‘Princess’ business adds sparkle, magical fun to parties - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

‘Princess’ business adds sparkle, magical fun to parties

September 21st, 2018 SanTan Sun News
‘Princess’ business adds sparkle, magical fun to parties

By Colleen Sparks, Managing Editor

Children captivated by princesses with flowing hair, shimmering crowns and glamorous gowns, who defeat evil forces to fulfill their dreams, can get up-close to their heroines thanks to a Chandler-based company.

Once Upon a Tiara is a children’s entertainment business where fairytale “princesses” mingle, play games, sign autographs and teach dance and etiquette at children’s parties, corporate gatherings and other events.

Dressed as the popular princesses seen in Disney movies, the company’s employees stay in character and add a fun, magical element to festivities.

Rachel Forney, 20, an Arizona State University student studying business management with a minor in fashion, is the owner and operator of Once Upon a Tiara.

A longtime dancer and former gymnast and cheerleader, Forney performed as a princess for another company for about two years before starting her own business in November of last year.

“It’s been awesome so far,” Forney said. “I was just really motivated, really driven to start my own (business). I had lots of dance experience. I did gymnastics. I also just had a love for working with children.

“A lot of the girls that work for me have been in lots of plays or shows or productions, community-theater programs. It came from my love for Disney and princesses, my love for kids.”

A Hamilton High graduate, she also teaches classes at Starz in Motion Dance School in Chandler.

Her employees portray about 15 characters, including Princess Cindy, Rose Princess, Tower Princess, Snow Queen, Ice Princess, New Orleans Princess, Mermaid Princess and Island Princess.

For trademark reasons, the company can’t call them the exact names of the princesses in Disney movies but the Once Upon a Tiara workers’ costumes, wigs and accessories make them easily recognizable as the princesses on the big screen and in books.

“We have almost all of the popular ones from the Disney franchise,” Forney said. “We try to make sure we’re portraying the characters correctly. That’s something I look for to make sure they look the part, representing the character as best as we can.”

Clients can purchase packages in which the princesses will perform activities at parties or gatherings.

For $60, a princess of the client’s choice will spend 30 minutes greeting guests and posing for photos with them, signing autographs and reading an interactive story to guests as part of the “meet and greet” package. Every additional character that participates in the meet-and-greet costs $20.

Forney said the most popular choice is the “enchanted visit,” in which a princess of the client’s choice, for more than an hour, leads as many as 12 party guests in age-appropriate games, provides a craft, reads an interactive story and offers face paint, glitter tattoos or princess makeovers.

The princess also poses for photos and gives autographs. An additional character costs $35.

“We try to fit as much as we can into that hour timeframe,” Forney said.

Partygoers who like to move can participate in a “royal ball dance party” for one hour, with as many as 15 guests, for $120.

During that celebration, a princess wearing a specialized dance outfit teaches the guests a princess-themed dance/ballet and guides them in dancing games and activities. Story time, themed crafts projects, autographs and photos are part of the package.

Customers can choose to engage the princess in various other packages and to customize a package with the activities they like.

For example, with a “princess tea party,” for an hour the character will offer paper teacups and saucers for kids to decorate and keep, or a ceramic tea set that they will use for the day. The princess will teach children princess/tea party etiquette lessons and also steer kids in games, provide a craft and read an interactive story.

The guests of honor can get the royal treatment with Once Upon a Tiara’s “glam princess party” package for $175 that lasts an hour and a half. The princess applies light makeup to the guests’ faces, styles their hair with glitter and paints their fingernails for as many as 12 guests.

The partygoers get princess etiquette lessons and a coronation ceremony for the “princesses” and the honorary birthday “queen.” Crafts and games are included, and the birthday child and a guest get to keep princess accessories.

Once Upon a Tiara’s princesses spend much of their time at girls’ birthday parties and have visited preschools and Tempe and Chandler municipal events.

The princesses have entertained little ones at indoor playgrounds and guests at corporate Christmas parties. The company works closely with Unicorn Cupcake Boutique, a Scottsdale business that features unicorns, cupcakes and glitter.

Most of the parties the princesses have visited are for children ages 3 to 7.

Forney enjoys seeing children get excited when the princesses arrive.

“They go bonkers,” she said. “Half of them are just sitting there like, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ like they can’t believe it. The other half will just run up to you, give you these huge hugs. It’s one of my favorite parts of doing events. You see the innocence and belief in these kids. They still have that magical sense in them. I remember being like that, too, when I was little.”

Forney said besides looking the part and talking like their characters, the princesses also promote “kindness and bravery and those aspects shown in the movie” since girls look up to the figures.

“I think these girls watch the movies,” Forney said. “They’re just fascinated by the storyline and the dresses and all the fun that goes into it. It’s just that whole magical sense. It’s just like a dream-come-true type of thing. It makes them feel very special. We always try to make sure the birthday girl feels especially loved and welcomed.”

She enjoys playing the role of princess.

“It’s a ton of fun,” Forney said. “Sometimes it’s quite a process to get ready. It’s totally worth it when you’re there. It’s such a blast. It’s one of my favorite things to do. It feels very lively, really interactive.”

As a child, Forney’s favorite princess was Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.”

“I loved it,” she said. “I would swim around my pool pretending I was a mermaid.”

Vanessa Barutha of Chandler enjoyed the sparkle that Once Upon a Tiara princesses brought to her daughter Pearl’s fourth birthday party and daughter Gemma’s fifth birthday party. At Gemma’s party, Princess Cindy taught Gemma and the party guests dance lessons.

“She (Gemma) loved it,” Barutha said. “She was so happy. They were all following (Princess Cindy) around like little ducklings. I think it was definitely engaging. It was nice because the parents didn’t have to do anything. Once they got here, the girls were totally engaged and following along. It was cute.”

Barutha, who also has a 2-year-old son, George, said Pearl’s fourth birthday party, which the Rose Princess participated in, also was a smashing success. The Rose Princess read a story to the children and also conducted a princess coronation ceremony.

“They had a little crown they put on her (Pearl) and everyone applauded,” Barutha said. “We’re very much a Disney-princess-loving household. Pearl got to spend some one-on-one time with the princess.”

Barutha had been Forney’s teacher when Forney was in fifth grade at Hancock Elementary in Chandler. She said she knew Forney was destined for success.

“I feel kind of proud of her,” Barutha said. “I think it’s amazing she started a business when she was 19, and it’s growing.”

Allison Dan of north Phoenix said two princesses she hired from Once Upon a Tiara offered the fairytale experience to delight children and adults for the two-year celebration of the Arizona Mommies Facebook group she runs.

She hired them to attend the group’s party at a park in June. Sleeping Princess and Mermaid Princess greeted parents and kids and posed for photos at the party that drew about 120.

“They loved it,” Dan said. “Even the boys, they loved the princesses. All the boys and the girls, everyone loved them. No matter what, they (princesses) stayed in character. They were professional. They made sure to keep our guests entertained. The moms loved it. They got to be a kid again. I think it reminds us a lot of our childhood, or at least it did for me, going to Disneyland and meeting the princesses, growing up reading all these books.”

Dan, who has a daughter, Rylee Ott, 3, and is pregnant with a son, said “it takes a special person” to portray a princess, ensuring large groups of people are happy.

“I feel like Rachel, she’s super inspiring for me for being so young and motivating and a business owner,” Dan said. “It definitely motivates a lot of the moms in the group. Every little girl wants to be a princess, or most little girls want to be princesses.”

Forney said she is happy to be getting real-world experience as a business owner while still working on her bachelor’s degree. She said every month Once Upon a Tiara gets busier, and she is “always looking for new characters.”

Forney added she would love to offer a venue with different rooms where customers could have their parties with the princesses.

“I have to juggle my priorities a little bit,” she said. “Obviously school is very important. This company has gotten so prominent in my life. I have lots of girls that help me out with the events, as well. I’ve got quite a few girls I trust who are well-trained. I know lots of people tell me, ‘You’re just getting that real-life experience here.’

“It’s been fun navigating the whole business side of it, learning how to market and handle payment and invoices, trying to figure out numbers-wise what’s going to improve our quality, our profits. It’s been a real great experience, especially since we have such an interesting business.”

To learn more about Once Upon a Tiara, visit onceuponatiara.com or call 480-760-1195.

Photos by Kimberly Carrillo/Staff Photographer