Megan and Erin are two creative entreprenuers who took their passion for Disney and created a booming Etsy business called The Fairy Godsisters. They have SUCH a cute name, and an even cuter product! They create handcrafted Disney inspired ears and scrunchies, AND they’re at an affordable price!!! No $300 ears for these ladies! Read on to hear more about their journey, and check out their Etsy shop before your next visit to the Disney parks.
What are your names?
Megan Schill and Erin Donohue
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and your background! What was life like for you up until this point?
Erin: I grew up in a military family, my dad was a Marine, so we moved around a lot. I was born in Southern California, so I went to Disneyland a lot with my mom and my grandparents when I was little, and then when we moved back to California when I was in High School I went back to Disneyland again with my school choir. That trip reignited my love for Disneyland, so my graduation present to myself was my first Disney annual pass. Since I went to Cal State Fullerton for a few years, I lived right around the corner from Disney, so some of my favorite memories with Disney are from that era.
Megan: I grew up in Southern California and was always very creative! I loved to read and write, and was constantly creating small art projects and trying to convince all of my friends and family members to join in. One of my best friends from second grade and I discovered a love for Lord of the Rings after Erin introduced us probably around fifth grade, and we spent the entire summer creating a line of elvish credit cards out of cardboard, aluminum foil and gel pens and learning the dwarvish rune language so we could write geeky notes back and forth in school. After high school I got my degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Photojournalism from the University of Missouri and have been working as a freelancer in the field ever since! I was set up with my now husband at Erin and my brother, Mike’s, wedding, and we immediately hit it off. My husband, Steve, works with NASA airborne science and deploys around the world, and I’m fortunate enough to work from home so I get to travel with him and write from wherever he is based for about a month at a time. We’re in Kansas right now, but last year we spent two months in Newfoundland, Canada and one month in Punta Arenas, Chile.
So I am a huge Disney fan, and I discovered your Instagram feed and fell in love!! Your custom ears are to die for! I will for sure be ordering a pair before my next Disney trip! How did you get your start, and what has your business journey been like? How did you get the idea to start The Fairy God Sisters?
Thank you so much! We love hearing positive feedback about our shop! We actually got started because we loved wearing ears to the park, but the pairs we found on Etsy were expensive and the ones in the park gave us headaches. After finding a pair of Merida ears Megan wanted on Etsy for about $300, we started to think hey, I bet we can make these ourselves. After about two months of trial and error, a lot of puncture wounds from needles and one incident where Erin actually sewed through her finger with her sewing machine, we had our pattern and product. We created an Instagram account and promoted our new shop for a month before launching, and we sold two pairs that first day I think? Several kind shop owners gave us advice and we were able to keep the sales coming and our follower count growing organically until our shop took off!
We try to keep our shop focused on having fun and enjoying owning a business together, and we can honestly say we’ve enjoyed every second of it. It can be really easy to start getting jealous of other shops and competing, but we have found success through being relentlessly positive and supportive, of each other and other makers in the small shop community. We love giving shout-outs to other shops and purchasing from Etsy ourselves and have been able to connect with tons of other amazing women who have the creative bug like we do!
Did you grow up being fans of Disney yourselves? One of the things I love about your business is that everyone has such a personal connection with it, whether it be a memory of the first time they went to a park, the movies they watched growing up, etc. What stands out as those key moments for you?
Absolutely! Erin moved away from Southern California in Elementary School before moving back in High School, but we both grew up going to the parks and watching the movies. Erin’s early favorite was The Little Princess, and Megan loved The Fox and the Hound and Lady and the Tramp. Actually she loved 101 Dalmatians as well – maybe she just loved dogs.
Erin: When I was little, my favorite memory was watching the parade with my grandma. I remember Jafar pushing a trashcan and Iago was inside talking, which I thought was hilarious. During college, my favorite memory was being able to look over at my now husband on the couch and say “hey, want to go ride California Screaming?” And we’d hop in the car and go over to Disneyland to ride a ride, grab a drink and some cotton candy, watch the fireworks and go home. I love that Disneyland was a special place where we could go escape and spend some time together.
Megan: One of my earliest memories from Disneyland was probably when I was 4 or so, and my brother was finally tall enough to ride Thunder Mountain. I stood next to the height measure and, of course, I was way too short. I was livid. My dad took Mike off to ride, chattering about how exciting and how grown up he was while I had to go off with my mom to wait. That was back when there was a petting zoo nearby though, so my mom took me there and the minute I saw the baby goats I stopped caring, but it is a pretty funny memory now!
I have to ask… favorite Disney princess? Ready, go! What about Disney character in general?
Erin: This is very difficult because I feel like I’m betraying myself since this answer has evolved recently. Belle has been my favorite princess for so long, but Disney has done such an amazing job giving us great female role models in the last ten years or so that my answer has changed. When I was little my favorites were Ariel and Belle, and Belle was my all-time favorite because she reminded me of myself. She was smart and capable and stood up for herself without being mean, and I really liked her. Now that we have so many other princesses, I find myself identifying more with Anna and I love Rapunzel. So, my top three are Belle, Anna and Rapunzel, but I identify the most with Anna. My favorite characters that aren’t princesses would be Riley from Inside Out and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. I also really love Flynn Ryder because, you know, that smolder. He’s just so funny and relatable. Mama Imelda is also a recent favorite. She’s such a strong female who is misunderstood at first, and I love how she loves her family and holds them together.
Megan: My favorite princess is definitely Merida! My grandfather was born and raised in Scotland, and it’s one of my favorite countries to visit so I love the Scottish setting of the movie. I also love Merida’s independence and strength, and I love that she makes big mistakes and then owns up to them and tries to fix them. That, to me, makes her one of the most relatable Disney princesses! As far as other characters, I love Jack Skellington because I love his curiosity, I love Lady because my gosh she’s adorable, and I love Belle because she reminds me of Erin and Erin is hands down my favorite person! Finally, any character from Cars. Cars is probably my all-time favorite Disney movie because it just feels so cozy and small town!
Your ears are all gorgeous, but do you have a favorite pair or creation you’ve made?
I feel like this changes with each pair we make because we love seeing new pairs, but in general the plaids are some of our favorites. The fabric is so fun to work with and we just can’t get enough of fall year round.
Erin: My favorites are probably my Belle and Briar Rose pairs, because I feel like those really captured the essence of the characters I was trying to represent. Between those, Briar Rose is a little more my favorite because that was all me – no one requested a specific design. Also, the Belle pair is really difficult to make, and I hate making them!
Megan: My favorite beyond plaid would be the Merida pair I made. It took me forever to find the right fabrics, and I love how the tartan drape came out over the bow. I’m also particularly fond of the Filmore pair!
Running an Etsy shop is no joke! There’s so much behind the scenes planning in production, fulfilling orders, shipping, etc. Not to mention running social media, and marketing! How do you work together to manage everything? Do you have any advice for up and coming creators?
When we were getting started, there were several people that said things like the fastest sinking ship is a partnership and were generally not encouraging. I don’t know if it’s just general stubbornness or the strength of our friendship – probably both – but we were determined not to let petty fights derail us.
One thing we’ve both heard a lot about marriage is you don’t win if your partner fails, and we tried to apply that to our shop as well. We genuinely celebrate each other’s successes, and make sure to try to check any insecurity or jealousy before it becomes a problem.
Our advice to up and coming creators would be to try to be kind and stay positive. It’s so easy to start comparing: that shop’s not even that good, why are they selling more than me, why do they have more followers, why should I promote my competitors? That’s a great way to be miserable and ultimately fail.
Every shop’s product is different, even between shops that create the same thing. Our ears are made to help prevent headaches and be affordable, meaning they won’t stay on when you’re on rides and they don’t have the crazy intricate details that some other shops have. If a customer is looking for ears that will hold up to Thunder Mountain or have custom painted details, we try to have a list of shops to suggest! Everyone who owns a small shop has the same goals, and we figure that it’s more enjoyable for everyone if we all work together.
Also, try not to let the few bad customers affect your attitude towards everyone. We’ve had almost 1,500 sales, and maybe 10 of those customers have been frustrating. Sometimes people order and leave a note in their order saying I need these in hand in 3 days when our shipping policy is 2 – 3 weeks, or we even had one customer receive her ears, wear them to the parks and post photos and then complain that she could see a few stitches and want a refund. These people are by far the minority, so don’t post negative stories on Instagram chastising your entire following for the actions of a few. Instead try to let it go and continue being kind and upbeat!
What has been the proudest you’ve felt, and the most challenged you have been? What have you learned from those triumphs and struggles?
This may sound cheesy, but the proudest we feel is just generally of the shop and community we’ve built! We hoped our shop would do well, but we never dreamed we’d reach almost 15k followers and so many sales. Our friendship has grown right along with the shop as well, and even if our shop comes to an end someday we can honestly say we are proud and happy with the journey we’ve had.
The biggest challenge would probably be staying positive during slow periods. There’s a natural ebb and flow to when we see more orders depending on when people are planning trips. For instance, spring is always big but summer is slow, since people are taking the trips in June and July that they were planning in April and May.
We’ve learned to always focus on the positives and not panic about the small things. In general, it all evens out.
How did those experiences shape you as a person? Has it affected the way you live your life today?
Erin: Having our shop take off has forced me to become more organized and develop time management strategies. I’ve always enjoyed being organized but having the shop and a home and Melody added so much more to my plate. It was really challenging when I was working the first few months of her life. It felt like there was too much I had to get done and nothing that I could let go, so I had to figure out how to maximize my time and take a hard look at what I wanted and was capable of. It was a tough moment for me, but I had to be honest about my priorities, and Melody obviously came first, and between my two jobs the small shop was more fulfilling and was what I loved doing. So, I had to leave my job as a nanny even though I loved those kids. Today I feel like I do a better job managing my time and priorities and being honest with myself about what I am capable of. I am also an introvert to an almost crippling extent, so things like moving around throughout school and even engaging with people on Instagram taught me that you can connect with almost anyone if you take the time to talk and be kind and extend compassion. You never know what other people are going through, so just listen and extend grace.
Megan: These experiences have definitely made me a more positive, even keel person. Early on, Erin made a diabetes pair that was similar to one of my Cinderella pairs, and I got a bit miffed and feel bad to this day! There’s no reason to compete within our own shop, and I definitely didn’t do my best job supporting my partner and friend in that moment. I feel like having a small shop has definitely taught me not to sweat the small things in life. When a customer is rude or we have a slow month, it can be easy to feel really down, but instead I think about all of the things I am grateful for and keep going!
What change would you like to see in the world? Do you think you can help achieve that?
Erin: I would like to see a return of civil discourse, and I would love it if people were better able to disagree with one another without fighting. I think having differing opinions and points of view is important and engaging with these points of view challenges us and makes us grow. Talking in an echo chamber or shouting back and forth isn’t productive, and I feel like that is often what happens with discourse especially since the rise of the internet and increased anonymity. I like to try to learn about how other people see the world and challenge what I believe, and we try to do that in our shop by always being open to chat and connect with our followers and customers. Even if they are giving us feedback on our product, we thank them for their input and ask more questions.
Megan: I wish people were better at being kind and supporting each other. This may sound like a cheesy, Disney line, but I really mean it! It’s so easy to be critical of the people we see around us or to pick apart other people’s lives and choices, but that never yields anything good. We try to achieve this in our shop by commenting on other shops’ posts without expecting anything in return, featuring shops in our story and purchasing from other small shops. We also give away a fair number of ears to charitable causes or individuals who reach out to us that seem nice. We don’t typically see a return for these pairs, but it feels nice to give them anyway.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
Erin: When I had to take Melody to her first doctor’s appointment when she was four days old. My mom went with us, and when we got there, Melody had a dirty diaper, and I realized that I had put everything possible in my diaper bag except diapers. Yep. I had to go ask the nurse for a diaper and it was so embarrassing, and I was on the verge of tears. I wanted to laugh about it but I felt like such a bad mom at that moment!
Megan: How do I choose just one? The moment that comes to mind right now is the day I met my husband. It was Mike and Erin’s rehearsal dinner, and I had a new pair of platform shoes I was really excited about. I wasn’t paying attention when I put them on, and they felt weird when we started walking. I was trying to be flirty and sophisticated, but being the external processor that I am, I instead looked down and said ‘oops my shoes are on the wrong feet’ out loud. He thought I was weird, and it was mortifying but hey, he married me anyway, right?
If you could meet one person dead or alive who would you choose?
Erin: I would love to sit down with the founding fathers. That would just be such an interesting time of history to explore! Probably either Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton if I had to pick one since they have always fascinated me.
Megan: Charles Dickens. He is my favorite author and such a brilliant writer, I would love to go to one of his dinner gatherings and just listen to him talk!
Erin: Caramel Maccato or PSL
Megan: Pumpkin Spice Latte
Erin: Sucker by Jonas Brothers or Bad Guy by Billie Eilish
Megan: High Hopes by Panic at the Disco
Erin: Christmas sugar cookies
Erin: How I Met Your Mother, Gilmore Girls, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Megan: Doctor Who, Gilmore Girls, Friends, The Office
Erin: Blue, or more specifically Indigo
Megan: Mint Green or Lavender (my wedding colors!)
Erin: Any fall scents, and the Velaris scent from Scented Spells on Etsy.
Megan: Pumpkin candles
Erin: Emilia Clark and Meryl Streep
Megan: David Tennant and Lily James
Erin: Etsy, because I love supporting small shops and I can get so many unique things.
Megan: Disneyland or Etsy!