Behind closed doorways at Emma Isaacs’ networking enterprise

Enterprise Chicks proprietor entrepreneur Emma Isaacs advised this masthead that 9, not 13, workers had been made redundant. “It was sadly the one choice left in entrance of us,” she stated.

Hours later, she posted to Instagram. “I needed to make the troublesome choice to scale back the variety of employees and alter the way in which we do issues,” she wrote.

Emma Isaacs on stage at a Enterprise Chicks occasion in Sydney in 2018.

There’s by no means an excellent time to make a redundancy announcement, however the optics had been notably dangerous. Workers had been blindsided after they had been despatched termination letters someday after Enterprise Chicks’ Sydney headquarters unveiled its newly renovated workplace. The Movers + Breakers Gold Coast occasion was days away.

However the accusatory Instagram put up had lifted the veil. Behind the intense, peppy narrative of feminine empowerment and girls supporting ladies had been claims that the enterprise itself was not upholding the values it publicly espoused.

In keeping with present and former workers who got here ahead to this masthead, Enterprise Chicks’ office tradition was one in every of revenue-chasing at any price, usually to the detriment of the psychological well being of younger, impressionable ladies; a observe of not upholding offers with suppliers; and a revolving door of workers.


The supply of this office tradition, former workers stated, was “founder” Isaacs herself.

“They evangelise her,” one former worker advised this masthead underneath situation of anonymity, describing the aura Isaacs created round her because the “cult of Emma”.

“She would flip a blind eye to dangerous behaviour within the enterprise in pursuit of crafting a sure story about the way in which it was. All of it very a lot felt like a private enrichment train.”

Scratching beneath the floor

Enterprise Chicks was by and enormous a hit story: it had grown to a 30,000-strong ladies’s networking group holding sell-out occasions that had been graced by a number of the world’s most revered names within the enterprise world and in Hollywood, resembling Ariana Huffington, Richard Branson, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lawrence. The platform attracted partnerships with a number of the world’s largest manufacturers, together with ASX giants resembling Telstra and Commonwealth Financial institution, which noticed a possibility locally – that’s, the shoppers – in its database of tons of of 1000’s of girls throughout the nation.

Former employees who spoke on the situation of anonymity stated Enterprise Chicks was a high-pressure atmosphere during which usually junior employees had been anticipated to work lengthy hours for salaries that had been under what they might be provided elsewhere within the Australian market.

“They’d minimal expertise in different workplaces and didn’t realise the internal workings had been positively not regular,” one group of ex-employees advised this masthead anonymously.

When the nation locked down as a result of COVID in 2020, ex-employees declare they had been moved to 4 days’ every week pay, however had been anticipated to go above and past to assist hold the corporate going at a time when no public occasions may very well be held. “It was actually crippling – it was very arduous. I couldn’t even afford to see my psychologist to take care of it,” one former worker stated of that interval.


As an employer and a supervisor, Isaacs – who was primarily based in Los Angeles for a number of years in an try and increase into the US – is described as hands-off to the purpose of being absent.

“She didn’t handle her group in any respect,” one worker stated. “It was [former Business Chicks Australia CEO Olivia] Ruello who managed. Emma would fly out and in [of the US] just a few occasions and go to an occasion.”

Isaac’s expectation of bringing in income at any price allowed for dangerous behaviour from some senior executives to go unchecked, employees alleged. One manger was described as “very, very unstable” and a “full bully”, with a excessive turnover of direct reviews of six staffers in a single 12 months.

“Nothing was finished about her behaviour … Emma’s function in that was turning a blind eye to this dreadful behaviour, to not deal with what was happening with this lady,” stated a former staffer, who stated she had vomited on some events from stress.

The obvious blind eye didn’t simply apply to dangerous office tradition; new workers had been inculcated right into a tradition the place taking shortcuts and providing “contra-deals”, an alternate of providers for decreased cost or no cost in any respect, was inspired.

“We had been inspired to chop offers with suppliers: ‘we’ll provide you with advertising and marketing in alternate for these items without spending a dime’,” a former staffer stated. “It was one thing drilled into us from day dot.”

At the very least one former provider who labored with the enterprise corroborated Enterprise Chicks’ choice for this observe. One Sydney-based florist, taken in by the organisation’s mission of supporting female-led companies, did three occasions with Enterprise Chicks – however didn’t wish to work with them once more after that. As a substitute of paying full worth for the preparations, which might have been someplace round $1200 to $1500, the organisation insisted on paying below-market worth for the flowers – $300 – and promised model promotion and advertising and marketing in return.

Australian model Elle Macpherson with host Emma Vosti on stage at a Business Chicks event in Melbourne in 2019.

Australian mannequin Elle Macpherson with host Emma Vosti on stage at a Enterprise Chicks occasion in Melbourne in 2019.

“They had been supposed to advertise us through journal, newsletters. They by no means did that,” the proprietor of the florist stated. A small, new operation on the time, she was hopeful that publicity from Enterprise Chicks’ broad social media attain would possibly convey new clients. However as soon as once more, social media platform Instagram proved to be a ache level. “A few occasions they’d put up the occasion, however they’d get our deal with unsuitable, as an example. Actually fundamental stuff like that.”

But it surely was the expertise of discovering out this supposedly women-focused enterprise didn’t dwell as much as its popularity has been the hardest tablet to swallow.

“We had been a female-owned enterprise that employed females. We’re having a crack,” she stated. “That’s what we thought we had been aligning ourselves with – a fantastic organisation, all about feminine empowerment … We felt actually let down with them.”

When the glitter mud settles

Because the enterprise’ operations are slimmed right down to a fraction of what it as soon as was, there are extra questions on the way forward for the enterprise than solutions.

In an e-mail to members on Monday, Isaacs defined the group was looking for new roles for out-going employees and the remaining group can be “working arduous to search out options to our enterprise mannequin so we will rebuild gently and sustainably”.


At this stage, it’s unclear what this extra sustainable enterprise mannequin would appear to be, and whether or not the group can ship the size of occasions it has up to now with a a lot smaller group.

Excessive-profile ladies in company Australia have additionally come out to again Isaacs on social media after she confirmed the redundancies. Entrepreneurs resembling OzHarvest chief government Ronni Kahn and trend journalist Laura Brown, who lately appeared at a Enterprise Chicks occasion, praised her through Instagram for resilience and constructing the enterprise.

“Working a enterprise by COVID has been difficult for the most effective of individuals. My expertise together with her has at all times been extremely optimistic – she has at all times been in regards to the affect she will make in regards to the ladies round her,” Kahn advised this masthead. “I feel that’s to be recommended.”

In relation to claims of a high-pressure work atmosphere, Kahn stated working a enterprise required a excessive degree of demand on each its chief and its workers. “You can not run a fantastic enterprise with out nice employees – and there may be strain,” she stated.

“Workers, whereas issues are going good, are prepared to do their greatest. I’m fairly positive Emma would’ve finished all the things she may have, and dropping employees would’ve been the very last thing that she did while making an attempt to maintain the enterprise.”

In the meantime, presenters at this week’s occasion on the Gold Coast recommended the occasion through social media, highlighting the advantages of the organisation and giving because of Isaacs for creating in an area the place they may join with different entrepreneurial ladies.

“Soooo grateful @emmaisaacs for the chance to share my message,” confidence coach Erika Kramer, “The Queen of Confidence”, stated in an Instagram put up.

If Instagram posts up to now few days are to be believed, we might see an image that appears very very like enterprise as regular: barefoot dinners by the seaside, glasses of bubbly, and snaps in picture cubicles.

However the cracks have begun to indicate. There was subsequent to no exercise on Enterprise Chicks’ official account on Wednesday, when greater than 100 ladies descended onto the Gold Coast resort for the annual convention. It’s stated that, after the incident final Friday, Isaacs is the one one who has entry to the organisation’s social accounts.

Maybe attendees could have seen that this 12 months’s Movers + Breakers Convention was lighter on employees than regular. Enterprise Chicks Australia chief Gemma O’Neill was not current, neither had been not less than two soon-to-be-redundant members of employees.

Former workers who spoke to this masthead had been reluctant to share their names for worry of reprisal from Isaacs, not as a result of they had been nonetheless employed by her, however due to the high-profile help she maintains. Put collectively, ex-staffers offered a broadly constant story of an bold profession lady whose imaginative and prescient of “ladies supporting ladies” was not one thing she felt she needed to subscribe to.

“It was ‘do as I say, not do as I do’,” one stated.

“You scratch beneath the floor and all of the pink and magic and glitter and dirt – and it’s not fairly what it appears.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.