top of page

From Adversity To Creativity ‒ Exclusive Interview With Karin Horen

Karin is a natural navigator for growth and resilience. She is a twice breast cancer survivor, the published author of her book "I am more than just my tits" and a public speaker. Karin co-founded The Paddle For Hope fundraiser and the PaddleOn paddle boarding cancer rehabilitation program. She is an advocate for breast cancer awareness, cancer rehabilitation and empowering women.

Karin developed tools that have helped her navigate through obstacles in life, career and relationships. She is an Entrepreneur at heart and doesn't fear taking chances. Her motto is: "Start before you are ready." Her passion is helping people. Born in Israel, a mum to three children and living in New Zealand. Karin worked as a media buyer, TV presenter and has 20 years of experience in Marketing and Sales.

Karin says that sometimes you have to get to a point where you are so desperate for answers that creativity comes in and these moments are magical. Usually, people will hold hands with you as your creativity and passion become contagious. You become so enthusiastic that it helps you move forward and recruit people around you, creating positivity and hope. Mindset is everything!

Being in the hospital battling severe infection after surgery, didn’t stop Karin from creating a Mastectomy friendly swimmer range in collaboration with Aurai Swimwear founder, Natalia Bertolo which led to a Fashion parade in NZFW in 2018. “You need purpose and I seem to find my creative mind in my lowest moments. When we were travelling to Israel for PFH 2013, I just completed my treatments and while sitting at Starboard HQ in Thailand, I came up with the idea to design a pink paddleboard. It was a desire to do more, there was excitement.

Victoria Stuart my co-founder for PFH and I designed the painted warrior board in collaboration with the team that year.

My book was published the year I was battling an infection again, which literally kept me at home. The sleepless nights of writing and editing were so worth it.

Eat Drink Pink event came to mind when I realised that we needed another vehicle to fundraise as the PFH grew to the point that it became challenging to organise. It’s amazing what our mind can do when we face adversity; when we think that there are no alternatives; when we stand by the edge.

I want to help people find their passion again, if in business or personal life. Creativity is in each and every one of us.

Karin Horen, Growth and Resilience Navigator

What drives you to help people? What made you take this direction?

My mum, who was a physiotherapist and loved by so many passed at the age of 50. Compassion and kindness were her core values. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time, I knew I had to do something for others and this is where it began. I had this drive in me to go to hospitals and support patients. I have always been a practical person so I understood that by helping others I can release my own fears, anxiety and see my personal problems as less dramatic. There is always "worse". I advise everyone to engage in charity. It really gives perspective on life.

You published your book " I am more than just my tits". What was the point that you realized it's time to write your story?

I was at my lowest when I knew I had to explain some of the decision-making and my journey to my children, so I can leave a legacy while sharing my experience with the readers. You never know who will benefit from your story. It was a scary step, healing and confronting at the same time. I regret that I never recorded my parents or grandparents. How amazing would that be? The title came up in a conversation I had with a guy I met and it just hit me. “I know my title” so then I started writing. I was determined to find a publisher and get it out there. The title represents resilience, body image and hope. You can be whatever you want to be, breasts do not define you as a woman and scars tell a story. (Mine are reconstructed now and there is still a bit of cosmetic work to be done), you can grow strong. I am one of the lucky ones and I have a duty. I had to find the strength in me and love myself despite my scars, loss of relationship and love, and find myself again.

You are a solo mum to three teen children, what is the secret to keeping your career and goals active while being so busy?

Mindset. You have to make that decision for yourself not to become a victim. For a while, I didn't stick to a specific career path as I was in and out of the hospital. I had young kids and it all seemed impossible. I focused on healing and gaining strength and I had to find the way back. I thought I lost myself but I actually had a better version of myself being developed through all this.

It has been a hell of a ride. I didn't set big goals as I did not want to get fixated. Setting realistic goals while pushing myself with the help of others helped. I have been reading, self-educating myself and just keep moving forward. Even though I had setbacks I kept pushing. Fitness keeps me strong and helps me move forward. Career paths can evolve so building on your foundations and developing skills is important. Some days do not go the way you plan – be flexible. My confidence comes from working on my beliefs, mindset and career was not always as important. What is important is to follow my passion and help people with whatever I choose to do. I struggled financially at times, I broke down in tears, but that never made me lose hope. Money and career mindset had to be developed and transformed so I did what I could for a while and a few years back I got back to the workforce. We have to get rid of old patterns or beliefs to fill the tank for the new. When someone asks me what I do for work, I always reply not with the title of my job – to me, It’s what I do for people. You have to have a purpose in life before anything.

Freedom is so important to me. I do wake up early and have tasks to follow. There is no balance in motherhood, It's the most complex role and once you learn to delegate to your kids, they become part of the team so you can focus on other areas.

What are your goals for 2023?

Speak on stages globally- this is my dream! speak in front of groups, create seminars, collaborate with more individuals and organisations to bring the best in people, and help them become more resilient and confident. Invest in people for growth. I would like to create more content for the digital space, series of Podcasts and perhaps go back to TV presenting. I would love to keep learning and developing tools for coaching and navigating. I would like to travel, and celebrate my 50th birthday with my closest circle here and overseas. Investing in self-development and yourself is second to none, so I definitely would like to invest in self-education.

What are the components for success?

  • Resilience. Not taking rejections personally.

  • Communication and establishing strong relationships.

  • Understanding that there are a few solutions to a problem and two is better than one.

  • Repeat what is working for you as many times as necessary.

  • Mindset is everything ‒ focus and listen to the words you speak. They determine how your day starts and ends.

  • Find your assets and skills.

  • Invest in people and build communities.

  • Time is the biggest and most important currency – Use it wisely.

  • Goals.

  • Passion.

  • Purpose.

What are your top achievements?

  • My children and raising strong and kind humans. I am authentic with my children. I do not hide pain, sadness, happiness and success.

  • The Paddle For Hope charity events (2011-2018), Eat Drink Pink and the PaddleOn cancer rehabilitation program.

  • Creating the Pink Painted Warrior SUP board with Starboard international. Being in their books. Who would have thought?

  • Learning and investing in my own growth. Not letting myself go.

  • Publishing my book “I am more than just my tits” and touching so many souls.

  • Getting up every day and keeping my promises to myself.

  • Not being bitter about life and adversity.

  • Falling in love over and over again. I am a hopeless romantic.

  • Gaining the most amazing friends and community.

Your life story is filled with obstacles, what keeps you getting up every day?

  • I have a pretty good morning routine. I start my day by drinking water, gratitude journaling and coffee. I have so many notebooks where I write whatever I feel like at that moment.

  • I love coffee, so that is a big motivator. ( laughing). I add my collagen powder and enjoy drinking it slowly. I also do my best to read ( self-educating book) in the morning while drinking my coffee. I learned to get up early and it feels so good to achieve so much in one day.

  • I do not live my story. Today is my tomorrow. The past is in the past.

  • I can write the next chapters of my life ‒ I try to find excitement and purpose in my mind.

  • Moving forward step by step. I do my best to enjoy the journey and look at all the challenges as learning curves.

  • I see my kids in front of me ‒ that's enough to keep going.

  • I have goals and dreams that evolve with time.

  • Challenges bring the creative side in me. When I get excited about a project or any initiative I can’t rest. It consumes my mind.

Paddleboarding has been part of your life for over 10 years. What is the reason you love it so much? Why is it important to exercise and why is rehabilitation after cancer beneficial?

I have been exercising for around 25 years. As a teen, I was a competitive swimmer. When I arrived here ( NZ) in 2009, I was fascinated by paddle boarding. I connected with the community and saw the benefits it had on myself both physically, socially and mentally. The ocean has an infinite horizon. You can see the same objects on shore in a different perspective when on the water. I took on paddle boarding as a mission as I knew that in terms of physical health, it allowed me to improve balance, confidence and range of movement. I paddle in the ocean, lakes or rivers. Water is known to be therapeutic for our soul, which is vital especially when facing adversity. I paddled through chemo, after surgeries and my community was there to support. When we started developing the PaddleOn program, I was so excited, as it reminded me of my mum, her patients and brought so much purpose into my life. Physiotherapists became the advocates and instructors for this program. It gives people who have been touched by cancer so much purpose and hope no matter what stage of their journey they are at. The fundraising side of philanthropy taught me to ask for help, not to fear rejection and that there are wonderful people out there. For the past few years we have been running EAT DRINK PINK as a vehicle for fundraising money for the program. These funds go to Pinc and Steel Rehabilitation Foundation which operates the program.

In general, fitness has been part of my life for many years and it allows me to control my body and mind where I can and grow strength to navigate through pain. Being in the shape that I am today, after losing my breasts and going through tens of procedures just to feel more whole, could not have been done personally for me and others without the help of physiotherapy, nutrition, paddle boarding, rehabilitation, mindset work and fitness. It is a mindfulness heaven. Seeing people happy, smiling and feeling confident on the water and outside the water makes my heart sing.

What are your tips for life?

  1. The more you learn, the more you earn. So invest in YOU.

  2. Choose your tribe.

  3. Forgive yourself and others and move on. Resentment is not healthy.

  4. Know that you are unique so THINK BIG! You do not have to fit into a box.

  5. Ask for help and get some sunshine.

  6. Make good choices when it comes to nutrition. what you eat reflects on your thinking, energy and hormones.

  7. Do what you love and love what you do. Life is precious.

  8. Detox the limiting beliefs you have. if you find it hard to identify them ‒ get support from a professional. We have so many tools today to help us navigate through life. Keep moving.

  9. Invest in your family and community. Choose your tribe.

  10. Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. Create healthy habits.

  11. Smile. Our brain doesn't differentiate between a "fake" smile and a real one.

  12. Better be alone than lonely in a relationship. Find your tribe, your love relationship and love yourself first.

  13. Everything in life is temporary. Having the tools to bounce back will help you with any obstacle.

  14. Engage in a charity activity. You will have a different perspective towards life.

Career ‒ what does it look like for you?

My daily activity is a combination of being a full-time mum, working as a Real Estate agent and helping people navigate. I am grateful that there are those who ask me to support them through career dilemmas, challenges, or business scaling. I engage in public speaking which is an area where I am growing. The idea is to grow this arm of personal development, connect and empower, grow businesses and remain passionate. Every business transaction involves humans. We invest in people, not the business.

If I look back at my previous roles, HR, sales and marketing – it always involved communication and growth in the areas of wealth, well-being and business. I am excited as I am growing and so do others with me. I believe that we can have different streams of interest and income. This is life-filled with infinite opportunities to develop.

Tell us about your public talks and Navigation sessions:

Where shall I start? I love talking.

The way I speak is the way I write.

I speak from the heart and like to read my audience. My speaking engagements are a mix of storytelling combined with a roller coaster of emotions while providing valuable tools for life.

I learned to articulate while working as a TV presenter and acting in TVCs. After many years of being interviewed on TV and Radio, I developed confidence and skills that help me on stage and In front of people. I love connecting with people, and I feel that it's always been something natural for me. People’s stories and life lessons have a huge impact on others.

Navigation (coaching)

I like calling what I do “Navigating”, as I find that everything in life is like taking a road map and finding the way. Sometimes not knowing the way gets you out of your comfort zone, and you can become creative and get somewhere. The destination is made of different roads, signs and people. We live in an era where everything moves fast and we want quick fixes. I believe that patience is key. In saying that, if we can have a navigator then it makes the journey less overwhelming. When I was in the military, I learned discipline, authority and accountability and I implemented some of the values in what I do for others and myself.

I believe that with my own life experience combined with the skills, marketing and sales knowledge, coaching sessions I signed up for regularly, and my ongoing development in the area. I can provide valuable experience for other people who find themselves in a bit of a void, crossroads, or uncertainty and need to grow personally or in their business. Growth relates to all aspects of life.

Moving forward is important for our development. I witness many people living in survival mode but there are other ways. I failed many times and bounced back. I love taking chances as uncertainty can be fascinating. Even with relationships. I believe we have to open our hearts more. We all get given opportunities and we can take them as a positive challenge or close the door. We can open the door and peek or we can stay there for a while. Confidence comes with developing, good habits, consistency, systems and putting goals into action. Its the promises we keep to ourselves and others that can grow confidence even more.

I always start with a mindset (Business or personal). I work organically while using the systems that I learned. Then there are goals, numbers, reverse engineering, marketing, communication, values and action. I am an entrepreneur at heart who worked in the corporate world, however, I appreciate freedom, and that in order to grow we have to have passion and purpose towards what we do. As humans, we have skills and assets. Once we collaborate and combine forces we can become more successful and stronger.

Get a copy of my book here.

Follow me on Instagram for more info!


  • linkedin-brainz
  • facebook-brainz
  • instagram-04


bottom of page