What It's About
Two friends who take the tradition of pumpkin carving to greater heights!
Words of Wisdom
In the first few years, they did a lot of guerrilla marketing where they would just show up at various places and create pumpkins that they thought were awesome hoping that people would share them and repost them. Since their work was so visually striking, it really caught on and is part of the reason why their client count rose so sharply.
Sometimes traditional marketing isn't the best for your side hustle—it pays to think outside of the box! Consider what you could do to get your product in front of a new audience.
The Maniac Pumpkin Carvers team accept pretty much any request—very rarely will they come up against a project that they consider too big or too small. And this extreme openness when it comes to tackling projects has led to some truly strange orders...
Marc said that the weirdest was from an online men’s magazine who wanted them to do a silhouette of Ice-T’s girlfriend—apparently, she’s kinda famous for her large behind.
Notes from Chris
Halloween comes with a lot of traditions—dressing up, trick-or-treating, toilet papering the house that gave you raisins... But none of these are more symbolic of the holiday than the classic jack-o’-lantern. Originally brought over by the Irish as a ward against the spirits that walk on All Hallow’s Eve, the jack-o’-lantern has come far from its humble, turnip roots (no really, the original jack-o’-lantern was a turnip). For most of us, the act of carving a jack-o-lantern consists of enthusiastic (albeit often misguided) jabs at a pumpkin with a kitchen knife, removing “the guts,” and plenty of futile attempts to create something even vaguely resembling a face. But for Marc Evan and Chris Soria of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers: in Brooklyn, NY, it’s so much more... But to tell this story, we need to go back to the 90s. You see, Marc and Chris are not just partners—they’ve been best friends since grade school where they bonded over a shared love of art and all things horror. The days leading up to Halloween were spent creating gruesome makeup for elaborate costumes, planning out the best candy route, and, in high school, even planning and building their very own haunted house! Where they really hit their spooky stride was in college. Being the artistic geniuses that they were, they both landed spots at Parsons School of Design—one of the country’s top art institutions. Here, they were able to really test their mettle and explore a broad range of various mediums—digital works, painting, illustration, murals, photography. You name it, and they probably got their hands dirty with it at one point or another. They were always eager to experiment with something new. But art school isn’t cheap. To pay their way, they worked at a number of bars and restaurants in the area. And it was here that they first began experimenting with a medium of a more organic nature: pumpkins. As Marc said, it all began pretty innocently enough. It was just something fun that they could do during their downtime at work to set up decorations for Halloween, but their competitive natures took them to new and more daring heights. Over the course of a couple of years, they went from carving simple jack-o-lanterns to full-on works of art. With the assistance of paring knives and the occasional lemon zester, Marc and Chris chipped, peeled, and carved away chunks of pulp with care and precision to reveal the eerily realistic-looking zombies and monsters of all shapes and sizes. As Halloween week itself rolled around, they began chronicling their masterpieces and posting them to a Flickr account. Soon, the requests for customized jack-o’-lanterns came pouring in faster than an unchecked arterial wound! Early in, their designs caught the eye and attention of the likes of Martha Stewart, the Food Network, and even the New York Yankees. That was right around the World Series, and Yankee Stadium had them carve up 50 pumpkins with a detailed logo design for each of their skybox seats. The two friends AKA maniacal pumpkin slashing duo transformed their tiny apartment into a dungeon of pumpkin destruction to keep up with demand. Within the first week, every corner was littered with the grisly remains of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes—pounds of pulp and an unlimited supply of seeds. Their season typically runs from September to Thanksgiving, and during that time, Team Maniac is focused on creating as many eerie works of temporary art as possible over the season which generally means anywhere from 500-1,000 pumpkins! And at $150-700+ a pop, those numbers start to really add up. There’s still a lot left on the chopping block for this team of renegade pumpkin carvers, and ultimately, for Marc, Chris, and their team, the work isn’t about the money—it’s about the innovation and change in the industry that they’ve been able to fuel. As Marc said, he never imagined he’d be getting paid well to jab at pumpkins for a living. It’s made him realize that, if you’re creative enough to try something really weird and go for it, you just might be able to carve a career out of it.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Maniac Pumpkin Carvers: Learn more about this dynamic, knife weilding duo and their spooky side hustle success over on their website!
- Good Housekeeping | Follow These 11 Pro Tips to Carve the Perfect Pumpkin: If you still haven't had a chance to take care of your jack-o'-lantern, here's a resource you can use to make it the best one yet!
- No Guts, No Gory: The Hollywood Mom & Pop Prop Shop: Special Halloween episode! This family-owned shop in Los Angeles serves up fake meth labs and body parts to shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones… and it all started as a side hustle
- Oregon Woman Gets Paid to Clean Animal Skulls with Flesh-Eating Beetles: You read that right. In this bone-rattling story, a woman earns up to $3,000/month cleaning animal skulls for hunters and horror shows. She’s bad to the bone!
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