As the holidays approach, many of us are asking how we can support local small businesses and make a real difference in our community while giving gifts that are both meaningful and unique. The answer is simple: more than 15,500 Walt Disney World Resort cast members have been laid off or furloughed, and their new business ventures and side hustles are the perfect place to start.
As part of an exclusive Attractions Magazine series, we’re shining the spotlight on two more former cast members’ businesses this week.
The Cheat Day Factory
Over the course of 13 years, Karl has created lasting memories for Walt Disney World guests as a bass singer with the timeless Voices of Liberty a cappella group at Epcot, and in other productions, including as Kiume in the incredible Festival of the Lion King show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Prior to Disney, he performed in theater shows in New York City and was also part of a barbershop quartet that participated in international competitions and placed 7th in the world. It was during the competition that his career would take a turn toward the magical.
“It was there that a colleague reached out and asked if I would be interested in singing bass for a group down in Florida, with Disney, called Voices of Liberty,” Karl recalls. “I auditioned shortly after, not knowing much about the group, and was fortunate to be offered the contract.
“I was not prepared for my first day of rehearsal. I might as well have sat there with my jaw dropped the entire time. The most beautiful harmonies I have ever heard, delivered by some of the greatest singers I know. I couldn’t believe I got to stand amongst them. I am so grateful that my path in life led me to this incredible Disney family.”
When 2020 saw him furloughed, Karl turned to his wife, Julie—who had indulged his “cheat days” after weekday workouts and healthy eating with exquisite Peruvian sweet treats made from recipes used in her family’s bakery in Peru—and said, it’s now or never.
“Whatever she made was life-changing, and all of our friends and family seemed to agree as well,” Karl says. “It was on those cheat days that we would often dream and talk about how great it would be to open our own bakery here one day.”
With unexpected time on their hands, they founded The Cheat Day Factory and created a menu filled with outrageously delicious offerings, such as cupcakes, cupcakes in a jar, hot cocoa wooden spoons, cake balls, bundt cakes, and keto pumpkin bagels.
The signature “cheat treat” is a scrummy Peruvian alfajores soft cookie, double stuffed with decadent dulce de leche and dusted with powdered sugar, but it may be their handcrafted, custom designed cakes that grab the spotlight. They are show-stopping works of art.
Everything is made from scratch, without preservatives, and meant to be enjoyed at its fresh-baked best. Some items practically beg you to double your order so you can give them as gifts and still indulge your own sweet tooth (we’re looking at you, adorable little Gingerbread House Mug Huggers!). Have a “Bah, humbug-er” on your holiday list? The Cheat Factory even makes Grinch-inspired Stink, Stank, Stunk cupakes in a jar.
Karl is certain his time at Disney has helped prepare him for this next chapter in his life. “We might not be able to create the same magic as we used to with our voices, but we’re creating a lot of magic from our bakery’s kitchen,” he says. “Many of our orders have been for guests staying at the resorts. Working at Disney has taught me there are many ways to create magic, even in the worst of times.”
Allow The Cheat Day Factory to bring a bit of magic to your day, or to your special occasion, by visiting TheCheatDayFactory.com and get all the latest menu updates by following The Cheat Day Factory on Facebook.
Tenth Dimension Art Collective
Cleanliness matters throughout the universe, and Baylee was part of the reason Black Spire Outpost at Disneyland park’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge positively sparkles. As a member of the custodial guest services team, she and her teammates ensured visitors to the planet of Batuu always found their surroundings ship-shape.
Disneyland park had been her second home for a year and a half; a happy, upbeat place that soothed her spirit as she recovered from severe complications after a surgical procedure. She had been sick and malnourished to the point of losing bone density and muscle mass, had endured physical therapy and weekly injections, and more, and now it was time for some fun.
She was hesitant at first when the offer of a role in custodial came, but she did in-house athletic training around her shifts, which helped with her upper body strength. Ultimately, she ended up loving her job.
When notice of her furlough came, Baylee was prepared to transition into a new role: that of owner of Tenth Dimension Art Collective. She founded the business while healing post-surgery, but had little time to devote to it while performing her role with Disney. Now was her moment.
“I have always been artistic,” she says. “I wanted to try digital art, as it’s a medium with less mess. I don’t always have the physical strength to clean up after doing something, so I got a tablet as a therapy tool to let me ‘lose’ myself and take a break from the stress of health worries. I’ve been collecting enamel pins for a few years and love them so much. I thought, hey, I want this as a pin, and no one has made it. Why can’t I?”
Many of Tenth Dimension Art Collective’s enamel pins are inspired by the macabre and horror-genre pop culture, including classic horror movies; ’80s themes; “bad luck kitties;” goth, Lynchian films, and, of course, nods to Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the Mandalorian Clan of Two.
Baylee also creates patches with similar motifs, wreaths, and stunning custom crowns that are true made-to-order works of art.
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!