How Former Disney Employees Built Sustainable Businesses

  • Thousands of Disney forged members have been unexpectedly sidelined by the pandemic and positioned on furlough.
  • One Disney worker created Facebook group Ear for Each Other to assist — it now has 117,000 members.
  • Several former staff share the way it’s helped them pay their payments and construct new companies.
  • See extra tales on Insider’s enterprise web page.

When New Jersey-native Claire Kalber, 24, was identified with an ovarian tumor in 2016, she determined when she recovered she would pursue her lifelong dream of working for Disney. One yr later, she was a member of the staff liable for opening and working Epcot’s latest points of interest, Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

A licensed cosmetologist who’d as soon as sworn off ever doing hair once more, Kalber transitioned again to the sweetness world in 2019 when she started working as a fairy-godmother-in-training on the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disney Springs.

From the very begin, she was a pure, reworking little women and boys into princesses and knights by way of hair and make-up.

Read extra: Ex-Disney World staff mourn the careers of their goals at ‘essentially the most magical place on Earth’

“I was working in character 10 hours a day, four days a week, juggling up to 37 kids a shift, but it was my dream job,” Kalber, who together with 43,000 Disney forged members was unexpectedly sidelined by the pandemic and positioned on furlough, instructed Insider.

Frantic about how she was going to maintain a roof over her head, Kalber stated she crammed out 107 job purposes to no avail, took on a quick stint reducing hair, and filed for unemployment.

In September 2020, she acquired an electronic mail from Disney warning that layoffs could possibly be coming down the pipeline. In October, her state of affairs took a flip for the more serious.

“I was standing in the back of Target when I got the call I’d dreaded, informing me I’d been laid off. I finally found my true calling, and here I was getting the one call I’d hoped would never come. My eyes immediately filled with tears, and I just tried to keep it together long enough to leave the store and get home,” Kalber stated.

But issues began trying up in January when Kalber first discovered of Ear for Each Other (EFEO) a Facebook group created by Maxine Wild, a Disney occasion planner who regardless of not personally being affected by the furlough and subsequent layoffs took issues into her personal palms to attempt to assist impacted forged members.

“Disney is such a core part of our identity, and I couldn’t bear to stand by and watch our community grieving. But how do you help people when you’re not even allowed to be around people?” Wild, a 24-year Disney veteran, instructed Insider. “I thought, maybe I could buy my bread from an impacted chef instead of the local store or hire a Disney horticulturist to mow our lawn. Then I thought, what if we all could do something like that? And that’s how Ear for Each Other was born.”

Ear for Each Other Co Creators

The co-creators of the Ear for Each Other Facebook group.

Maxine Wild

Wild rallied a number of forged members collectively and recruited them to tackle the position of co-creators and web page directors for the group, whose sole mission, she defined, is to offer a spot for former and present forged members to showcase their abilities, facet hustles, and providers. 

Kalber was among the many group’s first 500 members when she joined in January 2021. Now, simply three months later, the group is residence to almost 117,000 individuals. 

A neighborhood of entrepreneurs and Disney fans

According to Wild, roughly 10% of the group’s members are forged members, whereas the vast majority of the members are primarily ladies trying to purchase a wide range of services and products — from Disney-inspired objects like handmade face masks and mouse ears to digital drawing classes from an imagineer to personal Jedi classes from a skilled member of the Jedi coaching academy to extra on a regular basis providers like native automobile detailing or strain washing or extra upscale choices resembling customized charcuterie platters, on-demand massages, and chef-catered meals.

It did not take lengthy earlier than Kalber noticed a publish from a mother headed to Disney in search of somebody to do a child’s hair and make-up. She reached out and secured the gig.  

Since then, it has been a whirlwind, as she now owns and operates Once Upon a Transformation, a cellular hair and make-up service making home calls to native properties, motels, and Airbnb places charging between $40 and $115 for teenagers and grownup providers. 

Claire Kalber at work, photo credit_ Once Upon a Transformation

Claire Kalber at work.

Once Upon a Transformation

“Thanks to Ear for Each Other, I’ve become an accidental entrepreneur, doing something I love. This community has allowed me to keep food on my table, put a stop to taking out monthly loans to cover my bills, and even made it possible to pay for my wedding last fall,” Kalber stated. She now works from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., seven days every week, and is booked by way of June with a waitlist.

Kalber is not the one one who found the magic of the Ear for Each Other neighborhood throughout an in any other case attempting time.

March 16, 2020, began out like some other day contained in the kitchen of the Disney Grand Californian Hotel’s upscale eatery Napa Rose. It was 1:30 within the afternoon and culinary lead Bryan Seman and his coworkers have been lined up in preparation for his or her shift. That was when the crew was knowledgeable that in three day’s time, the restaurant can be briefly closing because of COVID-19 they usually’d all be positioned on furlough.

Bryan Seman and Alex Zendejadas, photo credit_ Matt Lee Photography

Bryan Seman and Alex Zendejadas.

Matt Lee Photography

Seman, who’s labored at Napa for 10 years, instructed Insider that originally, Disney continued to pay the employees, however as soon as it was clear the furlough was going to be prolonged, he needed to resort to utilizing up each his accrued sick and trip time to make do.

Two months handed and Seman, a husband and father of three, was nonetheless attempting to acclimate his two youngest kids, considered one of whom is autistic, into distant faculty when his cellphone rang.

Alex Zendejadas was on the opposite finish of the road. In addition to working at Napa alongside Seman, Zendejadas, an authorized nutritionist with a facet gig as a private coach, had just lately launched Gourmet Gains, a meal-prep firm delivering gourmand meals with a wholesome edge. He requested Seman together with a number of different Napa forged members to return onboard as hourly employees. 

Gourmet Gains salad, photo credit_ Matt Lee Photography

A Gourmet Gains salad.

Matt Lee Photography

Within a month, Seman transitioned into extra of a salaried accomplice and now works 35 hours every week. Their enterprise has elevated from promoting 300 plates every week to four,500 plates a month. Seman additionally caters private dinners on the facet. 

“Seeing so many of my fellow cast members supporting each other really assuaged a lot of my fears and concerns during these hard times. I’ve really gained so much confidence and independence during these times, and I credit the group for that,” Seman stated.

He added that meal prep has offered him and his colleagues with a constant supply of revenue —  a superb factor contemplating 13 months later, they’re all nonetheless on furlough with no date in sight for Napa Rose to reopen.

Keeping the magic alive

Disney forged member Shawnna Bing additionally utilized her culinary expertise and on-the-job coaching to pivot into a brand new position through the pandemic.

Bing and her husband of 5 years had simply begun talks about beginning a household when she acquired an electronic mail from the human sources division at Marriott informing her that she, together with the complete banquet pastry division of 50 the place she labored at The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, have been being positioned on furlough.

Without any warning, the 30 year-old pastry prepare dinner was compelled to place household planning on maintain and discover an alternate option to earn a dwelling and proceed to maintain up together with her medical insurance funds.

Armed with a baking and pastry certificates from Orlando’s Valencia College, the Florida native started test-baking all the pieces, from cookies and cakesicles to cupcakes and truffles, in her residence kitchen and promoting them to her husband’s colleagues. 

Shawnna Bing with Cake, photo credit_ Sunshine Baking Princess

Shawnna Bing with cake.

Sunshine Baking Princess

By June, Bing had revealed a recipe weblog, created an internet site, and launched Sunshine Baking Princess, providing digital baking classes and promoting her edible creations. In August, she joined Ear for Each Other. One month later, she was laid off from Disney.

With household planning nonetheless on maintain, as of late Bing will be present in her scratch-made residence bakery making elaborate truffles and a wide range of different baked items and delivering them to shoppers she’s met by way of the group. While her earnings are solely 1 / 4 of what she made whereas working for Disney, Bing instructed Insider she’s having fun with the liberty of working for herself and setting her personal hours, menu, and costs and hopes by reinvesting into her enterprise, she’ll be capable to proceed to construct her dream profession.

Bing has additionally collaborated with different EFEO members, like former Grand Floridian restaurant hostess Samantha DeBacco of Sammy’s Unique Creations, who designs customized reward baskets containing objects made by different forged members, together with Bing’s cakesicles and Rice Krispies treats.

“The Ear for Each Other community is like no other community in the world. It’s given all of us hope and allowed us a way to keep the magic alive,” Bing stated. She just lately introduced Wild and her staff of co-creators with a cake to commemorate hitting the 100,000 member mark. 

Celebrating 100k Followers on EFEO, photo credit_ Sunshine Baking Princess

Celebrating 100,000 followers on EFEO.

Sunshine Baking Princess

“At the end of the day, all cast members are problem solvers. That’s just what we do. When the rubber hits the road, we all say, ‘What are we going to do now?’ and then we just go out and do it, and that’s what we did here,” Wild stated.

Once upon a time, not so way back, Wild imagined the fairy-tale ending can be when everybody bought referred to as again to return to work at Disney. That appeared like nearly as good a time as any to shut the group, however as friendships have blossomed, new abilities emerged, and folks have made profession pivots, Wild just lately introduced the web page will stay open for the foreseeable future. Because like Disney, there’s nonetheless a number of tales left to inform.

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