Hey There!

I’m Nick Francis, CEO of SkySprout. I want to get down to business, but I think it’s important to know just who I am and just why I am where I am today.

I was born in Toledo, Ohio to two wonderful parents and grew up as an only child. From an early age, I always showed an interest in creating. It was something that came very naturally to me, and my parents were the first to support me on my journey. They knew the importance of fueling the fire to see me succeed. My mom and dad made sure I not only learned the value of getting something started, but staying along for the ride and seeing it through. I watched my dad quit his job and start his own company when I was young. I learned that it was a lot of hard work, but it was all worth it in the end. Because of this, I earned my black belt in karate, became an Eagle Scout, and graduated high school as salutatorian of my class.

Spooky Beginnings...

A huge part of my life growing up was Halloween. I loved it. Even as a little kid, I was always coming up with ways I could scare people around me. My mom and dad started throwing Halloween parties for my class, and it just grew every year. I started turning my basement into a haunted house for my friends to go through. Once I outgrew the basement, I moved to the garage. Before I knew it, I was getting lumber delivered to my parent’s house and destroying their backyard with a massive structure that was open to the public on Halloween.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do this alone. Max, my cousin from Cleveland, shared the same entrepreneurial spirit. He would come to Toledo and help me turn a pile of wood into a haunted house. When I was sixteen, we decided to enter a Good Morning America contest for the best at home haunted attraction. Unfortunately, we didn’t win. We did, however, catch the attention of a local business owner who offered us an empty building he had. We grabbed a few of our friends and opened up our first professional haunted house, Hells Gate, in 2009.

It was a huge success! What had once been a little party for my friends was now evolving into something that was attracting friends, neighbors, and even strangers. We saw the potential to grow this thing if we played our cards right. We decided to move the haunt to a market that it would flourish in, so we packed it all up and moved it to Cleveland.

Max and I setting up the backyard haunt for the last time before packing it up and turning it into a business!

The Fear Experience is Born!

We made our debut in 2010 as The Fear Experience Haunted House in a sports complex. We had a successful enough year that we were able to move into a building that was all our own in 2011. Max and I would lead pretty normal lives during the school year, but our summers were jam packed with building! Once August hit, we would begin staffing, hiring actors, maintenance, ticket takers, and more. Our parents were just as involved as we were and helped us bring the whole event together.

In 2012, we moved into a more permanent location that allowed us to grow our business and expand the haunted house. We were doing so many cool upgrades and adding in so much more, but I needed a way to get it out there in the world a little more. Of course we had been buying billboards and putting out a fun little commercial on the radio, but there was an entire market I wasn’t utilizing nearly enough: online! I sat down and learned everything I could. What’s the best platform to use? How do I use it to its full potential? What kinds of ads do people respond to? Do they want to see other people getting scared or is seeing the entertainment aspect of it more important to them? Through a ton of trial and error, we found out a formula that worked! We had lines wrapped around a 90,000 square foot building a half hour before we even opened our doors almost nightly. People in the area knew us…people from other states knew us. With our business taking off so quickly, I decided to make the choice and leave The Ohio State University only two and a half years in to pursue the haunted house, and ultimately settled down in Cleveland.

Customers lining up before we opened the doors to beat the night time rush.

I Learned How To Pivot!

We enjoyed four amazing seasons in this location and could never see it ending. However, life does get in the way, and the building we were leasing was ultimately sold. We packed up our show into trailers. Max decided to focus full time on college, and I turned full time to digital marketing. After all, there were plenty of haunted houses that could use this knowledge I had, right? I set up an office in my apartment and ran a very successful marketing agency for haunts from the comfort of my own home. I also took my knowledge to haunt trade shows, speaking on several occasions and offering this product to help others achieve the same level of success!

Speaking to fellow haunted house owners at a trade show on the topic of modern online marketing tactics.

Building SkySprout

In 2017, my girlfriend and I decided on a change of scenery. We didn’t have the haunted house holding us there, and we had both loved Columbus since my days there at OSU. We moved our lives two hours south and have been here ever since!

I continued to work exclusively with haunted house clients for about another year, but eventually realized that what I had learned would be useful for other businesses as well. I started to shift my attention and focus to businesses outside the haunt industry. To my delight, I was able to help these businesses as well! I found an office space in early 2018 and officially opened SkySprout! Since opening, I’ve gotten to work with the greatest clients, all with a really unique vision and incredible products. Coming from a business background that is anything but conventional, I feel like I’ve got a knack to help people with a similar situation. I feel really confident in my ability to think outside the box. 

I went to work focusing on growing our agency and expanding our client base.

I Decided To Throw A Conference

In 2019, I decided to combine my love of live events and my love of marketing to bring Columbus the SkySprout Summit. It was a three day event with the sole purpose of educating people on the importance of digital marketing to help grow their businesses. We had speakers like David Meltzer, Daymond John, and Gary Vaynerchuk stop by to share their experiences and what worked for them. My intention was and (always will be) to just help people. Owning and operating a business is no small task. I know that! So if I have this knowledge, then why not share it with people who are taking the same risks I am? There’s been so much that I’ve learned since starting this company, and I seriously enjoy the challenges that the field of digital marketing brings.

A shot of the Summit stage from our SkySuites balcony section.

As for the haunted house, I’ll always be grateful. It’s done so much for me. It taught me construction skills, set design, lighting, sound, and the operations of it all. I met some of my best friends there, I met my wife there! I essentially grew up there. And let’s not forget…I learned all about digital marketing there! Where we’ll go in the future with the Fear Experience is still unknown. We still have all our stuff in storage, just in case! 

In the meantime, I’m totally content in Columbus with my wife, our two dogs, and SkySprout!

Come work with me!

My team and I are here for you. I’m here to share his knowledge of the industry with businesses of all sizes, building the most efficient marketing team for a multitude of clients. SkySprout excels in the areas of social media marketing, creative production, personal branding, and more.