How to Start a Carnival Ride Business

A carnival ride business offers carnival rides and other thrills to the public. Some of these businesses travel extensively, while others may stick to one location. Carnival ride businesses are generally seasonal because they operate outdoors and therefore require warmer weather.

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Learn how to start your own Carnival Ride Business and whether it is the right fit for you.


Start a Carnival Ride Business by following these 10 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your Carnival Ride Business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

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STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What are the costs involved in opening a Carnival Ride Business?

Starting a carnival ride business is not cheap. Used rides can cost over $100,000 – while new rides can run anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million. You also need transportation equipment like commercial trucks, a large staff, and all the extras required to operate elements like tents, concessions, and so on. You will likely need $1 million or more in capital to make a strong start in the carnival ride business and that is if you only purchase used rides.

What are the ongoing expenses for a Carnival Ride Business?

There are plenty of ongoing expenses for a carnival ride business. These include ride maintenance, employee wages, insurance, fuel, electricity, concessions, and more. The exact amount these expenses will cost you depends a lot on your exact business configuration – but you can expect to have significant ongoing expenses in this industry.

Who is the target market?

The target market is younger people and families. Although there are certainly some older adults that love carnivals, most of your money will be made from families spending hours eating, drinking, and riding. Some carnival ride businesses also successfully target groups like churches, schools, and other organizations where kids spend a lot of time together.

How does a Carnival Ride Business make money?

A carnival ride business makes money by selling tickets for rides and games, selling concessions like food and drinks, and selling souvenirs. These businesses sell tickets for a set price and take those tickets in exchange for rides. These businesses will often offer package deals where families and individuals can get unlimited rides by paying for an armband or similar premium pass.

How much can you charge customers?

Carnivals sell tickets that customers can use to ride rides. While prices can vary, the going rate right now is $1 a ticket. It usually takes anywhere from five to ten tickets to ride. Carnivals usually offer a wristband for unlimited rides, priced at anywhere between $35 and $60. They also tend to offer family packages, where a family of four can get into the carnival and ride plenty of rides for a deal – like $150.

How much profit can a Carnival Ride Business make?

A carnival ride business can pull in a lot of profit each season – but there are also a lot of expenses that come with operating this type of business. A moderately successful carnival ride business can expect to make $100,000 a season in profit or more, depending on the circumstances. If your operation becomes big enough and remains successful, you could make much more.

How can you make your business more profitable?

One of the ways experienced carnival ride business owners keep profits up is by keeping costs down. For example, a new carnival ride may cost $1 million. For that same money, you could update many of your rides with new seats, new paint, and new lighting. You could also add more comfortable options – like shaded tents – for parents. Spending money on what matters most to your customers will put you on an excellent path to increased profits.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your Carnival Ride Business is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can start an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

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You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.

Small Business Taxes

Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).

You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
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Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

Open net-30 accounts

When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.

Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.

Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.

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Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Learn more about General Liability Insurance.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.

How to promote & market a Carnival Ride Business

One of the most effective ways to market a carnival is to set up in a prominent place in town and do so in a big way. That’s one reason why carnivals use so many bright lights and big displays. If kids see you are in town, chances are they will ask their parents to go.

It’s also important to spread the word in advance of your arrival. Since it can cost a family hundreds of dollars to spend the day at a carnival, it’s helpful to give parents time to plan ahead. Let people know you are coming early by using flyers, posters, and social media.

How to keep customers coming back

You have two audiences to please in the carnival business – kids and parents. Keep the kids happy by offering fun rides and games. But also pay attention to the needs of parents. Offering tents, shade, clean spaces, and other basic comforts will make parents more likely to want to come back.

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Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.

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Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.

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Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.

Start A Carnival Ride Business In Your State

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Is this Business Right For You?

A carnival ride business is right for someone who loves entertaining families and is willing to put in hard work to do so. Since the work is often seasonal, you need to focus heavily on making your yearly income during approximately a six-month season – but, that also means you get to take plenty of time off during the off-season.

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Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

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What happens during a typical day at a Carnival Ride Business?

A typical day at a carnival ride business starts with preparing the rides and other attractions for the public. This often includes safety checks, maintenance, cleaning, and organizing. Once you open the gates, the real work begins. You and your staff need to keep families happy, fed, comfortable, and excited. You will sell tickets, sell food, operate rides, and manage employees. At the end of the night, you will clean up and shut down to prepare for the next day.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful Carnival Ride Business?

It can be helpful to have some experience in carnivals before you start your own. The industry has its own culture and processes. While you will create your own model with your new business, having spent some time with more experienced carnival professionals will help you get off on the right foot.

Another thing that can be extremely useful in this type of business is bookkeeping experience. It’s important to keep accurate books to know where your money is coming from and where it is going. Seasonal businesses often struggle with this aspect of operations because the influx of money during peak season is substantial – and they only realize after the season dies down that they need to better manage their money.

What is the growth potential for a Carnival Ride Business?

The number of carnival ride businesses has shrunk considerably in the past few decades. There were several thousand carnival ride companies at one time, but there are only a few hundred in operation today. Even larger amusement parks with corporate backing have failed to open new locations in many years. However, carnival ride businesses that are still in operation are in high demand.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a Carnival Ride Business?

Make sure you have enough money when you start because it will take a while to recoup your investment. You may need a full season or two before you break even. Instead of trying to barely get by, it’s better to get enough investment to do things right for the first few years and establish your brand. If you can deliver a comfortable, safe, fun experience everywhere you go – and you need money to do so – it will pay off in the long term.

How and when to build a team

Every carnival ride business needs a team before it can start bringing in customers. You need ride operators, concession operators, ticket salespeople, janitors, security, and more. There is no way you can do all of that on your own.

One of the major concerns of carnival ride business owners is staff turnover. The work is not glamorous and is often difficult. While there is no obvious answer to finding and keeping employees in difficult jobs, you can strive to create a positive, rewarding work environment.

Next Steps

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