Nothing can keep a Disney cast member down for long, including the gut-punch of furloughs and lay-offs during a global pandemic. Instead, they’re creating businesses of their own.
Over 15,500 Walt Disney World Resort cast members have been laid off or furloughed as the pandemic continues. As part of an exclusive Attractions Magazine series, we’ll shine the spotlight on 2 more former cast member’s businesses this week.
Next Thread by Erin
Erin’s first visit to Walt Disney World was 40 years ago. She and her family were frequent campers at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, and indeed, her first full-time role was at the campground. When the pandemic impacted Central Florida, Erin and her husband both received furlough notices. After 18 years as a cast member, many of those years with Disney Performing Arts, Erin turned to her life-long love of sewing into a business as a means of helping to support her family.
Her company, Next Thread by Erin, began by offering the country’s newest essential accessory—pleated, 3-layer face masks—and she had the forethought to build in a few extras. The results of her handcrafting include the must-have shapeable aluminum nose piece for a snug fit and less glasses-fogging, plus adjustable elastic ear straps for the ultimate in comfort.
Erin now carries more than 300 fabric patterns, many of them Disney related, including Star Wars, Haunted Mansion, monorail, It’s A Small World, and Mickey Nautical. And who doesn’t love a seasonal themed mask during the holidays? Don’t see a pattern you’re looking for? Just ask! All masks are available in adult, child, and custom sizes.
In time, Next Thread expanded to include Ear Savers (clever attachments that take the strain off mask ear straps), breakaway lanyards, scrunchies, and flag bunting, and Erin has even helped other cast members with alterations, curtains, bow ties, and other sewing projects. Her take on this new enterprise? “It has been so awesome to help people and my family at the same time!”
Browse through the collection of patterns and place your order on NextThreadbyErin.
When Alana’s 2½-year role as an Entertainment Technician at Epcot ended, she dusted off her previous 4 years’ worth of experience as a props artisan for professional theater companies and created her own upholstery business, Searulean Upholstery.
Having been part of the teams that set-dressed for the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City and the McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, New Jersey, Alana’s flair for detail and precision shows in her meticulous work. Most of the furniture she re-upholsters involve pieces her clients already own, but she also discovers pieces on her own that she refurbishes and offers for sale.
Starting this new career path has been bittersweet. “I loved my time with Disney, so it’s hard to leave this way,” Alana says. “I’m grateful to have something to fall back on, though, and the outpouring of support from the ‘Ear For Each Other’ page alone has given me full-time work until the end of the year.”
Visit Searulean Upholstry on Facebook for more information.
Online groups such as Ear For Each Other have provided networks for Central Florida’s newest entrepreneurs to support and inspire each other, but anyone who has been touched by the magic that cast members are so well known for can support them as well. Attractions Magazine will feature cast member businesses weekly, so be sure to check back often, and seek out these talented people!