Emma Hernan is a multi-hyphenated businesswoman best known for her starring role on the Emmy-Award nominated reality television series Selling Sunset. Between closing escrow on Hollywood Hills homes and developing a menu for her plant-based line of cuisine, Emma Leigh & Co, Hernan has her hands full of responsibilities. We sat down with Hernan to discuss her career thus far, from the milestones she’s accomplished to the lessons she’s learned along the way. Ahead, Emma Hernan shares her top five tips for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to break into any industry, exclusively with Grazia.
1. Build the financial foundation to become an entrepreneur
Emma Hernan: I knew early on in life that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I have always enjoyed working, and working for myself was my dream. I come from a very normal upbringing where my mom was an entrepreneur herself, and my dad was a firefighter, so I was not given a lot of money or a big trust to start my business. Instead, I have worked really hard and always saved my money.
My business is 100% owned and bootstrapped by me. I have had many people reach out offering to invest, but for now, I do not need the investment because I secured myself financially before starting out. At a later stage, I am sure I will take on investors to continue growing my business since outside capital is great for a business, but it is amazing having the opportunity to decide when and who I want to invest.
I now have the opportunity to buy designer clothes and shoes, but I certainly did not do that in my early 20s. Instead, I invested my money in real estate and other investment opportunities. For the most part, real estate is a great investment that can help any aspiring entrepreneur build savings while exploring what kind of business they want to launch.
Having several streams of income will help any entrepreneur sleep better at night so consider all your options for income. I myself have my own business while I sell real estate and am a part of Selling Sunset, and I continue to work on new ideas for businesses and look for investment opportunities.
I highly encourage all women, entrepreneurs or not, to be frugal with spending and build the future they want for themselves. Being financially independent can give you so many opportunities.
2. INNOVATION DRIVES ENTREPRENEURSHIP
EH: In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to have unique, innovative ideas that stand out. If the market is already saturated with similar products or services, it will be hard to stand out, and you need to find that thing that sets you and what you want to do apart.
The majority of great entrepreneurs have been successful due to never before seen innovations that the world needed. Most entrepreneurs have also had terrible ideas that have failed. So don’t be afraid to dream big or really think out of the box. Your first ideas might not be the right ones, but they can help you find the ones that are.
Being a third-generation food manufacturer, I had a lot of knowledge of the industry before I started Emma Leigh & Co, but I still did a lot of market research on plant-based food options before I launched my own production. I create all my own products, invent the recipes and develop all the flavours. I am super hands-on in my business since food, and healthy food options are true passions of mine. Developing food products takes time. Finding the right flavour profile and ingredients that can then be mass produced and sold frozen is not an easy task.
3. GROW YOUR NETWORK AND YOUR TEAM
EH: Being an entrepreneur is not a solo adventure. You need to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and people who inspire you. Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, you should still do this in life as that will make you a better person in general.
When I first moved to Los Angeles from Boston, I had a very small network in the city, but I have spent the past years growing that network and adding people to my life that can help me make a difference.
Before you start building your network, think about what’s in it for the other person. People tend to reach out when they want something but forget that a good partnership works both ways. So before doing a ton of LinkedIn outreach, take some time and really figure out what you are asking and how the other person ties into it.
Once you have launched your business, you will need a team. Often entrepreneurs break their necks trying to do everything themselves, but we are just humans, and we are not good at everything. Know your strengths and weaknesses, so you can focus on what you do best and not waste precious time.
I have surrounded myself with great people but have grown my team slowly to not overspend. I now employ 50+ people in Boston, Massachusetts and since I am not there daily, I rely on my team to run the day-to-day operations.
Find people you trust and who wants the best for you and your business. Treat them with respect, compensate them for their hard work and make sure you listen to the people around you.
4. BE A GOOD PERSON
EH: Be kind, humble and respectful. Being kind does not mean you are a pushover, or people can take advantage of you. Instead, it means that you get to be a good person that other people enjoy working with, and it will bring you opportunities.
I first met Jason and Brett Oppenheim when I was buying my first property in Los Angeles, and we immediately became friends. They were the ones who encouraged me to get my own real estate license and now, years later, we are working on a Netflix show together and are the best of friends.
I truly believe everything happens for a reason and that my kindness to other people has helped my life turn out the way it is. You get what you give.
5. WORK-LIFE BALANCE
EH: I know it is a cliche, but work hard, play hard! Most days, I work from early morning to very late evenings, but I am working for myself, so I truly enjoy it. However, I make sure that I also leave time for family and friends.
Making money or being successful is not everything. You need to take time to do the things that bring you joy in life. Often, when I take time off, and am not rushing to back-to-back meetings, I find myself coming up with new ideas and innovations that I want to work on.
My family means everything to me. I love going back to Boston and spending time with them as well as bringing them to LA or on vacations with me. No matter how busy I am, I always make sure that I get to see my family and my old friends. It fuels my soul and gives me the energy to keep going. I was just the maid of honour in my childhood friend’s wedding back in Boston, and it was just the best getting to celebrate her and walk down memory lane with her.
I am lucky that I get to work with some of my best friends at The Oppenheim Group. I had been with the brokerage for years before I joined Selling Sunset, so I have been friends with all of them for a long time, and I really love that I get to film with them. So even though the days are long, we still have a great time.
As an entrepreneur, you need to find those things that keep you sane and give you inspiration, as that will all help you become successful and build a sustainable future. No need to burn out before you have even gotten started.