hours a week, it has really cost nothing. It has earned some tradeable value.
Final cost per customer is less than zero and 260 hours worth of work. This $17,000 value cost zero and brought 10,000 customers. Say the first year was a little rough getting attention and I only got 7500 to get off the couch. My ticket price should be at least $10 a person. It will increase over the years a dollar to $13 a ticket. Withi more haunts will approach $15 and $18 combo tickets. That first year will be 7500 at $10 a pop. That's $75,000 for a small 3,000 SF haunt or maybe $13 for an 8,000 SF haunt bringing in $97,500. So in actual size, the different available income is $22,500 in more income potential. Was it worth spending the money to make that extra 22K the first year? No. A bigger attraction has bigger over head expenses and is definitely going to get hit with right out of the box compliancy issues that will take that full amount of money or more. A bigger haunt is more scary to the local officials at saftey concerns than an innocent little starter haunt. Even if Im sitting on stacks of cash, the market does not yet deserve this kind of spending.
04-10-2011, 01:05 PM
We wil go nuts here and pay everyone. I want 40 actors in a 3,000 SF haunt 6 hours a night at $12.50 each after taxes. That's $3,000 per night I don't have yet. I will be open at least nights per week for 4 weeks and end up with 12 nights at $3,000. So I have a payroll bill for $36,000 out of my $75,000 potentially earned.
Still so many will help just because they want to. Security and sound and lighting equipment can all be on contract and leased with a pay off in November. Paid out of the money I made from tickets. So how has this cost $150,000 so far? It hasn't.
So far it has only cost me hours a week, 260hours a year and throw in my time for set up and operaton and tear down of the haunt. 72 hours open. Maybe 80 hours set up and tear down and administering all this stuff, total 412 hours and if you know what you are doing, this is high. I still have $36,000 that will come in from tickets. At $30 an hour I have only earned $12,360 out of that. So this leaves 23,000 available for rent, compliance with safety, insurance and the cost of the haunt itself and the materials for the props and costumes.
So on a small haunt, you get ripped off on insurance and pay maybe $3,000. You might actually have an accumulated electric bill of $1000 over the months of set up operation and tear down. If you do a charity haunt all these things and the building too are expenses they cover all the time anyhow and have no idea how much it costs as they don't get to see the books and thus it is free in your calculations. All the help might have only cost $1500 in costumes and yet more sponsors provided meals and goodies to the actors and help.
You use small businesses also starting up wishing to have some notch on their resume to prove to other potential customers that they can successfully complete the tasks and services they are trying to market. In the early days I would build facades and caves, do set design for the cost of the materials alone. I was able to sell the idea I can do this for any attraction like a lazer tag or water park or family entertainment center for only putting in some free labor. There are others out there willing to lend a hand in a similar fashion. To actually try their hand at lighting and sound, or scenic design so they know they can do it. You can find brand new electricians, brand new what ever start ups and give them a big opportunity to say they have done something, been around a certain type of environment and you are a reference for them they may not have had at all. In later years you wil be confindent with the fact you do make money and can pay them and they are already trained in your evironment to come in and do things efficiently.
I'm still at $19,000 not spent yet. Or not made yet. The wall system for a 3,000 SF haunt with big open corridors can be done with 120 panels, the whole outer edge is open for access with one large open outdoor scene in the center running the whole length that is actually a planned access and fire break even inside a building. Really allthough it is all blended together and decorated and one long end hall is the chainsaw run, I really only have 2,000 SF of walls set up in two sections. At $30 each the 120 walls cost $3600. So far this is the only thing I'm actually going to have to buy and make ready ahead of time. With full scale detailing I might spend 2 hours per wall including going to get the wood. I have invested 240 hours. This can be done in 5 hours a week and actually what ever is not assembled yet completed during set up. This might be one year at 5 hours a week and then the second year is all the 5 hours a week marketing. No matter what I'm stuck with a monthly payment of about $125 a month to store this crap somewhere. So the first year I spend $1500 on storage if I don't already have About a 15 by 30 space available I'm already paying for. It doesn't matter what I do, this is the one cost that doesn't go away and can't really be sponsored by others with good concience. It keeps my ownership in years of ticket sales and income.
This total 10 hours a week can be done all in one year but, it is better to have things done and for real and not have the pressure. You already know the quality of what you have, can relate pictures to potential sponsors, even set up rooms somewhere to be photo ops and even whole movies can be set up to promote the haunt yet you realy due to the magic of film or digital magic only set up one room. A whole 90 SF at a time. A whole room can be set up and demo and torn down in about 3 hours.
The bays at my shop actually have an overhead of $250 each for a 14 by 24. I can actually go cheaper by using storage garages 15 by 30 that a boat of RV would normally be parked in for $125 per month. Generally you build a room or two at a time, document them and store them away somewhere. Even semi trailers when you compare expense end up costing more than this $125 per month. It looks cool to have semis but doesn't save any money.
Basically for a $3,000 to $5,000 per year total commitment in money you saved or made somehow, you have created a base cash flow of $75,000 per year.
04-10-2011, 02:26 PM
SO far in this scenario we have paid the actors, gotten contracts for all the fire extinquishers, sound lighting, maybe spent $1500 on costumes, $3600 on a wall system, and have a storage bill of $125 per month.
Now how you handle the location is another thing. For $19,000 you should be able to do something. You only need 3,000 SF, you don't need an old million square foot Walmart building. Even if you have to forgo paying yourself the first year it can be done. If you can lease a place in the fall, you shift your little storage locations to the permanent one right off the bat. Or return to the little ones having only rented for 2 to 3 months.
So if you get 5 people together that each have $20,000 or $25,000 to invest, you can see in a smaller town they are going to be dissappointed with that fast money turn around and big returns on their capital. So don't do it. If you really wanted to divy up your money it could be done with 5 people that have $2,000 to lose on the biggest party they have ever had. Or it can be one person just holding off on that second car, going on a vacation or buying a big screen TV.
I will warn you that 20 years of delayed satisfaction gets really old. In the big city, there are haunts that are really only 4,000 SF making half a million per year. They all started somewhere. If you really did get ahold of $150,000 are you going to take two years off and do $12,000 worth of work? That is going to catch up with you. Wonder why lots of these haunts only last 2 years? I haven't even gotten into actually having 4 to 6 people that can actually do something and how fast it can really all be done. Still, that doesn't make you as the owner magically worth $50,000 per year. That doesn't happen until you are actually making that much per year that isn't ear marked for some expense.
Maybe if you had 5 haunts and could get into 5 hours a day per haunt. If you really empowered so many people to spend $150,000 right now and paid them all, you still only made $75,000 and basically lost $75,000. You will never make that back as every year will have $75,000 in expenses. Maybe over 10 years? Yet most seasonal deals cash out every year on the year. So who gets left holding the bag and for how much? How many people got way too much money for things that didn't pay off or prove to be necessary?
Then you get into analyzing how intimate smaller numbers of customers can be that might be more desireable and cause less hassles with the public officials and seeing 4,000 customers per year, intentionally limiting your advertsing skills becomes more realistic. Cutting down on how many hours you put into this and that. Or going gung ho and doing everything from start to finish in about 5 months full time. What happens when you put a 3 inch screw through your good hand or fall off a ladder and rip your jaw off? Is this physical activity something you do every day or is there kind of a whole body learning curve to be concerned about. Have you turned your life into a national geograhic special where at the gold mine in africa the workers might make 50 cents a week, live right at the mine and might only go home once every two months with their earnings of course after paying their debt at the company store. Working from first light to after dark eating dirt in the hot sun with leprosy and bandages cost 50 cents.
Or you can have it all done, paid for in advance and have the tools to do it at a reasonable pace. How long can you move your whole body around like it is an Olympic event? How long are olympic events? A few minutes?
Even machines can only carry so much at a time. I spent one Saturday night the haunt was open rebuilding the rear end on my truck. It came apart from carrying too much finally just at the 3rd week of the season and The haunt ran with out me as I needed the truck to get to work on Monday. Of course not everyone can just get down and rebuild their own rear end/differnential so maybe there is something wrong with me. It would have cost anyone else several days off and $600. I put it all back together for about $40. But, that is how you have to roll in the non high dollar world. This same truck hauled the haunt out at the end of the season.
Can you actually have the haunt run without you? Was all of your development actually done in advance to allow this? How many years did it take for this to realy transpire as possible? If everything is paid for and already done you have an advantage. You can actually focus on what has to be done. And things will need to be done.
You may have scared a herd of 600 pounders and have to rebuild 500 SF of the haunt in about 20 minutes. You never know and you are going to have to be physically rested enough to do it. By the way, this is another reason to have several haunts with each a different entry and queue line. Don't string 3 haunts one after another. I never did that and have been in lines at haunts for hours where something was being taken care of holding up all 3 themes. Reseting the scares? What are they building walls from scratch and Home Depot just closed?
You really haven't made it on the return of your investment until there are several haunts. Still the entire cash flow system only needs tops about $10,000 put up from the first year. And that might represent 3 to 4 years of actually gathering resources. There is a fine line between bragging about how much stuff cost and how much it really cost. Every stupid article written by someone that has never actually owned their own business or been self employed says to have 2 years income and all the expenses of the business saved up before you start. Really, then what. That would be great but it is always a whole lot blurrier than that if you actually do it and the resources cross over from so many places and you actually get things done.
Just saying it cost $150,000 doesn't mean anything. It really cost $10,000. If it was all to be sold as the crap it is, it might be worth $2500. The end goal is to have a long term cash flow and whether it came from loans or what have you, limiting expense and percentages is efficiently the only way to progress. I'm not saying to be cheap but many of the expense can be cut to 1/3rd if you just don't pretend to be mister money bags with other peoples money. If you do that maybe in the end 1/3rd is actually yours. Bragging rights or making an income.
04-10-2011, 02:38 PM
You can feel real good about yourself being popular with the radio sales guys, the insurance salesmen, the land lords of the world, the advertising guys, the printing dudes of the world, even the vendors at the haunted trade show. You can have them know your name at the bank and so on. These are all people supposed to be serving you not who you need to be popular with.They will all talk bad behind you back anyhow of how pathetic it all is compared to other things they get involved with.
The focus should not be on who is going to cost you money, in fact these are all the people you need to become and replace and get their share of your event. You should focus on being popular with customers, not magical spending equals magical returns somehow.
04-18-2011, 02:06 AM
Greg thanks once again for your insight and advice. Also thanks to everyone that has posted to this thread for your help.
05-01-2011, 05:02 PM
well just to let everyone know i should find out this week if i have a location for a small charity haunt. its a start most likely a 2500 to 3000 ft haunt. will not make any money but should be able to make what i put into it. for now that is all i want, of coarse the charities will get most of the money.
05-01-2011, 06:08 PM
05-01-2011, 06:45 PM
This morning I wondered to myself what everyone is spending $150,000 on and if you had 6 investors that each had somehow hoarded $25,000 to come up with that money?
Perhaps 25 K each on the haunt, rent, insurance and advertising, fire system upgrades, high dollar store bought props and costumes, your lunch money for a year. Then it would have to be pretty fantastic charging $20 per ticket to be able to pay all the investors their percentage. The second year you might have some of those things out of the way like the haunt, props and costumes, fire systems. So the second year it could be cut down to rent, advertising and insurance and lunch money. Then supposedly you begin to profit.
Of course as I suggested a lot of those things do not cost $25,000 each to provide or can be done over several years. Each item you scratch off the list is another thing that brings you closer to being an overnight success. In doing it for a charity and working toward any compensation at all works. You end up with a haunt of the proper size and al the experience. The charity covers the rent, the insurance, the high dollar props and costumes don't have to happen, the advertising can be done for very little money. Of course your lunch money comes from some other source of income but, you are scratching off all these things on the list. The main thing is coming up with all the things required to fill so many square feet with things made yourself and coming up with your dream list of rooms and themes that may not happen until later down the road. You sort of have to think of the charity haunt as perhaps the rough draft for your various scary approaches and they get tested for lameness or discovered to be wonderful.
It becomes sort of a portfolio of what could be done, a resume of what you can occasionally do for people that do have $150,000 and some crazy deadline.
Of couse where the $150,000 guys screw up is that it takes several years to get that minimum $180,000 to pay back all the investors and then they need more investment every year to repeat the cycle as opposed to actually having things paid for and done. Then the first location deteriorates and it becomes a long ponzi scheme of multiple supposedly successful locations as opposed to having changed lives in the community for the better. Of course in that list of $150,000 somehow paying the actors is still missing? Plus now that the TV show Shark Tank is out, so many investors will get the ideal they need to be percentage owner of all your stuff for money rather than just make back 20% per year.
With your long term build up of props and walls and systems, when you enter a deal it isn't like giving someone money that could equally be used for crack of booze or debts with who you are working with. A haunt is to some degree a liquid commodity but not to someone that isn't in the haunt industry. Plus it is very hard for anyone to tell exactly how much something costs. An artist can make things out of nothing. In the early years I did get the luxury of having over hearing conversations among people who should know better look at the haunt I set up totally impressed with all the money that must have been spent. Not really. Of course time is money only sort of unpaid. Plus buying things and aquiring knowledge people have already spent 25 years building cheap is a great help.
05-01-2011, 07:10 PM
At charity level there are 40 people that might have an extra extension cord or drop light or a stereo system to get for free. The molds you make masks and props from never go to the haunt and are sort of your re pet wa. I think that's french or something. Strobe lights and fog machines are expendable expenses as are costumes and make up each year.
I also had a stroke of genius this morning or maybe it was just a stroke. A charity haunt I saw used 8 foot by 8 foot panels and doing it this way is actually cheaper than even mine by about $400 per 1000 SF. I have wondered about this for years why they would have done this and how heavy the walls are to manage. It came down to actual money and wanting to fill 20,000 SF. It worked. Fewer visible seems but, the need for help and industrial level storage handling. I can actually see how it would mean half as much installation time on site. Quicker in and Quicker out equals less labor, bigger impression factor.
If everyone is impressed with your stuff a good portion of the word of mouth is automatic. Set up, actors, organizers all get excited and spread the word as it is happening. How exciting this must be transfers to the media available for charity spots. If everyone is up beat, it isn't a chore or broadcasters wondering why they are being forced to cover some dog and pony show crap. They get into it. At least for a year or so. The second year just having more stuff built off season does the trick again, year three you have to think about actually paying for coverage even though it is a charity haunt. Leaking lots of photos may make up for advertising budget short falls.
As the thing is going on, you have so many participants both as actors and staff as well as customers that all do the social marketing for you as they are doing something completely different and cool. If in fact it can be made to be cool for them.
The fun part is talking to a $150,000 per year guy at about year 4 when they realize they haven't made any money but they are still cool with that. The end result is totally the same only one way is paid for. It's a life style.
05-07-2011, 09:01 AM
Some 30 years ago I was living in a town that 3.5 million people all of a sudden became unemployed. It took 2 years for everyone to come to the realization that you would need to leave town if you wanted to eat. In those questionable days I thought my business might be falling behind and I attended a hotel meeting for the best small business career in America.
I arrived in my suit and sat down among 30 people seated and the program began after fillng out applications. It turned out to be selling hoover sweepers to your mother and grandma for $1850 a pop. Still the set up for this method of sales kind of stuck with me. You make a list of 3 people you are going to see and hard close on your amazing product 5 to 6 days a week until you see 20 people. From other sales jobs I have had I would imagine you would sell maybe one or two a week until you ran out of people you know. Of course by then a week later the guy is having another hotel seminar and weeding out another 30 people and the 30 a week later gets widdled down to only 3 people have actually made it to star status. The guy sold 3 high dollar vaccum cleaners and 27 people made no money at all.
My point is, everyone is fond of developing the wrong method of starting out, hearing what you should do from people that have never done anything themselves. You need a business plan, do you have one of those? You don't need one. You need a list of multiple potential sponsors, a list of multiple people that are going to do things that have skills, a list of where you can gather materials. All in multiples and not depending on any one source to come though for you.
Last week I told another $7500 ob I'm sorry I'm not coming. I spent 3 weeks fielding questions about how the job would technically be done and for a contractor and the city to figure out what is contained in their insurance requirements and every day for 3 weeks it cold be tomorrow the deposit check is in hand and we start. So meanwhile I'm paying more labor than usual to get little jobs done and out of the way to be tied up for 3 weeks doing the "big job" and my other list of 24 jobs is post poning until a month later or to the end of the year because I might not be available right now and some other thing they need to get done can get the money.
These days my lists of 20 places to go are anywhere from 2 days to 3 week jobs and the list also has drop outs or the timing is never quite right and some of them will not make it. Spending lots of time or money going to see some corporate operator who is on salary and dealing with someone esles money is going to drag way out for you to get any funding, a place or sponsorship. Smaller multiple deals will generally come through, so you scale back you overal offering to something a bit more realistic as opposed to it just didn't happen after negotating for a year and a half.
At some point someone has to pay for all of this planning and complaince time. The big deals might sound like something to be excited about but they never are because the person you are talking about generally does not have the check book. They have to go get something approved, the accounting department needs your w-9 for and insurance portfolio or they aren't mailing the check. And of course if it is a service they just disqualified themselves because it would take 3 weeks to a month to get paid as you invoices bounced from desk to desk with people scratching their heads not caring what you had to do to make all of this money to provide the service in the first place or decide if you had done what was expected.
You need multiple lists and if people do not react quickly they get left behind. Now there may be another list of such long term discussions but they don't deserve more than one hour a year discussing things that could happen.
I have a network also of nearly 20 companies finding me work and some might be good for one a year, others call everyother day with something. The whole game is to not become homeless or unemployed ever. Then as things develop there are also 20 things and services or events you can provide, there are 20 alternative ways to get money out of something or 20 ways to liquidate things that are costing you money to store. There are 20 different skills you have mastered. There can never be one thing that is going to make it for you, the one best opportunity in America.
I have contractors asking how I learned to do this and they will never know the real story. Was it the stock market? Being a pimp? How did you learn this? How about being self employed for the last 40 years. Now even older people are out in the real world going to have their own wonderful business and have no idea how the real world works as they have been shielded by some paying job. They have no idea how to do anything but are now a company. They can't get any work because it is obvios they don't know how to not weasel for a deal. It isn't like buying stuff at a flea market, it is respecting how hard people have to work to get what they have. If you are dealing with people saying business plan or quoting they have a budget, you are not talking to people that have actually done it not care to support you to do anything.
Believe it or not, I just saved you 5 years of your life if you can get someone to read this to you.
05-07-2011, 09:17 AM
Another little phrase you should be cautious of is someone saying they HAD a business and know what it's all about. Really why do you not have that business anymore? Now they are employed by somone else and have a totally optoisitic view of how you can bust your ass rather than them.
Even if you have a mind to draw out a flow chart of what has to happen to make what you want to happen, throw on these many lists of 20 ways and 20 people and 20 people to count on, it is still a confusing mess even if you build a war room with all the crap up on the wall where you can see it. The experienced all know this and so pretty much ever little presentation that is lss than 5 pages is definitly going to be held suspect. It becomes more like did the applicant have enough energy to provide all this crap? Can they read and write? did they disclose anything out attorneys can grab ahold of when it fails? How do we make it fail and which attorney do we call for this sort of thing?
Just don't do it. Be completely realistic. Keep it all in your head and know what you want and can actually do. If you have the time to write how to haunt something for dummys, you are an author, you are not a haunted house owner. Or at least you aren't really the most successful or efficient you could be. You don't see many others giving advice in addition to mine because it hurts for them to pul it out of their heads and it is unpaid work to type it all out here.
My only consolation is that I know at least 3 people have made something happen based on what I have written on hauntworld over the last year. Or at least it lead them to their own kind of thinking and resources that made something happen. Some of the solutions to problems have been more unique than I had time to imagine and thus I learn from helping people.
05-16-2011, 02:37 AM
well here is an update. the elks lodge rejected my proposal. said i needed to much time to set it up and take it down. worried they couldn't get there boats in the pavilion before bad weather and had two fund raisers for the lodge already planned for two days in the time i needed. but i purposed another plan and will see where that takes me. wish me luck
05-16-2011, 10:19 AM
If everything is prepped and you have enough help, you can set up and detail 3,000 SF in 14 to 20 days and have it all out in 3 days. Less square feet, less time. All the panels are built and go together on a tape on the floor pattern. You spend a week playing with props, cob webs and electical runs. In 20 day time frame you can actually include building and painting panels.
If this is a charity deal, you can have help from community service where as minor offenders are working for you for free instead of cleaning litter off the roads or doing gardening at the city park. The weather lends to these people having to do community service and not having community service opportunitites to do. The next level up I really don't like is prisoners and gang bosses I have seen at some charities. Generally this would be loading or unloading semi trucks whereas the community service people are usually good people that have been put on notice and really enjoy decorating and building projects.
This is all such a quantity of work that you may be numb during the real operation of the show and have to rely on all the actors and staff quite heavily. It isn't necessarily a bad thing to empower all these people to do everything. It just becomes a personal dissapointment that you can't do more. You have to wrap your brain around what it is that you have enough energy to do.
This seems like a short time frame but it is quite adequate for an in and out charity event. If pressed you could be set up in a week but somehow mentally people want everything as good as possible on opening night. Really pressing the set up might be get things up for opening night and detail further during the week for the following weekend(s).
05-16-2011, 06:49 PM
You are talking full time 8 - 10 hours a day right? That seems like not enough time for the work. I am planning 3,500 sq feet, I have been building for a couple of months, and I am not sure I am going to make that.
05-16-2011, 09:31 PM
If no one has mentioned it, find a copy of Kelly Allen's (Raycliff Manor on the HW board) So You Want to be a Haunt Entrepreneur. I hear that's the best place to really start, especially with creating a business plan...
I bought the book, it has alot of useful info. Most banks want you to put up 20% too.
05-16-2011, 10:43 PM
In the charity world it might only be 5 hour nights but you have 6 to 10 people building two to three people per wall panel, on put up the walls night there might be 9 people actually doing things 3 groups of 3 people holding bolting or screwing and fetching panels. Sometimes there might be more per group grabbing more walls and feeding more supplies than humanly possible and figuring out where the wall they have goes.
All the walls can be there ready to go or some might still be being made as they might be the last ones to go up or are fashioned to be for a special place.
All that and it usually is just me and someone else moving props out one night and the walls the next night. If you realy want to be crude you can drop a haunt to the floor with two people in 5 hours and have it all moved by trailers in one 5 hour deal.
By yourself is a 5 year deal. Anyone can put up a wall but then it takes a day or two for someone knowledgeable to install the over head bracing and make sure there are proper fastners everywhere.
One of my tricks is that everything is painted but might not be assembled until a list of 20 free people have to do something. Or you hire people and they screw you over anyhow on the quality of how it is assembled. I think we were doing a stack of a dozen walls all screwed together with 3 people in an hour and a half. I think it did take a few years of mindless painting not knowing what it would be used for. We decided it stored a lot smaller as stacks of colorized wood and sheeting.
You can be clever and the walls are there ready to set up and built as other events go on and they are simply behind the curtain or under the drop cloths ready to spring into action. When you move in to set up the big props show up and as the overhead beams go in the detailing with small props and machines is going on.
WE use half a dozen shopping carts to assist set up crews with tools and hold screws higher than the floor and the same carts with out the little plywood top self we have becomes reverse prop shopping. Even touch up painting is done with a shopping cart going though the walk tru methodically. Child labor can be used to paint things 2 foot off the ground and below.
We ended up having a haunt but, my origional intention was to have wall panels that we would detail and sell or refurbish and sell. We do spray on brick, tile and textures for a living around pools and patios. We can make cement caves and large facade decor. We found a charity that needed a haunt and it took the second year for them to realize it required srious effort from them. Nothing is magic. Once they got into it the second year we had about 80% of a 3,000 SF haunt up in one night in about 4 heavy hours. If I did it myself it might have taken 100 to 200 hours just to put the walls up.
The haunt that ended up with one of ours as a second attraction couldn't believe how quick it went up for them compared to their normal way of building. The little technique of having lots of people and the layout already taped on the floor makes it a big game to see what it really looks like and motivates people to build the big puzzle.
I have some tricks to disassemble it by myself. One of the laboratory shelving units is heavy enough to drag around and have behind the wall so when it is free it just rests against it. Thats the nice way and they are easier to grab and carry if they never get laid down or stacked. Not everywhere has walls that you can lean 4,000 to 8,000 pounds against. The only time they are down is on edge in a smaller trailer and even in a semi they stand up 8 foot tall jammed from one side to the other. If it is in a rented metal storage building they may be 4 foot tall on edge but it is shaky how many are pushing on the beams of the storage unit so flat is okay but the painted surfaces tend to stick together. If you can throw in different coveing materials and details besided paint they are buffered from sticking together.
Rather than putting in the hours and putting in 8 and 10 hours where you have worked yourself silly to the point of hurting yourself, go for 3 to 4 hour olympic events with lots of helpers. If people are going to be there for 10 hours they will pace themselves and only really do 3 hours worth of work so be done with it and only pay the 3 or 4 hours. They can pace themselves on their couch at home.
05-16-2011, 11:18 PM
I missed adding the point that my day business crew does not work on rain days but, if there is haunt work this fills in thier income a bit. If charity helpers miss the mark I will go in for an hour or two with real help and pay for it despite it being for charity. It is no different than any other job as even a charity deal demands a certain percentage of the ticket price to cover storage, maintenance and general labor. These days it is no different than any sucky commercial job that you work your butt off for two weeks and chase your money for 6 weeks after that. Setting up a haunt is just one more job on our list of jobs to do at the same time we do some other job. Rain or high humidity days means go to the haunt. Within a certain budget of knowing what the attendance will actually be.
If not the day crew there is a second group that can be called in. There are a bunch of people that need money these days even if it is only partial days. Running the day business even has a secret back up crew to finish jobs on time if the group that thinks they are the only crew and can some how screw me by not performing or showing up. Surprise! You don't work here anymore, the job still got done on time, I just called in people they don't even know that have years of skills doing the same work. I have a lot of people who are younger and operating their own business and there are always slow times for any business in the early fall. Some hit it big in spring, some at Christmas time, every business has a season and to have a few of those seasons you have to have different businesses to work for in their appropriate season. Just like if you wanted to invest in the stock market, you figure out what the seasonal demand of some business is and when they need money and when they make money. Of course when they begin to devaluate thier inventory at the end of their particular season, it is time for you to sell. If you don't sell, you never got any money and it isn't for real.
A big selling factor for people helping is they get paid in November and it is money they otherwise might not save for Christmas or some other thing they want to buy. Or the ever popular child support or parole officer payment in a time of the year that is otherwise slow for even other small business minded people. Still you try to do everything with volunteers unless that isn't working at the last minute. Years and years of doing means people know what to do and can be left to do it. Not just warm bodies but a recognition of skills demonstrated over years.
05-17-2011, 12:14 AM
What do u pay to disassemble?
05-17-2011, 07:29 PM
Everyone I have goes for $10 to 12.50 per hour plus some of them need lunch provided. Of course these might seem high or low depending where you are tuning in from. Now that gas to get here is so high and people are spread out some distances I have also thrown in another $10 for gas to get here. If the people are not used to being self employed and need their taxes taken care of they will make $8 to $9 through a temporary service and still cost $12 to $13.50 per hour.
Somehow I did something ahead of time to earn this money so if someone is going to cost $60 to $100 a day I need to see something done besides they successfully consumed their lunch.
The tear down is very important to not trash things and get your assets out of some place and back into protective custody. When dealing with a charity be prepared that they will want to "store" things for you. Sure that's helping out. So plan on them paying you enough money as if they bought all that stuff from you or be sure to get it all out before they think it is all up for grabs or some kind of souvenier they earned. Many of the costumes will disappear and it costs more to track them down that they are worth after a season of abuse. Plan all of these expenses like you are a party rental store. The chairs and tables all come back but, the center pieces and table clothes are gone.
Have things bolted to other things too hard to take away without a crew, have lots of big props that can't be carried by hand, things built into trailer sized modules. Big things already trash and scrap that no one would want. That makes them haunted. Alas this style of operating requires serious help when everyone else has decided they have had enough of their halloween season.
05-17-2011, 07:58 PM
Some handy ideas:
Instead of having $30 per wall panel collect junk refrigerators and put them into a maze pattern with some open with body parts, others someone might pop out of or something might, after the season they can be stored in an non disclosed location or taken the scrap yard for cash. No one wants to help themselves to them. The only investment is the gas it took to pick them all up and take them away. They get abused and are unsightly and take up lots of storage space. They can be kept outside but eventually it is time for scrap price money in January. $9.75 per hundred pounds seasonally. The bigger formula is you got paid to see junk that is turned in for the money it took to get them, no storage fees off season. Lots of space decorated and unique, no cost of lumber, paint, fire retardant, scenic design elements and labor. I haven't done it yet but imagine how memorable and what word of mouth 1,000 SF refrigerator maze would bring. Some I have lightened up by taking out the compressors, cutting access holes occasionally to get in from behind.
Build lots of crude wood coffins. Not focusing too much on pretty as they will get beat up anyhow. They become the crates that are stackable that all the small props and lights go into. They in the haunt can be all over the place or actually a maze like display saving even more walls being needed. Same goes for barrels and drums. Get away from just walls.
One helpful bit about not using animatronix and relying on actors and puppets is that there are no tools or air compressors to steal. If you do use tools they go home every day.
Even something like a cave can be moved with a roll on tow truck in bite sized sections. Try to steal that!
Any devices you use, sound equipment, controllers, fog machines are built into something that no one can get into.
09-04-2011, 09:45 PM
Hey everyone!! here is an update!!! We will be opening October 7th. only Fridays and Saturdays for 4 weekends!! we will be a charity Haunt. but that is ok, its a small start but its a start. about 3000 square feet of haunt. that is planned. come visit our website. www.nightstalkermanor.com.
Thanks to everyone for the advice. some were right it doesn't take big loans or even big money to get started. just the will and hard work... thanks everyone!!!
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