If there is anyone in the world who exemplifies the word “boss” in a number of metrics (not just business success, although she has bucket loads of that!), it would be Emma Isaacs – Australian entrepreneur and bestselling author who resides in Los Angeles.
Emma is the founder and CEO of Business Chicks, a thriving global community of over 500,000 women that operates on two continents, in eleven cities, and produces more than 150 events annually — with speakers including Sarah Jessica Parker, Sir Richard Branson, Kate Hudson, Arianna Huffington, and Gloria Steinem to name just a few.
One of the things that stands out to us about Emma is that she doesn’t believe in the cliched “work/life balance”, and she’s never had a five year plan. Instead she dives in headfirst to everything she does and wings it! A business owner by the age of eighteen, property investor by nineteen, and millionaire by twenty-three, Emma has entrepreneurship and achievement in her DNA. After dropping out of college at age 18, she started her own recruitment company, and eight years later, she purchased Business Chicks — and turned it into one of Australia’s largest communities for women. She has created a successful career by following her instincts and acting boldly.
Her new book which has already become a bestseller in her native country Australia is called “Winging It” and is a rallying cry for all women to “do the things that scare you, build your wealth, make an impact, fail lots, and get up and try again.” In the book Emma shares her secrets, tips and tricks in business and family — everything from her time saving hacks (example: done is better than perfect); to her tips on how to network like a boss to doing work and family well.
Speaking of family, Emma is also a mother to six kids under age eleven, and she recently live streamed the home birth of her sixth baby on her Instagram account to over 60k viewers who were glued to their screens watching Emma’s beautiful homebirth during the Pandemic (click on the “Birth!” stories highlight on her account). Needless to say, Emma Isaacs is a boss in every sense of the word, and we jumped at the opportunity to speak with her about her career path, new addition to the family, and what advice we will learn from her new book.
First up, CONGRATS on baby no. 6! Louis looks like a dream. How are you dealing with the balance of business, baby, and body changes right now during COVID?
What balance?! It’s all just one big crazy life made even more crazy by a global pandemic. Rather than just ‘get through it’, I’m trying to find opportunities to get back to basics and recalibrate what’s important and find joy where I wasn’t looking for it previously – and that’s in my family life and my business. And body changes! Ha! Let’s just say I wouldn’t have had six kids if I cared remotely about what my body looked like!
You chose to livestream your home birth and the video was so powerful, emotional and incredible to watch. Why did you choose to share this moment with your audience?
I’d always been terrified of childbirth and worked really hard on my mindset to change that. When I first fell pregnant, I went to every class, read every book, and watched every documentary in an attempt to conquer this fear. This education and research got me thinking about homebirth and as a result I got obsessed about positive birth experiences and ended up having six amazing planned home births. I chose to share the last birth publicly because I wanted people to experience just how gentle birth can be and perhaps reveal a different side to what the movies show us. Over 60,000 people watched – I never expected that many people to join in and I’ve heard from so many women that it’s helped them eliminate the fear of birth and show them what’s possible.
One of the things we love about you is how honest you are about not having a 5 year plan, or believing in the work/life balance. Can you share more about this approach?
Of course! I really believe that life is just a game and we should lighten up and have more fun playing it. When we are too set in our plans or our definitions of the way things ‘should be,’ that’s when we lose the ability to be flexible, have fun and seize opportunities. Expectations and comparison rob us of joy and leave us feeling less than.
We are in the perfect storm for winging it right now. We don’t know how the next six months are going to pan out, we do not know how the next two years are going to pan out, but I think the people who are going to survive it the best are the ones who can be uncomfortable in the uncertainty, do their best and be okay when things don’t go to plan and maybe even have a laugh about it too.
As a founder of a thriving global community that has seen you interview luminaries and icons such as Gloria Steinem, Arianna Huffington and Sir Richard Branson, and host 150 conferences annually, how have you adapted to the Pandemic this year?
We were really quick to adapt our live event model to digital delivery. And within two weeks, had innovated on a number of new event products that were designed for a virtual audience. This shift to digital has been the perfect example of winging it – we didn’t exactly know what we were doing, but we got into action, put events up on the calendar and figured the rest out as we went along. We’ve been talking for 15 years about how we wanted to take the business online in some form and we wanted to be more digital and we wanted to mitigate risk and diversify our offering. The pandemic has really forced us into innovation and I’m ultimately grateful for the chance to do that. We also had the foresight that our members were going to need extra support during this time so launched a bunch of other initiatives – like online member meet ups – which has really helped engagement too.
The beautiful silver lining in all of this is that Business Chicks is now truly a global business and we have women connecting and joining in from all over the world. Just the other day I was in a meet-up and there were women from Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, Perth, Singapore and Auckland.
You are about to release your new book ‘Winging It’ in September. What do you hope readers will take away from all the advice and expertise you share?
The book is based on my 20+ years of starting and scaling businesses and shares not only my stories, but also those of the thought leaders and extraordinary humans I’ve met and spent time with. It’s my hope that readers will learn a bunch of ways to shortcut their success and learn really practical strategies that will help them get into action and get that one step closer to the things they really want.
As someone who started her career in the business world as a teenager, you’ve talked about entrepreneurship being in your DNA. Do you believe a successful businessperson has to be born with this inclination, or can you adapt and change throughout life?
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 heard that word until I’d been running my company for a few years. Back when I started (over 20 years ago now) the majority of entrepreneurs were men, which wasn’t aspirational for young women. 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!
I think it’s important to note that you don’t have to be a business owner to be an entrepreneur. I have plenty of people in my time I’d consider to be entrepreneurial and what that means is that they question things, they are agile and they’re always up for trying something new.
What does it mean to you personally to be a thought leader?
I’ve always felt a responsibility as the leader of a large women’s community, to be a role model for what’s possible. I take this responsibility very seriously and therefore always try and walk my walk and talk my talk.
We are seeing a lot of excitement around the nomination of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s VP, following on with numerous conversations about more women running for office, starting businesses and creating communities. Why does the world need more female leadership?
Women have a unique leadership perspective and have shown time and time again their capacity for vulnerability, understanding and compassion. It seems to be there has never been a more important time for these leadership qualities to be utilized in the world. We need women leaders to be given opportunities and inspire the next generation.
Finally, something we like to ask all interviewees: what makes you a powerful woman?
I’d like to think I’m someone who has taken calculated risks, not being scared to try things for the first time and show others what’s possible. I feel most powerful when women tell me they’ve done something because they were inspired by what I showed them – whether it’s through my own actions, or through an experience we’ve given them through Business Chicks, or my book too!