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This Lesbian Shark Tank Winner Wants to Scare the Hell Out of You

This Lesbian Shark Tank Winner Wants to Scare the Hell Out of You


Melissa Carbone is capitalizing on fear with her brand of Halloween-themed attractions.

Melissa Carbone likes to "scare the hell out of people." As CEO of Ten Thirty One Productions, the Shark Tank star is living her dream by bringing nightmares to life.

Carbone creates haunted houses and what she calls horror "worlds," with "the intention of completely submerging my consumer physically, mentally, and experientially. The goal is to achieve the highest degree of suspension of disbelief possible in a live entertainment environment." The key word here is "live," engaging audience senses in the real world, thus offering a much different immersive experience than one would get through watching a 3-D film or strapping virtual reality headgear to your face.

"With every experience model we create, the objective is to keep your brain occupied -- even anxious. The smell of the air, the feeling of the environment, the narrative of the attraction and the way your treated once you're involved. You're not a spectator, you're a part of the content."

Carbone launched the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride in 2009. It has since expanded into a kind of popup Halloween theme park with multiple attractions--this year, it will spread over the 30 acres of Griffith Park's old zoo in Los Angeles.

The scary fun starts with the event's namesake. In the hayride, folks sit on a trailer as a tractor pulls them through eerie scenes and away from marauding ghouls. There's also the dark labyrinth of the House of Shadows, trick-or-treating through a fiend-infested neighborhood, and even a Halloween inspired snack bar that serves delectables like "Children of the Popcorn."

Carbone's always been a fan of the horror genre in film. "My mother was obsessed with horror movies, so I think I may have started watching them very young and it just became part of my DNA." An "even bigger Halloween fanatic," Carbone recalls, "Even in a small town in New England, I was able to find five to 10 Halloween events a season to attend." And she says, the hayrides she grew up with in New England were "everything to me as a kid," so it's not surprising they later inspired her own creations.

In her new book Ready, Fire, Aim: How I Turned a Hobby Into an Empire--part memoir, part business strategy, and part self-help tome--Carbone talks about that inspiration, and her 2013 appearance on Shark Tank, where she landed a $2 million investment from Mark Cuban for a 20 percent stake in her company. (Cuban, she tells us, "is as cool as he seems and a great business partner.")

Carbone believes everyone can be innovators and hopes to inspire others through her personal philosophy about activation: "What makes me an innovator is that I activated. Activation is the bridge to innovation. Activation is the bridge to everything from wealth to personal happiness to societal change."

Carbone credits her ability to set her sights on a goal and not stop until she succeeds, attributes instilled by her my mom. "All the credit for this part of my personality," she says, "comes from my mom. She inspires me. When I believe in an idea, strategy, path, cause--the fire under my ass is like a wildfire uncontained."

Michael Jordan famously said, "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career." In business, many of the most successful people don't actually succeed more often than less successful people, they just try more often. They take more shots.

"I've been taking shots my whole life." Carbone says, arguing this is a key quality innovators possess that is often overlooked. "The break out innovation--the big success--is what people focus on and is the spotlighted talking point. Getting there," she continues grimly, "is usually a pile of dead bodies behind you as well as some breathing ones." Carbone adds, "Innovators have a common characteristic of not being risk adverse, and taking the uppercuts to the jaw," and then having the ability to interpret that pain "as data that can help drive the success of the next potential risk."

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