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Cerro Gordo Ghost Town Owner – Brent Underwood

In 2020 Brent Underwood purchased Cerro Gordo, a ghost town in California, and has since documented his journey on his 'Ghost Town Living' Youtube channel.  His captivating and high quality video diaries of the adventures, trials and tribulations involved in such an ambitious project have propelled his channel to 1.5m Youtube followers (in addition to subscribers on a second Youtube channel and followers on other social media channels).

His in-depth coverage has garnered a total of 74m video views – not bad for a channel just over 2 years old and a powerful example of what can be achieved if you buy an abandoned village in the digital era.  There are a multitude of ways for a privately owned village to generate revenue – especially if it's a 'Wild West' ghost town such as Cerro Gordo – and it seems Brent has been exploring many of the most popular options so we've covered a few of those methods below:

  1. Youtube offers creators a revenue share model for adverts shown on videos they've made.  Although advertising rates vary across video genre, length and audience demographics, it's likely that Brent could create a respectable income from Youtube alone.
  2. Merchandise.  On Cerro Gordo's website, there's a store offering various items such as t-shirts, coins, pins and patches. By leveraging off his Youtube audience, it's probable that this is a useful sideline.  We're not sure of the fulfilment method he's using but with services such as Teespring, Spreadshirt and Printful, it's possible to sell merchandise such as this with no stock or risk as production, packaging and shipping are all arranged on-demand by the third-party website.
  3. Tourist Accommodation.  The most popular monetisation option for village buyers is tourist accommodation and Brent has ambitions in this area too.  Whilst the vacation rental method (e.g. Airbnb or VRBO) is an obvious choice for most village owners, Brent is thinking a little bigger by rebuilding Cerro Gordo's hotel so that guests can be accommodated when they visit the town (it's also a really remote location so a great captive audience with no direct competitors nearby).  Not long after purchasing the ghost town, Brent's dreams (in the form of the original hotel) tragically went up in flames however as one of his most recent videos shows, progress is being made on the new/old hotel.  It will be fascinating to see the hotel completed and will be another opportunity for Brent to tap in to his substantial audience.  We'd imagine that bookings will be pretty strong when he opens!

About Brent Underwood

Brent's success in building a business around the Cerro Gordo 'brand' is no fluke.  Having previously founded a hostel in Brooklyn and then a very successful, hip hostel in Austin Texas, Brent had likely already learned some valuable business lessons.  He'd also been partner in Brass Check – a marketing company – and had written a book so he had a range of experiences to take with him in to his new venture.

Having said this, there are few ways to fully prepare for taking ownership of (and residence in) a remote ghost town and Brent's resourcefulness, willingness to take risks and entrepreneurial knowledge have all combined to create what is shaping up to be a great success.