Selling tickets for fun events earns $3.5 million a year!
By Stan Roberts
On the day that Eddie Perez launched his business selling discounted tickets to Orlando’s tourist attractions, he ran out of inventory. “I knew I had a winner,” said Perez. “I’d made the right decision to start my own ticket business.”
Perez had been buying and selling tickets to Orlando’s theme parks as a sideline activity for eight years but in the mid-2000s, he decided to make it a full-time business. He opened Sun Tours Orlando in the heart of the tourist area and poured his life’s savings of $50,000 into admission tickets to the area’s theme parks. “By the end of the day I’d sold most of the tickets,” Perez said. “The next morning I took every cent that came in and went back to wholesalers for more tickets.”
Perez has never stopped returning to wholesalers for tickets. His business now generates sales of $3.5 million a year. Perez runs it from an office at Orlando’s Welcome Center, a kiosk on International Drive and a booth at a major tourist-area hotel. The company employs four full-time staffers and one part-timer.
Perez said he succeeded in the hotly competitive ticket industry by sticking to a simple business philosophy: Make less profit per ticket and sell more tickets. “I work on a small markup per ticket – usually around ten percent – and make it up in volume,” said Perez. For example, he pays $118 for a two-day ticket to one of the theme parks and sells it for $130, a $12 markup. Competitors can’t top this. “I tell my customers, “If you find a cheaper price, I’ll beat it,” he said.
Besides the tourism biggies – Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios – Perez handles tickets to Busch Gardens, Arabian Nights, Medieval Times and Cirque du Soleil. He also books hotels, arranges transportation and tours at Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Keys.
Perez has a niche customer base – tourists from outside the U.S. – mostly South America, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. He does not sell to Florida residents, who can buy admission tickets to tourist attractions at discounted prices.
Perez markets on the Internet but said much of his business is from referrals. “Once people know me they won’t buy from anyone else,” he said, “and they tell family and friends about me.”
Perez circled around the ticket business for years before landing in it. He had tried his hand as a mortgage broker, ran tours and a limo service and from time to time purchased tickets to attractions for visiting family and friends. But one day he spotted tickets to Florida attractions for sale on Craigslist and, on a lark, purchased them and paid by credit card.
He sold them to some visitors from Puerto Rico at a small profit. He revisited Craigslist for more tickets. “Some of the tickets I bought from Craigslist I resold on Craigslist for a profit,” he said.
Soon Perez was ordering 100 tickets a week from Craigslist and selling them on e-Bay and to tourists. He also got friendly with wholesalers who handle large volumes of tickets to area attractions. “I had an unofficial business,” he said.
Perez kicked around the idea of making it an official business and realized it was a big commitment that would require his life’s savings. “I knew I would have to have unlimited supplies of tickets on hand for all the attractions every day of the year,” he said.
He knew he couldn’t depend on Craigslist and eBay for this so he sat down with wholesalers and worked out a price structure. He saw room for a 10 percent per ticket profit and thought he could generate enough volume to make the biz work.
Perez took out an occupational license with the City of Orlando and got a permit from the Department of Revenue to collect sales tax. He rented office space for $500 a month at Orlando’s Welcome Center, the hub of tourist activity. He bought his first batch of tickets for nearly $50,000 cash. “I ran out quickly,” recalled the gleeful Perez. “I was going back to wholesalers twice a day.”
Perez never gets stuck with unsold tickets. “This is a no-risk business,” he said. “Tickets never expire. It’s like buying gold,” said the entrepreneur.
Perez slowly expanded his operation. Through a contact with a Disney-area hotel, he opened a ticket booth in the main lobby near Guest Services. Last year he rented a 600-square-foot kiosk fronting International Drive, the Times Square of the booming restaurant and hotel district. This attracts walk-by and drive-by business.
Not surprisingly, Perez has solid contacts in the restaurant and attractions industries; among its benefits, Perez gets discount coupons and special offers and he passes these along to customers.
As to the future, Perez thinks his company has unlimited growth potential. “More and more people are coming here from around the world – and I’ll always have plenty of tickets to sell them,” he said.
Eddie Perez has fun everyday while he works selling tickets for a wide variety of happening events including theme parks and sports events to tourists. He uses the Internet for marketing but says that most of his business is generated from positive word-of-mouth from satisfied customers.
SUN TOURS ORLANDO AT-A-GLANCE
What: Sells discounted tickets to Orlando Area tourist attractions.
Start-up: In 2006, Eddie Perez founded the biz and purchased $50,000 in tickets from wholesalers.
Forecast: Unlimited growth as more tourists coming here from around world.
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