Hi. My name is Robert Melton. I’m the vampire responsible for creating Funtober.
I lead a pretty boring life during the day. I’m an attorney (the blood sucking variety, of course) living in Philadelphia. It’s the perfect job to keep me locked behind a computer and out of natural sunlight. Recent medical breakthroughs have left it safe for me to go out in the sun and enjoy the world when we’re having beautiful weather.
A few years back, I started learning how to make money online. After a few attempts in other realms, I began selling costumes. The Halloween costume business is tough. But, at its worst, it is always more fun than my day job.
I spent a few years as a wantrapreneur, building websites that made money through Affiliate Marketing and Google Adsense. And praying for a cofounder. I didn’t have the guts to take the plunge and put my name and full effort behind something. In October 2011, I was done being a wantrapreneur. It was time to pick an idea and stick with it until it killed me.
The Start of Funtober
In a brainstorming session, I came up with Funtober by putting together Fun and October. The dot com domain name was surprisingly available. And so were the twitter and facebook accounts. I decided that this was the time to go big or go home. I bought the domain on November 4, 2011.
Only a few days later, I realized that Oktoberfest starts in September, and I had to decide whether I would include it under the scope of Funtober or not. It was a tough decision. But I decided that Funtober would be the six weeks from mid-September to October 31st. I just couldn’t leave it off the website.
I started working on the content for Funtober in December. And I built the first server for the website in March 2012. There’s a blog post that I wrote after a sleepless weekend commemorating the event. I registered Funtober LLC as a Delaware LLC in May 2012. I started selling Halloween costumes here in September.
The first season went well. We were named the very first Philadelphia Startup of the Week by Philadelphia Startup Digest. There were issues as every new, growing business would expect. And I was severely sleep deprived by the end. But far more people came to Funtober than I could have ever expected. Thanks!
My dad started helping regularly on the site in 2013. He built out one of the largest and best haunted house sections around. It doesn’t have all of the features of some of the largest players in the space yet – but it will eventually. If you receive an email from Wayne, that’s him. He started his own business (unsuccessfully) when I was young and has roughly thirty years of experience in store management and human resources. Something makes me think this will be valuable here.
Since we had no idea that so many people would visit in 2012, we had a ton of work to do in 2013 to clean up sections of information which had been hastily thrown together. We wrote descriptions of hundreds of Oktoberfests around the country and added dates for hundreds of fall festivals (extending it to include September events). We also started our email newsletter: there’s about 2100 subscribers now (end of August 2014) and we expect it to double in the next two months.
Fall 2013 was a success as well. We got mentioned in our first tv news segment – Tech This Out on WJAR NBC in Rhode Island – thanks Molly! We worked out a bunch of problems that we had in the first year (servers crashing, etc.) We also had a blog post go viral, receiving more than 7000 likes on Facebook in 48 hours (exceeding the success of some major news organizations on similar articles). We also crossed the one million unique visitor threshold.
We were accepted into the Philly Startup Leaders Accelerator in early 2014. We owe a lot to the PSL community, the program directors and the mentors who were involved. They are about to start round 2 of the program – I’m happy to answer any questions if you are considering applying.
At the same time, I started a new job. I’m the marketing coordinator at a whistleblower law firm. I still do a ton of legal research and analysis, but it’s my job to help make sure that whistleblowers find us in their research.
In 2014, we added information about apple orchards across the country and started blogging again regularly (thanks dad!). We wrote descriptions for hundreds of ghost tours, pumpkin patches and corn mazes to beef up those sections of the site. They still need work, but they are looking much better!
We also redesigned the website in the summer. The first version was a stripped down version of the Twenty Ten from WordPress. It served the purpose but wasn’t impressing anyone. It certainly wasn’t appropriate for a website with as many visitors as we have. I like the current version much more. There are still a few bugs in it – please let me know if you find any.
The “six weeks” of Funtober now extends as early as Labor Day. And I’m frantically trying to get events and content together for Thanksgiving 2014.
Halloween is right around the corner as I’m writing this over Labor Day Weekend 2014 (but I’ve been saying this since April 2012, including a few different times in November). So it’s a busy time.
There’s always a short blurb on the website of a startup with the cool things that the founding team has done in their past life. I never did find a technical cofounder while playing wantrapreneur. And none of my friends want to play in the Funtober sandbox. That’s ok though. Vampires don’t play well with others. And I hack up php something fierce. People frequently ask who does your __________ (insert web design, coding, social media, etc). That’s me (or my dad, who is learning fast). I’m a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School in 2006 and Cornell University in 2000, so I have some super powers. My dog hates dressing up in Halloween costumes, though, and I can’t change his mind.
We have had an extensive internal debate about the vampire photo. If you want to weigh in on it, or anything else, you can reach me at rob AT funtober DOT com. We resolved to add another photo of me up here to satisfy those concerned about my status as a semi-normal human (i.e., my dad!). There should be one up here shortly.
Prost! Happy Halloween! Turkey Red Hammer!
The Funtober address is 501 Silverside Rd, Ste 105, Wilmington, DE 19809. You can reach Funtober via 302-298-1000 or 1-866-OKTOBER. You can also use our contact page to get a hold of me.