Most weekends, Rachel Fey transforms herself into a fairy-tale princess and lives out every little girl’s dream.
Fey, the owner of Premier Princess Entertainment, and her staff of princesses, dress as characters that range from a snow queen to a mermaid.
Fey, 26, and her princesses are actors and singers who delight children with birthday party entertainment that may include musical performances, interactive story time, a coronation ceremony for the honoree, games with prizes and face painting.
A third-generation native of Colorado Springs, Fey graduated from The Classical Academy. She majored in music theater at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, where she met her future husband, Colton, who’s also an actor.
As a child, Fey wanted to be a singer, and while in high school, she auditioned for a part in the musical “Guys and Dolls.”
“I just got bit, and I auditioned for every show since,” she said. “It’s what makes me feel like me.”
When they graduated from college, Fey and her husband loaded up a U-Haul and headed for Seattle “to try to do the starving actor thing,” she said. Halfway there, she found out she was pregnant with their daughter.
“I was like, I’ve got to go home,” she said.
They turned around and came back to Colorado Springs, where both got teaching jobs at James Irwin Charter Elementary School.
After a year of teaching, however, she realized that “we can’t do what we really want to do — we couldn’t do theater,” she said. “So we’re taking the risk and taking part-time jobs so that we can focus on the princess business and focus on acting, and see if we can make our dreams come true.”
How did you get the idea for the princess business?
We went to a chocolate and wine festival, and there were two princess characters who were in the corner on a stage entertaining the kids. And my husband leans over and says, ‘I’m so glad we’re not the kinds of actors who have to take these jobs.’ And I kind of laughed, but then it just stuck in my head. I’m like, it’ll actually be a lot of fun. … So I started looking into what companies were in town, what the market was. In Denver, there’s some really big companies. But here, there really weren’t any really big professional companies that did that. What I found was that a lot of the companies that did exist here weren’t quite the caliber that the Denver companies were. I saw a need there, so I started out on my own. I knew that I wanted to dress up like a princess and expected people to pay me to do that.
Where did you get your startup financing?
My grandmother passed away a few years ago, and she had left a little bit of money to each of her grandkids. … I actually didn’t know about it. My mom was kind of sheltering that money from me and my siblings, just as like ‘in case’ money. So when I was bringing up this idea to her, she’s like, ‘I do have this sum of money that might be able to get you started.’
What were your initial steps?
I started asking mom groups on Facebook about what their daughters’ favorite princesses were and if they’d be interested in anything like that. I just wanted to gauge like, I mean, who would actually go for this? After finding out what princesses were most popular at the time — Belle was huge, because the “Beauty and the Beast” movie had just come out — I took my first leap and bought [costumes of] three characters.
I did register as a business so that I could open a business bank account and start operating as a small business, and I got a business credit card. I spent a lot of time on the website. I’m a huge fan of Squarespace. … Then I just started marketing. I first started off promoting parties on Facebook. That got me a couple of bookings. I’ve done library events, I’ve done festivals, I’ve done a lot of free work to just get the name out there. … Since then, I’ve been putting a lot of effort into getting onto the first page of Google when you type in ‘princess Colorado Springs.’ I remember being that naïve, brand new entrepreneur that day I launched the site, and I’m like, all right, open for business, I’m just going to sit here and wait for all the calls!
You have a partner who’s also an actor?
While I was in “Oklahoma,” one of the girls that I had gotten close with, Lina Ramirez, arrived at rehearsal in a big dress and a wig. And she’s like, ‘Oh, I do princess stuff up in Denver.’ And I’m like, ‘I am starting my own princess company here.’ And ever since, she’s joined with me and we’ve been partners. We added another friend, and then this summer we’ve added six new actresses. … And so we’ve been putting most of our money into making sure that we have the base princesses. We have 12 characters now that we offer. When I was doing it myself, I offered three [that were modeled on] Elsa, Ariel and Belle.
How did you come up with your other characters?
Initially, I was like, ‘Well, I can only play a handful of characters, being a fair-complexioned woman. … Lina is Latina and Native American, so she could offer characters that I couldn’t play. This summer, we’ve also cast an African-American actress. One of the things that we really are proud of is that we represent princesses of color using women of color. There have been some companies up in Denver that if they don’t have an available actress, they’ll darken their skin slightly, and we just don’t want to do that. We want to make sure that we’re representing those princesses of color authentically. We felt we had the opportunity to redefine princesses.
How do you get permission to use some of these characters from Disney?
So this is pretty much across the board — any company across the U.S. who offers these kinds of characters, we just label them differently. So our Ariel is technically our mermaid princess. So when you book our parties you book the mermaid princess or the Snow Queen, which is Elsa, or the beauty princess who is Belle. We’re adapting the characters rather than taking them right from the movie. … We do have a disclaimer on the site that’s like, we’re not associated with Disney. … But we can certainly make a little girl believe that Elsa came to her party.
How have you grown since you started two years ago?
I’m really proud of the growth that we’ve made. … It’s gone from just me to 12 characters. Our actresses are all independent contractors. We have contracts with them; all of them are professional actresses. So the ability to pay them per party and be able to invest in better costumes and just continue to grow and continue to get bigger events and more recognition, it’s really been exciting.
I did this by myself for about six months, and I would get maybe one party every two months. This past six months, we’ve regularly had a party every weekend. The summer slowed down a little bit, because I was in a show, and a lot of our actresses were busy doing shows. But from roughly February to about July, we’d have a party every weekend.
Could you talk a little bit about what you’ve had to do in order to be able to be an actor?
We would take odd jobs. He was power washing, from 8 p.m.-8 a.m. every few days, and then sleeping during the day and then having a show in the evening. And I’m working part time for my mom right now doing service tech on Thursdays and Fridays — she has an Aire-Master franchise in Denver, and they do deodorizers for public restrooms and restaurants. I would wake up at 3 in the morning to get my shift done so I could get to rehearsal [for “a Comedy of Errors”] at 2:30.
It’s been a busy summer, but we’re grateful to be working actors. And it sometimes means we don’t get the family time we need. But ultimately, we’re getting paid to act, which was really the reason I started the company. I wanted a way to make money performing more consistently, and something to do when the shows aren’t happening. I feel so much more alive right now being crazy busy, probably even spending more hours working now than I did as a teacher, but it’s fulfilling work. It’s life-giving.
What would you say to other young professionals who have a dream like you did?
I would say that taking the risk on yourself, to start your own business or to go out and do what you want to do, it’s never going to get easier. It’s always going to be scary, it’s always going to feel like a risk because you’re taking a gamble on yourself. But it’s up to you to make it happen.