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Haunted house tycoon stars on ‘Biz Kid$’

By: Dargan Thompson, Assistant Features Editor


Jordan Renda (Photo by Sean Murphy)

Jordan Renda first had the idea for his business when he was 13 years old.


The idea came when Renda, now a UNF freshman, moved to Jacksonville from Toledo, Ohio. Looking for a good scare in October, he was surprised to find that there were no haunted houses in Jacksonville. So Renda came up with the idea to open his own.


Since he was so young at the time, his parents were skeptical when he presented them with the idea. But Renda kept at it, researching and talking to people in the haunted house industry. Two years later, his parents agreed to help him finance his business.


Renda became the president of Haunted Productions LLC, overseeing operations for Night Terrors Haunted House, which opened in 2009. Since its first year, the attraction has grown from one haunted house to three, he said.


Each house has a different theme and is set up as a walk-through story with actors.


Night Terrors now sees thousands of visitors during the six weekends in the fall that it is open. Last year, America’s Best Haunts, a website that ranks haunted houses, named Night Terrors one of America’s best haunted houses.


Putting together the haunted houses was no easy task. Renda had to find electricians, architects, actors, makeup artists and more. Each year, he had to find a location that was within the company’s budget and met city zoning requirements, all while attending school. His summers were spent setting up and preparing the haunted houses for the Halloween season, he said.


“I would end up seeing the group of friends I had maybe three nights out of the entire summer because I would be working 13 hour days every day,” Renda said.


This year has been more calm, Renda said, because the company was able to leave Night Terrors set up in a building it leased year-round.

Actors in Night Terrors give guests the creeps every Halloween season. (Photo courtesy of nighterrorshauntedhouse.com)


As a teenager with a successful business, Renda has gained local and national attention.
He won a scholarship from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and was flown to Washington, D.C., with a few other high-schoolers who ran their own businesses.


Renda will be featured on an episode of the public television show “Biz Kid$,” a financial literacy series for kids. In his segment of the episode, which airs March 3 at 7:30 a.m. on WJCT, Renda discusses smart banking while a few scary characters from Night Terrors Haunted House follow him around to deliver punch lines.


Renda said filming the show was an interesting experience. He had been on First Coast News for a live interview, but filming a show was a new experience. Renda had scripted lines from Biz Kid$ to say in front of the camera.


“They sort of staged some of it with their own filler and stuff, making me say cheesy sort of lines that I really wasn’t comfortable with,” Renda said.


A guy from “Biz Kid$” came to film the segment the day Night Terrors Haunted House opened in September. Renda had been up all night getting ready for the opening.


“It probably wasn’t the best idea because I was up for, like, 30 hours straight at the time,” he said. “I had, like, four hours of sleep the night beforehand.”


Overall, though, getting to be on the show was a cool experience, Renda said.


Renda’s parents moved back up to Ohio, but he stayed in Jacksonville to keep up the business. He said he plans on running Night Terrors in Jacksonville through college but hopes to eventually open another haunted house in Savannah or somewhere farther north.


Renda’s advice to someone starting a business is to do a lot of research. Networking is also key, he said, as people in the field can give the most relevant advice. It takes a lot of hard work, Renda said. He thought he had everything figured out, but the company ended up going over budget the first year and just broke even.


Although the company is doing better now, Renda is still dedicated to working hard to make Night Terrors Haunted House the best it can be.


“It’s sort of, like, what I live and breathe,” he said.


Email Dargan Thompson at [email protected].


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