When Will It Be Time To Go Home? Taryn Silver’s top 3 considerations

Living in New York is exciting. It’s full of ups and downs. And there’s nothing quite like it. I always tell friends that living in New York is like opening a Pandora’s box of excitement and adventure. Once you open it, you can’t close it. Living in America made me appreciate that despite the wonders of technology, Australia is still quite isolated.

Over the Summer I had a coffee with a friend, and she said that she felt she was ready to come home. Then Melbourne was named the most livable city in the world yet again. Americans are always asking me, “Why would you come here? I’d love to live in Australia, it’s so beautiful.” So I asked myself, would I ever be ready to come home? Should I go home? Here are three things to consider on this topic.

#1 Missing out on major life events

Living overseas means missing out on the big life events of your friends. A couple of years ago I Skyped into my cousin’s wedding, we’re the same age and had grown up together.  While it felt like I was there, it wasn’t quite the same. I wasn’t in any of the pictures and the weeks leading up to the wedding. I kept on dreaming that I would arrive last minute and surprise everyone. One of my best friend’s is engaged, and I know there’s a good chance I’ll miss her wedding too.

#2 ‘Nothing changes’ is a myth

One of my favorite haunts on the Upper West Side is Earth Cafe, they serve Toby’s Estate coffee, and more often than not I bump into Aussies looking for decent coffee. One expat, I bumped into had just returned from a visit home. I asked about her experience and she said,  “nothing changes.” But things do change back home, and sometimes in a sad way. The question is, do you want to be 22 hours away? My grandparents have aged rapidly this year, and it’s been hard not being able to lend a hand when I can. I worry that one day my parents could need me to be there.

#3 When it’s no longer fun anymore

Moving to America with very little family means giving up my well-established support systems and networks. That was abundantly clear when, as an exchange student, I found myself alone in the hospital. But right now New York is still fun. I’m meeting new people all the time and seeing more theatre than I ever did in Melbourne. Plus, I’ve just been home for Christmas! But it’s also hard, and I’ve always told myself that if it isn’t fun any more than maybe its time to come home.

I’m always flexible to reassessing my situation as it changes. Right now I just try to live every day, one day at a time. It’s very easy to get caught up in the what if‘s. And when that happens I remember that none of us really know where we’ll be in a year – I certainly never dreamed of coming to and living in New York City, and yet here I am…

About the author

Taryn Silver is another Aussie transplant who has been living in New York for over two years. Taryn recently graduated from Columbia University with an M.S in Strategic Communication and now works as a Senior Account Executive at Orangefiery, a communications consultancy. Taryn is also a classically trained Soprano with a Bachelor of Music from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and is still loves sharing her passion for music with anyone and everyone. Connect with Taryn on Twitter @vegemitecheese or on her website www.vegemitecheeseburger.com a place where Aussie and American culture come together.

May Mums and Dads Update

Written by Helen McWilliam

It was a BIG month for the AWNY Mums and Dads group. Our inaugural Easter Egg hunt was a great success. The hunt was attended by over 100 adults and children with all boroughs of New York represented; yes including Staten Island! The Dads hid the eggs whilst the Mums occupied the children in a nearby playground. Everyone who attended was very generous and we found even the youngest children managed to collect a full basket of eggs. We received a lot of positive feed back during the day and in the days following. It will surely become a yearly tradition!

Easter copy

Our first Mums outing of the year was also a huge success. We branched out from the Upper West Side to the Peruvian restaurant, Poi Poi in Hell’s Kitchen. Mums from all over New York came to enjoy delicious and abundant food. There was so much food; we all got a takeaway container to take home afterwards! It was such a fun evening with lots of laughs and easy conversation.

Mums dinner copy

Finally, we asked the question through the AWNY blog, is it okay not to love New York City with kids. The article received such an overwhelming response because it resonated with a lot of people who live in this and other big cities with young children. The response also reminded us having small children anywhere is seriously hard work!

We have a lot planned for the rest of the year. Next up ‘Welcome to Summer Drinks!’

Easter family copy

Jumpstart your US job hunt: simple tips for Americanizing your search

So you’ve taken the plunge and moved to the US to try your luck in the Big Apple? Let me guess, sublet – tick. Favourite cocktail bar – tick. Growing credit card bill – tick. Now what you really need is to find a job.

And this is where it can get a wee bit tricky.

As one of the most competitive job markets in the world, finding work in New York is going to be quite different to what you’re used to in Australia. Making sure you’re ready to tackle the task like an American will help you be successful in what will ultimately enable you to live and work in the US.

Toot your own horn loud and proud!

Americans are not afraid of being their biggest advocate. Unfortunately, this isn’t something Aussies are typically very good at. It just feels a bit wankerish to talk yourself up, right? Well, you’re going to have to get over that, and quickly. If you get put forward for an interview, remember you’re going to be up against other Americans who have been taught from school-age how to sell themselves, so if you don’t do it, they will!

People are going to want to know your story, but they don’t have all day to hear it – life is fast-paced in New York. Have your pitch about who you are, what you want out of life, and why you’re brilliant at what you do ready to roll at a moment’s notice (and preferably in 25 words or less).

It’s not what you know, but who you know

Networking, yuck! And if there was any way around it, believe me I’d be the first person to tell you how to do it. But networking is simply a way of life here. And not just casual, accidental conversations – but rather, deliberate, regular and strategic meet-ups.

Contact people who have jobs in fields or companies you want to work and see if they would be willing to meet you for a coffee. Most of them will view this as a compliment and will gladly give you 30 minutes of their time. Treat these opportunities like you would a job interview; take a resume and have your elevator pitch, as well as some intelligent questions, ready. You never know what unadvertised openings they might be aware of, or other contacts they might have.

Understand the ins and outs of the E3 visa

As Australians, we are in such a lucky position to have the option to use the E3 visa. The problem is, however, that many American recruiters have never heard of it. Some will even think you’re making it up. So you’ll need to be au fait with the intricacies of how the visa works and what’s required of your employer should they ask you to explain it to them. Not having a clear answer could mean the difference between them picking you and picking someone who doesn’t come with the added baggage of a visa application process.

There are some very useful websites that explain the various elements of the process and what employers are required to do, such as VisaCoach.org which covers many topics including how to describe your working status on applications and resumes.

You might have to step sideways (or even downwards) to get your foot in the door

When you imagine your life in New York, the picture probably comes complete with you working in your dream job. Without wanting to dash any hopes or dreams, it’s important to keep things real. You are going to be up against plenty of other wannabe New Yorkers in your quest to find that perfect job, and so keeping an open mind is very important.

You may have to be willing to take a sideways – or downwards – step for that first job in New York. Recruiters aren’t inclined to value (or even know) many Australian companies and want to see that you have had American-based experience. So if you can get your foot in the door with one company, it makes the next job much easier to score. The dream job, while not unobtainable, might just be a little bit further away than you first thought.

AWNY is hosting a Working in the USA expert panel discussion on June 14

If you are looking for more advice, or would like to speak to real human beings who have expertise in the New York job market, grab your ticket to the 2017 AWNY Working in the USA event.

Buy tickets here



Unsplash / Tim Gouw

Happy Anniversary New York, by Hannah Collins

This guest post is by Hannah Collins who just celebrated her one-year anniversary in New York. We thought you might relate to and enjoy this letter she writes to the city.

Written by Hannah Collins


Dear New York,

Happy anniversary! We made it a year. I’m sorry I’m not there to celebrate, but I promise to make it up to you when I get back. I’ll take you to Vanessa’s, I know it’s your favorite place (alright, we both know it’s my favorite place, and you humor me by saying it’s yours too. One of my favorite things about you).

One year! Longer than any of my former relationships (and ten times better if I’m honest). I mean it hasn’t always been easy. You have made me broker than I have ever been, including that pretty crummy time you took all my savings when I didn’t have a job. Not to mention what you cost me in rent just to live with you. But I do love our little house, with the light, and the plants, and the old heaters, so it’s worth it.

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Enjoying the sweet life with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream; AWNY Startup Stories interviews Laura O’Neill

Life is full of twists and turns, and while visiting her brother in London in 2006 Laura O’Neill fell for an American living in London. She followed her heart and made the transatlantic hop from Melbourne to New York. When the romantic relationship faltered, it gave way to an even stronger friendship and business relationship.

Read on to discover more about the string of successful ice cream trucks and NYC/L.A. ice cream shops that are the very hip and very delicious Van Leeuwen brand.

What brought you to the USA?

I met my business partner (then boyfriend) Ben in London in 2006, I was ready for a change so jumped at the opportunity when he suggested I move to NYC and start a ice cream truck business with him and his brother, Pete.

Tell us more about how you met and why are you are in business together?

Ben and Pete had driven ice cream trucks as summer job in Connecticut during college, then right before graduation Ben was in Manhattan and found himself in front of a Mr Softee truck thinking “why doesn’t anyone sell great ice cream off trucks?” That was the ah-ha moment and the birth of the idea.

How was the new business born? 

After enlisting Pete and myself, the three of us started experimenting with making ice cream in our shared Brooklyn apartment.

We were making amazing ice cream using simply milk, cream, cane sugar and egg yolks, but when we looked to find a simple product to buy and sell off the trucks, nothing met our standards of purity. We knew we had to find a way to make our own recipes on a large scale. All the ice cream we found were full of stabilizers, fillers and gums and no one was using exceptional chocolates, fruits nuts etc. Simultaneously as we were experimenting with ice cream making, we found an old 1988 Chevrolet Step Van and retrofitted in to our first pretty yellow ice cream truck.

Was there capital investment when you started up?

We wrote a business plan and raised $60K to get started (very little for a food business!) We managed to pull together the funds from small investments from friends and family and a line of credit. We’ve grown without further investment until this day, with the help of some debt and a small business grant we won in 2012. We currently have 8 stores and 6 trucks across NYC and L.A. and sell our pints of ice cream through around 250 wholesale accounts, with big plans to expand in the next 12 months.

Starting up can be notoriously difficult – what motivates you to keep going?

I won’t lie, there have been some really tough days; time management goes out the window, you’re being pulled in all directions. One particular day there was a literal meltdown of a ton of our ice cream! That was stressful for sure, but with each challenge you realize how resilient and resourceful you can be difficult times and how you deal with these moments, define you as an entrepreneur.

How do you know that you are on the right path?

By remaining authentic to our vision. It’s easy for us to know what to do, because we have a clear vision and know what we won’t do. It comes back to our passion for our product; we will not compromise our ingredients.

How many people are working in your business?

We manage about 180 people at the peak of our busy season, across retail, production and office.

Lets talk about your brand messaging…

Our dedication to making the best ice cream is completely authentic, we use the best ingredients across all our flavors. About 5 years ago we introduced our vegan ice cream. The easy thing would have been to start using gums and fillers to give it the right “mouth feel”, but instead we created a product using fats from plant based ingredients that naturally mimic ice cream. For our vegan ice cream we use house made cashew milk, cocoa butter (the fat from chocolate), coconut cream and coconut oil. Last year we rebranded our pints and chose to work with design firm Pentagram; the best in the biz. With their guidance we were able to realize a brand image that so perfectly and simply communicates our vision.

What is your strongest marketing tool?

Instagram (check us out at @vanleeuwanicecream) is our best marketing tool. We’ve not yet ever spent a cent on marketing or PR so tools like Instagram are a great direct link to our customers.

It was a very deliberate decision to make our packaging more Instagrammable and we’ve doubled our sales since the redesign.

Deciding to use the professional design services of Pentagram was a very smart move; it’s important to know when to invest and work with other professionals to move your business forward.

Photo credit: Sydney Bensimon / Van Leeuwan Facebook

Where are your sales coming from?

Mainly our sales are from our retail; scoop shops that do great and of course our ice cream trucks. Currently we are focusing on wholesale distribution and opening more stores. We also do a lot of events with our trucks, film sets, weddings, festivals etc.

Tell us about ‘Aha’ moment – I’ve made it in New York!

It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day grind, but it’s amazing to simply be at the stores and see people enjoying our ice cream. The food business can be tough, many try and fail, so although we’ve worked very hard we also feel very lucky that we have so many loyal customers that keep us going!

What are your 3 greatest learning’s in starting up a business? 

  1. Its worth investing in getting your packaging design right.
  2. Invest in quality equipment , if you cut corners it will cost more in the long run.
  3. Be authentic and focused, dig in your heels and stand up for what you believe.

What have been your greatest challenges in starting up a new business in New York? 

The mobile vending world presents many hurdles in terms of permits and parking and truck break downs etc, and the city doesn’t go out of their way to be very helpful, so that can be challenging.

Managing people, particularly as we grow isn’t always easy. When we were smaller it was simpler to convey and promote the company culture we desire. Nowadays we rely on great leaders within the company to help keep our culture and vision strong when we can’t always be present. Our team is awesome!

Going through a break-up with my business partner was a trying time, but we certainly came out stronger and closer and have done our best work since breaking up.

What do you love about doing business in New York? 

  1. If you have a good product, people will support it.
  2. There is the population density to support any type of idea and people who will collaborate with you!
  3. You can always find what you need; I’ll often be searching for an specific part or piece of equipment and realize I can find it right in our own neighborhood.

Photo credit: Van Leeuwan Facebook

In hindsight, is there anything that you would do differently?

We used to be such purists when it came to our flavors. The early menu was all single ingredient flavors, now we are willing to make more fun flavors with chunks and swirls etc, so long as we make everything in-house from scratch.

What advice would you give to someone else in a start-up?

  • Partner with the right people and its good to have business partnerships.
  • When you have an exceptional product, keep working at it. We never rested on our laurels; we continued to evolve our product.
  • It’s when you become stagnant that your business gets stale.

What is next for you and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream?

We are working towards opening more stores in New York and L.A., and increasing our wholesale distribution.

When I’m not doing all things ice cream related, I’m making music with my band Laura and Greg and running the Brooklyn chapter of No Lights, No Lycra. My partners I also run an Indonesian restaurant we opened 4 years ago called Selamat Pagi in Greenpoint.

As a final note, what was your favourite ice cream flavour growing up?

I have very fond memories of vanilla dixie cups with chocolate syrup on top.  Also I loved vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries, and I’m especially nostalgic about Hokey Pokey ice cream and it inspired our honeycomb flavour, that’s our number one seller.


Connect with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream




The Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream book can be ordered through Amazon.


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