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 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.

Continue reading

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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What’s On in New York, May 2017

April showers (haven’t we had plenty of those?!?) head us into a warmer May. Before you know it, Summer will be here with all the heat and humidity anyone would want to consume in the concrete jungle that is New York. For some of us we’ll also be experiencing the joy of nearly three months of school holiday (10 weeks for public school kids!).

You can’t deny this time of year brings a renewed energy, and these next couple of months are really the very best of New York City, with outdoor fun, amazing weather, and rooftop bars. Here is AWNY’s list of the top things to do in May, and we hope to see you at one of the AWNY events too!

– curated by the AWNY Communications Team

AWNY Spring Drinks Mixer is on May 22. This annual social evening is a great way to meet new AWNY friends, catch up with old ones, and see in the warmer month, cocktail in hand. The event will be held at Chinese Tuxedo this year, a fabulous venue in Chinatown with a big Aussie influence. Cash bar (no need to purchase tix) and we encourage you to stay for dinner and enjoy Sydney Chef Paul Donnelly (previously of Mrs G’s). RSVP to

May 1-7 is NY Burger Week. Does anywhere in the world do burgers better than NYC? So expect the best of the best. Many venues are participating, check out the list and get tickets and info here. The week ends with Sunday’s Boozy Burger Brunch.

Rooftop Cinema Club starts now until September where you can purchase regular seats or “love seats” on the roof of YOTEL New York, 570 10th Avenue. May 4th showing of Annie Hall is already sold out $33-$39, but there are some absolute classics you won’t want to miss for fun with bubbles and popcorn on your deck chair.

If you want free movies, Bryant Park will be hosting Friday evenings commencing May 12.  They provide free blankets, lawn games and food for purchase, plus the park runs Tai Chi classes 7.30am-8.30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Fountain Terrace. Juggling is there on a regular basis, as well as Wednesday night dance parties.  Have a look at their calendar here.

May 7 take note if you’re driving in the city on this day. 32,000 cyclists of all skill levels come from around the world for the TD Five Borough Bike Tour to roll 40 miles through every borough of New York City on streets totally free of cars. Standard and VIP Registration is sold out, but you can still  ride on behalf of one of the Charity Partners. Click here to learn more. End up at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island for music, entertainment, food and drinks. Here’s a printable map.  

Don’t forget on May 14, it’s Mother’s Day Mums, be sure to put your orders in for spas in NYC for a relaxing day, best restaurants in NYC , the best shops in NYC for gifts, or flower shops for the perfect bouquet— spoil your mum, or be spoilt!

May 13 – 21 Grug and the Rainbow a children’s show brought to us by The Windmill Theatre in Adelaide will be at The New Victory Theatre in 42nd Street.

May 16 is the Australian Short Film Festival at The Asia Society.

May 25, 2017 Billy Joel is playing at Madison Square Garden.  Check out ticket info here.

What New Yorkers recognize as the beginning of summer is Monday May 29: 2017 Memorial Day. You’ve earned a day off, so get out of the city if you can for a long weekend, or go to the Parade. On Memorial Day, Americans honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for freedom. This national holiday was born after the Civil War in remembrance of fallen servicemen and women. 149th Brooklyn’s Kings County Memorial Day Parade kicks off on May 29 at 11am at 78th St and Third Ave, marching up to Fourth Ave and ends at John Paul Jones Park at 101st for the memorial service. Local service organizations march in the parade, followed by a 21 gun salute by the U.S. Army at Fort Hamilton.

It is no coincidence that Fleet Week overlaps with Memorial Day weekend so don’t forget to rub shoulders with our sailors.  There are a lot of scheduled events throughout the week, many free.

The Governors Island Family Fun Day is scheduled for Sunday May 28 from 11am to 4pm The island opens this weekend with free events featuring kid appropriate performances and activities. Mums and Dads do not miss. More info available here.

Photo credit: Joanna Hishon