Winging it with @emmaisaacs
July 12th, 2021
Q1. How did you become an entrepreneur? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I became an entrepreneur through the doing.I had my first business at the age of 18, before I had any concept of what the word entrepreneur meant.I don’t think I actually even ever heard that word until I’d been running my company for a few years. Back when I started (over 20 years ago now) entrepreneurs were people like Alan Bond and Christopher Skase, which wasn’t aspirational for young women at all. These days we have so many amazing female entrepreneurs leading the way as role models. It’s been exciting to have lived through that change. Since that first company I’ve had a few businesses, some with amazing success, and others that have flopped – that’s the life of an entrepreneur!
Q2. Can you describe your typical day?
As you’d imagine, there’s not much typical about most of my days. Right now I’m 38 weeks pregnant with my sixth baby and I have five kids home from school and a business that’s been heavily impacted by the government’s response to Covid-19. Every day is different but the baby is generally the first to wake and it all goes downhill from there, ha!
As a founder, I spend most of my time agitating for change and growth. I start most of my sentences with ‘What if we could …’. I have a lot of ideas, and it’s my job to keep my people and my community alive and awake to my vision of building a truly global network of women who support each other and want more for themselves and their lives. During normal times, I’m back and forth between Australia and the USA about seven or eight times a year and can be on conference calls with my team, members, other stakeholders (and occasionally my mum!) around the clock each day. I’ll often be in media interviews or doing speaking engagements too – my role these days seems to be as a kind of custodian of the brand and spokesperson, which I really enjoy.
Q3. What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
If you’ve got a dream or a goal, just take one small step at a time. What’s that quote about not needing to see the whole staircase? It’s true – it’s all about taking one step at a time. It’s also about getting your mindset right first though. This saying is also true: “If you believe you can, or can’t, you’re right.” I see a lot of women drown in self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence. I believe in faking it until you make it and just having a go. Being successful is just about mindset and the quicker we can understand that, and work on improving our mindset and changing the negative self-talk that grips so many of us, the more fulfilled life becomes.
My other big rule for running a successful business is that you need to figure out how your business makes money and focus on that. It sounds simple, but I see a lot of business owners working hard but focusing on the wrong things. Maybe they’re running a plumbing company and spending too much time on what they should post on Instagram. Or they’re an accountant who is wondering what their podcast should be. At the end of the day, you have to be making more than you spend. Get that right, build a solid customer base and then you can spend some time on the ‘fun’ stuff.
Q4. What is it about Business Chicks that keeps you inspired to do what you do?
I love my job and never really see it as work. The experience of working with Business Chicks is incredibly fulfilling and I’m still as excited about our work and our mission, 15 years since starting out. To be able to work in a fast-growth entrepreneurial business that inspires many people is exhilarating. Also, I’m inspired by helping women remove the roadblocks that stand in the way of them getting anything they want from their lives and by encouraging them 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. Every time I hear a story about how someone has had an incredible experience or someone who’s life has been changed or impacted by the work that we, it inspires me and my team to keep going.
Q5. Do you have a ‘go to’ look/outfit that inspires confidence and makes you feel amazing?
I love experimenting with fashion and oscillate between working hard at pulling together a great outfit (if I’m doing an appearance let’s say) and then putting in zero effort at all at other times. I’m comfy in both situations! One of the nicest things about getting older is how comfortable I’ve become in my own skin and although I’ve always believed that confidence comes from within, clean hair, killer heels, and something you feel great in never goes astray either!
Q6. As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates/drives you?
Getting to the end of my life and knowing that time ran out and I didn’t maximise my time and talents while I had the chance fuels me to be my best. I’m never truly happy just cruising – I’m a full-throttle, all-in kind of person and really try to intentionally pack in as much living as I can each day. It’d scare me to think I once half-assed anything! This fear propels me to keep trying things that I’ve never done before whether it’s writing a book, expanding the business or expanding our family and having another baby!
Q7. What would you say are the top three skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur?
You’re either going to be comfortable with a lot of risk – you’ll be willing to put your house on the line for a new business, perhaps take a leap of faith and do something that no one else has done – or you’re going to find it hard to bridge the gap between security and the unknown. You need to be willing to back yourself and make tough calls. As an entrepreneur, even if you have all the confidence and self-assuredness in the world, there’ll be plenty of times that you’ll doubt yourself; those times usually come when the challenges arise. I’ve never gotten to the point of completely wanting to throw in the towel. There have been many tough times like when we’ve had to restructure the business or let someone go because they’re not performing; these are some of the hardest things a leader will have to do, but if you’re a true leader you’ll make these calls because your role is to ensure the health of a business and protect its culture. And you also have to work non-stop on your network – helping others, promoting others, doing favours, being generous. Successful people know that networking and influencing others is a key skill for getting what you want in your life and in your career. They use their relationships to help others, and continuously work to build their networks and ask for what they need too.
8. Who inspires you?
Artists and creative people. Original people. People who aren’t afraid of being a little different, saying what they think, and standing out. Anyone who is attempting to build something is inspiring to me. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there and create – when you do you immediately open yourself up for criticism and that takes courage.
9. How do you generate new ideas?
I’m a big believer that we create our own opportunities and that we can’t sit around and wait for them to happen. I think it’s impossible to generate new ideas without exposing yourself to new situations, so I guess you could say that I’m constantly throwing myself into the unknown and the uncomfortable because it stretches my thinking on what’s possible. Starting my sentences with a ‘What if …?’ often helps when generating ideas. If you feel energy back from people, you’ll know you’re on to an idea worth exploring a little more.
10. What are your future plans?
My immediate plans are to survive Covid and birth this baby. After that, my plans look a little different to what they were at the start of the year. My North American version of my first book Winging It will be released here in the US in September (that plan hasn’t changed) but everything else has! I was supposed to be releasing another book in Australia later in the year but we’ve postponed its release, along with most Business Chicks events this year. As sad as that loss has been, I’m also excited about what this means for my life and for the business. The period has forced me and the team to go back into start-up mode. Suddenly things that once seemed impossible are totally achievable and I love that.
As for the longer-term plans, I’d love for Business Chicks to become a truly global brand. There’s a need for connection, inspiration and learning now more than ever before, and we do this so well. I’d love to think that we can figure out how to bring Business Chicks to more women around the world as I’ve seen how impactful it’s been for so many of our members in Australia and the US.
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