Sep 10 2017
When we approached Emma for an interview she was heavily pregnant with her fifth, yes FIFTH child. Not only heavily pregnant, but overdue in fact! So we weren’t expecting an answer anytime soon. Much to our delight, Emma and her fab team came back to us straight away. Mother of five and CEO of Business Chicks, a global community for thousands upon thousands of entrepreneurial women, is there anything Emma Isaacs can’t do?!
With a growing family and as a member of Business Chicks myself, I have been seriously inspired by Emma and her team. Happy reading!
We had the BEST time exhibiting at Business Chicks’ 9 to Thrive last month. Can you tell us what first attracted you to the idea of taking on Business Chicks?
About 11 years ago, a friend invited me to attend a Business Chicks event and I loved it so much that I returned to their next event a few months later where I found out that the business was for sale. The engagement with the Business Chicks brand was off the scale. I thought ‘there are all these women that would walk over hot coals (me included) for this organisation, so surely we can harness that power and energy for even bigger opportunities.’ I saw thousands of switched on, successful women and knew I could really take it somewhere, so I bought it six months later and incorporated it as a company in 2006.
Back then it was a tiny group, but we’ve grown it into the expansive network it is today, spanning two continents and eleven cities. When I bought the business, there was really only one other women’s network in the country so I’d love to think that since then, we’ve played a big part on creating a category and serving women at scale.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to women in business?
I’m passionate about helping women remove the roadblocks that stand in the way of them getting anything they want from their lives. I’m also passionate about serving others and doing what I can to help people. I’m passionate about encouraging women to see that they can get what they want so that might be starting a company, growing their career, having a family, and so the list goes on
You’re currently living in LA where you launched Business Chicks USA. Can you tell us how that’s going and what are some of the challenges you’ve had to face?
From the time I bought Business Chicks, I’d always wanted to take our brand global, and by early 2015 I knew the time had come to shake things up. We’d become such a trusted and established brand here in Australia, and being a typical entrepreneur I’m never truly happy unless I’m experiencing some sort of discomfort or fear. We always knew our growth was going to come from new territories so the US felt like a good first step.
To be completely honest, I looked at where my largest networks were outside of Australia, and that happens to be the US. I have close friends and family in the States, and a great relationship with our past speakers from the US (people like Arianna Huffington and Rachel Zoe who went on to speak at our LA and NY launch events).
The biggest lesson I’ve learn so far is that whatever you budget for, it’ll cost you twice that amount and take you twice the amount of time to achieve!!
In your role as Global CEO, you get to meet with some incredible people. Who would you say has been most influential on your Business Chicks journey so far?
There’s too many to name! I’ve been blessed to meet some incredible people, most of whom have gone on to become friends. Some of my favourites include US fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg – she’s quirky, eccentric, a self-made billionaire and a tremendous philanthropist but what I love the most is that she didn’t have to work (she married a German prince at a young age) but she chose independence over an easy life. She’s a role model for all women and I really clicked with her when she spoke for Business Chicks. Another standout for me is Sir Bob Geldof – he has used his celebrity status to catalyse about $150 million worth of aid into Africa and he and I talked about our travels to Uganda and what we’d seen and experienced there. He’s witty, very Irish, very well read and expresses himself beautifully – I could talk with him for hours on end.
Have you had many mentors over the years? If so, what’s one piece of advice that has really stood out to you?
My first experience of having a mentor was through a structured mentoring program when I was in the early stages of my first business. I was a young entrepreneur and the woman I was paired with couldn’t have been any more different to me, which ultimately was the most effective matching I could have hoped for. She’d grown significant businesses with market caps of over $100m and was tough and strict. She lifted me to new levels of leadership and had me question my effectiveness and strengths, teaching me many important lessons, such as the need to develop delegation skills which I’ve taken throughout my entire career. Since then I’ve had mentors through other structured programs, and also through my own relationships – I’ve learned something different from each of the entrepreneurs and business leaders who I’ve worked with and make a point to keep in touch with them.
What are your top tips for ‘success’ in business?
Your mindset and belief system is far more important than any raw talent or skills you may have. As an entrepreneur you have to be able to master resilience and have to be prepared to ask the questions others are too scared to ask. You have to be prepared to bounce back quickly from the failures and continue to think positively!
What would you say is the best part of your job?
The opportunity to dream up crazy notions, and then find the people brave enough to come along with me for the ride as we actualise them. I’m driven to create experiences for our members within the Business Chicks community and I relish the opportunity to enrich their lives in any way I can. In the eleven years I’ve had the organisation, I still get a kick out of seeing women move out of their comfort zones and go on to achieve great things in their careers and businesses. I’ve met some of the world’s most successful business people and celebrities and visionaries, but what I enjoy the most hardly ever comes from those experiences. It’s usually a heart to heart conversation at one of our conferences or events, hearing about someone who has found the courage to leave a job, a business, or even a relationship that wasn’t serving them after something they learned through Business Chicks.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Funnily enough, all the Business Chicks team members have to describe themselves in three words on our website. My words are are ‘rule breaker,’ ‘master of surprise’ and ‘prankster’.
Finally, what are your hopes for the future?
At a surface level, my hope is to build the strongest global community for women, and to keep serving them in whatever ways we can.
It’s somewhat contentious to think a women’s network is still needed in in 2017 and indeed into the future, but all our research confirms it is. We still work in a world where unconscious bias exists and still have a long way to go in order to close the gender pay gap and equal the scales when it comes to executive and non-executive representation. We’ve found that by telling the stories of people who are achieving great heights of success we’ve been able to pave a way for our members to believe it’s also possible for them – so that’s what we’re going to keep doing and we’ll keep reinventing the ways we do it. We come from a place of solid education and content and also providing the inspiration and courage that women need to progress their careers or businesses.
I have a list of hopes as long as my arm though! I also want to make sure I’m a great mother, sister, wife and friend and want to make sure I pack as much living into every moment as I can. Another hope for my immediate future is to have my baby! I’m five days overdue with my fifth bubba and would really like some action!
To find out more about Emma and Business Chicks, head to businesschicks.com