Emma Isaacs is the founder and global CEO of Business Chicks, Australia’s largest community for women, now with a Los Angeles branch.
Emma has worked with the world’s greatest thought leaders including Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Diane von Furstenberg, and is a highly sought-after keynote speaker and media commentator on topics around female leadership and entrepreneurship.
She’s been featured in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and on The Today Show. She lives in Los Angeles and recently live-streamed the homebirth of her sixth baby with more than 60,000 people tuning in. Emma is also a committed philanthropist has now raised more than $13 million for various charities.
Emma doesn’t believe in 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. In her new book, Winging It, Emma teaches that the only thing holding us back from having it all are our own fears, doubts and excuses. The book is a calling to chase your dreams and let go of perfection to focus on effort and attitude. Emma’s inspiring stories (and unflappable optimism) serve as a reminder that success is within reach and there is no better time to start than now.
We chatted with Emma about her new book and lots more in our exclusive interview. Get to know more about this dynamic entrepreneur and find out how to achieve more by Winging It.
What made you decide to write “Winging It?”
My life has consisted of a series of experiences where I’ve never been fully prepared but have just jumped in all the same. I’ve always been someone who tries new things without knowing how they’re going to turn out. I birthed my six babies at home, moved countries to start a new business with my family in tow, and have started my companies with no formal education or know-how – I believe in trusting your gut, starting things before you’re ready and just having a go.
When I was 25, a friend invited me along to a Business Chicks event, and at first I refused because I hated the name. I thought it was insulting and derogatory to women. I relented though, and went along, and it was the most uplifting event I’d ever experienced. A few months later, I heard it was for sale, so at 25, I bought the business and I’ve spent the past 15 years building it into the powerful organization it is today. We started at 200 members and now reach well over 500,000 women across the globe.
Taking that chance was the best decision of my life and I guess I want to see more women doing the same. Life’s too short! There are plenty of books out there that tell us how to set goals and plan your way into success, but no one written the book on winging it. So, I decided I would write it!
Who has inspired you the most?
I’m inspired by creative people. 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 a lot of courage.
What are you hoping to achieve with the book?
My biggest hope is that people read the book and that it inspires them into action. And action doesn’t necessarily mean they have to quit their job or start a business (but wouldn’t that be great if it’s what they really want!). Action might mean making contact with someone they’ve been meaning to email, enrolling in the art class they’ve always wanted to try or even just writing the first page of the novel they’ve been dreaming to write.
Who do you think will benefit most from reading this book?
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.
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle facing those who want to “wing it”?
I think that when we overthink and overanalyze it can stop us from really taking action. We get fearful and scared and tell ourselves a million excuses as to why something won’t work or why we’re not qualified to at least try. We might say, ‘I’ll wait until the kids grow up’ or ‘I’ll wait until I have more money,’ or ‘I need another degree before I can start my business’. Those excuses we tell ourselves are not reasons enough to at least try.
I think overthinking is where a lot of people go wrong – getting stuck in analysis and not taking action. I see a lot of women drown in self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence. This saying is also true: “If you believe you can, or can’t, you’re right.” Being successful is just as much about mindset as it is about skills 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.
What do you think is the most important takeaway from “Winging It”?
When I wrote Winging It, I knew the world needed to learn how to loosen up and get a little more flexible. I knew we all needed to learn how to say yes and figure out the rest as we went. I knew we’d all benefit from regularly getting ourselves into situations that scare us because, as much as they often suck, this is where and how we grow.
I could never have anticipated just how much we’d need these lessons right now though. In many ways, we’re in the perfect storm for winging it right now. We don’t know how the next six months (or even two years!) are going to pan out, and I’m sure you’d agree that the people who are going to best survive it are the ones who can find comfort and opportunity amidst the uncertainty. I really hope that this book helps them get through!
What’s next for you?
I want to have another baby (kidding, sort of! I’m just checking to see if my husband reads this …) It’s really just more of the same. We were dealt a massive blow as a business when COVID hit and lost around 80% of our revenue so we’re innovating and that’s actually been a good challenge as Business Chicks now exists almost entirely online and allows us to reach a ton more people.
Right now, I’m focused on how we can reach more people and bring them into the magic of Business Chicks and we’re looking at how we can create more products and experiences for our community. My next book is due next month (my publisher says this is the last time she’ll move my deadline!) so I’m deep into writing that too. And when that’s all over I’d love to take a nap – not counting on it though. Never, ever a dull moment in my life!
Emma Answers the Socialite Seven
What talent would you like to wake up with tomorrow?
My kids keep trying to teach me TikTok dances. It’d be nice to wake up and be able to do them all.
What qualities do you like and dislike most about yourself?
I like my determination and hard work ethic. I very much dislike my inability to cook.
What qualities do you like and dislike most in others?
I like people who are present when they’re with you. I dislike flakiness and people not being their word.
What are three things you can’t live without?
I know I should say my kids and my husband, right? But let’s go with coffee, my laptop and sunshine.
Would you rather continue living your life as is or restart it knowing what you know now?
No, I’m good to keep going with what I’ve got! Restarting would be cheating!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
One of the important lessons my parents taught me was to treat everyone the same: with kindness and respect. It doesn’t matter who the person is – whether they’re the janitor or a billionaire – you give good eye contact, a big smile, a warm greeting and be genuine always.
What are you most grateful for?
Family, health and courage.