In this series, we talk to 13 industry leaders who have made the jump from Australia to NYC and are kicking it in their fields, from food to media and international advocacy. Here, entrepreneur Billie Whitehouse, co-founder and creative director of Wearable X, reveals what it takes to make it in the city of dreams.
Company: We:eX is an innovative wearable tech company (think a high-fashion blazer that can lead you around a new city) which helps people stay more connected through electronically infused style.
Originally from: Sydney, Australia
Why did you decide to move to New York? Scale! To have a successful wearable technology company, you have to have an audience. The Australian consumers weren’t ready for wearable technology three years ago when I decided to move.
Did you encounter any difficulties with getting a visa? My visa was rejected twice. Once because they said that I was not earning enough to be on an E3 (even though I knew many people who were on it and earning far less than what I had indicated on my visa application), and the second time because they do not consider fashion as a degree in the USA. I had to change a code on the application that indicated I was an art director rather than a fashion designer to get an E3 visa. Persistence is everything.
What does a typical day at the office involve? I am the director and designer. I work across fashion, design, marketing, business, sales, software, hardware integration, communication, branding… The lot. Daily, I get up, do exercise of some sort, and then start with a list.
How does the US differ to Australia? There is no tall poppy syndrome in New York. I have never been so welcomed into a community of entrepreneurs who are all trying to ‘make it’. We all help each other. There are two communities who were fundamental in this shift: Dreamers // Doers; a group of female entrepreneurs who share what they work on with each other and ask each other for help, as well as Medi Club; a group of open-armed meditators who are not looking for transactional relationships. Surrounding myself with people who want to help you rather than shun you for your success has changed everything.
There seems to be more Aussies in New York now than ever… The trend 10 years ago was to go to London. Then it shifted to New York. The E3 has made it easier. Once you are here and you see the opportunities, it’s hard to leave.
Your best advice for Aussies planning to move to New York?
Get a good lawyer.
What do you love to do in the city in your spare time? No-one has spare time in New York… ha! I love to go to a yoga class or do a long run followed by a catch-up with friends on someone’s roof. There are always great weekends away with big groups upstate.