Georgia Small Business Week (March 19-23, 2018) encourages all Georgians to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements made by small businesses across the state. This week, we're spotlighting just a few small businesses in the Downtown Atlanta community.
Today, meet Carrie Burns, Founder/CEO and Chief Movie Buff of Atlanta Movie Tours, based in Downtown's Castleberry Hill neighborhood. Last year, Atlanta Movie Tours received the Georgia Department of Economic Development's Small Business Rock Star Award.
What inspired you to start your small business?
I have always valued entrepreneurship and used to take friends visiting Atlanta all around to show them where works like The Walking Dead were filmed. A girlfriend of mine invited me to dinner one night in January 2012 and suggested that we start a business of the endeavor. On March 21st of that year, we hosted our first media tour. 10 days later, we had our first sold out Big Zombie Tour (based on The Walking Dead).
What changes has your business experienced since its inception?
In the beginning we were running a tour a week. We now run over 20 tours a week during the majority of the year and sometimes upwards of 30. We have built out our retail shop, which we moved into a couple of years after getting started, for additional merchandise and a comfortable place for guests to start the tour. There are more opportunities to show guests famous filming spots, including tours based on Marvel movies like Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther. We have serviced over 50,000 guests and retain our #2 TripAdvisor position. We are working on expanding our impersonator crew, including The Walking Dead, Gone With the Wind, and more. Since becoming Small Business Rock Stars, we have seen even greater growth and continue to add additional tours, and are looking at further building out our retail space in the coming year.
What do you like best about being a small business owner, and what are some of the challenges you face?
Being a small business owner is always a learning experience, which I love. I love getting to create something from nothing, working with our team to build the best experience for the guests, and continuing to further the #GeorgiaFilm focus. It’s amazing showcasing film and tourism in Atlanta, and working on further expanding and building on that. There are always challenges, but by building a solid team there’s nothing that we can't overcome. We trust our team to give us feedback, which grows the company and strengthens our bond. The guests feel that, and while they come to us as TV and movie fans, we work hard to make them fans of Atlanta Movie Tours.
What do you feel are the benefits of running your small business in Downtown? (And, in your case, Castleberry Hill?)
The overall exposure in Atlanta continues to grow, and we work to put film and tourism at the forefront. With all the people moving into the area, we offer a great opportunity to see the area with a fun spin. The Castleberry Hill area is so perfect because of the amount of filming that happens around here. It can be challenging to detour around filming, but it’s obviously fun for the guests. As the city continues to grow, so does Casteberry Hill. The costs to open and run a business in Downtown Atlanta are so much lower than other major cities, and there are so many resources to help you get up and running.
What do you like best about being in Downtown Atlanta, and where you do feel our community has room to grow?
It’s a super exciting time to be in Atlanta. There are so many people working on planning the city, and with a new Mayor we’re hopeful we will continue to see great things. Homelessness is a concern for those of us running and business and, in my case, living Downtown, as I have been a resident of Castleberry Hill since 2001.The guests see that as well and many comment on it, but there are continued initiatives with outreach groups.
What’s the best way for someone in Downtown to get to know your business better?
The best way is to visit our website at atlantamovietours.com, check out all the tours we have, and find out where our shop is in Castleberry Hill…then come see us!