Faces of AWNY: Hayley Whitfield

Hayley Whitfield is one of AWNY’s extraordinary event leads. Find out how she ended up in a billionaire’s apartment and what she misses most from Australia.

Tell us about yourself – why did you move to NYC?
I moved to New York in 2013 from sunny Sydney, with my husband Michael and 6 month old mini poodle Rosa. We came here just for the experience really—it was always a dream to live overseas in a fast-paced city. I’d travelled loads before, but always skipped America – so arriving on a warm August evening to the West Village was pretty cool. We’ve been here for four years, but took off around the world for 12 months in the middle. After traveling, I was like, right, we must go back to live in New York again, it’s the center of the universe.

I’m originally from Murchison, a Victorian riverside town with 630 people – you know, with all the usual suspects – a bridge, bakery, pub, cemetery and river.

How did you get into your job in NYC?
I launched a company Wolfpack NYC, producing luxury show-stopping dog coats with exaggerated faux-fur trims and accessories, for residents of this dog-crazed city.

What are the differences to working in Australia?
New Yorkers thrive on self-promotion and networking to connect and leverage relationships. As a typical Aussie who has grown-up believing that modesty is a great character trait, the reality in New York is that you just don’t get anything done unless you learn how to hustle and can articulate your personal brand and proposition to others, in like, an elevator pitch. I’ve had to learn to be comfortable articulating my strengths and intentions, without the shadow of worrying that I will be perceived as having a big head. In New York, it’s simply not a bad thing to talk openly about your successes and intentions, it’s a comfortably, open platform to identify ways to collaborate and help each other.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?
By this drop dead gorgeous male makeup artist at the MAC store in Union Square – it’s an incredible melting pot this city, but damn you gotta devote some serious time to self care when you live amongst the hustle and bustle.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment?
Hmmmm I went into this billionaire’s apartment on the Upper East Side, overlooking Central Park and showed my collection of Wolfpack leather dog coats for their selection. I was like, yep, for a solo start-up, that’s pretty cool.

When you need retail therapy, you run to…
All Saints, Meatpacking District

Favorite NYC brunch spot
Banter – Aussie café in the Village.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice
One Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Rooftop – absolutely phenomenal view of the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, Hudson River, historic Dumbo, and with beautifully styled décor. All cocktails.

What are your favorite ways to connect with Aussie culture in NYC?
Through the AWNY events and working on the committee – its full of Aussie slang to keep me grounded. And of course, every Aussie brunch spot.

Anything you miss about Australia?
BBQ Shapes, BBQ Shapes, BBQ Shapes

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
Feeling like I have a ‘home away from home’ Aussie family. We share the same relaxed, open values – it’s so easy to relate.

 

Faces of AWNY: Tanya McCaw

Tanya moved to NYC in mid-2015 with her husband Lee, who is also her business partner. The couple moved from Perth, where they still operate their IT company Royal IT, to launch their business in New York because they wanted to expand overseas.

Where do you live? Why did you choose that area?
Financial District. I love it because we across the road from the Battery Park and the river.  It’s close to several subway stations and there is so much history and charm to the area.

Any advice for people moving to NY?
Study up on the process with renting.  It can be confusing and frustrating if you are not organized and educated.

What do you do?
I lead the Operations at Royal IT in NYC.  We are a boutique IT support and consulting company.

As a professional working in NYC, what are the differences to working in Australia?
Hustling much harder. A lot more networking is needed to develop solid relationships, and I also work longer hours.IMG_20170714_101939_124

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve faced in NYC and how do you overcome it?
Launching a business from scratch is a very challenging task. Especially when you are only new to the country and city. There were so many lessons and learnings and it required a huge amount of strength and resilience.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?The best way to grow the business and client base is to get out the door and meet people. Developing relationships and a strong network is critical.

Any advice for other professionals working in NYC?
Never give up. This city can have a way of breaking you down many times, but use it as an opportunity to grow. Also, it’s important in such a busy city to take time out for yourself, whether it’s a walk or reading a book. Downtime is important.

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?
I love that I never get bored, there are always so many things to do and see.
I dislike the winter – it’s far too cold and long.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?
I was one of the judges at the Nathan’s Famous Hotdog Eating Contest in 2017.  It was such a crazy experience, I am still in disbelief that the male winner ate 72 hotdogs in 10 minutes.

Three words to describe New York:

  • Expansion
  • Opportunity
  • Intriguing

If you didn’t live in NYC, you would stay the night at…
The Williamsburg Hotel – just out of the city.

Favorite NYC brunch spot
Tiny’s in Tribeca.

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?
Get all the touristy things out of the way in the first few days and then take time to explore each neighborhood. So many hidden gems!

Venture over to Williamsburg for the day or hire bikes and ride around Central Park.

Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
I always look up to good leaders such as Belinda Jackson, the president at AWNY who does a fantastic job.  All of my Aussie girlfriends are doing awesome things and I love hearing their stories and updates on how they are progressing with their careers in NYC.

What things do you do to keep home sickness under control?
I skype my Mum once a week.  Go back to Perth at least once a year. Surround myself with great company here in NYC.

What are your favorite ways to connect with Aussie culture in NYC?
Hang out with fellow Aussies regularly
Grill (BBQ)
Grab a coffee at Bluestone
Eat at Two Hands in Tribeca and the Australian Bar

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
I love meeting follow Aussies and getting involved in a range of different activities. I have also enjoyed being part of the Charity team and working on the annual Fall Gala event in support of The Dwelling Place of NYC.

Faces of AWNY: Angela Tohl

Angela Tohl, originally from Adelaide, calls Brisbane home. She now resides in NYC with her beautiful family. Read on to find out her tips for thriving in NYC with kids!


Please start with some background about yourself
I came here 10 years ago in search of an adventure. Along the way, I unexpectedly met the love of my life, to whom I’m now married with two beautiful kids. So…mission well and truly accomplished.

Why did you move to NYC?
I was born in Adelaide, worked in Central Queensland and in Tokyo, Japan, prior to settling in Brisbane, which I consider to be my home in Australia.

A friend and I visited NYC for a holiday in 2005 and it felt as familiar as putting on an old pair of jeans. When I returned to Brisbane, I kept thinking “I wonder what it would be like to live and work in NYC?”. The E3 visa had recently been introduced in the US and I created a plan to secure a career opportunity over here.

Professionally, I’m a Project Manager specializing in business improvement, which I applied to Recruiting and Healthcare in NYC. My current role is as a mummy to two young sons, and my experience of managing relationships and being organized help me navigate our day-to-day adventures.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment?
In a Manhattan diner, I got chatting to a political scientist who serves at the United Nations. A few days later, I was sitting in on the UN General Assembly, courtesy of a visitor pass from my new acquaintance.

Where do you live, and why did you choose that area?
We moved from Murray Hill to Staten Island when my eldest son was an infant. He was already crawling by 4 months and we suspected he would benefit from more space. Our backyard is now the perfect sanctuary for two busy little boys, and I get to indulge my joy of gardening.

What do you like/dislike about your area?
I love the wide open spaces of Staten Island. We’re in walking distance to many parks and a short drive to the Greenbelt, where we often go hiking. The relaxed feel counters the frenetic pace of Manhattan. The downside is having to drive. I miss being able to walk everywhere.

What do you like/dislike about your neighbourhood (in general and for kids)?
There’s an abundance of activities for kids such as Wagner College STEM programs, the Staten Island Children’s Museum and Snug Harbour Botanical Gardens.

What’s a typical weekend for your family in NY?
Our weekends are a shambolic juggle of birthday parties and soccer for the kids, gym and going for a run for the parents. We regularly get a sitter for “date night” at local restaurants including Adobe Blues, Beans and Leaves Cafe, SIPS + MAKER.

What do you like most/least about having kids in NY?
I love the phenomenon of four seasons and the associated rituals. New Yorkers enthusiastically decorate their homes from Halloween to New Year. And snow… you really can’t beat snow as the ultimate fun activity for kids.

The City offers many free social services to kids, such as The New York Public Library story time and craft activities, NYC Early Intervention and NYC Parks Foundation Learn-to-Play programs.

I dislike the lack of mandated paid maternity leave, the mere 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA (for which only 50% of workplaces qualify), and the lack of work/life balance. I worked up until the two public holidays before giving birth, and developed pregnancy-related hypertension as a result. The US economy functions under a strong capitalist paradigm, but being a primary caregiver for the vulnerable (infant, seniors, sick and special needs individuals) is a relationship that most of us experience. To deny this aspect is to deny the human aspect of communities. Business success and recognizing the whole person are not mutually exclusive.

Funniest NY moment?
When I was 9 months’ pregnant with my second son, my husband badly injured his leg. At Trader Joe’s, I suggested he use the courtesy ride-on scooter. My then 4 year old eagerly jumped on Daddy’s lap to “help” drive. Despite a few near misses with other shoppers, I found the whole thing hilarious and thought I would spontaneously go into labor in the pasta aisle.

If any of your children were born in NY do you have any advice for going through pregnancy/birth over here?
Both my kids were born in NY. Australian women in NY often lack personal support, so I recommend seeking out practical support to suit your circumstances and preferences.

Birth can be very medicalized in the US. However, NYC also offers more natural options for pregnancy and birth. I found a birth doula invaluable for constant support throughout labor and delivery.

La Leche League meetings were fantastic for breastfeeding support. Baby-wearing saved my sanity and was the easiest way to get around Manhattan.

If you also have a job, how do you and your partner juggle work and kids?
I’m currently on career pause. When I resume paid work, I plan to target specific projects, incorporating a reduced schedule, so that I can excel in both employer and family commitments.

Any words of wisdom for people moving to NY with kids?
Be sure to attend to your own self-care as a parent. You are moving to (arguably) the most sophisticated city in the world with the inevitable scarcity mindset thrust upon you. However, your kids will still be happiest in the playground or with a cardboard box and with parents who are healthy and happy. Less is more. Keep it simple.

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
It’s so inspiring to contribute my skills within such a motivated and intelligent group of women.  The diversity of individual talent is phenomenal, and the power of collaboration is evident in the high calibre of support that AWNY provides to the Australian community within NYC.

 

Lyn Girdler

Faces of AWNY: Lyn Girdler

Lyn Girdler, originally from Melbourne, Australia, has been in the USA since 2000 – that’s 17 years! Her American journey started when she moved to southern Connecticut from London for a nanny job. She’s built a life and a career here as an entrepreneur.

Where do you live and why did you choose that area?
I live in South Norwalk, CT, on the water. The original reason I’ve stuck around this area was proximity to the work I was doing at the time—running a high-end textile company—and to my boyfriend. I’ve left for long periods of time but now the proximity to nature is a big draw for me. Plus, I’m close enough that I can get to the city within an hour, there’s good food and a great farm-to-table scene, and I can get out on the water easily, too. Coming from Australia, I feel like that satiates my soul. Every time I had the opportunity to move full time into the city, I felt myself shrink at the small living spaces and the expense of it all. I wanted my money to go toward my business and travel while still being able to have a good life. Plus, I fell into a great creative and interesting community here who have truly supported me.

Lyn Girdler

What do you like and dislike about living in NY?
I liked the trouble I got into when I first arrived here. So many fun parties! Ultimately, I think the draw for NYC was the culture and the unexpected, fully magical moments that the city offers. Everything is available. Also, the diversity of people and their willingness to self-express. It’s a loud, bold city that makes you accountable to be who you are; unapologetically. To me, it’s the most authentic and genuine city in the world. It doesn’t apologize and it doesn’t ask you too either. I’ll reinforce my position on the lack of space. I’m a sponge to my environment, and I’m a slave to it.

Tell us about an ‘only in New York’ moment you’ve had.
There have been so many wonderful New York moments. I think every day the city offers you some vignette of beauty and wonder. One night with some co-workers who were in from London, we found ourselves late night in a piano bar in Times Square. I met two guys who were visiting from Australia who had happened to run into each other on the street (neither knew the other was visiting). They told me that they had come to this bar because they heard Liza Minnelli sometimes shows up. It was a Tuesday night – it didn’t seem likely. Five minutes later I turned around and Liza walked in. An hour later, she was up on stage singing to a small audience of 10 of us. We couldn’t believe our luck. There was also the time I stuck around after the last comedy show at the Comedy Cellar and Chris Rock got up to practice some material.
Do you have any advice for people moving to NY?
I will say that it’s a vastly different experience visiting NY versus living in NY. From all the friends I have had who’ve done that transition, the romance can be marred with many frustrations. Also, use the SAVE function on your Google Maps app so when you get recommendations of places to visit and restaurants you can have it handy when you’re walking the city and looking for a place to go. People will always tell you about a great spot and it’s hard to remember it all.
Tell us about your day job. 
I own a high-end furnishing fabric company called Malabar. We design and manufacture hand-woven, specialty fabrics for the home and sell to the interior design trade, adorning beautiful homes and hotels and restaurants… even the Met!
I also own a boutique ethical fashion company called Love Nomadic. This has been a passion project of mine for the past three years. It was developed out of my love of textile and design and very inspired by my travels. I seek out small family-run businesses or individual artisans from places like Ecuador, India and Colombia. I was spending a lot of time in Colombia with my Colombian boyfriend at the time, who was an artisan himself, and I travel to India every year. The product rotates based on the areas that I’ve been spending most of my time. The brand is most known for the Nomadic Weekender, which is made from the surplus textiles left over from Malabar. So there’s little waste and it’s strong, versatile and the perfect size. And the Imali dress: a long, backless dress (with pockets) that’s made from vintage saris which have been re-dyed and repurposed. Everything is made from surplus or found materials.

 

Lyn Girdler

 

Any advice for working in NYC?
I left Australia in my early 20s, and I’ve been an entrepreneur most of the time I’ve been in the U.S. There are traits about this city that are very clear. I think that this city loves and supports people who are truly ‘giving it a go’. I think the city runs on networking and connection and offers lots of opportunities for that. At the risk of sounding redundant, I think it’s really a place where you can explore who you are and what you want to do. America is a bold and loud country and NYC is the nucleus of it. I’ve seen some people truly succeed in the most authentic way in this city, with great drive and passion and have been rewarded for their hard work. Practically speaking, follow every lead and follow up with every contact with no expectation.

Who are some Aussie or Kiwi ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
Nadia Ackerman, a singer/songwriter and illustrator. Her story blows me away but it’s totally driven by her commitment to her craft and her ability to stay humble and on the ground, doing the work. She owns Natchie Art—her store in Dumbo is full of her own art, which was truly built from hard work and magic.  It’s the best place to buy a unique NY drawing that’s well priced to send to family, or to have in your personal collection. Also, it goes without saying, Karen Jacobsen. She doesn’t stop and she genuinely wants you to live a better life. I met both these girls when they had barely unpacked their suitcases here and I’ve watched them carve out amazing lives. They’ve inspired and helped me immensely too.

What’s your favorite New York spot?
Washington Square Park on a Sunday in the summer when every character is out. American Legion Post #138 in Harlem on a Sunday night for the best local, home-grown jazz and soul food. Rockwood Music Hall for an intimate night of discovering new music. I also just discovered the Gallow Green rooftop at The McKittrick Hotel on a Sunday, which is super fun.

Anything you miss about Australia?
The authentic nature and directness of us Aussies. I miss being able to avoid pissing people off with the truth. Americans are often a little shocked by it. The value placed on lifestyle, rather than money. The healthcare system, the access to nature. You can drive along a lot of the coastline here on the East Coast and not even see the water because it’s all privatized. I feel like that is criminal. I miss food without sugar loaded into it (bread, butter, etc.) and, of course, my family.

What was your biggest win this week?
Besides the fact that I’ve managed to go three days without an almond croissant from my favorite cafe…!?
At the moment I’m going through lots of transition—all good ones—moving apartments, re-building my business Malabar and keeping Love Nomadic going, as well as the daily personal experiences. There is so much movement that I’m just really focused on the small wins. Every day is something new and it’s the little things, like getting to a decision my team all agrees on, finally managing a Skype call with a friend from overseas, laughing hysterically over a witty comment in the office with all the girls. We’re an all-female team—that feels like a win every day.

What are your top tips for friends visiting NYC?
Walk the city. Don’t get on a tourist bus. Move to the side of the street and let people pass—New Yorkers are always in a rush. Ask for help, New Yorkers are very happy to help.

Favorite NYC brunch spot

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice
How do you really have a favorite spot in NYC? It’s just so abundant! I do love Sel Rrose on Delancey St, and around the corner is a little speakeasy, Fig. 19. My fave cocktails are anything with Tequila or bourbon!


Connect with Lyn:

You can follow on Instagram my projects @malabarfabrics and @lovenomadic, and you can also reach out to me via email: lyn.girdler@gmail.com.

Faces of AWNY: Tali Roth

Tali Roth moved to NYC with her husband in October 2013 as newlyweds from Melbourne, Australia. Tali is a freelance interior designer and speaks to us about the difference in design aesthetics between Australia and America, having a baby in New York, and how she started working in interior design.

 

Tell us an ‘only in New York’ moment:

Hmmm…I think it was our second week of living here and we were about to sign the lease for a West Village apartment and this guy in his ground floor apartment saw us sitting on the front stoop through his window. He opened it up and asked us why we were hanging around the building and then invited us in. Together we drank wine and danced to Rhianna. He became a close friend and turns out he was a well known photographer who lived in the factory with Warhol.

Where do you live and why did you choose that area?

We just moved to Chelsea! When we first arrived, we lived in the West Village and loved it. I fell pregnant after a year of living here and towards the end of the pregnancy I wanted to move uptown to be closer to Central Park. Although we loved our time there my husband and I craved downtown a lot and so we eventually settled on Chelsea as its close to my son’s preschool and the space we found was better than the West Village. So far, we are loving it.
What do you like/dislike about living in NY?
I love the people – that everyone is encouraging and that there is so much room for you to be yourself. I hate how focused on careers it is, but I also love how focused on careers it is. I hate the bitter winters. I love, love, love the summers. I also love the energy, accessibility and that nothing is too far away.

 

Any advice for people moving to NY?
Be open, non-judgmental and be active. Nothing will come to you if you aren’t engaging with people. It is very expensive though, so save up!

 

Tell us about your day job: 
I am an interior designer. I am a curator of objects, furniture, lighting, finishes, soft furniture and more. I bring it all together to create a strong mood and atmosphere for your home. I work mainly in the residential realm but do a few commercial projects here and there. I am obsessed with what I do and I love my clients. I didn’t work in interiors in Australia so I can’t really compare the two. I feel like there is many more affordable decorating options here and obviously a larger marketplace which makes it really easy for me to design for very different types of aesthetics and budgets. Also aesthetically speaking Melbourne is SO different to New York. I was completely shocked and confused by the style here when I first arrived. New York is more moody, industrial, luxe and distressed whereas Melbourne interiors focus more on light, minimalism and contemporary design. I try and mesh my Australian roots with my new found appreciation of the New York aesthetic to find a balance.

 

How did you get into your job in NYC?
I am part of an agency called Homepolish. They represent me and I also do some private work. I was following the company in Australia and then when I arrived I emailed them, got myself an interview and was accepted into the agency. I love working with them and feel very proud of what they have achieved over the past few years.

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