9 months later, I presented the app for 8 pastors and staff at my church's pastoral meeting , for 50+ engineers, designers, and creators at a Tech Breakfast, and submitted my idea to RTR's Project Entrepreneur.
My business coach deemed my pitch deck one of the "best she has ever seen" and my app beta-tested to largely positive feedback.
fostering faith, fellowship, and excellence in the acting community
As an actress, I pinpointed three needs that arose for me in the acting industry: 1) faith - as the ups and downs of the industry require faith in yourself and beyond yourself, 2) connection - as actors work largely on their own, and 3) practice - as practicing your craft can be logistically and financially challenging.
I gathered peers from my church passionate about meeting these needs. After some planning, Actors InC/ Actors In Christ began meeting in Oct 2010. We met on a weekly basis with an on-camera acting workshop format where actors read scripts on camera, watched playback, and shared feedback. Additionally, we organized panel discussions, casting opportunities, charitable efforts, and social events. Each workshop started and ended with prayer.
We ran for 7 strong years, spanning a dozen leaders, 3 spaces, 800 members, and hundreds of workshops. Our speaker roster included SAG committee members, filmmaker Tim Chey, actors Dorian & Simone Missick, agents from Don Buchwald and Ramona's Model & Talent. We provided casting for O Magazine and films Old-Fashioned and The Father's Love. We connected all of our actors to a greater community that equipped them professionally and edified them spiritually.
preserving a family history rife with surreal stories of survival
During casual family conversation, I became privy to incredible stories within our family history, themed by escaping Communism, reuniting after family division, and surviving life-threatening conditions.
I wanted to preserve these stories as spoken from the mouths of my uncles and father, as they are living survivors of this history.
I sold my mom on the idea of creating a family documentary and she sold my four uncles on it. I hired a cameraman, sound engineer, and makeup artist and borrowed a studio and equipment from a show where I was freelancing at the time. The eldest uncle Skyped in from Hong Kong and the other three were present. My mom acted as translator during filming and post-production, and assisted me in writing English subtitles.
We have a short video that is the finished result of our work. The family had an opportunity to watch it via a youtube link that I sent out with the 7 minute video. This was designed to serve as a teaser and I would love to expand the video to be a full documentary with the uncles sharing more stories in a natural setting produced with cinematic quality.
connecting Christians in the same life stage across New York City
I saw a need for singles of faith to connect with one another. While singles parties and speed-dating events abounded in the secular community, the faith-based community had no comparable effort serving their needs.
Following research, I learned of a singles ministry that lay dormant. I met with the organizer and she entrusted me with the reins. I began organizing events to gather Christians across NYC in the same life-stage through parties, activities, and more.
The Edge successfully hosted 4 events with an average of 50 people in attendance at each one. People came and left happy, often asking about the next event. We partnered with Catholic NYC, Fellowship in the City, and the Trinity Broadcast Network, cross-promoting our events. We established ourselves as a relevant and well-run ministry serving the Christian singles community in NYC.
I was often asked by actors what they could do to support themselves. I had many acting friends with flexible "other" jobs that they enjoyed. I saw a need to have their stories shared in a way that de-stigmatized being an actor with a survival job and provided practical tips on how to enter into one. I saw a need to open dialogue and community between the actors wondering what to do and the actors already doing it.
I interviewed various actors with non-acting professions: a comedian who practiced law, an actress who practiced engineering, a model who was a "model maid," an actor who was an emergency room technician. I had several talent agents write articles to support the idea of talent who worked other jobs. I hired a friend in design to create the book cover. I worked with an e-book coach to translate the book into an e-book and maximize it's potential for sale on Amazon.
I self-published the 84-page book on Amazon.com on May 6, 2014. It has 4.5 stars, 10 customer reviews, and has sold 60+ copies. It still sells for $3.97.
Sample review: "Great resource guide for starving and not-so-starving actors! So inspiring to see what others do to sustain themselves while pursuing a career in acting"
experience New York's fitness scene like never before
I believed there was a need for a NYC fitness-themed show hosted by a personality with both storytelling and athletic abilities, making it possible for the host to communicate first-hand experience as well as extract second-hand commentary from interviews.
I decided to create such a show with myself as the host. I brought on cameramen, editors, interns, and a producer to be my team in creating episodes. I garnered access to a variety of races, events, and classes and access to interview participants as well as staff. I brought on a wardrobe stylist who forged a sponsorship relationship with Reebok and Lucy for sneakers and clothing.
bite off more than you can chew; then chew as fast as you can
A spin studio I worked at was closing its doors and disposing of 175 brand new, branded water bottles. I was headed to a missions trip to Namibia and thought that the two events could be mutually beneficial. I learned that, indeed, the school in Namibia would be happy to put good use to 175 water bottles. I now needed to figure out a way to transport it all.
I physically carried the water bottles from Hell's Kitchen (my spin studio) to the Upper West Side (my studio apt), encountering two Mormon missionaries who assisted me along the way. I solicited the help of another missionary in my group to split the water bottles between our luggage. We traveled from America > Johannesburg > Namibia free of luggage fees. I was stopped at customs exiting Namibia and convinced them to grant me access without fees.
We volunteered at a school in an impoverished township, leading the students in games and lessons as well as laying bricks in their front yard. One day, we gave the bottles away to all the children. When the staff expressed desire to have bottles for themselves as well, our team gave them the bottles that we had personally been using. They did not mind. So, from NY>Namibia, all 175 water bottles were put to great use.
I believe you should laugh as often as you can
I had the itch to perform standup and I wanted to give it a real shot but also didn't want to pay the dues that most comics pay: barking on the street, exploiting friends, and breaking their backs to perform for free. I wanted to use my time wisely and be compensated for my efforts.
I took a class at the PIT, I performed at open mics, then one of my friends gave me a spot in her lineup of female comics at the Republik Lounge in Midtown, and I performed my first set ever - for 10 minutes. I continued to work on my jokes privately, with my comedian friends, and at open mics. I shared my comedy with my community and offered it as a new skill in my arsenal.
I was featured on BadSlava.com, a go-to resource for the comedy community. I hosted and performed at Comic Strip Live, performed a string of paid spots at charitable and for-cause events, and was casted for a Lay's Potato Chip commercial because I "went for it" by pursuing standup comedy. I certainly feel as if I skipped the line in the comedy department - mission accomplished!
there is no failure; you either try and succeed, or you try and you learn
My brother was diagnosed with Schizo-psychosis following strange, erratic, and even violent behavior at home and toward my parents. He was in and out of corrections facilities and mental health facilities. My family was not communicative or even fully knowledgeable about the medical details and the law prevented me from communicating directly with medical staff. Thus, I felt a need to understand and advocate for my brother.
I met with my brother's staff, earned their trust, and entered into a regular correspondence with them regarding his state-of-being, medications, activities, and notable decisions being made with him. I garnered the attention of Dr. Steven Silverstein, the lead of Thrive NJ, a novel treatment program, and worked with him to advocate for my brother's enrollment. I attended seminars and spoke with everyone from neighbors to experts, with the goal of seeing my brother to recovery. I communicated with my brother regularly, consistently expressing support and being a safe space for him. I advocated for and escorted my brother to Moving Forward, a community wellness center in his town.
My brother refused to walk inside Moving Forward. He was not interested in any of the opportunities painstakingly made available for him. I learned that, even when it comes to someone with mental health issues, they still have to want to be helped. I learned to love my brother without compromising my boundaries. I remain hopeful for the day when he will live the life he wants and I remain supportive of his choices regardless. Through this process, I learned, my family became more cohesive, and doors were opened and relationships were built. Much was accomplished.