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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A friend and I ran a fund-raiser haunted trail last year and expect to do it again this year. We had a lot of fun and felt we were successful.
We would like to turn this into a business and are looking for any advice or suggestions that anyone would be willing to offer, especially in the area of legalites, licenses, and acquiring property.
 

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hey tot13,
I'm in the same boat as you. I am working toward trying to open Pro this year. Over the years I have gathered a few books that i think have helped me get ready for this. One is the old standard from Phillip Morris called "How to operate a Financially Successful Haunted House" and the other is called "Field Of Screams" by Michael M. Cruz.
Other things I have learned from Leonard Pickel and others is stuff like:

-permits - things like certificate of occupancy and fire inspection

-Fire codes - I'm not in the city and the county says they don't have fire codes for rural building out here

-liability - as sole proprietor someone can sue and get your house, I'm going for LLC, Limited Liability Corp, they can only sue and get the asserts of the company

-Insurance - find a special events agent, the guys covering your house may not know how to help you. and if your leasing you may also have to get extra to cover him from being sued

-Advertisement/promotions - a lot of the stuff i have read says this is as important as the haunt itself.

some of these depend on the codes where you are running your haunt. if its in the city limits check with the city office. if your out of city limits check with your county office for what kind of codes they require.

Leonard has some great articles on his site on some of these things at:
http://www.hauntedattraction.com
 

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I am concerned with the business end of getting started. We dont have a building yet, we arent sure which town it will be in exactly, so do we get a business license to keep our name before getting the building? Can we do that using our home address? We live in California, so codes are a mess, and we have already had loads of trouble with our home haunt from the city already because they run their own haunt and dont want competition. So we are applying to the state for the name, once we get it, its reserved for 60 days. What do we do next? We cant afford to rent a space for the whole year...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Wow, I had forgotten about this thread. And here I am planning for our 2011 haunt (our 6th year) - and it's still a non-profit fundraiser. After crunching numbers, I realized there's no way to turn the current haunt into a for-profit haunt so I've been satisfied to use this opportunity to learn more about managing a haunt as well as making my own props.
 

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We are thinking about donating a percentage of our profits next year rather than going all out non-profit... It may not mean we are able to make back all our expenses, but I do think it will help with permits and the city.... Have you considered that already? We are just like you, we plan years in advance for each halloween... :)
 

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Hey Creative Minds Asylum! ..it stinks to hear that another local haunt "doesn't want competition" I'd say Too Bad! In all honesty it would be great to cross promote with other haunts and drive more business to one another. I mean people who go to pro haunts usually don't go to just one and if there are two that are close by to one another then I am sure they would go to both. Have you approached them about a team up? I read a recent Hauntworld Mag article about Haunted Overload & Fright Kingdom doing a partnership with each other and it seemed to work well and have a lot of advantages. In any case as far as going Pro. It's a hard thing to do especially with all the business end aspects, I know because I have been there but if you have a good team of people around you that are willing to help then just keep at it. If you need a space to do your haunt I highly suggest teaming up with a local charity that may have a space that can host your haunt. For example a local Fire House, Community YMCA or other. Donate a portion of your profits to them and work with them to create the event. It will save you in costs of renting a place and should help you get your foot in the door. Promoting becomes slightly easier to if the charity you team up with is notable in the community already.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
We are thinking about donating a percentage of our profits next year rather than going all out non-profit... It may not mean we are able to make back all our expenses, but I do think it will help with permits and the city.... Have you considered that already? We are just like you, we plan years in advance for each halloween... :)
This is one of those good points/bad points situations. I run a haunted trail outside of the city limits - no regulations really apply to me. However, our staff numbers are between 90-100 workers for each night we are open. That's the main reason our particular haunt could never succeed as a business - just can't pay everyone and still cover our overhead costs.

Our numbers from the first year were about 2000 (over 10 nights) and now are about 2500 (over 5 nights). (I''ve learned to only open on Saturdays in October - we/no one can compete with high school football in MS, lol). We have an arrangement with the local sheriff's dept. they provide my uniformed security and we make a donation to their Fallen Officer's Fund. We had a local drama club as well as a JC soccer team work at the Trail for donations to their groups. We also do a canned food drive that goes to a local food pantry.

After our overhead and obligations, we should have from $10-12k in the bank. There's several events and groups that we'll make donations to throughout the year in addition to adopting several families for Christmas.
 
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