The Lucky Titan

Try Plan Q With Christina Vitagliano

September 30, 2021 Josh Tapp
The Lucky Titan
Try Plan Q With Christina Vitagliano
Show Notes Transcript

At some point in my childhood, there was always one of the following: no heat, no money, no home, no food, but we always managed, and on the outside was none the wiser. I have survived things most people could never imagine. I am a fearless workaholic and love to learn.

I created Monster Mini Golf as I saw a void in affordable family entertainment. My requirements: cost less than the movies, be easily managed, require little to no inventory, had to be different and it had to be fun.

Built the first Monster Mini Golf myself by making monsters out of everything and anything. Opened in May 2004. 

Franchised Monster Mini Golf in 2005.
Today we have 30+ Franchised locations across the USA and Canada. 

2009 landed us on the front page of the Wall Street Journal with an underdog victory against litigiously aggressive Monster Cable Company. The case is now cited in trademark law classes. 

2012 opened KISS by Monster Mini Golf, Las Vegas, co-branded with legendary Rock Band KISS. 

2014 Began managing The Gene Simmons AXE Bass Experience and working directly with Gene Simmons. (In addition to all of the above)

2017 Opened Twilight Zone by Monster Mini Golf at Bally’s Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

2021 Released “Every 9 Minutes” A memoir.
Twitter: @123ChristinaV

Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan and today we are here with Christina which I'm gonna butcher your last name Vitagliano, is that right?

Christina: You did pretty good, Vitagliano, G is silent, but that's really close 

Josh: Vitagliano, man, yes, that's a redneck sometimes. So we're here with Christina. I'm really excited to have her here because she's the founder of monster mini golf and so for some of you, you're like, what the heck, why? Why are we doing something over mini golf, right? I was so intrigued by this lady's story that she's grown her company, you know, from 20 years has been growing at over 30 franchise locations has built a really awesome, just community around mini golf is what I love and I love to hear these kind of underdog stories where they, they really succeed really when they shouldn't have, but it ended up working out and so I love to hear, hear the story. So Christina, would you be willing to say what's up to everybody, and I will hop in. 

Christina: Hi, guys, how are you, happy to be here. 

Josh: Happy to have you here. So Christina, I want to ask you just to kind of kick this off, give us the reason why for mini golf, because it's kind of a random, right and a lot of people look at his products and like, I mean, is this your passion or like, What? What actually brought you into the mini golf world?

Christina: No, I mean, not that I don't like mini golf. I like mini golf. But it? No, it's not because it was my passion and people always ask me say, Oh, you must be a great mini golf player. I'm like, holy cow. No, no, it was all it was a business model so when I was sitting there by myself with no money, wondering how I was going to make money, I thought, well, here are the three things I want to do, I want to have little to no overhead, I want to have to be able to make money with as little amount of employees as I possibly can, I want to be able to control my concept and I want to make it fun and affordable for the average family so when I put all of those together, the only thing that came up was mini golf in my head anyway so at the time I lived in New England and if you live in New England, and you put that equation together, you get mini golf, your answer is you can only work for about 90 days a year, because you're outdoors and that didn't work either so I thought to myself, well, I have to work all year round, if I want to make a living and eat and things like that so I brought it indoors and my background of marketing and nightclub and Restaurant Management, retail management, is how all of this kind of came together into what is now monster mini golf and it's indoors and it's black light and it's music and it's fun for all ages and at the end of the day, we sell fun and at the end of the day, we don't replace any products we vacuum and we close our doors and we open the next day 

Josh: right.

Christina: It's as simple as that, yeah.

Josh: But what a cool, it's cool to see your thought process through that most people don't walk us through that. They're like, Oh, yeah, I just I chose this product and you're like, Okay, but there has to be some logic behind why you chose it because 

Christina: there was.. 

Josh: and I love that the way your thought process worked through that, you know, is like, you started lifestyle first, like this is this is how I want my lifestyle to look, this is how I want a business to look and then what business model fits around that that's, I feel like everybody else does it the wrong way, like, do I have this product I'm all excited about and then they're like, oh, apparently when you're an agency, you have to work a lot, you know, I don't think about that. Yeah,

Christina: well, that's only because I did a lot of things wrong before. So it wasn't I made many, many mistakes prior to that and that's from you know, I started this business when I was 40 years old so and I've been working since I was 14, 

Josh: wow. 

Christina: So you know, the live experience that you've, you know, I worked for other people for most of that time and that's priceless, I've learned so much from so many bosses along the years, I thank them for who I am today so yeah, let's be saved for that.

Josh: You know, it's funny about that. Can't remember, ma Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, he, he was talking to some like millennial types and he was he was like, stop trying to go so fast. He's like your 20s are for learning. He's like, do that while working for somebody else. He's like your 30s are for experimenting in your 40s or for when the wealth comes? 

Christina: Absolutely. 

Jsoh: I love that. Because it's like, if I were to go back and do it again, I would find another company, you know, somebody who's kind of starting off, but they were already pretty successful. And I'd worked my way in is the number two where I had a guaranteed salary, but I can still play around the money and figure things out, that's how I would do it because it saves you all that time and extra money and everything but you're learning getting paid along the way and then when you step out, it's so easy to just take off because you've got the experience, you know Yeah, 

Christina: yeah, learn from other people's mistakes, yeah! 

Josh: Well and for you with, with entering the mini golf realm, right there's I put this, the entertainment industry as a whole is a very hard industry to enter because a it's a low ticket offers, right so very, very low ticket sales, you're really having to focus on high volume, and I pray comes with a plethora of other challenges, I don't even know because I'm not in the industry but but walk us through what what were kind of some of those initial hurdles of getting the first store open and working?

Christina: Um, well, it the differences and before I start this because I don't want to bore you to death or take too much, how much time do we have?

Josh: We have about 20 minutes, that's how long the record for

Christina: got it. Okay. All right. So, um, when I first started, I had no intention of building a franchise, all I wanted to do was raised $5,000 To edit a book that I had written about 20 years ago so I went into this completely blind so the pressure wasn't there, Um, but I always want to make money and I always want to make as much money as I possibly can because you know, Business is business and I want to have fun doing it. I do like to work. So I think that I don't I love it the entertainment business, it's not about the low ticket dollar and to this day, one of my biggest things when we started and even to this day, 20 years later, is that monster mini golf costs less than the movies because that means that people say, who are you marketing, to marketing to every family, every teenager, anybody out there, who's the average person that wants to go out and have a decent time and can afford it so maybe got off to this day is very affordable so pretty much anybody can walk in our doors and have a good time, that makes a big difference compared to Disneyland, which I love but big ticket big ticket dollar, but at the end of the day, we don't have to replace we have no cost of goods, right? So So what you're saying it depends if you have a $10 item, and it costs $0 to replace it or six cents to replace it with a scorecard, which actually be replaced with a digital app now, that makes a big difference, compared to you know, a $30 item that costs you, you know, $15 to replace, and then I'm getting out so it's all relative, this guy know what you're doing, you know,

Josh: yeah, and taking those risks and saying, hey, like, I liked how you just threw that in there but switching from paper to app, you know, and in a case like yours, where you have 30 franchises, it's so feasible to say, okay, well, we're spending $20,000, that's probably way exaggeration, maybe like $2,000 a year on these scorecards. Why don't we just spend $1,000 to build an app, that's a very basic app that replaces that and then we've all of a sudden got an extra $2,000 a year opened up to us, sir. Yeah, the math always exciting to me.

Christina: That's a huge thing. I think about franchising compared to owning a single unit, or we call mom and pop business is that that's the value in franchising, if you communicate with your franchisees, and then you teach your franchisees to communicate with each other is that that's what happens, that's the evolution of a franchise is you're all talking to each other, and everybody's expertise is very different and you put, you know, a bunch of heads together, there's good and bad in that, because you can spend seven hours talking about the color and orange golf ball and why it should be green but you also learn that you it might not might be time to go from an app, you know, tune out from from paper to so all good, 

Josh: well and so walk us through this, because, you know, this is something that I was so curious about when I was looking at your stories at what point did you realize that this was a franchisable opportunity, I mean, you're like, because a lot of people look at their business like oh, this could totally be a franchise, but just because you have one working business doesn't mean it's going to translate well into a duplicatable model.

Christina: It's a good question. I again, because I had no I had no plan. It was based out of fear and threat so one day, yep, in our first three months, we opened in a memorial day weekend of 2004 and on August, it was a rainy day in August, as fast as I can read it in August was my friend and myself working at a monster, our first location, and it was packed and we were in northeast Connecticut, a tiny little town middle of nowhere and people from Providence were coming in and the Providence Journal had just done a big article on us and this really cool indoor blacklight place and blah, blah, blah and I looked up in the crowd, and they were parents with their children all in the crowd, and, and I could hear the parents talking to each other and I'm gonna say, and I'm being very honest, it was mostly the 40 plus year old men looking at their wives and saying this place is a gold mine was placed as a gold mine and I got scared, because I thought somebody is going to steal my idea. So I got to the end of the day and I said to my husband, we have to do something we either need to open another location or I need to franchise it. He says, What do you know about franchising? I said nothing but I know dunkin donuts. McDonald's did it. That was it and back then 2004 in web world, that's a long, long time ago so I got online, and I laugh now because most people your age probably won't even know what this is I AltaVista did it and I said, How do you franchise your business and that was how I started and I learned and I came up with, there was a company that would teach you how to franchise your business, but you are 100%, right, is that just because you want a franchise doesn't mean you can franchise because you have to have a certain profit margin, because you're sharing that and those franchisees have to be able to make a certain amount of money, because part of its going to you and then they have to be able to sustain their own lifestyles so you go through a lot of things, were regulated by the FTC, I mean, a million million million things, and I don't care who you are, what background you came from, you no matter what business you have, you've never been a franchise or so those first three to five years, you are learning, and it just does not matter. You're going to make mistakes, and you're developing a franchise business so there's a big learning curve there and you develop who you what type of franchise or you want to be during that time, you know, we're 20 years in and I think the first 10 years, you learn who you are, you learn who you want to become and I think at 20 years in we going into that pandemic, if we weren't the age, we were made all the difference in the world, we came out of it, we are so fortunate to be who we are coming out of it in the position that we're in, we're up, we're up significantly this year a lot of our competitors didn't survive, it's because of our age, it's because of the franchise that we became together, we're very fortunate.

Josh: Yeah, no joke and and that's so that's so cool, though because you know that that journey isn't an easy one but like you said, it's all about taking those, those, those risky you say you know you mentioned it out of it was out of fear but like that seems to be most people make these decisions out of and luckily for you, it ended up working out for you but what I love about your story, more so than a lot of other stories is that you you weren't obviously everybody's in it for the money, the math is exciting, that's right, when when one plus one can equal five, it's it's fun, right but what's interesting about your story is right, I didn't have any what I would call like emotional risk tied to it right because you know what, I just needed to make $5,000 right, that's 

Christina: absolutely 

Josh: yeah and that's it's funny to you now i'm sure because you're like, Hey, I'm probably making significantly more than that. 

Christina: Never in a million years I realize this 

Josh: and looking back and saying wow, like how important $5,000 was to make is just fun. Fun to watch that that transition? Um, yeah. So so let's talk through the community aspect of this because finding franchisees is another big thing because you're partnering with people what people don't realize about franchising is you know, if you if you franchise with McDonald's, for example, you're just another number, but smaller franchises like yours, you know, where your are up and coming, I mean, if you have been on a franchise like this this early on you when there's 30 stores or what have you, you really are partnering directly with the franchise owner.

Christina: No, you're not partnering. You're marrying, 

Josh: marrying Yeah. 

Christina: worse. Yes. worse. Yeah. 

JoshL Yeah, selling your soul might be another.

Christina: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yep, you absolutely are and it there is no lightness to any of it, it it is intense and that's why I said those first, you know, 3 5 10 years, our learning curve, because what you think is a good franchisee for your concept you learn very quickly, might not be for a lot of reasons, you know, and good and bad, you know, it's not anybody's fault, It's just that learning is learning and you're learning you're learning human emotions you're learning you know, personalities and how to figure these people out and and good and bad, I mean, it's not that the people were bad or it's just that sometimes that's not the right fit and it takes a long time to figure out this is what works for my concept or our concept might not work for somebody else's but how do I make this the most successful thing for everyone not just me, there's a lot of franchises out there where it's about the franchise or and their bottom line and how do they make as much money as possible and it just is because I'm gonna be honest with us, it's a little different. Patrick and myself are the you know, we're husband and wife, we still have the only people that own it and with 30 franchises after 20 years, you know, all your franchisees they know how to find you, building they know exactly how to find you. So we talked to each other, you know, but, but it's a you know, it's different. 

Josh: and I want to, I want to just kind of transition the conversation a little bit here, I wasn't actually hugely planning on discussing this too much, but you wrote a book and recently, and where did that come from, like, what sparked the book cuz it's not like you're trying to do this 20 years ago as well and now, another one so.

Christina: no, this is the same book.

Josh: Oh, same book there. Yeah.

Christina: yeah. So I wrote the book 20 years ago, and then realized I had $0 back then and realize it costs $5,000 really, to edit the books really short version, and then opened monster mini golf, and, wow, it consumed my life and then the pandemic hit, and I finally sat down and said, I, and years you know, 20 years have gone by growing you learn so I sat back down during the pandemic, I spent some time editing self-publishing is a whole new world didn't exist 20 years ago, and I published a book so um, so somehow, that's how I ended up with you. Um, but you, you know, again, you're educated over 20 years, and, you know, the book has come out now so I'm still monster mini golf consumes my world so I haven't had even much time to really, you know, promote the book as much as I've wanted it to, but because monsters my life right now,

Josh: right. 

Christina: But I didn't get to publish it finally so that's great. 

Josh: But it's fun, fun to do those things even, I think sometimes it's not even about your how much exposure you get to the to the book, or have you it's, it's about I did something I've always wanted to do, you know, and maybe one day, it becomes this huge book, you never know. Sometimes they just hit Oh,

Christina: yeah, it's the book is a memoir about my life before then so it's called every nine minutes and it ended, you know, it ended in 1995, which is great, monster was created in 2004. So 2020 years later, a lot of different things have happened but the book is a very sensitive subject and you know, at 50 plus years old, you can talk more about things like that with younger people and it's important so my goal is to do some public speaking and things like that, the big difference. 

Josh: I love that, start a podcast totally worth it. 

Christina: yeah, need extra time, 

Josh: I bet you have 

Christina: I know, I know. 

Josh: a great way to enter the speaking realm, cool! Yeah, we're coming up to the end of the interview here so first off, key, let us know where to find your book?

Christina: Absolutely. You can find my book on Amazon, obviously, every nine minutes. You can search it anywhere, but I have my own website. It's, I'm on all the social media platforms same thing. 123ChristinaV and if you want to come to Monster mini golf, it's and we are all over the place and we are just one for all.

Josh: So the big question here though, Christina is like, Is there one in Idaho? 

Christina: There's not one in Idaho

Josh: Man, My closest ones probably like Vegas, right,  have a huge one in Vegas.

Christina: You are the closest one is Vegas that Yeah, cuz we're not too far. Actually. Honestly, Idaho is not too far from Las Vegas. We have friends in Idaho. So yeah, yeah, we are. We're actually just, we just signed for Seattle so we're going to be building one up in Seattle soon. So we're excited about that or maybe Denver or Colorado probably isn't too far either.

Josh: Yeah. Las Vegas is about the same distance. We'll have to get you on here in Idaho. 

Christina: Yeah, the one the one Las Vegas is with the rock group kiss or Twilight Zone. So this, those are a little different. There's a little off the wall.

Josh: Yeah, but those are cool, those are really cool, yeah. Make sure you go check out ChristinaV. 123ChristinaV, Love that kind of a play on Gary V. Sounds like because your last name I mean, hard, Lucky for me, my name is four letters. So it makes it very easy. Okay, so I want to ask you, could you give us one final parting piece of guidance for our audience? 

Christina: Yeah, be strong. Be humble. Take chances.