AmyOestreicherMeet The WE Magazine for Women, Woman in Business AMY OESTREICHER, FOUNDER – Gutless & Grateful

Tell us about your business.

I am an artist, performer, musician, foodie, creator, and life-lover on a beautiful detour after at age 18, a sudden blood clot caused me to fall into a coma for months. Piecing together my life after my initial dreams of performing musical theatre took a turn into broader horizons. I believe it is my mission to spread messages of hope and strength while doing what I love to do, which is CREATE.  I have starred, written, directed and produced “Gutless & Grateful” – my one-woman musical autobiography which I have performed since it’s NYC premiere at the Triad Theatre in 2012.   After being nominated for a Broadway World Award for “Best Theatre Debut”, she reprised her show the following year at Stage 72 (NYC), The Bijou Theatre (CT) and Barrington Stage Company (MA) as part of William Finn’s Cabaret Series.    I most recently wrapped up Gutless as part of the United Solo Festival in November 2014 and have plans to take it to more theatres, hospitals, schools, women’s shelters and conferences as a motivational tool.

The other half of my mixed media and acrylic artwork, for both the art itself and the story behind the art.  Since I used my art primarily for healing through my medical traumas, my art is full of inspiration, joy, sadness and discovery.  I am displaying my work in galleries, as well as giving artist talks, selling prints, inspirational books, and have plans to expand on that with motivational posters, cards, and more.  My ultimate goal is to create an organization, center or foundation that promotes creativity and healing, as a means to share what I’ve learned with the world.

Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?

I had always loved musical theatre and was always fascinated by how the art of song and story could be so seamlessly woven together to share a universal message and to inspire others.  All my life I studied music, drama, writing, and lived for the world of the stage.

It was only when I underwent my own beautiful detour that I discovered just how powerful the world of theatre and musical storytelling can be.  Coming out of a coma just as I was supposed to be entering my freshman year of college was confusing to say the least.  Suddenly, the career path that had seemed to apparent to me my entire life was pushed to the wayside while I took on the more pressing task of fighting for my life.  It was easy to feel like a has-been and wonder “why me”, or how my life would ever maintain a steady course again.

With no clear road map on how to get my life back on “track”, I just stayed true to what had always felt like home – expressing myself through the arts.  Although I had lost my ability to speak for a while, I committed myself to arts that I could express – I lost myself in the world of painting and mixed media and ended up putting on three professional art shows.  The Today show with Kathie Lee and Hoda ended up hearing about my story and my art, and had me on for a segment they do called “Everyone Has A Story.”  It was there where I met David Friedman – a kind soul and a talented composer.  I went right over to him and told him I admired his work and would love to put together a cabaret act with him.  Two years later, using excerpts from my thousands of journal entries, and songs that effectively expressed my journal – some songs being original – Gutless & Grateful had its New York premiere.  Becoming a business owner was like a rite of passage to me – it made me feel like I had finally taken ownership of what had happen to me, and done something beautiful with it.

What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?

My older brother Matt, who is a jazz musician and so much more..  He has shown me that you can create art and be an artist, but still be successful and business savvy without “selling out.”

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

When “Gutless & Grateful” premiered in New York at the Triad in October 2012, I felt like everything had really come to fruition.  I stopped comparing myself to others and realized that I had stayed true to myself and in doing so, I was still the same performer I had always aspired to be.  Except that now I was telling my own story rather than playing an ingénue in Guys & Dolls.  It took a bit more work, and the path was a bit rockier, but I now had the privilege of performing theatre that was connecting with audiences on an even broader level – inspiring others with a journey of my own that I had never anticipated.  After the run, I would get hugs from total strangers who told me “I didn’t know anything about this show – my wife dragged me – but I’m so glad I came!”  I had messages in my guest book from audience members who disclosed that I had helped them through a very traumatic time in their own lives.  Suddenly, I was telling my story in my own words.  Word was getting out about what I had been through – but in my own words.  It was now no longer Amy Oestreicher the woman who’s stomach exploded, but Amy Oestreicher the actress, telling her inspiring story at the Triad.   I was so grateful for this experience, and it felt like  springboard for even more opportunity.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

To never give up.  Persistence.  In every respect.  Keep going, never giving up, even when I was exhausted or overwhelmed by the idea of what I wanted to accomplish.  I literally was a girl waking up from a coma trying to find her place in a big world.  I didn’t know where to start.  So I just started somewhere – anywhere.  And just kept going from there – blindly at first, but eventually finding a focus, and then just following it intently.  Persistence softened with a faith that with that determination, I would get there.

What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?

As I say in my show “Whatever I do, I tend to do obsessively!”  So I am on social media all the time – facebook, pinterest, anything i learn about, constant website updates – and lots of research.  Finding out who I can network with and sending our literally hundreds of emails.  Time consuming, but many times, very worth it – you never know…

What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?

Start small, but hard and tediously.  Never lose focus, even if you have to put projects on the backburner – always keep your intention in your mind’s eye.

Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business?

Honestly – google.  Whatever I needed to know, I googled – people to contact, places to submit writing and press.  And of course I joined every facebook group I could find to spread the word!

Do you have any new projects coming up?

Since I’ve been turning out dozens and dozens of pieces, in the past month, alone, I had a photographer come to my studio, to take new pictures. Eventually, a book of prints will become available, but right now, a few sneak peeks of my latest works are starting to appear in my Mixed Media Gallery , and soon I’ll be selling art on my site.  I will be giving an artist’s talk on my work at in a CT art show.  I My work is being shown in the “Pairings” Art Exhibit, Sponsored by Beechwood Arts. I’ll also be featured in an Art Immersion Salon all about Trauma and Resilience in May.  For Gutless & Grateful. I’ve just been offered to do the show in Kansas City as part of a workshop about the transformative power of storytelling – and lots more offers are coming up for the future!

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

I can stay in my art studio for hours and get lost painting – I just love any kind of creativity – making art, writing songs, taking nature walks and breathing in the fresh air – for me, gratitude is fun – appreciating how blessed I am makes me happy.  And also wedding planning with the love of my love for this June is always fun!!!  And cooking – lots of cooking!

What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?

I hope to take Gutless & Grateful on the road to conferences and give motivational talks, as well as set up a storefront for my artwork on my website .  In the meantime, I am building up quite a following through my blog, site and social media.

You want to write a book on…

I have been working on a book that is an interesting hybrid of:  part memoir and autobiography, graphic novel, choose your own adventure novel, self-help book, inspirational book, and creativity/art guidebook – I know that sounds all over the place, but if there is something i’ve learned through this beautiful detour, it is that healing comes with everything – just being present on this earth, being aware, awake and grateful, and expressing that through whatever means possible – being creative in the ways that you can.  I want to write a book on my life that also explains to others how creativity and passion for life as my saving grace and key to survival of body, mind and spirit.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

If I can start up a business as I have, then anyone can.  After years of being isolating and only conversing with my parents and doctors for seven years, it was difficult figuring out how to get back into the professional world of networking again.  I wasn’t sure how to get out there.  I was intimidated by the world of theatre and felt as though I didn’t know how to form connections.  So I did it the old-fashioned way.  Posting flyers everywhere humanly possible, researching the contact information of every news source I could get my hands on, and spreading my name shamelessly wherever I could.  There were no shortcuts and it wasn’t easy.  But it was worth it.  It taught be valuable lessons about publicity and business, and I created connections that were truly invaluable.

The reward for this was finding myself and feeling happy for the first time since I came to.  It was scary to be in a high school class getting ready for my senior prom one minute, and then suddenly being thrown into an alternate universe, where doctors already knew me, where my body was plugged into machines and felt very alien to me.  It was hard (an understatement) grappling with the reality of never being able to even consume a drop of water ever again.  I could have given up millions of times.  But I didn’t and I so glad I had the insanity to keep believing.  I never gave up hope – I got depressed but I never threw in the towel.  But more than that – I refused to just survive.
Now I can truly say I am thriving.  I’m doing what I love on a larger scale than I ever could have imagined.  I’m reaching others in unforeseen ways.  And I love what I do.

So I just want to advise the readers to start from anywhere.  Don’t compare yourself and work with what you have.  Don’t accept what you start with.  Visualize what you’d like to be and manifest it – will it.  The most important thing is to really tune into your passion and work from there – wherever it may lead you – no matter how crazy.  If it is authentic, it’s real.  And with a bit of dedication, it will happen.

What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you?

My website has a contact me form as well as an option to subscribe to my newsletter:
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