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How to Start Your Own Pageant

07, April 2018

Making the decision to start your own pageant can mark a monumental change in your life. The transition from a competitor, or even a pageant fan, to a pageant director, is a big leap. There is a lot of work that must go on behind the scenes in order to plan and execute a fun and exceptional pageant. (Read: How to Become a Pageant Director)

Starting a pageant from the ground-up can be a difficult process. With so many pageants already out there today, just thinking of a name can pose a challenge. From there, choosing a venue, finding sponsors, and sorting out your expenses will all begin taking up your time and energy. Little things that you may not have initially thought about, such as writing up contestant contracts and putting together a prize package, will also begin to pop up. While it may be difficult to get the ball rolling, don't let this discourage you! In this course, we will walk you through the steps to creating your own pageant.

2017 Global Elite Miss International Queens. Photo: Global Elite Miss International Pageant 2017 Global Elite Miss International Queens. Photo: Global Elite Miss International Pageant

Give it a name 

One of the most obvious places to begin when starting your own pageant is coming up with a name. Since there are so many pageants that have already been established, coming up with a unique and catchy name may take some time. Doing some research on the various types of pageants can prevent you from accidentally copying a name or making one that sounds too similar or confusing. Rather than starting at zero, determining a few minor details about your pageant can make coming up with a name much easier. Do you want to host a local, state, national or international pageant? Is there anything special to your system that you want to be included in your name? Making decisions about the type of pageant you want to hold can help steer you in the right direction when it comes to putting together the name. "We definitely wanted to use 'International' because we wanted to include other countries," said Krisann Moscagiuri, director of International United Miss. "It was so hard to find a name and one that wasn’t already in use!" Once you think of a catchy name, be sure to head over to Pageant Planet's directory so you can add a listing for your pageant. Our directory is one of the many ways contestants find new pageants to compete in. Adding a listing for your pageant is completely free and can help you through the initial stages of getting your new pageant going.

"I had never heard of Pageant Planet and decided to look into it," said Jennifer Schaefer, international director at Global Elite Miss. "I have been with Pageant Planet for over a year now. Pageant Planet has played a huge part in helping get contestants. I have had quite a few contestants tell me that they heard about our pageant through Pageant Planet. I get my leads from our website, Facebook, Pageant Planet and referrals. On average, I spend 10-12 hours, five days a week, emailing and contacting potential contestants. It is very hard to get contestants when no one has heard about your pageant yet."

Krisann Moscaguiri and Holly Sour, directors of International United Miss, pose with their national and international titleholders. Photo: Courtesy of Krisann Moscaguiri Krisann Moscaguiri and Holly Sour, directors of International United Miss, with their national and international titleholders. Photo: Courtesy of Krisann Moscaguiri

Think of titles 

After coming up with a name for your pageant, titles will hopefully fall into place. Typically, the title, or titles, awarded by a pageant reflects the name or mission of the pageant. In addition to increasing consistency, having a connection between the name of your pageant and the titles can help with titleholder recognition and marketing. (Read: How to Market Your Titleholders) "When I started, I wanted to have a title that wasn’t used before, something original and unique," said Amanda Daley, director of the Miss Spirit Organization. "I had won the Spirit award a few times competing myself and thought what better way than to incorporate that into an actual pageant title."

Choose your age divisions

Two things to think of when starting your own pageant are the number of titles you want to award and the age divisions you want to include. While having multiple age divisions can help increase the number of contestants since more participants are eligible to compete, keeping your pageant on the smaller side at first can prevent things from becoming overwhelming. Remember, all of the most well-known pageants started out somewhere and tended to grow over time. Even if your pageant doesn't have all the age divisions you want at first, that doesn't mean that it never will. "I wanted experience directing to maybe run a local for other systems so it was a very small, three-division pageant with almost everyone competing being from the local area," Daley said. "We’ve grown from three divisions to five, and now seven. Started with 18 girls and now have almost 100 preparing for this summer’s pageants." When first starting out, the most common age divisions to include in your pageant are Teen and Miss. With these age divisions, you will likely have experienced contestants and titleholders that can effectively promote your pageant. More established systems, such as USA National Miss and Miss United States, often have multiple age divisions that span across a wide range. USA National Miss, for example, has age divisions ranging from Jr. Princess (4-6) to Miss (19-25).

USA National Miss is just one of many systems that crown a winner in multiple divisions. Photo: USA National Miss USA National Miss is just one of many systems that crown a winner in multiple divisions. Photo: USA National Miss

Sort out expenses 

Sorting out your expenses will help make sure that you won't be drowning in costs once your pageant is over. There are many things that you will need to spend money on just to get your pageant started, such as the venue and prize package, so doing research to find the best prices can ensure that you don't spend any unnecessary money. Finding out what you will need to spend money on can make it easier to balance out your budget and determine the costs for your contestants. "Research the price of trophies, sashes, crowns and venues," Schaefer said. "Decide how much time you are willing to put into it. Remember, you have to spend money to make money, but don't overextend yourself, either."

Balance your budget 

Anyone who has competed in pageants knows that pageantry can be expensive. This isn't limited to pageant contestants, as directing a pageant involves many upfront and behind-the-scenes costs. Paying for your venue, acquiring prizes and even making a website can all begin to add up, making the bill a bit intimidating. Making sure that your budget is balanced can ensure that you are not at a loss once your pageant has concluded. To cover the costs associated with putting on a pageant, determine your entry fees and create an ad book that contestants can sell pages in. This way, you can avoid spending too much of your hard-earned money while having your pageant promoted at the same time. "Another big thing is cost," Daley said. "My entry fee and optional costs are very low, but that attracts more people, and I am still able to pay everything I need to for the pageants."

Set a location

The venue you select for your pageant will be influenced by your budget and the type of pageant you are hosting. If you decide to host a local pageant that will take place over the span of one day, a theater may be the best venue for you. Since contestants won't be traveling from all over and the pageant will be concluded within a day's time, there is no need to find a venue in or near a hotel. "For venues, when I first started, I had no idea what my interest would be," Daley said. "I booked only a small room in a local theater, which worked at the time. The next few years after that, I used a theater because my pageants were still only one day. This last year, I switched to a hotel ballroom because the pageant is now a whole weekend, so it makes it easier for everyone to not have to leave and have everything (party, pageant, interviews) in the same place."

For bigger pageants or pageants that will take place over a long weekend or over a week, a hotel is a great option because contestants/families can stay at the host hotel without worrying about transportation to and from the venue. "If your pageant will be longer than one day, a hotel with a ballroom may be the best venue for you," Daley continued. "In this type of venue, you can put on a large, entertaining production and your contestants can stay at the hotel if they are traveling from a different location. This is a smart decision if you are hosting a national or international pageant since contestants will likely need a place to stay during pageant weekend." If your pageant is a national or international pageant, remember that most contestants will be flying in from out of the area and choose a location that is near an airport. "I knew I wanted to hold our international pageant in the Twin Cities area, near the MSP International Airport and Mall of America," Schaefer said. "There are many hotels in that area, so I really had to decide what I wanted from a hotel and venue. What made me decide on the hotel and venue that we use is simple, it was the only hotel that offered a free 24-hour shuttle to/from the airport. This was very important because we not only have contestants from all over the USA that fly in for pageant, but we have contestants from all over the world."

Find sponsors

Finding sponsors for your pageant will be one of the most time-consuming and important aspects of starting your own pageant. Sponsors can provide assistance when it comes to locating a venue, putting together the prize package and balancing your budget. Starting your search early can ensure that all the sponsors you may need, such as a florist, can be found and reached out to long before pageant weekend. The key to acquiring sponsors is not being afraid to reach out! If you never ask, the answer will always be "no." Local businesses are always a good option for sponsors since both of you will benefit from the success of your pageant. While asking in-person is usually the best course of action, social media has allowed us to connect with people and business from all over the world, so don't shy away from exploring the web while searching for sponsors. "Networking is completely key," Daley said. "I have many small businesses that have supported Spirit from the very beginning, such as Fantasy Floral Designs that donates large flowers (with glitter) for the winners and Penache LLC that creates amazing custom titleholder jewelry. It’s important to utilize those around you; many people on social media have small businesses – don’t be afraid to reach out! It can be a win-win for both of you. I also spend many hours writing sponsor letters and reaching out to different Etsy shops as well."

The Miss Spirit titleholders with their Spirit-themed prizes. Photo: Jennifer DeCaro The Miss Spirit titleholders with their Spirit-themed prizes. Photo: Jennifer DeCaro

Put together an award package

Putting together a prize package is your chance to get creative and attract contestants to your pageant. By having a prize package that includes a variety of fun prizes, contestants will be more inclined to sign up for your pageant. Finding sponsors to help increase your prize package can prevent this portion of preparation from becoming too overwhelming and costly. While the prize package awarded by each pageant is different, there are certain prizes that are commonly found from pageant to pageant. In addition to a bouquet, crown and sash, winners are typically awarded some type of cash prize or scholarship. Pageant themed goodies, such as accessories or makeup, can help make your prize package even more enticing to pageant girls. Since your pageant is just starting out, you'll want to make sure it stands out in every aspect possible. A unique prize package is a great way of achieving this since contestants will know that, as a director, you treat your titleholders very well. Vacations, modeling contracts and additional sponsorships have begun finding their way into prize packages, so including some of these perks in your prize package can make you comparable to other pageants while still making you stand out. "The prize package was something big to us," Moscagiuri said. "We wanted the queens to be completely spoiled; they work hard for us, it’s only right that we take care of them!"

The International United Miss titleholders enjoying a beach house as a part of their prize package. Photo: International United Miss Facebook page The International United Miss titleholders enjoying a beach house as a part of their prize package. Photo: International United Miss Facebook page

Write up your contestant contracts  

Writing up contestant contracts is an important part of starting your own pageant. These contracts will lay out the guidelines you have established and provide any information your titleholders may need about how to act as your reigning royalty. To determine what should be included in your contract, read the contestant contracts provided by other pageant systems similar to the one you will be starting, which can be easily found online. Since your contestant contracts will be binding, it is extremely important to make sure that everything you want to be included in your contract is in there somewhere. Leaving any clauses out, no matter how small, can cause confusion between you and your titleholders. Proofreading your contestant contracts multiple times can prevent any miscommunication or confusion. "As far as the contract goes, my biggest things would be Spirit queens completing at least one appearance a month, if not more, and be kind and courteous to others," Daley said.

Set your royalty expectations

Setting expectations for your royalty will make sure that you are all on the same page. If promoting your pageant is important to you, let your royalty know. If you want them to make a minimum number of appearances, let them know about that! Communication is key and as their director, your titleholders will be looking at you for guidance. If there are certain expectations that are especially important to you, include them in your contestant contracts so your titleholders are aware of your expectations. "Whether or not you agree with something, it’s my expectation that Spirit queens treat everyone with kindness and respect always," Daley said. "Both the outside world and also within the organization. It’s called the #SpiritSisterhood, after all."

Amanda Daley, the director of the Miss Spirit Organization, and her reigning national titleholders. Photo: Big Fish Multimedia Amanda Daley, the director of the Miss Spirit Organization, and her reigning national titleholders. Photo: Big Fish Multimedia

Moving forward 

Starting your own pageant can be a challenging and rewarding journey to embark on. While there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure a pageant runs smoothly, hard work, determination, and research can make the process a bit easier. All pageants had to start somewhere, including yours, so don't become discouraged if things don't immediately take off. With time, your pageant has the same potential as any major system out there. So reach for the stars and start your journey as a director!

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