You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Turning Monsters and Mini-golf Into a Successful Franchise In just six years, the evil spawn of monsters and mini-golf has lumbered its way to 26 franchises in 12 states.

By Jason Daley

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Christina and Pat VitaglianoChristina Vitagliano has always specialized in haunted houses of one sort or another--as co-owner of an auction house in Danielson, Conn., she was knee deep in creepy antiques, family feuds and restless spirits. "You deal with a lot of people, and it's a negative business," she says. "Somebody's passed away and other people are fighting over whose stuff is whose so they can sell it."

After five years, she'd had enough and sold her share of the business, which left her with no cash flow and a lease on the spooky, dilapidated mill that housed her auction house. Her solution? Mount some black lights, build papier-mâché monsters and turn the big, open space into a haunted mini-golf course.

By the end of Monster Mini Golf's first summer in business, in 2004, the glow-in-the-dark puttery had people lined up out the door to bank shots off of Frankenstein's feet. Vitagliano opened a second location near Providence, R.I., and then the biz just boomed: Monster Mini Golf now has 26 franchises in 12 states and its own monster-making shop. Recently, Vitagliano inked a deal to develop a rockin' KISS-themed Monster Mini on the Las Vegas Strip. She stepped away from the guillotine long enough to tell us how she did it.

How did you get this idea?
I just tried to think of the exact opposite of what I was doing at the auction house--something happy and fun that doesn't involve inventory and has a very high profit margin. We were coming home from a weekend in New York and I told my husband, Pat, "I think I got it--mini golf!" I don't know where the idea came from.

Where did the monsters fit in?
Pat asked if I wanted to work outside in the summertime, handing out putters all day, and I'm, like, no. So I came up with bringing it indoors and adding black lights and making it cool. The monsters came in because I could make them. With a train or car theme, you'd have to buy props. Monsters are whatever you want them to be.

Are all the courses the same?
No, every course is custom designed. All the art is hand-painted. The franchisees get to say what monsters they like and we give them a choice of big animatronics. I'll research the town and get a little history on the course, and anything the franchisees used to do for a living, we'll turn into a monster version. We have a lot of retail themes, like Abercrombie and Witch. Our construction company, Twisted Toy Box, manufactures our monsters.

How did you get involved with KISS?
On our 18th hole, you golf onto Glozo the Clown's tongue and we always joked that Glozo is our version of Gene Simmons. But over the years, I thought "Boy, you know? What a great idea." So at the end of business meetings, I started to ask everyone if they had Gene Simmons' cell phone number. One day, somebody did and after about a year of negotiating, we signed our deal. It's going to be all these cool KISS monsters. And on the last hole, you'll golf up the tongue of a monster version of Gene Simmons.

Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Grab Microsoft Project Professional 2021 for $20 During This Flash Sale

This small investment is well worth the time it will save your team in organizing and monitoring project work.

Business News

James Clear Explains Why the 'Two Minute Rule' Is the Key to Long-Term Habit Building

The hardest step is usually the first one, he says. So make it short.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Data & Recovery

This File Backup Tool Subscription Is $25 for Life for One Week Only

AOEMI Backupper Professional is designed to protect, store, and transfer user's files for them.

Business News

Microsoft's New AI Can Make Photographs Sing and Talk — and It Already Has the Mona Lisa Lip-Syncing

The VASA-1 AI model was not trained on the Mona Lisa but could animate it anyway.

Side Hustle

He Took His Side Hustle Full-Time After Being Laid Off From Meta in 2023 — Now He Earns About $200,000 a Year: 'Sweet, Sweet Irony'

When Scott Goodfriend moved from Los Angeles to New York City, he became "obsessed" with the city's culinary offerings — and saw a business opportunity.