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Survival Job Spotlight: Actress Entrepreneurs

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Welcome to Survival Job Spotlight!  In “the biz” we call the work we do for money outside of performing “survival jobs”.  These sources of extra income, however, are great side hustles for anyone.  Join me as I interview friends, family, and strangers from all sides of the “survival job” world, from waiting tables to… well, pretty much anything. 

What if, instead of working for someone else, you worked for yourself?  Would you still dread your survival job?  How would setting your own hours, creating your own work environment, and being your own boss make you feel?  Stressed?  Anxious?  Excited?

Starting your own business isn’t easy, but with a lot of hard work and a little creativity, it’s possible.  Not only does entrepreneurship give you the freedom to work for yourself, but it can also empower you as a performer and a person. 

I’m thrilled to feature the stories of four incredible actress entrepreneurs today.  All of these women work actively in “the biz” while building and growing their own businesses.

SHAYLA BENOIT:  Co-founder Shady Theatrics

Shady Theatrics

I think it’s every actor’s dream to find a “survival job” that fills them creatively while they’re in between performance gigs. I happened to stumble into mine by joking around.  My friend, Tim Grady and I decided to do a spoof music video for a show we were in just as a fun project and hilarious memory. Next thing we knew, we had 8,000 hits on YouTube, and people really seemed to enjoy our work. As luck would have it, Tim and I were cast together at several theatres, and we kept making music videos. Our big break came when we created a few videos for the live studio audience of the Tony Awards, one of which featured Tom Hanks.

As a result, we created our creative video production company, Shady Theatrics. We conceive, direct, produce, choreograph, and cast miscellaneous videos for various clients and businesses. We are open to all kinds of projects, and love putting our fun and humorous spin on an idea. Shady projects give me an outlet to stretch my skills as a director, producer, choreographer, and business woman. I am my own boss, so I’m able to schedule meetings and shoots around my audition and performance schedule. It’s also challenged me to learn a new art form and hone my business skills. I still have other jobs to support myself as an actor in NYC, but we have been very fortunate to steadily grow. My hope and goal is to fully support myself with our company, and have another “dream job.”

Check out Shady Theatrics at!


CASEY TUMA: Founder Casey Tuma Transforms

Casey Tuma Transforms

I never pictured myself as an entrepreneur or a “jack of all trades”–but now that I’ve created this life for myself, I’ll never look back! As an actor, I’ve spent countless months away from New York City. While I  enjoyed my experiences, I longed to plant my roots and explore what it would feel like to inspire and be inspired every day–not just under the lights on stage.  All of the work that I was doing outside of theatre- administrative coordinator for a college coaching service, doing “wine and closet purge” nights with friends, organizing and helping facilitate the expansion of my voice teacher’s studio, had common threads – Organization. Space. Transformation. Before I knew it, my business, Casey Tuma Transforms, was born!

I continue to learn new skills that span both acting and business and enable me to own my power and make choices based on my core desires. My personal goal is to infuse FUN and PLAY into my days, and be responsible for my own future. I organize my schedule with clients so that I’m able to go to voiceover and theatre auditions as needed. The pressure of booking an acting job has vanished because I have created daily fulfillment that isn’t solely dependent upon my auditions. Whether it is a new client that craves organization or a fun voiceover opportunity that comes my way- I’m ready for work AND play!

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MELISSA ZIMMERMAN: Founder It’s a Cuppie


Baking had always been a hobby of mine. A few years ago, an acquaintance, who had tasted some desserts I baked for an event, asked me to bake for her wedding—and told me she was going to pay me! The bride settled on cupcakes, and gave me free reign to come up with any flavors I wanted. I wanted to create something a little different and extra special. I was reading a book at the time about cooking, in which the author mentioned putting cookie dough on top of cupcakes instead of frosting. It got me thinking—what if instead of putting the cookie dough on top, I put the cookie dough inside the cupcakes? And thus the idea for the cuppie was born: cupcakes with cookies inside. The cuppies were a hit at the wedding and I was urged to start a cuppie business.


As an (unemployed) actress in NYC, I am always looking for ways to make money. Since that summer, I’ve developed 18 cuppie flavors (including one gluten-free) and have sold at fairs in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. I supply cuppies to a couple of coffee shops and fill private orders as they come. What’s great is that since it’s my own business, I set my own hours. Performing is still my number one love, and if I book a show out of town, I will just put my business on hold and come back to it when I return. But it sure is great to make money doing something else I love.

Check out, also follow on twitter!


MELISSA ROBINETTE: Founder The Biz of Show

My parents were in the circus. My mom taught me a systematic way of how to run my acting career. It worked. I booked work regularly without any problem and knew how to negotiate my own contracts. Friends and colleagues noticed and asked for help, thus came “The Biz of Show” with Melissa Robinette.

The Biz of Show

The Biz of Show is all about putting your best foot forward and being the change you want to see in the industry. Actors tend to blame the industry for their lack of work when in fact YOU can be the change you’d like to see by being ahead of industry changes or even creating your own work. A new feature of the program will walk you through your job offer and teach you HOW to negotiate!

Running my own biz has really helped keep me on my toes while being inspired and excited for life and opportunity. It’s amazing to see every student succeed daily. Balancing The Biz of Show and my acting career is easy. The difficult thing to balance is being a VP of Actors Equity and running a small farm. I travel almost weekly for the union, that’s hard when you book all your work through EPAs and ECCs. However it always magically works out with everyone being flexible and by me setting my priorities (that often change). The back bone to my life is my husband. He cooks, he cleans, he pushes me out of bed and makes sure I have clean underwear on!

Check out and follow on facebook!


Have you ever considered starting your own business?  What scares you or excites you about it?  What do you think of these fabulous actress entrepreneurs?

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33 responses to “Survival Job Spotlight: Actress Entrepreneurs

  1. Stefanie,
    Your writing career is really taking off as I see you everywhere. Could this replace your acting career?

  2. Oooh I want to try a “cuppie”! That looks so good. I think being an entrepreneur seems to be the way to go when you work in the entertainment business. If you have something that is always scheduled, it would make it tough to perform and go on auditions. I admire all your ambitious endeavors!

  3. Thank you for highlighting these women Stefanie! As you know, I just recently started my own business and I was scared about where money would come from (and probably always will be scared about that) but I love what I do every day, so it takes away most of that fear.

  4. I design and sell t-shirts through web screenprinting sites and have partnered with several major entertainment outlets to provide seemingly “homemade” fan t-shirts for newscasters when they interview celebrities. I’m running a web consulting business as well that has helped dozens of people and small businesses go viral online. The best part of all of these jobs is that I can pick them up and keep them running when I’m out of town on contracts!

  5. I have always thought that women make amazing business owners. Not being sexist at all, but we just multitask better than men 99% of the time. Here’s to hoping we have a woman President at some point in the next decade.

  6. I think being an entrepreneur is actually the best possibly survival job for the arts. Setting your own hours and being able to come and go as you please makes life a lot easier when you’re trying to balance the really weird scheduling around rehearsals, auditions and performances.

    And their businesses all sound pretty cool too!

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