In 2013 Disney changed what convenience means to a vacation with the introduction of MagicBands. A simple bracelet placed everything you would need for an entire trip, right on your wrist. From your room key to your credit card, park tickets and fast passes, never before had something so small changed so much at the resort. As history tells us, with new innovation comes new business opportunities. Enter Erin Rippy.
When did you discover your love for Disney?
Erin: I lived in the Orlando area for first through third grade. Military brat! We only went to Disney a few times in those years, but I was HOOKED. Unfortunately, I did not return again until I was all grown up. When Mr. MFB and I found out we were expecting our first child, I said "LET'S GO TO DISNEY." So we did. We took a couples vacation in early 2007, before baby came, and both fell in love with the parks. We have been back five times since then. We would go more often if the budget allowed!
When was your first trip to the parks?
As a child, I think I was eight.
Tell us about your background and what led you to starting the brand?
I have a background in digital design, and work for myself. Early in 2014, MagicBands were still very new and you could only get solid colors at the time. There were very few options for customizing, maybe two shops I could find selling anything related to MagicBands, and the rest was DIY. I wanted to decorate my family’s MagicBands for our Disney vacation. There were a lot of guests painting their MagicBands with nail polish or applying temporary tattoos, both of which I knew would inevitably chip and peel. I’m pretty crafty, so I intended to go the DIY route, but I wanted something that looked clean and professional as well.
I designed some decals for my family and posted the designs to my personal Instagram, with a few Disney hashtags. My Instagram exploded overnight with requests to purchase my MagicBand decals. I instantly knew I was onto something.
Photos: Lynlee Beckett • Bows: Spray On The Glitter
When did you launch My Fantasy Bands? Did anything specific help you take the leap to start?
I began researching decal manufacturing options, testing materials, and getting quotes and samples. My family visited Disney in early June 2014, and I tested out my first decals on our own MagicBands in the parks. I was pleased with the quality and launched my store once we were back home in late June.
Four years later, I'm still here. I still have customers-turned-friends who purchased from me on the first day.
Looking back what would you have done differently in those early days?
Is it arrogant to say nothing? I'm happy with how things have played out. There have been some stumbling blocks along the way, but I've learned from my mistakes. Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.
How did you get attention, gain traction and grow your following?
Instagram has been absolutely key in the growth of my business. I was lucky enough to open my shop at a time that the Disney fandom community on Instagram was young and growing fast, and my product was brand new. I've had significantly less traffic on other social media platforms, so I've abandoned those for the most part. I market almost exclusively via Instagram, and via my email newsletter.
What where some of your early growing pains?
I think I wasn't quite prepared for the overwhelming positive response from the Disney fan community. A popular Disney blogger named Krista Joy reached out to me after my shop had been open a few months. She conducted a phone interview with me and I sent her some samples. She wrote an article about me and my company, which was published on Chip and Company. Before the article was published, Krista asked me if I was ready.
"Uh ... ready for what? Yes?"
I was not ready. My website crashed and I had to call on friends to help me fill all the orders that came in, and I quickly learned the importance of inventory management! It was crazy, and also fun.
What has stuck with you from day one that still drives your success today?
Honesty and integrity. All of my artwork is my own. I do not steal artwork that I did not create. I embrace my competition and don't mind sharing some of my knowledge and resources. I'm also not afraid to try something new. It's better to have tried and failed than to never have tried. Something positive will always come from having tried.
What’s been the biggest risk you have taken with the company?
I outsource my decal production to a professional printer so that they are the highest quality possible. I order in bulk, so sometimes it's a gamble to invest a lot of money in decal inventory that might not sell.
Erin - Owner and Designer of My Fantasy Bands
How much of a shake up was it when the MagicBand 2.0 was released?
“Cats and dogs living together! MASS HYSTERIA!”
It's kind of comical to think about it now, but Disney fans freaked out over the MagicBand 2.0. An image of the center disk leaked during the summer of 2016, from a filing with the FCC. No one had any idea what this thing was for, but in general people were NOT a fan of the design. Response to the photo ranged from curiosity to intense outrage.
Fast forward to November 2016 and I was at WDW the weekend of the D23 event where the MagicBand 2.0 was unveiled. My phone and Instagram blew up with questions and concerns from my customers. I initially wasn't a fan of the two-piece design, but it's grown on me. I got my hands on one of the limited edition D23 bands and got to work designing new decals right away. I stayed in contact with my followers through the whole process.
What do you do for inspiration for new ideas?
In the beginning I didn't have any competition. Now I have lots. That's okay, it pushes me to work harder. However, I try not to look at what my competitors are doing. I don't want my designs to be influenced by what someone else is or isn't doing. Instead, I get my ideas from other places. My “Fantasy Fans” give me lots of great ideas. I get ideas from Disney movies and TV shows, from my kids, and from the vast and constantly evolving culture of the Disney fan community.
Sometimes a new design happens quickly and easily. Sometimes I struggle to make something work. When a design is giving me grief, I step away from it and come back to it later.
What is your favorite part of running a brand that's entirely yours?
MY PEOPLE. My “Fantasy Fans” are seriously some of the best people on the planet. They come from all walks of life and all backgrounds and there is one thing that unifies them all: A love for Disney and a kid-at-heart approach to life. Many of my customers have become very good friends, and I'm very blessed to have such a positive and supportive Disney Family.
It's also pretty awesome to work from home, where I can design or print orders in my Tinkerbell pajamas with the chaotic sound of my kids doing life in the background.
What advantages do you find in keeping your shipping and handling in house?
I do like being able to see every order that comes in. I remember repeat customers and often add some free extras to orders. Having my hands on every order helps me watch for purchasing trends.
What third party programs, services or products could your brand not run without?
The relationship I have with my printer is a match made in heaven. I could not do what I do without his expertise, and his willingness to entertain each crazy I idea that I come up with. His name is Chris, and his shop is in North Carolina.
I also would not be where I am without my customers. Their undying support and encouragement fuels my energy. I am deeply honored to have become a part of the Disney traditions for so many fans and families.
What challenges do you find running a business whose product is intended for a location hours away from your home base?
I am at the mercy of the US Postal Service, and for that reason I'm not able to accept last-minute orders. If a guest only has a few days before their vacation, I'm not always able to get an order to them on time. I know there are some shops that operate out of central Florida and those shops are able to hand-deliver orders, or offer fast turnaround local shipping direct to resorts.
My saving grace is that I have a lot of repeat customers who know to order in advance. It also is very common for guests traveling to Disney to plan their vacations fairly far in advance. Even when someone doesn't become aware of my shop until they receive their complimentary MagicBands in the mail, they still have two to three weeks to place an order.
My Fantasy Bands girls - Charlotte & Madison
What do you want people to think of when they think of My Fantasy Band?
Quality above all. Unique and thoughtfully-designed illustrations. Supporting an artist who doesn't just save images from the web and print them on vinyl.
What’s next for the brand? What do you want people to know?
I'm constantly working on new ideas! In addition to My Fantasy Bands, I have a shop on Spoonflower selling seamless patterns on fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap. I also have a shop on Etsy selling other stickers. When time allows, I also do a lot of freelance design work, everything from logo and business branding design, invitations, web and blog graphics, party printables, home organization labels, and more.
For My Fantasy Bands, I'm currently working on designing stickers to decorate Popsockets phone holders.
Favorite Walt quote?
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Mickey Bar or Mickey Pretzel?
Mickey Bar. I have food allergies and can't eat pretzels.
Dole Whip or Citrus Swirl?
Favorite Disney restaurant?
My family usually opts for the Quick Service dining plan, so my experience with Table Service meals is limited. I love character meals paired with good food. Ohana is a family favorite, The Crystal Palace, and the Garden Grill. Simple good food, nothing too fancy, and characters!
Favorite park and attraction?
Magic Kingdom is my #1 park. My favorite 'slow ride' is Peter Pan's Flight. My favorite coaster is Big Thunder.
Best parks tip?
Pace yourself. Don't try to do everything because you can't. Slow down and don't rush to the next ride queue, because unexpected magical memories happen when you least expect it.
Favorite holiday in the parks?
Autumn has always been my favorite season. My birthday is in October and I love Halloween.
All time favorite fireworks show?
Magic Kingdom Happily Ever After
Most magical experience you’ve had on property?
So many to choose from! I'll choose the most recent.
Charlotte is my youngest. She's nine, but she was just about to turn three the first time we took her to Disney. She's a bit of a daredevil and has wanted to ride the big rides, but wasn't always tall enough yet. During our last Disney trip in 2017, she was FINALLY tall enough to ride ALL of the big roller coasters. Charlotte and I did three parks in one day so she could hit all the big rides. I got a video of her on the Primeval Whirl for the first time, which has a surprisingly high height restriction compared to other rides. Best.Video.Ever.
Who do you want to see interviewed next?
The people behind Believe.Dream.Imagine are insanely creative. The company is owned and operated by a family of four, with two teenagers doing quite a lot of the design work and social media marketing. It's been fun to watch their business evolve and grow in the past year.