Amy Woodside, Artist & Founder, OKREAL
At Lisa Says Gah we aim to feature designers and entrepreneurs that inspire. Women that have taken a risk, and are reaping the rewards because of it. We tell their stories, absorb the wisdom, and hope that we can channel their advice for our own unique path. Amy Woodside is the founder of OKREAL—a website focused on women that are pursuing their passions, listening to their inner voices, and rocking their careers—she also happens to be the embodiment of someone who is doing just that! LSG chatted with Amy about harnessing inspiration from those around you, being your own boss, and making a life worth living. Read on as Amy shares her story, offers some A+ advice, and who know’s, maybe even inspires some confidence in you to pursue your inner dreams. That’s what this is all about it, isn’t it? Enjoy!!
Q: Hi Amy!! Tell us about OKREAL and how it came about?
I’ve always been hungry for authentic advice to help me carve out my own path in life, and wanted to create a resource for people who were looking for this also. That’s what OKREAL is: a curation of wisdom distilled from real lives. We help women figure out their lives by sharing the stories of others. We do this through online interviews and events: live interviews, workshops, and our newest program, mentor circles. I’m really interested in helping women determine what fulfillment looks like to them, and how to get there. I’d like to think OKREAL helps people with that process. We also just launched our online shop which is super exciting for us!
Q: What does it mean to be a creative entrepreneur?
Still figuring that one out. So far, it feels like working really hard towards something you believe in, and making it up as you go along.
Q: Describe your typical workday.
I wake up around 6:00 am and workout for an hour—either running, cardio dance-class with DanceBody, or yoga with SKY TING. Then it’s straight into it. I spend the day writing, sending 90 million emails, making sure our shop is running smoothly, and meeting with great people in between: event collaborators, my designers, women I’m interviewing. I usually work from home. I’ll close my computer for dinner, then work for another few hours until 10 or 11. I try to go to bed before midnight.
Q: You are an artist across varying mediums. How does your painting influence your writing or vice versa?
Painting is a weird, fun exploration. When I’m painting, I think about words in a different way. What’s sharp, short and has impact? Do these letters look good together? I enjoy the way painting challenges me to think about language—both its meaning and its form. But writing has been a constant thread throughout my entire life—I have diaries and storybooks from about 3 years old.
Q: You’re originally from New Zealand, moved to Toronto, and now live and work out of of New York, can you walk us through your path and how you got to where you are now?
I left New Zealand for Toronto when I was 22. I lived there for 6 months, working as a bartender, a waitress, a retail assistant. And having lots of fun. I moved to NYC after 6 months at the beginning of 2010, and after a year of sorting out my visa, began working in a branding agency. After a year or so I left to work as an artist. My work did well enough for me to leave my full-time job. I picked up freelance project management and creative direction roles for a while, then started OKREAL in the summer of 2014.
Q: How do you balance being from an island like New Zealand with living in NYC?
I feel very fortunate to call two of the best islands in the world home. I love New York but am a true Kiwi at heart. I go back to New Zealand once a year, which keeps me grounded, sane and well tanned (most of the time).
Q: What’s your ultimate way to wind down?
Swimming in the sea.
Q: How do you manage to interview all these cool girls without comparing yourself to them? Any tips for girls out there that read about these successful women entrepreneurs and think, “Why not me?”
I often compare myself, but not in a negative or envious way. I look to these women and think—what can I learn from this person? How can I grow from this experience? Women who compete and drag each other down are exhausting. I refuse to spend my time around people like that. Life is so much easier, rewarding and enjoyable when you try and lift people up.
Q: How did ASK AMY start?
I started to receive a lot of questions via email and in person after my events, and wanted to be able to answer them thoughtfully. I try and pick questions that I know a lot of people will struggle with. I don’t have all the answers, but if I’ve been there before, I enjoy sharing my experience in the hope that someone might find it helpful.
Q: We love the conversational nature of your interviews. What was the choice of eschewing the typical question and answer format for a more narrative and organic dialogue?
When I first started the site, it was important to me that the OKREAL world was formed by the women I featured. It was through my lens, but I didn’t want it to be about me. I wanted to create the space for those voices and didn’t want to distract from them. So I removed my questions to let their narrative be the focus.
Q: How many people work with you and in what capacity?
I have an incredible design team, XXIX, who are responsible for our website, and who also let me be very involved in the design. I have a wonderful Managing Director, design assistant and intern. My team has grown quickly over the past few months—it has been a one woman show until very recently.
Q: With everything that you have going on, how do you unwind? Or are your passions your release?
I really enjoy working—I find it fulfilling and rewarding. I work on the weekends, but I feel like that’s really common here. There’s no separation between work life and non-work life for me, it all rolls together. And I prefer it that way… my work is very much who I am and I get so much joy from it. I’ll get far more enjoyment from making progress on a project or a little business victory than waiting in line for two hours on a Saturday to eat some weird overpriced brunch. I do find it hard to relax in New York City—if I really want to chill, I have to get out of the city. Whether that’s driving an hour away upstate, spending time on the West Coast or as far as New Zealand.
Q: You are your own creative boss. How do you stay motivated amidst all the noise, to keep OKREAL going and to keep inspiring, sharing, and telling your story?
Motivation and drive are not optional when you are relying on yourself. Sure, some days I’d prefer to lie around and be lazy, but then I’ll have twice the amount of work to get through tomorrow. What I find hard is stepping back and thinking about the big picture when there is so much right in front of me that needs to get done immediately. Especially as a sole business owner. I’m always thinking—am I being reactive? Is this a smart decision? Am I just going through the motions or could I be doing better? Am I learning from this? There is so much I want to do, and I get frustrated when I don’t have the resources or time to do it all. Patience is not my strong point! But when shit hits the fan with OKREAL, or I’m dealing with something tough, I shift my focus to what matters—my family, my health. The big stuff. Thinking about the big stuff makes me realize how small the small stuff actually is. It calms me down and puts things into perspective.
Q: Any advice for aspiring writers who want to start a blog or grow their social media?
Write. Start. We come up with so many excuses around why we can’t do something. As soon as you realize you’re the only one holding yourself back, your capabilities become very clear. You become powerful when you take responsibility for yourself. In terms of social media… it’s a mystery to me. Producing our quotes was not particularly calculated. It was a snapshot of what the site stood for, it made sense. It was an: “I don’t have time to do these interviews and run the site and take photos of coffee on marble countertops for Instagram as well’. Be resourceful—do what you can with what you have.
Q: What’s something someone can do right now to focus on self-care?
Who is someone you love? Tell them that you love them. That always makes me feel better.
Q: Can you recommend a book that has particularly inspired you to pursue your passion?
There are so many. I think Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is great for anyone creative.
Q: How do you come across all these rad girls you feature on OKREAL?
Some are my friends, some are friends of friends, some reach out to me, I reach out to some of them—it really ranges. Almost everyone I interview recommends women they know who will be down for the site. This dream-team network is an incidental bonus—and meeting all of these people is my favorite part.
Q: Describe your personal style.
Easy, simple, sporty.
Q: Through all of this, what’s the best advice you’ve received?
It’s all right here.