The Expat Woman

Petra Ostermuenchner – Fashion Designer and Small Business Consultant

Full Name: Petra Ostermuenchner
Country of Origin : Austria
Current Company/ Job Title: small business consultant at San Francisco’s Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and Fashion Designer
Company website:,
Instagram: petra_o_fashion

Petra Ostermuenchner. currently works as a small business consultant at San Francisco’s Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. With a background as a business entrepreneur in fashion design and native of Austria, Petra independently immigrated to the States at age 19. In 2008 Petra was one of eight fashion designers to be featured in Fashion Week San Diego, and has since organized and hosted over fifty fashion shows and trade events to promote and grow her business. With multiple Associates degrees from San Diego Mesa College in Fashion Design and Merchandising as well as a Bachelors Degrees from San Francisco State University Petra has formed a diverse education for herself enabling her to focus on the many different aspects business ownership has to offer.

1. What made you move to the USA? Which city did you move to? Was the move to the USA hard for you?
I moved to the USA because I was driven to explore the other side of the world (inspired by the Bill Cosby Show, Baywatch and other pop culture media believe it or not). One day I researched jobs in the USA online, and found an agency that offered hotel jobs in San Diego, California. I jumped on this opportunity immediately, flew to Holland for my interview, got my Visa in Vienna, Austria, and was gone withing 3 weeks.

2. What advice do you wish someone had given you when you first moved to the USA?
Research the place you will be living in. I was lucky when I landed in San Diego because it was a beautiful and safe city, but I should have known more about the place where I was going to spend my next years.

3. How did you get into the fashion business? And how did you get the job you are currently working at?
After finishing my 18-month term working for Sheraton Hotels I decided it was time to grow, and I started taking fashion classes at San Diego Mesa Community College. At the annual graduation fashion show called “Golden Scissors” I was discovered by the founder of Fashion Week San Diego Allison Andrews, who asked me to create an 11-piece line within 3 months in order to participate in Fashion week 2008.

4. Best moment of your career so far?
I loved being part of fashion shows, and trade shows. My favorite part was my publicity stunt at fashion week San Diego when I jumped into the runway’s pool with my Petra O. evening gown. The newspapers were definitely talking. Here’s the link to the video

5. What is a typical day like for you?
At the moment I work in business consulting at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. I am also developing a new fashion line for plus size women. I took a break from the fashion industry after the financial crisis in 2008, and went back to college to receive a bachelors degree in communications.

6. What are three things you like about the USA?
I love the freedom of being able to start a business – the process is much easier compared to Austrian standards. I love diversity and the American people of all colors. I love how easy it is to travel anywhere in the US, speak the same language and use the same currency – it opens so many more horizons.

7. What is your favorite American food? Favorite city in the USA? Favorite store and restaurant?
I love the diversity of restaurants San Francisco has to offer, and my favorite adapted American foods are Sushi and Mexican Cuisine. My favorite stores are consignment stores – I love thrift stores and re-sale boutiques.

8. How do you balance your job at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, and fashion business?
I’m lucky to be able to learn about business while working for the entrepreneurship center. At the moment I’m taking as many entrepreneurial classes as I can to avoid the mistakes I have made with my previous business. I have learned that the most important aspect of starting a business is research, and defining your target market. I am currently in the research phase.

9. Tell us about fashion business? What do you design, how do you sell them? You have hosted over 50 fashion shows. Can you talk about this too?
My designs are mainly black dresses that I have sold through trade shows and e-commerce sites. As a fashion designer I immensely enjoyed hosting and coordinating fashion and trade shows. I love entertaining people, and always thought of fashion shows as an opportunity to give the audience a taste of fashion and performance.

10. What advice would you give to professional expat women about starting their own business? How can the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center help them?
The most important advice I have give is to research your business online and in person before investing any money. I also highly recommend to brush up on English grammar, and start attending as many networking events as possible.

11. What are three things you found about the USA that were different from your country or you found hard to adjust to?
– Europeans are more forward about their opinions. In the USA it is considered rude to speak your mind directly, and people try not to hurt each others feelings by being politically correct.
– The USA has many rules and regulations. The law enforcement is very powerful and much stricter compared to Austrian’s police.
– Sarcasm and dark humor isn’t as common as in Europe, and often misinterpreted.

12. What are three fun or interesting facts about your home country?
– It is ok to wear a Dirndl, Lederhosen or a fancy suit at the same festive occasion.
– On December 5th, men dress up like fury devils wearing hand-carved wooden masks, and participate in parades serving Schnapps to the audience.
– Jaegermeister is a digestive drink sometimes served to ill kids.

13. What is your favorite quote?
Live and let live.


Nyna is the Founder and CEO of The Expat Woman, a global platform focused on connecting, supporting and empowering women who have moved abroad or plan to relocate. She is also a LinkedIn coach, consultant, trainer and speaker. LinkedIn played a huge role in my professional journey abroad, helping me build a network of powerful expat women and allies.

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