Security Check: 12 years ago, Heather Russell founded Rinkya, an e-commerce business based in Tokyo, Japan that ships Japanese products all of the world. She’s also a mentor, a speaker and always looking for the next thing.
What’s your historical London and New York connection?
I was born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and am very grateful for my life there. It taught me I could make it anywhere and gave me courage at a very young age. My first company was at 20 and then I moved to Tokyo at 24, where I started Rinkya.
After living in Tokyo for 11 years, I decided it was time to live in Europe. I chose London because I saw the burgeoning tech community and got really excited by all the possibilities. I’ve now been living in London for the past 2 years and enjoying it thoroughly. I’m meeting some beautiful, wonderful people and learning a lot. I travel extensively throughout Europe and I’m always happy to come back home to London-town, despite the weather.
Describe your experience in London as a New Yorker.
I love the tech scene here in London. Since it is in its infancy, there is a superabundance of noise and bullshit, but I love wading through it and discovering the gems. It’s an exciting time to be in tech, in London. I am amongst some future superstars and it forces me up to my game. That’s what NY was always about growing up; making sure you are continually upping your game.
It’s important that I stay stimulated and challenged so I can grow and change and be the best entrepreneur I can be. I love the young energy and fire in the belly from Londoners. Being a New Yorker though, I know I am too straight forward and then sometimes (most of the time) loud and obnoxious Brooklyn comes out. That definitely puts people off. However, I’d lose my New York cred if I gave a crap what people thought of me.
At any rate, I’m working on taming the shrew so I can be a bit more posh at times. Going to Wimbledon, Pimm’s, polo, croquet, and all that good British stuff. The trains are definitely way cleaner than New York, but both London and New York are neck and neck for some dirty streets. And oh yeah… I love closing my eyes and making believe I’m in a Harry Potter film.
How can NYC and London best engage with each other?
I actually was discussing this with CBM a while ago, and I think it’s important to start at the government level and work on them to remove barriers for international entrepreneurs in London and NY. Instituting something like a visa exchange between NYLON would perpetuate a growing tech community. Doing things with young children can really create change as well. I really like what the Young European Entrepreneurs are doing here in Europe and we need more programs like that in NYC. I feel as if NYC’s creative process and tenacity in making it big, can really add to a younger, immature London tech scene.
New Yorkers have created a self-imposed isolation and the danger of many homegrown New Yorkers is we think NY is the best place on Earth. Why should we leave? So we never get out and experience life and I think, become quite ignorant. So many people stay there forever and don’t realize how beautiful the rest of the world is. They stagnate instead of grow. I really would love to see a program to institute student exchanges at younger ages between London and NY or even for older, non-students who are looking to reinvigorate a career or start a new one.
Favorite NYC secret spot: I’m so old school. Best steaks in town are in Williamsburg Brooklyn at Peter Luger. 125 years of pure meaty goodness. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Back bacon too? Awwww yeah. I always request that my friends bring me a bottle of Peter Luger steak sauce when they visit. Court Street Bakery in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Best seven layer cookies on earth. I ate so many one time, I gave myself a migraine. Love to be up in the Boom Boom room at the Standard in NYC with my girls when I go back, but it’s probably played out by now. Clubs come and they go in NY all the time. Flavor of the week. Century 21 Department Store for designer clothes at discount prices. Best. Shopping. Ever.
Favorite London secret spot: I go to a lot of the secret sample sales they have here in London. You can get excellent European designers for great prices despite the currency rates. It’s no secret, but nothing beats Shoreditch House rooftop when the weather is nice. It’s the only place to go in London when we have our 5 days of summer.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Tokyo, Japan. It’s the love of my life. I love Japan and the Japanese with all my heart. 日本が愛してるよ！
From the 3460 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + LONDON