During our first webinar a rather interesting question came up. What are some of the common pitfalls of starting a haunted house? It is one of those questions I have left long behind me as I have encountered many of the answers to it and our consultant has too so it was not something that was at the forefront of our minds. So when this question came up we were all over it because there are a few answers to this and one major one that many people just do not see. I want to take a moment to share some of the things we talked about that rose up from this question.
The number one pitfall for those moving into the haunt business is that you will make tons of money your first year. I am not saying that it can not be done but you should not plan on it. On average a haunt will not make money until its third or fourth year of operation. A solid kick butt plan could prevail and provide you with profits the first year and if that happens then more power to you but you should not go into this business thinking you will make a ton your first year of operation.
There are several examples and you will hear people talking about hey look at that haunt, wow they charge $20.00 to get in and look at that line it goes around the corner there has to be 400 people there, wow if they do that all night that’s like 1200 people a night and they are open 20 nights thats like $160,000. We should open up a haunt we could make a ton of money.
What is not being seen or taken into account is it is not that busy all month long, you may only see 50 to 100 people your first couple nights and then Halloween weekend maybe you push 2-4k through the door. So your not going to see that every night, some nights a slower than others and some nights are just controlled chaos cause its so busy. Next is the fact they are paying rent for that location if its temporary which means who know how much a month could be $500 to $5000 and its not just the month of October its 2-3 months prior and a month after to build up and tear down so that could be 20-30k just for the location. Then you have to add electrical in, insurance, permits, security, marketing and the list goes on. Also has that haunt been there for just a year or two or for ten or twenty years in which case yes they are pushing 40,000 to 60,000 people through the door but they are established and have amazing word of mouth and loyal customers while a new haunt has none of that and may only see 2,000 people its first year but maybe in five or ten years they are seeing the 40-60k numbers which is when the money starts rolling in and you can afford to purchase a giant warehouse for 1 or 2 million dollars and have the $10,000 custom props built.
So the number one thing is to plan to be in business for several years before turning a profit. If you plan out your business plan for 5 years and you see profits in the last 2 years in your plan you will be prepared and if you end up turning a profit in year 1 or 2 then hey your ahead of your plan and you can adjust it as needed. A haunted house business plan is your roadmap, it will show you your goals, where you are headed and when and where the money needs to go, without it your dead in the water and your chance for success is vary low. Seven out of ten new employer firms last at least two years, and about half survive five years and its estimated that 80% of small businesses will fail within the first 5 years without a business plan. So the numbers speak for you, make sure you know the ins and outs of the haunt business and know business items too its not like your yard haunt where you just build it and they will come when you charge money its a business and there is a lot more to it.