Recalculate your direction in the car and in life with ‘The GPS Girl’ – AWNY Startup Stories

From Mackay to Manhattan, Karen’s voice was catapulted across the world to all of our devices as the voice of the Australian GPS. Read how directions in the car led to directions in life and business in this week’s AWNY Startup Story.

Would you be able to provide us with some background information about you and the The GPS Girl brand?

From the age of 7 growing up in Mackay in North Queensland, my one and only passion was music. The most influential and important person to me was Olivia Newton-John, and she inspired me to become a professional singer and move to America. I would sing and play piano, be in the school musical and perform at any opportunity, and ultimately moved to NYC in 2000 specifically to build my singer/songwriter career.  Along the way I had a life-long love with personal development. In Brisbane, I studied at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, then moved to Sydney where I lived for ten years, speaking and singing on literally thousands of commercials, performing two to five nights per week in five star hotels and venues and performing on live television.

How long did you have the idea for this business and why did you decide to start The GPS Girl brand?

When I was 24, I attended a weekend motivational seminar which was life changing. The idea I could have something to do with the way my life would go was intoxicating, and from then on I was reading, listening to and surrounding myself with uplifting material and people.  In 2002, after moving to NYC I was asked to audition for a voice-over job. The client was looking for a native, Australian, female, voice-over artist living in the North East of the United States. I read the description and thought “this is a description of me.”  I went to the audition and booked the job on the spot. Spending 50 hours in the studio over a three week period, a text-to-speech voice system was created which has now ended up in over a billion GPS devices, smartphones, software programs, cruise ships and elevators around the world. As you might imagine, this was a totally unexpected development in my singer/songwriter career.

People would come up to me very excited to discover “I” was the voice in their car. It was clear to me there was something in this, but it took me a while to put it together. Ultimately I made the connection between directions in the car and directions in life and created the registered trademarked empowerment brand “The GPS Girl.” Now I travel extensively to work with individuals and groups who want to navigate change powerfully, by Recalculating when things do not go as planned. I have discovered this message is transformational, timely and universal. The kinds of conferences I keynote for are all over the map in terms of industry and location. It seems everyone is dealing with major disruption and need tools to manage change.


What has been your ‘Ah Ha’ / ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment’?

What a question! In some ways I am still waiting for this moment. I have a national television appearance airing on November 29th which I have to say is a pretty spectacular experience. When it has aired I look forward to sharing all the dish on it!  It was surreal a couple of years ago when I was a clue in The New York Times crossword puzzle. Quite a lot of people tell me I had really made it then. I mean, how completely crazy.

What have been the hardest lessons in starting a business in New York?

Like most of us moving to the other side of the world, I could write a thesis to answer this question. Trying to get a grasp on the way things are done here takes time. One of the big pluses is the enthusiasm of New Yorkers. I find people in life and in business here to be extremely open and helpful; genuinely interested in making connections to help others succeed. On the flip side, not having the base network I had in Australia and having to start again has been major. In Australia I found it was not always well received to be a ‘go for it’ kind of person, so I held myself back, tried not to be ‘too much’. Here, this is embraced, and it has been quite the process for me to remember it is seen as a positive to be crystal clear, ambitious and driven. To sum it up, wherever you are in the world, it is our own limits getting in the way.

Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?

Social media has been heaven sent for me. I love to keep connected and Facebook in particular has been extraordinary for my business. I am able to stay in touch with Aussie clients and American clients wherever I am, and this leads to booking business so much more easily. When I am visiting Australia I let my community online know there is availability to have me speak or sing at events, and the process is infinitely easier than before SM. My media strategy has been key in building value in my brand and continues to be one of my favorite strategies of marketing my business.

Do you have any mentors, and how have people been with sharing information and their networks?

There is a long list of AWNY members who opened doors for me along the way. For someone wanting to come to NYC or new to the city, I would highly recommend plugging in with the Aussie network. It takes an extraordinary level of commitment and emotional work to not only come here but to stay and thrive here. Aussies understand what it can take, and I have found the support to be off the charts.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

Hire a business coach. Immediately. It has only been 5 years since I hired my first business coach and it was an absolute game changer. The one thing I would say to my 19 year old self is to do this pronto. I would also suggest always connecting with others with a view to what you can do to add value to their lives and businesses. Of course we all want to do well and forward our own business, but if you look for how you can be of service to others along the way, it is incredible how quickly people show up to help us in return.

Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business, and why?

Being Australian is a huge part of my persona and business. My speaking voice and accent is key, so it is very important I maintain the Aussie accent and not let any Americanisms creep in, which, after sixteen years here can tend to happen. My brand is an international brand, and I am proud to be a walking ambassador for Australia wherever I go. Sometimes I teach my audience “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” and make them honorary Australians.

What is next for The GPS Girl?

On December 7th I am performing a holiday concert in NYC at Stage 72 at The Triad on 72nd Street.  This is one of my favorite times of the year and we could all use an opportunity to be together, share some beautiful music and be in the holiday spirit. Beyond this, I love creative projects and have quite a few on the go. I am working on a memoir-style business book, a one woman show “Mackay to Manhattan”, and a talk show project. For more information visit and connect on FB, Twitter, Instagram with @thegpsgirl

Do you have any special offers for the AWNY community?

We have a fabulous special offer – AWNY members who get their tickets in advance and attend Karen’s Destination: Christmas Holiday Concert on Wednesday, December 7th at 9PM will receive an autographed copy of her Christmas album Destination Christmas on the night. Just mention AWNY after the show for your CD.



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Rebecca McDonald started Library for All to help children all over the world gain access to quality reading materials. – AWNY Startup Stories

Startups take all shapes and sizes and this week we highlight our first Not for Profit, Library for All. Rebecca McDonald was working in Haiti when she recognized that one of biggest challenges for children’s education in developing countries was gaining access to quality reading materials. With the improvement in access of digital capacity in many of these countries Library for All came up with a neat solution, read about their journey here.

Tell us about Library For All and what inspired you to come to start it in the USA.

There are 250 million children in the world that are not learning the basics of reading and writing, even after four years of schooling. A lack of access to quality reading material in their own language is one of the key barriers to children becoming literate.

Library For All is a nonprofit organization that has built a digital library to address the lack of access to culturally specific literature and educational resources in developing countries. Our mission is to make knowledge accessible to all, equally. Our digital library is a cost-effective, portable alternative to building physical libraries. In areas where books are scarce but mobile phone networks are growing, Library For All delivers a cloud-based library of locally relevant content to devices that already exist in developing countries, such as mobile phones, tablets, and PCs.

I chose New York to begin with because I was living in Haiti at the time, and I knew that, to be successful, we needed to build relationships with individuals in the publishing industry. New York is the center of the publishing world, so it was a natural fit early on.


What has been your ‘Ah Ha’ / ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment’:

Ha – that’s funny I haven’t had that moment yet. We did however have a very cool “only in NYC” moment last year, when Bloomberg Philanthropies hosted an event for Library For All, and Mike Bloomberg spoke of how important libraries were to him growing up and the importance of the work we are doing today.  I truly believe reading is a basic human right. I can’t imagine thinking we have made it until every child on the planet has access to the resources they need to become literate.

What have been the hardest lessons in starting a Not for Profit in New York and how does it differ to Australia?

Being an Aussie I always felt a little out of place in New York.  It’s a tough place to get established. A lot of people have said to me New York is a hustle, and I feel like that is true. There are a lot of people here trying to make their way and be successful and often that doesn’t align with our mission-driven focus. That being said, I have met and worked alongside some of the most generous and kind individuals who have done everything in their power and given tremendously generously to ensure Library For All is successful. I think New York is just such a melting pot that you get extremes of every type of person all mushed together on the subway at once. It can be overwhelming at times. Australia is so much more relaxed. So much more relational and I find it easier to meet people and build long term relationships in Australia.

Where have you been most successful in marketing Library for All?

Word of mouth by far has been the most successful for us. When people hear about us from a friend or family member, the connection is made so much faster and more authentically. We always talk about the Library For All family – once you are in that’s it we don’t let you go. That’s the way its been for us since day one. Family of staff coming along and getting excited about what we are doing and then spreading that infectious enthusiasm to see the world changed to everyone around them.

Do you have any mentors, and how have people been with sharing information and their networks?

Yes, absolutely. Our board chair Philippa Tyndale and her husband Andrew have been incredible mentors and supporters over the years. We were friends long before Library For All, but going through the ups and downs of a nonprofit start up with them has been an incredible privilege. I am extremely blessed to have them in my life and on this journey. They are seasoned business professionals and philanthropists, and I have learnt so much from their years of experience. They are also the best networkers you will ever meet, and they are always looking for ways to connect people and add value to everyone they are introduced to, which has been incredibly valuable to our mission success.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a Not for Profit? 

First, I would say ensure that nobody else is doing the same or similar work. If they are, get involved with them and don’t start a new organization. Get behind them in a big way and really amplify their efforts. There is too much duplication and waste in the nonprofit space, and its just not necessary.  If you find there is absolutely nobody working to meet the need you see, and you absolutely must start a new organization, then weigh everything very carefully. It’s not a commitment you should make lightly. Nonprofit work is rarely easy, and it costs a lot both financially and personally. While it’s extremely rewarding, you have to go in with your eyes wide open or you won’t survive the really hard days.

You are one of the Co-founders of Library For All – what are the challenges and pleasures in starting a Not for Profit with a friend?

Tanyella and I didn’t know each other when I started Library For All. We were actually introduced by her husband, Hugh, who is also an Aussie. We have gotten to know each other and become friends over the journey. I am really grateful we met, as we have such different but complimentary skill sets, and it has really been the best thing for Library For All. It would be a very lonely road if you started a nonprofit all by yourself. There are just too many hats you have to wear and very few people, if any, can wear all of them well simultaneously.  I have also had two children during the life of Library For All, and I don’t know how that would have been possible without Tanyella’s support. I have to also mention my husband here because without him none of this would have happened. He was the original champion for Library For All, without him pushing me to start it and getting behind me 100% this would just never of happened. He is my constant support and has sacrificed his own career to take care of our babies and allow me to pursue Library For All. He truly believes in our mission, and he is my constant cheerleader and sounding board.


Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business?

Openness, honesty, and humility are three of the main things that I have tried to infuse into the culture of Library For All. I love the way Aussies call it like it is and fakeness just isn’t tolerated.  Openness and honesty are very important to me from an organizational perspective because development work is really hard and messy and unless you can be open about what works and what doesn’t work, what is the point. More people will just make the same mistakes wasting valuable resources. I truly believe that we can only change the world’s ills if we work together hand in hand and you can’t partner with someone you can’t be honest with.

The other one is humility. I would rather our work speak for itself and that we be judged on our impact and not on who we know or some other popular metric. At the end of the day I started Library For All to impact literacy across the globe, and our team won’t rest until we achieve that.

What is next for Library for All?

We have really learnt over the last 3 years what it takes to launch our programs in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. I am very excited that we can now take that learning and accelerate our impact. We know our model and we know what works and doesn’t work, and I am excited that we should now be able to scale faster then ever before. There are approximately 8,500 children reading on Library For All’s platform, but I would like to see that jump into the millions in a few short years.

How can people help?

We are always on the look out for companies and individuals that want to change the world and are passionate about books and reading and know the transformational impact that being literate has on a person. If our mission resonates with you and you want to get involved, please go to our website, in the work with us us section there are a number of ways to be involved. We love welcoming new members to the Library For All family and bringing you along the journey. Together we can achieve so much more.

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From Melbourne to New York – Caz Little of Dashing Hounds is Styling Men and Women all over the City: AWNY Startup Story

Caz Little started Dashing Hounds 4 years ago in Melbourne and 12 months ago, she moved herself and the business to New York.

Dashing Hounds is a one-on-one personal shopping service originally for men but now also women which I call Dashing Dames! It’s a service provided to New Yorkers who are time poor and need help to find the right wardrobe pieces for work, pleasure or a special occasion. I help people with everything from red carpets to weddings and anything in between. As well as finding them the right outfit for their occasion, I save time by pre-shopping and pre-arranging discounts and/or champagne service in stores with my inside connections! Some of my services include a New York lunch and a pampering session such as a hair trim or wet-shave!

How long did you have the idea for this business and why did you decide to start Dashing Hounds?

Dashing Hounds is a business I began 4 years ago in Melbourne. At the time I was a denim designer and had been working in the Australian rag trade for over 12 years. I also have a diploma in Fashion Design. I designed menswear for some of Australia’s best known fashion companies like Lee Jeans, Austin Group, Elwood and RES Denim. During that time, I also taught fashion students at RMIT. I decided it was time to help men shop rather trying to redesign the wheel.

You get to go shopping and play dress up every day – It sounds like a dream! Is the reality as great as our visual?  

Helping people is something that comes naturally to me. As a kid, I was always down for playing dress ups. I loved going through my parents’ clothing and trying on everything. I’m always looking at how I can tweak someone else’s outfit to help improve their look. Since moving to New York I’m steadily building up my clientele. I hope to be helping people every day of the week because this is my dream job for sure!

Do you think men in New York are more style conscious than their Australian counterparts? 

Hmm? That is a good question. I think Aussies make an effort in their style most defiantly! We have and export some of the best designers in the world, so there is no excuse! The one thing that I think is different is perhaps the enormous brand offering here in New York compared to Melbourne. There are way more people in New York and so many great brands to choose from.

The weather plays a huge part in style also. Layering for below 0 temps and having more options for textured and warmer fabrics, as well as different silhouettes suitable to the climate. They are investment pieces which are not normally needed in the warmer Australian climate. I personally will never do a Melbourne winter again without my Uniqlo heat tech thermals!

Photograph by Sarah Anderson

What has been your ‘Ah Ha’ / ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment’ 

For me I don’t ever feel like I have ever had an “I’ve made it” moment. It’s an ongoing life goal. Happiness and being content with what you have is making it. Though the other day I had an “I’m a New Yorker” moment when I told someone to get out of my way…..I have never done that before.

Continue reading

Row for Peace from NYC this ANZAC Day, 25 April 2015

Written by Kiri Milburn.

ANZAC Day is just around the corner. This year, April 25 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula in World War I.  Such an important milestone gives us extra food for thought about what Lest We Forget really means.  How can we ensure the sacrifices of our servicemen and women, in their commitment to our safety over the last 100 years, are not forgotten?

Turkish adventurer Erden Eruç, and his Australian crew members, are embarking on a unique Centenary Memorial Challenge in honor of this milestone.  The challenge involves rowing in a two man row boat from New York to the Gallipoli Peninsula and will commemorate the 100 year anniversary of ANZAC day, while raising awareness about the significant human cost of wars that still persist today.

Erden will be accompanied by two Australians, Kendon Glass and Mark Gasson, as he rows across the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, departing from New York in May 2015, and landing at the Gallipoli Peninsula sometime in April 2016.  The challenge seeks to emulate the journey taken by ANZAC troops on their way to the Gallipoli peninsula some 100 years ago. Glass and Gasson will take turns to join Erden in the row-boat at select locations along the route.  The two Australians chose to accompany him on this journey in recognition of the significance of the 25 April milestone to ANZAC countries.

New York to Morocco leg

New York to Morocco leg

Morocco to Gallipoli leg

Morocco to Gallipoli leg

Why embark on such a feat?  Apart from honoring the centenary of ANZAC day, Erden and his team conceived this challenge as a way to celebrate the mutual respect and friendship that exists today between the people of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, reflected in Ataturk’s famous words, inscribed at ANZAC cove:

“There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us, where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

Erden is no stranger to testing his physical and mental strength. He is an experienced seaman who completed the first solo circumnavigation of the world by human power in 2012. That expedition took him five years and 11 days, and included a 312 day long stint alone in his row boat as he crossed the Pacific Ocean.

Australians and New Zealanders commemorate ANZAC Day on 25 April to recognize the sacrifices of New Zealand and Australian servicemen and servicewomen – not only in defending their country but in upholding their nations’ firmly held commitment to peace and security. 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

How to Support Row for Peace

Donate to support the expedition at this Row for Peace CrowdRise page, or this Gallipoli Row Everyday Hero page raising funds for returned soldiers with PSTD.

If you can’t donate – help raise awareness by sharing this story and the fundraising links above with your friends and family.

New York Dawn Service Details

Date: Saturday, 25 April 2015
Time: 5.45am to 6.15am (guests arrive by 5.30am)
Location: Vietnam Veterans Plaza, 55 Water Street, New York City
Dress (military): Service dress or equivalent with medals
Dress (civilian): Respectful attire. Please come prepared in case of cold or inclement weather
RSVP: Not required for attendance

For more details on the ANZAC Day Commemorative Services to be held by the Australian and New Zealand Consuls-General in New York please see here.

I’m not sure about you, but I’m in disbelief that it’s November already…..

Where did the year go so quickly?! As Thanksgiving nears and temps continue to drop, it feels slightly bitter-sweet to be digging out the winter layers and jackets (or buying new ones!) and preparing for more time indoors. I will say that I’m a sucker for the Northeastern “fall” and the enchanting holiday season that follows… the parties, visitors, food, shopping and festive spirit completely takes me over from October through January!

With all that being said, it’s hard to think ahead without first looking back on some really exciting things that happened in October for us.

Last week was a particularly big deal both for AWNY and greater New York, with some big celebrations happening. The more obvious was Halloween, coupled with the “fall-back” winter time-change and NYC Marathon on Sunday. One of our own, AWNY Committee member, Mel Bickford, joined the 50,000+ competitors to brave the chill and run her first NYC Marathon and shared some of her experience here with us. What a thrill for her and so many others. Huge congrats to everyone who raced and/or showed up and supported!

The other big celebration from last week was the announcement of the winner of our ‘Design our Logo Competition’ at our Rebranding AWNY/ Rebranding You event. There were three logos selected as finalists and our members voted for the winning logo. Our winner designer is Phil Smith an Australian expat who is working at The Mixx as an Art Director. The Mixx is a strategic branding, marketing and communications agency in NYC that is proudly certified woman- and LGBT-owned. Phil has delivered creative projects for clients including Pfizer, Mercedes-Benz, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Deloitte, and Diageo. His focus is on digital creative and user experience. Hailing from Sydney, he has lived and worked in NYC since 2010. The winning design was Finalist 1, more information about the winning designer and design concept will be on the blog in November.

Our event Rebranding AWNY/ Rebranding You was also an opportunity for us to present the development of AWNY’s Communications relaunch; including our new newsletter format, blog and social media channels. Guest speaker was Zahrina Robertson from Sydney who shared some of her strategies about building a personal brand.

Our blog is becoming more active every month and so check it out for ongoing updates of what we’ve been up to and what we have planned, along with some great advice and reviews. This month we had a review on a new Kiwi cafe Happy Bones as well as an article about Moving to NYC. Our Communications team are always looking for additional content for the blog, so if you have a story or an idea that you’d like to share please let us know by emailing .

Wherever you are for Thanksgiving I wish you all the very best. Read on here for all the updates on what’s happening in NYC in November.

Kind regards,

Shannon Marshall