BY: ELIZABETH DURAND STREISAND
We’re all missing Broadway right now, which is why we were so excited to discover Coloring Broadway — a clever, creative, and somewhat therapeutic(!) line of theater-themed coloring sheets. Founded by Andrea Koehler, a corporate education professional and lifelong theater lover, Coloring Broadway has blossomed into a thriving brand, even during this extended Broadway blackout. We caught up with Koehler to find out how it all started and where it goes from here.
Broadway Spin: Where did the idea for Coloring Broadway come from?
Andrea Koehler: In 2016 I created my first company called The Coloring Project, where I paired coloring with mindfulness activities to amplify the power of coloring for self-discovery. I created a coloring book called The Power of Positive Coloring, which had 45 illustrations, each with a mindfulness activity. As you have probably guessed, I’m a Broadway nerd and I’ve always loved the transformative power of theater. When Justine (our illustrator extraordinaire) and I talked about putting some Hamilton lyrics on a coloring page, there was NO way to say “no to this.” For her, it was fun to use the lyrics to create, and for me, I loved featuring lyrics that moved me and caused me to think or reflect on my favorite musicals. Can we say, mindfulness and self-discovery. From there, we created our first coloring collection which was Hamilton, obviously, and it has just grown from there.
BS: How long did it take to go from initial idea to having the company up and running?
AK: “And I know things now, many wonderful things, that I didn’t know before.” This Sondheim lyric that always pops into my head when I answer this question. For Coloring Broadway, I was able to use some of the infrastructure from The Coloring Project. But, really, I had no idea that Coloring Broadway was going to take over my business and become “the” thing! On April 4th, 2017, we posted our first illustration. On May 5th, my phone started blowing up with sales. It wasn’t until someone messaged us and told us that Hamilton’s official IG account had shared one of our pictures that we understood! That wonderful share quickly sent us careening into a full blown, Broadway-adjacent business. From there it’s been a never-ending road of learning things I didn’t know I needed to learn.
Having a creative idea and turning that creative idea into a business are two very different things. I quickly discovered that I couldn’t just partner with my Illustrator and talk about all the cool lyrics I wanted to turn into coloring pages, I had to learn all of the “business backend” from accounting to social media, to website and SEO … the list goes on! I’m three years in and I’m still learning and building and learning some more. This year, I’ve been able to add some team members to keep Coloring Broadway growing.
BS: What’s your proudest achievement with Coloring Broadway so far?
AK: At BroadwayCon, I’ve been fortunate to speak on a number of panels including two where I’ve conducted a Broadway-themed mindfulness exercise to an audience of 150+. Another “jump up and down for joy” moment was when Emojiland loved our collection so much that they brought it in as merch at their shop! And a moment I won’t forget, EVER, was getting to interview some of my favorite Broadway actors at the Tony’s Honors in Excellence Awards in 2019 and ask them about my favorite topic – Mindfulness and Self-discovery – and hear what role it plays for them in their careers.
BS: What has been your biggest mistake/s with the business?
AK: As a creative, most of my lesson learning has come from ideas turning into projects without taking time to put in the necessary systems, structures, and processes into place to make them into as successful as they could be. I seem to always be making mistakes on uploading or not uploading things. One of those self-discovery moments is that I am not great at the little details and that I need to have someone clearing up behind me.
BS: How do you decide what coloring packets to make?
AK: Coin toss? Dart throw? Audience Poll? But really, in the beginning, it was kind of like that. After 3 years and lots of conversations, Justine (our Illustrator extraordinaire) and I have a great process that allows us to use audience input to balance our show choices between the new productions and the old standbys. There are definitely some things that I gravitate to naturally because they were part of my “love story” with Broadway.
BS: How has Broadway’s closure and COVID-19 affected your business?
AK: I never intended to be a “pandemic profiteer.” What I can say is that I am very glad that I have created a product whose specific function is to create calm and relieve stress. With so many people stuck at home, I was humbled beyond words that people were able to find a little bit of creative happiness in our illustrations. One positive pandemic result is that I finally launched our Musically Mindful Moments Free Illustrations. Creating opportunities for people to slow down, reflect on their favorite musical and what it means to them is really why I started Coloring Broadway. People can download, print and color an illustration with a message and a mindfulness activity. They’re all available for Free on our website.
Because I needed to figure out how I could contribute to the fundraising going on for artists, we created an “Only Intermission” collection to raise money for the BCEFA/The Actors Fund COVID-19 Relief Fund. It’s $7.50, available as a digital download, and all profits go to the fund.