Halfway through the Spring 2020 semester, classes we were transferred online. Luckily, I was able to continue my classes in a very comfortable environment without too many concerns. Unfortunately, this did cause a decrease in the quality of the educational experience, but I took the opportunity created by the additional time that I had to begin working on some new potential ventures. Throughout the month of April, I dedicated a lot of time to analyzing business ventures that could be worth pursuing. At the time, I debated either building a large venture that would take many years of building or something I could launch within a month and eventually provide me a capital base for future projects. After assessing all my options, I determined that due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, I would pursue a short-term venture. I decided to build a drive-in movie theater. To accomplish this, I went to my local city government officials to see if they would sponsor this venture. Through the city I was able to secure some land and based on this, I was able to secure some capital from some local business owners in the area. The city commissioners were very clear that one of the reasons they entrusted me to develop this venture was because of my accomplishments as a Duke student. This was the beginning of Florida City Cinema. It was the first pop-up drive-in movie theater to open in Miami, had the largest screen in Florida, and had the lowest prices. The venture quickly became a success, attracting hundreds of people every Thursday to Sunday night. I built the entire business in a very capital efficient manner which allowed me to provide great returns to the investors while keeping the city very happy by providing quality, COVID safe entertainment to the people of my community. By far this was the venture I have pursued that had the largest real reach and impact. We made thousands of families happy by giving them something to do while still making some money. Eventually, when I had to return to school in the fall, I sold the business to one of the initial investors who continued to operate the venture for several months. 

Throughout the venture, I dedicated countless hours to the development and the operations. We operated in a professional manner, handling everything from our website development to social media marketing and even the construction of the site. The theater had a capacity for over 100 cars and at the peak had 7 employees working. We sold food, concessions, and ran 4 nights a week with two movies a night. The theater was a full venture. Although I learned that it was not scalable, it taught me how to build a business from the ground up and more than that taught me how to operate on a tight budget. I constructed the entire venture including the screen, generators, lights, tents, barrier fences, and a projection trailer for just about $20,000. The other competitors that were popping up in Miami spent well over $100,000 on their operations and did not see any more customers than we did. By the end, we found Miami to be a bad market for drive-in movies, but out of the other operators I met throughout the experience, we were the only ones who were able to make a positive return on the investment. Although, not as much as intended, it was an experience in which I learned how to sustain a company by doing anything necessary to keep it afloat. Overall, an incredible entrepreneurial experience in terms of teaching me how to be scrappy and endure hardship in a venture.

 

Here is a link to the Instagram page and facebook pages of the project. We took down the website due to traffic and costs considering the venture was shut down.

https://www.instagram.com/flcitycinema/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/FLCityCinema/