Emma Isaacs – The Unwitting Entrepreneur
When Business Chicks CEO Emma Isaacs started out in business she hadn’t even heard the word entrepreneur.
But the 18-year-old had the natural born traits of a boss – confidence, curiosity, independence and a willingness to roll her sleeves up and work hard.
Bored with University, she saw an opportunity to become sole director of recruitment company – Staff IT – and jumped at it.
Within 7 years the corporation had grown into a multi-million dollar business but Emma craved another challenge.
Attending a Business Chicks event in 2006, inspiration struck again.
Emma bought the business and expanded its members from 250 to over 35,000, Australia’s largest community for women.
CEO, philanthropist, property investor, mother-of-3, she’s come a long way from the 7-year-old who ran a lolly racketeering business from her backgarden.
Speaking exclusively to Gravity in this two-part-series, the 34-year-old opens up about entrepreneurship, coworking and the existing challenges to women in business.
1.Emma, you told ABN magazine: “I’ve only ever really been an employee once (when I was 14) and I don’t plan on ever being one again.”
Firstly what was the job, and secondly what made you realise you had to be your own boss?
“I always knew I wanted to be successful, and I figured that if I began early, I’d get the head start I needed.
“My next door neighbour had a restaurant so I begged her to give me a job – I think I started the day I turned 14 and 9 months (or perhaps a bit before!).
“While my friends partied, I worked every Friday and Saturday night and took every shift offered to me. I never resented it.
“There was no ‘a-ha’ moment of realising I had to be my own boss. It was never an ambition of mine. It just happened in that serendipitous way that all things that are meant to be happen.”
2.Were you born an entrepreneur or did a person/life event inspire you to become one?
“I was always an adventurous and inquisitive child (might be the first born thing, if you believe in birth order biases.) I had my first business when I was seven years old!
“I’d gather all the kids in my street together in our backyard and ask them to go and bring back some money from their parents.
“I’d then go and buy lollies and we’d distribute them into smaller packages and then sell them back to the parents at an inflated price. It was a great lesson in bringing people together and making a profit at the same time.
“I think there are some personality characteristics/traits that lead some down the path to entrepreneurship, and I was born with those (or certainly had them cultivated for me in my early years) – curiosity, confidence, independence.
“When I started out in business, I don’t think I’d even heard the word entrepreneur though – it was certainly never presented to me as a career option.
“I’m excited for anyone who chooses entrepreneurship now though – there’s no shortage of education, mentors or role models to draw upon.
“It didn’t feel like that back when I started – I just rolled up my sleeves and got on with it. I’m not a big overthinker.”
3.In the years since you bought your first business at 18, how has the business world changed for women or has it changed at all?
“The global conversation about empowering women to lead has gained more and more traction.
“We will eventually see results rippling through if we keep up these conversations, but for now I still think there’s a lot more work to do.
“The gender pay gap has hovered between 15-18% for the last two decades (currently sitting at around 17.1%).
“And we still use the same subconscious bias against women in language and attitudes.
“I always make a point to ask men with children ‘how do you manage it all?’ It baffles them!”
4.What do you think of the co-working concept and have you ever tried working in a co-working space?
“I think it’s an incredible concept for the right businesses.
“The sharing of knowledge, energy, resources and expenses can make or break a business (particularly a start-up.)
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and have watched a lot of start-ups get incubated through co-working spaces, and I think it’s exciting to see it catching on more and more in Australia.
“Business Chicks recently purchased a whole floor of a building in the Sydney CBD as we outgrew our old space.
“We allow our members to use the space when we can, but there’s just not a lot of room at the moment, with the rapid growth the business is experiencing (we’ve more than doubled in both headcount and gross revenue in the last year).
“If we had the space, I’d welcome synergistic businesses with open arms!”
Business Chicks was created to bring like-minded souls together – to give them a chance to swap ideas, share stories, and spark inspiration. To be part of this community log onto http://www.businesschicks.com.au/