Emma Isaacs, founder and CEO of Business Chicks.

Leading Aussie entrepreneurs reveal the mentors who've inspired them

Sylvia Pennington

Mentoring - the ancient Greeks came up with it first and it’s been a feature of business life ever since. We’re talking about the concept of a trusted counsellor or teacher acting as a sounding board and guide to a protégé making their way in the world.

Three young Aussie entrepreneurs tell us who’s had their back on their journey from start-up to success story.

Emma Isaacs, CEO Business Chicks

The powerhouse behind women’s networking group Business Chicks, Emma Isaacs moved to the US last year to take her business international. Thanks in large part to advice and encouragement from Richard Branson, Isaacs says.

“A couple of years ago I was on Necker Island chatting with him and he asked me if Business Chicks was in the US and the UK, then he turned to his team and said, ‘we need to help Emma with that’,” Isaacs says. “That comment got me on the path of relocating and launching in the US.”

Back home, RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson has been a friend and coach for over a decade.

Isaacs suggests that having quality people in your orbit is invaluable, but be aware that their time is gold and don’t waste it asking for generic advice or assistance that could come from anywhere.

Having quality people in your orbit is invaluable, but be aware that their time is gold and don’t waste it…

ShanShan Wang, CEO Roam Technologies

Three years ago Sydney industrial design student ShanShan Wang decided lightweight portable oxygen cylinders would give children with respiratory conditions more opportunity to move and play normally – so she designed one.

Wang applied the same can-do approach to connecting with the mentor she believed could help her fledgling venture Roam Technologies hit its stride – serial entrepreneur Jo Burston.

The pair connected via social media and have been tight since their first face-to-face meeting two years ago. The relationship has opened doors in the business and venture capital communities.

Want a heavyweight on your side too? Try them, says Wang. “If you want that person to mentor you, ask them – you may be pleasantly surprised with their response. Not asking is the greatest failure.”

Imagine what you want your future self to be like then look for someone who fits the bill and ask them to guide you.

Fred Schebesta, founder finder.com.au

Founder of the comparison site finder.com.au Fred Schebesta made his first million before he hit 30. Whose sage advice guided his decisions? American venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, Schebesta says, although the pair have never met or spoken.

“It has all been through his writings and actions,” Schebesta says. “He’s helped me learn how to make difficult decisions and deal with hard questions like ‘when do you sell a business?’”

Want to find someone who inspires you this much?

“Imagine what you want your future self to be like then look for someone who fits the bill and ask them to guide you,” Schebesta says.

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

Image: Emma Isaacs official Facebook page. Emma is founder and CEO of Business Chicks. 

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