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robos99
11-01-2007, 11:20 AM
Hello all. I've been lurking here for a while, soaking up all the great information available, but now I think it's finally time for me to seek some advice.

I've long wanted to open a commercial haunt, but it's seeming that it's unrealistic to expect to do this sort of thing full time and not have a day job. I've seen some recommendations for haunting full time and working part time, but my current job just doesn't allow me much free time, certainly not enough to work at a haunt during the busy season.

After considering that reality, I've set my sights on being a haunt vendors, making props and such for the commercial haunts. It might not be quite as thrilling as scaring the crap out of people, but it's still something I have a passion for.

So I'm in the process of writing the business plan, but I'm having some trouble figuring out how much money I should expect to make, since this isn't exactly a traditional business. So I thought I would post here asking for any advice anyone could offer.

I also have a few specific questions. For one, do you ever buy props from new or otherwise unknown vendors or does everyone stick with the well known companies?

What budget do you typically have to spend on new props every year?

Is there any interest or market for systems designed for haunts, but not necessarily props that will scare people. For example, a centralized haunt audio system, or haunt safety systems, or other such things. Do people ever buy these things or is the money typically spent on props?

Is there a specific type of prop people tend to buy more of? For example, do people trend towards buying the latest greatest high tech scares, or is there any interest in some of the more traditional items (like latex masks)?

Also, are there any resources you can point me towards on building haunt props? I've been checking out the product lines from other vendors, I've just ordered a couple books from Devious Concoctions, and I've soaked up a wealth of information around these forums.


A little background info on my business. I'm plan on starting out small making latex masks and work my way into a few advanced props, but I'd really like to push the envelope and start coming up with automated props with more degrees of movement, not just the typical pop-out-and-scare types that seem to be so common. Or would this be a waste and should I focus on that classic method of scaring instead of re-inventing the wheel?

Any advice anyone can offer will be much appreciated. I've seen first hand just how much knowledge you people have around here. Just don't try to talk me out of it, haha. If I only cared about money, I'd be a stock broker. I just want what everyone else wants, to get paid to scare people.

woolf
11-01-2007, 11:59 AM
We must have been typing up our thoughts at the same time as I just posted a thread pretty much asking the same thing: What will it cost? Had I seen this thread I would have just added my questions here. I hope we get some responses!

AcoreMANNER
11-01-2007, 11:32 PM
I too have the same haunt dreams and desires. I plan on selling props to finance my hauned house, that I'll also make money from. Like you said robos99, taking more risks and work my way into more advanced props as I go along.

I've been developing ideas and all, very excited to take the humble steps necessary to make it happen.

I'm trying to get involved with a haunt/prop company/mask company/etc, so I can learn the ropes of how a small company functions....and also because I need a job so I can save money to open my Haunted Manner in a couple years (been doing it for 10 years....I have a lot of supplies already, and a healthy fan base). I also need to really get in touch with my communities.....get my name out there and let them know what The Haunted Manner is all about, I need to get touch, get involved, and get some people behind me.
And then maybe, just maybe if I've saved my money and planned right, then I can hit the ground running, selling my props in the offseason.

First I need to get a job with a haunted business for experience sake, but mainly to start saving and putting aside money. Constantly rewriting, revising, reworking, resetting my approach, keeping it light but competetive.

When I read robos I laughed cuz its like exactly where Im at.

robos99
11-02-2007, 07:19 AM
I too have the same haunt dreams and desires. I plan on selling props to finance my hauned house, that I'll also make money from. Like you said robos99, taking more risks and work my way into more advanced props as I go along.

That's funny, because that's the one part of my plan I didn't even mention. hehe. The whole point of making props is to finance a seasonal haunt....and to stay in the industry full time.

Nice to see I'm not the only one, but so far there's been a lack of advice here. Perhaps all the pro haunters are still busy with the season just ending.

Mr. Haunt
11-02-2007, 09:45 AM
I have thought about such ideas. I am creative and artistic person. My best subject in school was art class, go figure. I am one that likes to do things with the hands.

I want to do my own haunt some day as well. I know that this could also be one way of funding my own pro haunt, or at least helping in the funding department.

Anyway it's nice to see that we all have the same dreams and goals. I hope for the best for everyone. Halloween for me is the best holiday next to Christmas!


Have fun!

Brian

Barry
11-02-2007, 10:27 AM
Well, here are my thoughts:



I also have a few specific questions. For one, do you ever buy props from new or otherwise unknown vendors or does everyone stick with the well known companies?

I suppose that depends on a number of things. Is it an expensive prop? Am I taking immediate delivery? Personally I give preference to vendors who are at MHC especially since our show is is a perfect place for vendors to get their feet wet in the industry and we attract a lot of new companies.



What budget do you typically have to spend on new props every year?

Our haunt is not prop intensive because of the time we have to set up each year but we spend 2-3K annually. This amount is very small compared to other attractions.


Is there any interest or market for systems designed for haunts, but not necessarily props that will scare people. For example, a centralized haunt audio system, or haunt safety systems, or other such things. Do people ever buy these things or is the money typically spent on props?

There is a market for them (see the other thread about audio). As more states are requiring centralized fire/alert systems I see a market for these as well.


Is there a specific type of prop people tend to buy more of? For example, do people trend towards buying the latest greatest high tech scares, or is there any interest in some of the more traditional items (like latex masks)?

People are always looking for something new and creative. Just look at the success of Oak Island's Claustrophobia Walls this year. There is a perfect example of a new idea being presented to the haunt industry and being very successful.



A little background info on my business. I'm plan on starting out small making latex masks and work my way into a few advanced props, but I'd really like to push the envelope and start coming up with automated props with more degrees of movement, not just the typical pop-out-and-scare types that seem to be so common. Or would this be a waste and should I focus on that classic method of scaring instead of re-inventing the wheel?

See my answer above. :)

Barry

robos99
11-02-2007, 11:43 AM
Barry, thanks for the tips. It's all greatly appreciated.

Glad you hear you take preference to those at MHC since I do hope to be an exhibitor, if I have this all together by then.

I'm also hoping to attend Transworld as well, but not exhibit. After seeing all the information available here I've gathered that the trade shows are a big source of sales for vendors, and the stats available for these shows tend to support that thought.

Another question I just came up with. What is the typical arrangement with vendors in terms of selling large props and delivery/payment? Is it typical to do a 50% down/50% on shipment arrangement? Do most of these vendors have product on hand or do they custom build? Looking at my business plan I'm thinking it's going to be hard to make the more advanced props and keep a decent inventory on hand. Seems kinda crazy to have a few multi thousand dollar props sitting around that might not even be bought.

Transfusion Tom
11-04-2007, 10:16 PM
Intellectual property, especially in unique prop fabrication, is a point which you should take into consideration. Often times, good props/ideas will be used by others who can take the prop and manufacture at much cheaper prices abroad, China, etc. A few who I know who work on the prop side of the business say that was one of their larger obstacles to overcome. A general rubric to follow: the simplier the design, the easier to replicate. See if you can tie in with a larger manufacturer and do a specialty design series featuring your products. Helps give you greater exposure, plus less overhead, i.e. renting a warehouse/shop for fabrication, molding, etc. Just my two cents

robos99
11-05-2007, 11:53 AM
So how does one prevent theft of intellectual property in this business? Sure you can patent a design, but that doesn't prevent someone from ripping it off, it just makes the act illegal. Of course one well known audio manufacturer has the reputation of stealing other designs, using cheaper (and lower quality) components, and selling them as their own. The pros know alll about it. But the consumers have no clue and still buy up all their stuff. I imagine similar problems happen in the haunt business.

My intention is to make all my products of the quality you would expect from custom made items. No cookie-cutter mass produced stuff. There would also be a great deal of time invested in the artistic end of things as well. Has anyone seen a manufacturer flat out rip off the art work as well? I'm not even sure how it would be done, but I suppose it's not impossible to make a mold of the finished product.

AcoreMANNER
11-05-2007, 12:15 PM
To answer your question Robos, dont artists sometimes sell the design to manufacturer. For example Don Post kinda went under so their designs became available.

Robos, do you have a place where you can make and ship your props?
I really want to spend time in the unseen end of things too but right now Im thinking of what I need to do now.

Like, its easy to get thinking about how great our haunts are gonna be and how its gonna be when we start making props but then afterwards it's like "Dang , howcome I dont have my haunt business yet?" ...and it's because were not focusing on the small steps we need to take to get there.

I know this....

ths will be the Hugest offseason of my life.
A signifigant chnge from now to next year will be made

robos99
11-05-2007, 02:47 PM
I don't have a shop yet....I'm still trying to determine whether this will be financially feasable so I can discuss that next step with my business partners who are concerned about the bottom line.

I would actually be somewhat interested in simply selling my designs to someone, or having someone else manufacture them for me. My main concerns would be whether or not this company gets to keep intellectual rights on my products, whether or not they will build them to the quality that I want associated with my name, and whether or not the company will be run professionally.

Are there any companies out there that will act simply as a manufacturer? As in, you provide the designs and then hire this company out to build and ship your products, but still under your name. How would such a thing work? I could see how engineering drawings can easily be sent, but a lot of haunt props require some artistic work. Would the designer send them a sketch? A clay model? Ready made casts?

Jim Warfield
11-06-2007, 06:41 PM
R U Kidding?
Walk into Wal-Mart or any other large retail concern, whose name as far as country of origin is all over almost everything?
China.
American, USA companys have sublet 99% of their manufacturing to them, for better or worse.

AcoreMANNER
11-06-2007, 08:31 PM
hmm........

AcoreMANNER
11-06-2007, 08:32 PM
another dead end

robos99
11-06-2007, 09:14 PM
R U Kidding?
Walk into Wal-Mart or any other large retail concern, whose name as far as country of origin is all over almost everything?
China.
American, USA companys have sublet 99% of their manufacturing to them, for better or worse.

I was talking about specifically in terms of haunt props. Having never been to the conventions I suppose I wouldn't have seen it if such a thing did exist.

What I'm not sure of is just how you would go about doing that with haunt props. If you want to make a car overseas, no problem, just send them the designs. But no one has to sculpt the body of a car out of clay to make it. How does a product line with artistic needs get manufactured?

Jim Warfield
11-06-2007, 10:40 PM
Are you the artist? If not, find one, hire one, they work for money.
Sometimes a smaller sum if they get some future percentage of the sales, the arrangement may even inspire more inspired work coming from that artist?
Take a mask for instance, the sculpting is half the work, the paint job really "sells" the look of the work and makes all the difference in the world as to how potentially valuable the finished product will be.
Once you send a mask mold across the border there is no saying if they will produce the same mask and under sell you!

HauntedWebby
11-07-2007, 12:18 PM
How does a product line with artistic needs get manufactured?

Distortions started by designing/molding/making their own stuff. Now they are too large to make everyones, so they still make some ... and contract out for cheaper copies. You can tell the quality of work is different. It's not their fault, not everyone holds the same standards they do. Theirs is high, contracted out is low.

Not that that answers your question, but you should produce your own until you have to contract out. :)

robos99
11-07-2007, 03:04 PM
Thanks for all the info, but I was actually thinking of doing the opposite. Manufacturing for other people until my own designs have been perfected enough to sell, and then start making those too. Any thoughts on this?