Children's Treasure Hunt Organizer and Publisher

Startup Costs: $2,000 - $10,000
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? No

A method of tapping three market sectors at once (children's books, along with treasure hunting and games and puzzles), this novel entrepreneurial venture is in a unique position to benefit not just from post-pandemic hunger for more family fun, but also for out-of-the-house adventure. With several well-publicized and successful hunts already having drawn thousands of participants, there are success blueprints in place for those with a taste for something at once fascinating and new.

Ask the Expert: Hilary Genga, Co-Owner and creator of America's Race for the Treasure.

What is the first step to getting started in the children's treasure hunt industry?

The first step is to make sure that it’s a solid idea for you. That doesn't mean just canvassing friends and family: Ask strangers, take surveys, target your main market and ask its residents for opinions. And don't be scared that someone will steal your concept. Most likely that will not happen. I know many people who have kept great ideas under wraps for just that reason and wound up never pursuing their projects. Long before Purell and other brands of its kind came out, I knew a mom who had an idea for a solution that you could put on your hands that would kill germs, but which you wouldn't have to rinse off. Oops!

Since our project is children's books with a real-life treasure hunt in them, the first step is to come up with fun story lines and characters that will appeal to young kids. The second is to make clues within the book that will be entertaining for the parents to pursue with their kids and/or for children to do on their own. What makes this book series so different is that it’s truly something for the whole family.

And the industries this business addresses are not limited to just children's books, but also include treasure hunting and games and puzzles. That’s part of what makes it a great entrepreneurial idea; it really encompasses three sectors in one.

Are those industries growing?

Yes. The treasure-hunting community is certainly growing. Possibly the most famous was the Forrest Fenn hunt, for which this eccentric man [Forrest Fenn] hid more than one million dollars somewhere in the Rockies in 2010, then wrote a memoir and a poem to help people search for it. It was found in 2020, and there were thousands and thousands of people looking. Now, treasure hunting is getting more popular, and there are many more creators coming out with new ones.

Related: Want to Be Your Own Boss? Learn How to Launch Your Side Hustle Fast.

What are the current trends in children's treasure hunting and what type of person is a great fit to try this?

Being able to do something with your family that is both challenging and fun is a huge draw, never mind that it also gets you out and helps you discover new and exciting places. Since this is such a new category, I really don't know what the growth will be. I am willing to take a gamble, though, that it will appeal to many. The person who’s a great fit for this is a family member, even though any individual would have a great time doing it.

How much money can a person expect to make in the first year and in five years?

This is new territory for me, so I don't know how much money we can expect to make the first year. I am hoping a lot, in part because the first book in our series benefits The International Child Art Foundation.

Related: Need One-on-One Help? Book a Session with an Entrepreneur Expert.

What kind of experience/training do you need?

Well, you need a great imagination, as well as some training in writing children's books and creating puzzles.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

Children's books are a highly competitive market, and you must pick the categories you want to be in on Amazon thoughtfully. It’s important to be strategic with categories, and I truly wish I’d known that from the start. Being in the correct one can greatly help your ratings on Amazon, which is important for sales. As far as the treasure hunting aspect, it’s vital to find the correct challenge level for clues and puzzles. Since we are marketing this to families, they can't be too easy, or too hard.

Who are your customers?

Our customers are families, and we have found new ones by reaching out to teachers, schools, libraries, museums and social media groups. We also have a few celebrities who have given us clue shout-outs on their social media platforms. Celebrities are great influencers and definitely help sales. We also have gone to book fairs, created press releases and solicited reviews.

Related: Get the No.1 Guide to Starting Your Own Business

Are there any resources you recommend that were extremely valuable in getting your business off the ground?

We read many best-selling children's books to see what they had in common that made them so successful. We had been involved in treasure hunting for some time, and studied ones that came before us. There is a hunt called The Secret, for example, which involves 12 casques, each with jewels inside, and which were hidden 40 years ago. Only three have been found so far. My partner, Sean Cronin, took a road trip to all the places where they’d been found or were rumored to be. That was a learning experience.

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