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.
More than 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 two more former cast member businesses this week.
Camp Sweet Dreams Slumber Party Company
Jennifer was a performer in Epcot entertainment for six years before marrying, and during that time she met Robin, who had been working for Disney since 1985. Robin moved from merchandise to entertainment before landing a role as guest service manager in entertainment costuming and cosmetology, a position she held until company-wide layoffs hit in 2020.
Being a Disney cast member had been Robin’s childhood dream. After graduating from college, she moved to Orlando and applied for a temporary job at Walt Disney World until she could secure a full time position in travel management, the field for which she had studied. But that was not to be. Thirty-five happy years later, she was still a cast member.
Jennifer had been a gymnast as a young girl, and her path was more straightforward: she moved to Orlando from the Midwest specifically, as she says, “to perform for the greatest entertainment company in the world.”
Transitioning out of entertainment when the pandemic hit didn’t dim their love of creative pursuits, and from that loss came Orlando’s gain. Robin and Jennifer combined their Disney training in guest services with their creativity and design skills and started Camp Sweet Dreams Slumber Party Company, purveyors of themed and custom slumber parties for children (ages 5 and up) and adults.
“We thought it was a unique idea, and there wasn’t anything else like it in the Orlando area. It seemed like something fun to do to bring joy to children and make parents’ jobs a little easier when it came to planning a birthday or slumber party,” Robin explains.
There are 19 Camp Sweet Dreams themes to choose from, including mermaids, clouds-and-hearts, dinosaurs, Christmas or Grinchmas, Tik-Tok, “summer nights,” and, of course, Disney, Star Wars, and Harry Potter-inspired themes. You provide the room and the guests, and Camp Sweet Dreams does the rest.
But why should kids have all the fun? Camp Sweet Dreams also offers adult slumber parties with themes that include chic Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the VSCO-Boho social media craze.
Each package includes individual tents, twin-sized floor mattresses, pads, bedding, decorative pillows, bunting or garland, fairy lights, chalkboard, lanterns, and sleep mask. Delivery, set-up in a room cleared of furniture to allow the required space for tents, and break-down is all taken care of. You don’t even have to do the laundry afterwards.
“Plus” the experience with party favor Glam Bags, robes and masks, or both. You can also add the Glow Pack black light effects, Photo Booth, Game Pack (Uno cards, Twister, Jenga, Hot Potato, musical chairs, Pie Face, Bop It, and Magic 8 Ball) or yard signs, or go full-on with the So Extra package that includes the photo booth, game pack, glow pack, and deluxe yard signs.
Over the course of 30 years as a Disney cast member, Sheri was involved in major entertainment productions, outreach programs, and leadership development. She worked in conventions entertainment, then moved on to Feature Animation for “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Mulan” as manager of production. Next came roles as Disney-MGM Studios entertainment operations leader of live entertainment shows, producer for “Lights, Motors Action! Extreme Stunt Show,” and as a resource manager.
Sheri then moved back to Disney’s entertainment leadership offices to design a world-wide talent management program for leadership at all the theme parks. That job eventually morphed into her role as the leader of the Talent Strategies area for Entertainment, where her team was responsible for introducing, teaching, and recruiting people for entertainment-related roles; managing the hiring and placement of new leaders; ensuring each leader had the education and tools needed to be successful; and advancing Disney’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity programs for entertainment. It was a job she loved for the several years she held it.
April 2020’s furloughs hit hard. “I have basically worked since I was 14 years old,” Sheri says, “and I wondered what I would do with the time I was given. What would I want to look back on and say that I had accomplished? Regardless of whether I was going to go back to work or not, I thought of the time as a gift.”
It was during that transition that she recalled having purchased some domains with the idea that she would someday do something to help heal the country’s divisions. “The vitriol and political name-calling had pushed me to a point of anxiety and stress that I had never felt before,” Sheri admits. “So, now was the time… I created Purple Bridges.”
Purple Bridges is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on unifying solutions that influence government policies, with the goal of identifying issues of grave consequence for all Americans, and finding solutions.”
Its work is based on four pillars: Education, Discussion, Collaboration and Solution, with a focus on building bridges toward unity through the sharing of truthful, balanced information and finding common ground. It’s a place where “Red” and “Blue” ideologies blend together to form “Purple.”
The foundation is simple, even if the challenge may at times feel overwhelming: bring together people of many different backgrounds and points of view, and work toward consensus on topics important to a unified nation. There is no emphasis on one political party or another; it’s all about bipartisan discussion, advocacy, and activism.
Purple Bridges is currently looking for a diverse group of people who are “committed and passionate about healing and bridging the gap in our politics.” The foundation specifically needs assistance with social media and marketing along with broadcasting and editing.
If you’re willing to volunteer or donate to the cause, Purple Bridges would love to hear from you! Visit PurpleBridges.org, follow Purple Bridges on Facebook, or contact the organization at [email protected].
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 well known for making can support them as well. Attractions Magazine will feature cast members’ businesses weekly, so be sure to check back often and seek out these talented people!