Creative Biz Series: Emma Hannigan

I first met Emma Hannigan when I saw her speak at an Inspiring Rare Birds networking morning. As a fellow Irish lady and creative, we instantly clicked. We kept in touch and she invited me to join a new program she was starting for the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce called Emerald Kin. I have been part of this program for the past year, where I get to met Emma and 7 other wonderful ladies once a month to support each other an brainstorm new business ideas. Emma is passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs and is a seriously inspiring lady! A former journalist for SBS, she works with brands to discover the art of storytelling in business. I loved this interview and hope you will too. Kady x


Emma Hannigan! Tell us what you are up to today?

I am flying from my home in Byron Bay to Sydney to give a workshop on storytelling and speaking with confidence to a group of inspiring young women.  That will be followed by a meeting of Emerald Influence, the women’s leadership group that I co-chair.  These women just rock.  I could never have imagined that we would see so much growth and success from these women over 12 months.  I leave those meetings feeling full up on inspiration, drive and love. It will be a busy 24 hours but I always try to squeeze as much as possible into my trips away from home.


What do you LOVE about your business?

I love the people.  I am a curious person and I am energised by people. I like to get under their skin, prompting them to tell me more, I like to get past the ‘mask’ to the real person underneath.  I get to hear people’s stories and help them to see where they have come from and how that has formed who they are today. 

I also love the speaking aspect of my business, as a journalist I loved the buzz of live crosses and presenting.  The speaking gigs satisfies the performer in me.

A big passion for me is the women’s leadership.  It was never part of the plan and it happened naturally but I love it and am so proud of the women I work with.


What are your daily habits to keep you on track for world domination?

I have been really working on my daily habits since reading Lorraine Murphy’s “Get Remarkably Organised”.  I live 300 metres from a stunning beach on the outskirts of Byron Bay.  I start most days by bringing the dog for a walk on the beach and having a swim, I have to get my head in the ocean, the salt water is therapy for me.  If I don’t do my walk, I have a 15 minute yoga and meditation routine. 

When I sit down at the computer, I update my To Do list and then I block out time in my calendar for each task. I find that this helps me to focus on what is important and cut out the noise.


What has been your biggest business challenge to date and how have you overcome it?

When I left SBS to go into the business full time I was approach by a client to work on her story.  I had my misgivings but the fear of going out on my own make me doubt my instincts. Three years later, I still haven’t been paid for the work.  It was a blow to my confidence but it taught me a valuable lesson – listen to your gut, you are rarely wrong.


If you could pick just one thing that has contributed to your success to date, what has it been?

Mentors – without a doubt.  My mentors come in many forms.  My mum’s group is made up of amazingly strong, successful women both business owners and from the corporate world.  They have my back and I can go to them with anything, without their support I wouldn’t be doing this.  I have an ‘official’ mentor, the wonderful Phil Hayes-St-Clair, he is so generous with his time and experience and tough on me when I need it.  Lastly, the Emerald Influence Women Leaders have been an amazingly valuable group to have in my life. 


If you could only work 2 hours per week ‘on’ your business (ie growing the business, not client work) what would you do to get the most results?

I would write more.  I love writing and am constantly jotting down ideas for articles but never seem to get the time to write them.


What is your go-to for getting a dose of inspiration?

I listen to a lot of podcasts, I love the Ted Radio hour and This American Life.  I also listen to Alison Hill’s “Stand Out Life” and Karen James “On Purpose” – both Business Chicks and my mentor Phil HSC has a great “Founder to Founder” podcast where he interviews founders on their journey.


What is your favourite quote that gets you fired up?

A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true. – Greg S. Reid

I am a big believer in writing down goals and I do it every six months or so.  It is so rewarding to look back on those goals and to see how much you have achieved. As business owners we tend not to remember the wins so it is a nice reminder that things are moving forward.


If you could give budding entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?

Back yourself. You are enough, you can do it, you have the experience and if you don’t back yourself then no one else will.



Emma Hannigan is the CEO if Curly Top Media, working with business leaders to uncover their personal and corporate stories. Emma worked as a journalist for over twenty years for the world’s leading news organisations including CNN, SBS and BBC. She is also a speaker and co-chair of the Emerald Influence Women Leaders Network.


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