When Disney and Universal shut down in 2020, many of those who were laid off found new means of making money via side hustles. Some even say they’d like to turn them into full-time businesses.
Back in the garage behind their Windermere home, Justin and Holli Trisler — along with a few friends — are hard at work.
With the garage door open to let in the pleasant weather, Holli Trisler is busy putting together what the couple call their Magical Map series — consisting of a map of one of the parks that’s layered with a carved-out wooden design of the park’s highlight attraction. Meanwhile, Justin Trisler stands at the end of the driveway cutting up pieces of wood.
Creating these kind of items, as well as the others they’ve made under the business name of Trisler Trove Woodworking, has been a transition for the Trislers for the past few months. It’s what has kept them sane after being laid off from Walt Disney World.
“It’s pretty bizarre, even for us, to say that we’re woodworkers,” Holli Trisler said. “About August, we visited our families just to spend time with family while we were off, and I think we were just so desperate for some kind of creative outlet — being performers not being able to perform — that we just started redecorating our parent’s houses. We were painting walls and building shelves, and I think we were just desperate to be creative in some way.”
FINDING A WAY
Despite neither Justin nor Holli Trisler having done much in the way of woodworking before this year, their deep need to be productive and find a means to bring in money inspired them to take on a journey of this nature.
And they’re not alone.
Mass furloughs in Central Florida’s tourism industry eventually led to mass layoffs. For so many, working for the Mouse has been an integral part of their lives.
For the last several years, the Trislers had performed in the Little Mermaid show. In fact, that’s how they met.
“I never dreamed that I would meet an actual prince and marry him, and honestly, it was very much like a fairy tale in real life,” Holli Trisler said.“We both were kind of drawn to each other when we met. Even after our first conversation, I went home and I called my mom and told her, ‘I met my husband today.’”
“It felt pretty divine,” Justin Trisler said.
For others, such as Sheri Geyer — who is back to working remotely after being furloughed earlier this year — working at Disney was a dream she had held since she was a child. She remembers being at the opening of EPCOT and the spirit of the place, and eventually moved with her husband and children to the area in 1997. That move led to a 23-year long career with Disney.
For the last 13 years, Geyer worked at the Disney Vacation Club — where she spent half her year on cruise ships for her job. But when she was furloughed, she decided to take up a craft she had known since she was a little girl in Pennsylvania: Sewing.
“It was just that my grandmother learned it from her mom, and I think back then it was out of necessity — they worked through the Great Depression and everything — and then mom would sew our clothes,” Geyer said. “It was cool to keep the tradition of a skill learned from one to another. My mom doesn’t sew too much anymore, so when I was able to get back into doing it again it was like, ‘Oh this is good, I missed it.’”
In the last six months, she has worked to create customized designs on polos and bags as a part of her business, Sheri’s Sewing Sensations.
Along with sewing, Geyer had been wanting to try her hand at embroidering — which she had done a little by hand before — but needed assistance figuring out how to do it.
For Geyer and the Trislers, YouTube proved to be a huge help in their endeavors to learning more about their trades. It was through videos and their crafty fathers that Justin and Holli Trisler figure out the tools they would need — such as the CNC machine they use to efficiently cut designs into wood — to get the job done.
“Someone was like, ‘Can you build me (an essential oil shelf), but can you do these dimensions?’ And I was like, ‘Sure,’” Holli Trisler said. “We just did the different design and built it for them, and they paid us money, and we were like, ‘Wow.’”
In Geyer’s case, it was getting and learning how to use an embroidery machine that requires a PES-formatted design — which can be tricky when dealing with customized logos. Geyer pays a few bucks to get help digitizing custom designs which she uses on a number of things — including jackets and masks.
Another cast member affected by the pandemic is continuing a hobby that she has enjoyed since 2008.
Lauren DeSantis, who was laid off in October after seven years working at the Disney Vacation Club, started The Good Vibe Candle Company, which helps bring in a little money to go alongside her recently attained job in the mortgage industry.
“I just love candles, I always liked having them around — there is something soothing and relaxing about the glow of a candle,” she said. “I don’t even think YouTube was a thing where you could make something — I can’t even remember how I learned how to do it at that point. I just started experimenting making some candles. Then, about six years ago I started hosting a holiday party with my friends, and I would always give them a hostess gift … I thought, ‘I’m going to do the Bayberry candle, because I love the message that it brings; it’s something special.’”
NEW YEAR, SAME JOB?
Just as the case has been this year, the new year represents the unknowns that come with being in the middle of a pandemic.
While Geyer and DeSantis both have main jobs going at the moment, there’s no hesitation about whether they will continue their crafts of sewing/embroidering and candle-making, but to what extent they’re not sure.
DeSantis said she would love to go full-time and it’s what she is working toward, but she needs her other job to pay the bills.
“They’re both full-time,” Geyer said of her day job and side hustle. “I’m very much enjoying it, and I just want to ride this wave and have fun with it, because you never know what it’s going to become. I would like for it to be a consistent all-year thing — I’d like to build a company and a brand to leave as a legacy, that would be awesome, but I’m just going to go with it.”
In Geyer’s case, going full-time into the sewing and embroidery business would require a lot of equipment — specifically an industrial-sized machine — but she said that she was completely open to whatever happens next. In the new year, she hopes to get a new website up at some point and get her branding out there on social media to help grow her small business.
Back in Windermere, the Trislers — being the performers that they are — want to get back into the roles they had at Disney while keeping their woodworking as a side hustle. They already have orders well into January, so they’ll be doing it a bit longer at the very least, and they also hope to build their own furniture for their home.
“We will keep it up to some capacity — maybe not full-time but on the side — and doing things on the side like that for fun,” Holli Trisler said. “It’s something to keep us a little busy, something to make us a little money and something to be creative (with).”