Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Holly Cinnamon, Founder of The Female Gayze and Teaching Presence, located in New York, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a queer femme-inist lez actor, singer-songwriter, and embodiment educator from Edmonton, Canada, currently based in New York and Toronto. As an actor, I am best known as Julie Barnes in Daredevil (2018) and for Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) and will be appearing in Season 4 of HBO's Succession. I identify as a queer gender-fluid femme and use she/they pronouns.
I've been singing and writing songs since I can remember, but only during the pandemic, when my acting career was on hold, did I transition my creative energy to songwriting. I self-produced and released five singles in 2022 through my record label, The Female Gayze, and am about to put out my second single of 2023 after a successful release of "Small Town Queer." I am currently working on my first full-length album with Plaid Dog Studios in Boston. I collaborate with arranger and musician Matthew Lowy.
I'm inspired by my experiences as a queer woman & trauma survivor, my relationship with my body, and cool women throughout history. My song "Ride Sally Ride" explores America's first female astronaut's journey to space in 1983 and her coming out in her personal life upon return to Earth. My latest release, "Small Town Queer," is about my experience growing up queer in rural Alberta, Canada.
My lyrics are definitively queer, and my sound is inspired by embodied experiences and environmental sounds, as well as many pop musicians over decades and genres. My audience is a blend of the LGBTQIA+ community, who often feel deeply represented by the music, and a broader audience who appreciate my pop sound.
My other business, Teaching Presence: Embodiment and Empowerment Education, is an online and in-person education company that helps people become more in touch with their bodies and minds in daily activities, artistic practices, at work, and beyond. Located in Hell's Kitchen, I offer one-on-one sessions to help people overcome habits and chronic pain, improve efficiency and gain presence and ease in their activities. I also offer online group classes in both Alexander Technique and Yin, Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga, all of which I am trained and certified in. My customers range from Broadway performers, film and TV actors, professional musicians, and athletes to hair stylists, painters, uber drivers, office workers, etc. Anyone can improve efficiency and embodiment and reduce chronic pain and bad habits, no matter their lifestyle or line of work.
Tell us about yourself
I started studying yoga and trained to be a teacher over 10 years ago, but I didn't really start my business until after I trained in Alexander Technique from 2014-2018. I took this training as an actor and performer, but it quickly changed my entire life and sense of my own embodiment and empowerment, so that's what motivated me to build a business teaching it. I am motivated by how much I love witnessing people feel empowered and transform in their ownership of their bodies. I love sharing tools and practices that have worked for me and really getting an immediate sense that I am making a concrete, tangible difference in people's lives that both they and I can immediately feel and see the results of. I love the joy that comes from people when their bodies are aligned and working how they are designed to, especially when they feel freedom or flow that they haven't felt in months or maybe years.
In regard to my music business, I have always been writing songs, but during the pandemic, when my acting career was put on hold, I shifted my focus towards producing my own music and taught myself how to produce music on my computer. I self-produced and released five songs that way in 2022. I am motivated by becoming the representation that I never saw when I was growing up as a queer teenager on the prairies of rural Alberta. I am motivated by the incredible messages I get from my LGBTQ+ audience, talking about the impact my music has on them and how they feel seen and represented in my work. It feels very full circle to me to let my inner child and inner teenager be seen, heard, and validated in my work now, and to have an audience and community of listeners connect with that is very meaningful and healing.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I love that I can offer LGBTQIA+ friendly embodiment services to that community, as I am a member of that community and very sensitive to how queer, trans, and non-binary people might relate to their bodies in different ways as they might be exploring or shifting their identities. I love that I am able to offer a trauma-informed and identity-aware embodiment practice that is safe, respectful, and empowering to all my clients (and, if any mistakes are made, I am honest and ready to show up and address and reconcile for them). Many LGBTQIA+ people don't access embodiment or physical therapy practices because they are not sure that they will be respected or that their identities and bodies will be handled with care by informed practitioners, so being able to offer that is truly a joy.
I am also proud of the way I have structured my business to self-produce and self-release all of my music (independent of a big label) so that I own all the rights and maintain all the creative and business decision-making independently. It is very empowering that I get to hear my own voice not only through my music but also as the owner and operator of my music business. It is really taking back the mic and taking back control and ownership of my own narrative, vision, and representation in the world.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
For me, the hardest thing is staying motivated to work on my business because it's just me (and because I have three other careers/businesses). I enjoy hopping back and forth between my businesses and spending more time and energy on one and then on the other. I think it's also key to hire out your weaknesses or the tasks you find the most challenging or tedious as a business owner, if you can. I love collaborating, and I'm a natural leader in terms of the balance between giving people space and giving clear direction and guidance, but it doesn't always feel like I can afford to hire out as many tasks as I might want to. However, when I do, it's always worth it, so trusting that and taking those little leaps is something I'm working on.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Look into Start Small Think Big for free legal, marketing, and accounting advice if you have an emerging small business within its revenue parameters in the U.S.!
- Start with you - what is it that you have been circling around your whole life, trying to figure out and discover deeper? Learn how to slow down and listen to your inner voice as deeply as you can.
- Learn people's names and remember the stories they tell you. Practice active listening. Build honest and complex relationships with your potential clients, and let them see you from many sides.
Where can people find you and your business?
Facebook (Music): https://www.facebook.com/thefemalegayze
Instagram (Personal): https://www.instagram.com/holly.cinnamon/
Instagram (Business): https://www.instagram.com/teaching_presence/
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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