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!!!
Keep it coming Greg, I will absorb as much as i can... Thanks for all of it so far.
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!!!
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?
Last edited by Greg Chrise; 03-23-2011 at 10:32 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.
Some people have just plain figured out how to enjoy every moment of their life. Where is that paragraph on the business plan?
Okay I read everything again and I don't sound too (insert the R word)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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