In 2007, Stephanie Courtney was a regular performer with The Groundlings and booking small parts in TV commercials, but you likely had no idea who the 37-year-old actress was.

Then Courtney filmed her first TV spot for Progressive Insurance as a saleswoman named “Flo.”

Now you know.

But it took 10 years in Los Angeles before her big break. As she recalls:

In 1997, my sister and I moved to L.A. One night, we saw a show at the Groundlings and I was blown away. It felt a lot more like acting to me than stand-up because there was someone with an acting partner up there. I signed up for classes the next day and started going through that program. I was hoping to go as far as I could get, which meant joining the main Groundlings company. I also felt that if it didn’t work out, that was OK. I can still go on auditions and keep moving forward.

When I moved to L.A., I instantly realized there’s so much more opportunity. Those beginning years when my parents were like, “What are you doing?” I said, “My job is auditioning.” You have to get better and better at it, so when you get that audition that is make-or-break or is the one you’re meant to get, you are relaxed and you’re better at it. And that only comes from doing 100 of them. Some of them were great, some were bad, some I had a cold, some I wanted so much it was creepy. Some of them I didn’t even think about and I got the part. The average of it was that you’re getting better. The best advice I can give to anyone is to get out there and dare to be imperfect. Prepare as best as you can and just show up.

Prepare as best as you can and just show up!

Read her whole wonderful essay in Cosmopolitan.

Here is a great spot in a series of spots currently running on TV, featuring Stephanie Courtney not only as Flo, but also as all of her family members.