To honor the many women in the LGBT community who possess a fearless entrepreneurial spirit and keen business acumen in executing their ideas and dreams SheWired has launched the Women in Business series of interviews with female business owners from producers to restaurateurs to retail business owners.
A virtual renaissance woman of the business and entertainment world, Andrea Meyerson, President of StandOut Productions, has been creating outstanding entertainment for LGBT audiences and beyond. A self-made producer and director of the wildly popular Laughing Matters series of documentaries about LGBT comics, Meyerson has directed more than 25 feature films, television specials and series episodes that continue to air on Showtime and the Logo Network.
Meyerson kick started her directing career in 2002 with Laughing Matters. The success of the critically acclaimed film spawned three sequels: Laughing Matters…More! (2006), Laughing Matters…The Men (2007) and Laughing Matters…Next Gen (2008). The Laughing Matters series is available on DVD and in frequent rotation on TV.
This film festival season audiences can look forward to screening Meyerson’s latest feature documentary I Stand Corrected, about transgender jazz musician Jennifer Leitham’s journey. I Stand Corrected premiered at the American Documentary Film Festival and won the Audience Favorite Award for Best Film. It is currently screening on the film festival circuit including at Los Angeles’ Outfest on July 16 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are available here.
In 2001 Meyerson began branching out from film to television producing original programming including numerous stand up comedy specials featuring popular comics such as Niecy Nash (Reno 911, Clean House, Dancing with the Stars), Alec Mapa (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives), Kate Clinton (The L Word, Smash), Suzanne Westenhoefer (Late Show with David Letterman, HBO Comedy Half-Hour), Jessica Kirson (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Last Comic Standing), and many others. She also created the One Night Stand Up series in which she directed and produced 10 episodes, each showcasing a group of diverse comics.
If all that weren’t enough Meyerson is also a prolific producer of live comedy shows and concerts. Since founding StandOut Productions in 1997, she has staged events featuring some of the country’s best-known comics and musical artists including Wanda Sykes, Roseanne Barr, k.d. lang, Indigo Girls and Brandi Carlile. In 2010, she launched Curiously Strong Comedy, a national comedy tour featuring some of the hottest comics on the circuit today.
Meyerson chatted with SheWired about how she came to launch her own business and the entrepreneurial spirit that keeps her at the top of her game.
Why were you inspired to launch your own business?
Coming out and feeling a need to work for the betterment of the LGBT community.
What attracted you most to the business you’re in? Was it practicality, passion or a little of both?
Passion, passion, passion! If I had listened to my practical side, I would have never started my own business!
Explain some of the about the challenges you faced in kickstarting your business.
I left a very lucrative career in the corporate world and had no financial backing when I started my business. There are so many expenses you don’t think about when you first launch a business! It cost me a great deal of money to get things started.
Was it difficult coming up with start-up capital after you had the initial great idea for your business?
I looked into applying for a small business loan but never actually went through with the application as I was told it was unlikely it would be approved based on the type of business I was starting. So, I just jumped into it and used my own money.
Before launching your company were you aware of the formalities of tax filing, employment taxes and withholding? If not, how did you become familiar with those aspects of ownership?
No, I was not familiar with any of it! I would always learn as I go! I would seek out help and information on an as-needed basis.
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Do you have lawyers, business advisors or a team to offer advice or guide you?
I didn’t in the beginning so I had to learn everything the hard way. Now I have a great attorney, CPA and bookkeeper and I don’t know how I ever got by without them.
Explain some of the rewards and drawbacks – if any - to owning your own business as opposed to working for someone else.
Rewards: It’s great being your own boss. I sort of always had a tough time with authority. I really enjoy creating each day as I like. Visualizing what you want to create and then creating it! I truly have never been so fulfilled in my work.
Drawbacks: Well, you certainly take yourself out of the comfort zone. There is no guaranteed paycheck, you’re on your own for health insurance and all business expenses.
Now that you’ve owned your own business would you ever go back to working for someone else?
I have learned to “never say never.” At this point, I can’t imagine it, but I suppose if the right opportunity came to me at the right time, I would consider it. It would have to be something very special that really moves me!
Are there challenges that are specific to being a female business owner? Or do you think men who launch a business face equitable issues?
I don’t really think too much about that. I just do the best job I can and hope that it is successful.
What sort of ingenuity has helped to keep your business thriving during trying economic times over the past few years?
Since I started my own business in 1997, I have created many businesses under the same corporate umbrella. For instance, as the economy got worse, I would shift from producing live events to television specials. I kept doing this throughout the years I have been in business. When something stopped working, I would create something else to replace it. I am getting ready to launch another business later this year for the same reason.
What is the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?
I live every day as I choose. I go into work and sit at my desk and decide what I want to create each day. I am so completely fulfilled in my work. I truly feel I am living out my calling in life – creating films, TV specials and events that give our community a voice. My life has more meaning because of my work.
How do you see your business growing over the next five years?
It changes constantly as I think of new ideas and implement them so it’s hard to predict.
When you take time away from work to splurge, how do you like to treat yourself?
Spending time with my girlfriend and our dog. I’m in a long-distance relationship so it’s always a treat when we get some downtime together.
Do you have advice for young entrepreneurs? What are some tips or pitfalls to avoid?
Follow your bliss and listen to your instinct!
Purchase tickets for I Stand Corrected at Outfest here.