Carbone, the CEO and president, cofounded Ten Thirty One in 2009 with Alyson Richards for the purpose of launching the first large-scale haunted hayride in Los Angeles. After clearing out their bank accounts and scraping together investments from friends, they put down $US365,000 to set up and “market the hell out of” the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. By 2012, Ten Thirty One was selling out the Halloween season and bringing in $US1.8 million in revenue in October.
Cuban saw the potential the company had for other markets and jumped at the opportunity. We caught up with Carbone to see how she’s used the Shark to push forward her plan for total domination of the American Halloween market.
“The ultimate long-term goal is to have a Ten Thirty One attraction in every major metropolitan area in the United States,” Carbone tells Business Insider.
She went on “Shark Tank” asking for $US2 million to accelerate the growth of her existing attractions outside of California, and that’s exactly how she and Cuban have used the money.
Even though, as a horror entertainment company, the Halloween season is the biggest time of the year for Ten Thirty One, Carbone has taken advantage of the summer season as well. She’s used the investment to bring the Great Horror Campout, a 12-hour experience that essentially puts customers into a horror film setting, on a nine-city tour in the US.
The New York Haunted Hay Ride is set to open in 2015 with the help of Cuban’s investment, and Carbone tells us that she hopes to also launch a hayride in San Francisco and Atlanta next year, as well. Each large-scale, high production quality hayride costs about $US1.3 million and 11 months of planning to set up. At 30 acres (the space of about 240 football fields), the hayrides are like theme parks.
Cuban is “very involved and very hands-on when we need help with something,” Carbone says. “He’s really accessible and really interested in getting us to the next level.” Carbone tells us she speaks with Cuban an average of two or three times a week, but there have been periods where they talk every day to see something through.
One of the first things Cuban did as a board member of Ten Thirty One is arrange a meeting between Carbone and Live Nation Entertainment’s CEO Michael Rapino. He liked the direction of the company so much that he decided to invest. Carbone says that she’s unable to release the details of the arrangement but could say that Live Nation’s investment is smaller than Cuban’s and that the company’s Ticketmaster site is now the distributor for all Ten Thirty One’s events. This also means that Ten Thirty One can be promoted to Ticketmaster’s 60 million subscribers.
Cuban is also helping Ten Thirty One break into television, which is a world “completely foreign” to Carbone but very familiar to Cuban. He and his entertainment lawyer have been shopping for TV documentary deals for Ten Thirty One, and Carbone says it looks like at least one deal will be secured.
And even though Cuban is fully supporting Carbone’s rapid growth, he’s been helping to keep it focused. The best advice Cuban has given Carbone is, “Don’t drown in opportunity.” It’s something she thinks about every day, she says.
It’s common for companies to receive an inundation of proposals after appearing on “Shark Tank,” whether things went smoothly or not, and since Ten Thirty One did so well it’s meant Carbone has had to consider a variety of investments and partnerships. “Sometimes you have to cut some opportunities loose, and it’s a little painful to do that,” Carbone tells us. But she’s appreciated Cuban’s help to think more strategically about how she wants to spend her money.
As Ten Thirty One continues to grow, expect to see plenty of advertising. “First, we’re a large attraction company, and second, we’re a marketing company,” Carbone says. It’s an approach she’s used since day one. In the company’s early days, she and her former partner Richards (now a Ten Thirty One board member and Clear Channel exec) used their marketing expertise and connections to make sure as many people as possible in Los Angeles knew about their hayride.
“We marketed it as if we were Disney,” Carbone says, laughing. She used a large portion of the initial $US365,000 investment in 2009 to promote the hayride on billboards and radio, and she credits her intense focus on marketing for much of Ten Thirty One’s rapid success. She hopes to launch the New York Haunted Hayride next year with a flood of advertising, including the possibility of a giant digital ad in Times Square.
Halloween is a $US7.4 billion industry, and Carbone is using Ten Thirty One to take advantage of the young adult and adult markets. The hayrides are all-ages, while the more extreme Great Horror Campout excursions — which include “simulated torture” like being stuffed into a car trunk and tied to a chair — are ages 18+. There is also a Ghost Ship “haunted cruise” that is interactive but notably less intense, aimed at mums and dads who want to go on a Halloween-themed booze cruise.
Carbone says that Ten Thirty One will most likely never have attractions running all 12 months of the year, but she’s got some other attractions in development that will give the company more opportunities to dominate the market.
Ten Thirty One has been steadily growing year-over-year, and Carbone expects to bring in over $US3 million in revenue by the end of the year. She estimates that the LA Haunted Hayride alone will have 65,000 customers this year, and that Ten Thirty One has had over 400,000 customers since launching in fall 2009.
With Cuban’s advice in mind, Carbone is ready to grow quickly but carefully. Her goal is to make her Haunted Hayrides and Great Horror Campout household names. And she wants “every teenager, whether they’re in Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego, or Chicago, to have access to a Ten Thirty One Production.”
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