Do you love dressing up as a princess? A 16-year-old teen in Vienna, Virginia has turned every little girl’s dream of becoming a princess into a very promising startup business.
Bailey Bane, an 11th-grade student, started her business Vienna Singing Princesses after exploring her options for a part-time job. Bailey has always loved performing and singing, and she wanted a job that will allow her to do her two passions. Instead of finding part-time employment, she switched gears and decided to start her own business. Today, Vienna Singing Princesses provides princess-themed entertainment for parties, events, and gatherings.
Starting a business at such a young age has helped Bailey to sharpen her leadership skills and use her creativity to jumpstart her business. She got her business license in July 2016, and this year her business enjoys solid booking every weekend for both large and small events!
Here is our interview with Bailey:
Can you tell us about Vienna Singing Princesses?
I think the caption on our website says it best: Vienna Singing Princesses is a group of students from Vienna, Virginia united by our love of musical and theatrical performance. We are dedicated actors and singers eager to share our talents by providing perfect princess events. We are experienced not only in entertaining but with children as well, from babysitting to tutoring and mentoring. We pride ourselves in our role of benefitting the community, which is why in our free time you will find us volunteering and hosting princess parties for charity. We maintain a strong focus on diversity and strive to represent role models that every little princess can relate to. We vow to commit our full effort to hosting the perfect party for your child and creating royal memories that will last for years.
What inspired you to start Vienna Singing Princesses?
Actually, I thought about applying for a position with another party company because I felt I possessed the qualities needed to attend events as a performer. This company was not very close to home. Thinking about it further, I began to think I had the abilities and qualities needed to start my own business—and possibly provide a better service than was available. I was already comfortable with singing and performance and loved to do it! The next thing to consider was creating the characters. I have been involved in costuming productions for several years already for school musicals and plays, private theatres, community theatres, and ice shows as well. I am currently the costume chief for my high school theatre department. Working hand and hand with my mom, we set out to create custom beautiful costumes that would fit multiple sizes of girls and were built to last! We are able to do this by learning to omit zippers and buttons and instead grommet and lace the garments while sewing in modesty panels. This allows the costumes to “stretch and shrink to fit.” By creating our own costumes, we achieved the custom look and quality we wanted that we would not have been able to afford otherwise. Lastly, I tailor the agenda and activities for each party depending on the age, sex, number of attendees, and length of the party.
Customers can select from different princesses (and princes). What are your biggest learnings in terms of managing people?
Probably the biggest learning in managing people is adapting to constant communication. All of the performers are students with busy schedules and other commitments. This requires me to carry a full roster to ensure availability of performers for all requests. A lot of performer communication is required in the planning process of each party, from scheduling to training and timing.
How are you marketing your business?
I am marketing the business in several ways. The most effective marketing tool for me thus far has been through direct contact with potential customers. I created a “large event” component of the business in which we attend public events related to children. This includes family fun days, races, health expos, etc. We bring along our pink 10X10 Vienna Singing Princesses canopy and all the furnishings and characters to provide children’s activities: face painting, hair braiding, glitter nail painting, tattoos, story time, games, balloon twisting, mingle with the crowd, and of course we perform some favorite tunes. We usually attend as volunteers which have a twofold benefit: we provide a fantastic and much appreciated charitable donation and we get exposure to many potential customers.
In the recent six months we volunteered our full canopy of activities to Pediatric Specialists of Virginia 5K and Children’s Health Expo to benefit very sick children in need of specialty care, Optimists of Vienna Family Fun Day to benefit families of local kids with cancer, Town of Vienna Cops and Kids Fun Run to support our local police force, and Halloween on the Green to support the Vienna Moms and the Town of Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. At each event, we raffled a private princess party as well to increase their fundraising.
In the next month, we will donate to fundraising galas for three local churches and preschools: Reston Children’s Center, Our Lady of Good Council, and Holy Comforter Church and Preschool. Almost all of our customers say they saw us at these “tent events.” Others have been referred by previous customers. We also advertise on our Vienna Singing Princesses Facebook page. A less successful attempt was in the distribution of fliers. Not successful at all was a very expensive electronic newspaper advertising campaign.
Others have been referred by previous customers. We also advertise on our Vienna Singing Princesses Facebook page. A less successful attempt was in the distribution of fliers. Not successful at all was a very expensive electronic newspaper advertising campaign.
Has the Web helped your business?
The Web is how we conduct our business. We are a home based business with no storefront, so all of our business information is on our website. Customers communicate with us and register for our parties via our website. Our Facebook page is how we keep our customers abreast of all our activities and where we will be next. We also introduce our new characters here!
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far in your business?
Our biggest challenges were in the first few months concerning how to get our name out there for both charitable and for-profit events. We were very disappointed when the local hospital that serves our community turned us down for a regularly scheduled volunteer program that we proposed. Our whole team of characters was enthusiastic about volunteering their time and skills. As we later discovered, it was a conflict of interest for them. They currently had a single princess that visited patients. We proposed something entirely different, but they did not want to lose her good will. We were declined at another facility due to age restrictions and/or infection precautions. We tried closer to home and were warmly welcomed by numerous charitable events listed above. Once we became visible, local charities started filling our inbox with requests. We will continue to try to meet the need of as many local charities as we can. It meets our desire to be involved in our community and also connects us to new customers.
How are you balancing school work with the demand of your new business?
Balancing school work with the demands of my new business is not easy! There is little time to do anything else. Thank goodness I love conducting the business, so it is also my recreational activity. The internet allows me to work on it when I have the time. I can answer emails before or after school. The business is a creative outlet for me and also a way to spend time with friends.
What lessons have you learned about being an entrepreneur?
I have learned the rewards of perseverance and that you have to spend money to make money. The first few months were about spending money on startup expenses with very little money coming in. But we are actually making money now! In fact, we are booked solid for months. We have such a great reputation that customers feel the need to secure their date months in advance. I have learned that delivering a quality service is so important and that customer reviews are what grows my business. The details of each party are very important to me to ensure the great reviews keep coming in. We endured some early rejection, but I have learned to focus on the positive and not the negative. Even those who initially declined our offer for volunteer opportunities are reaching out. We are ecstatic to be donating a private three princess birthday party for a ten-year-old with leukemia in a few weeks.
How do you see your business in 5 years?
Things are moving rather quickly at the moment as we are also being asked to book event stage performances and to partner with local businesses. I see the potential to keep growing. It is already more than I initially imagined. We have so many more ideas.
What lessons can you share with other young entrepreneurs out there?
If you think you have a great product or service, do not give up on it. Starting a business is not as difficult as you think if you have a desire to make it succeed. Great communication and a positive attitude are what keeps your business growing.