Elissa James, Founder of IrisLillian.com

Inspired by her experience working as a professional lawyer in the male-dominated oil and gas industry, Elissa James founded Iris Lillian. The webzine supports female professionals in myriad ways, from networking to business advice, fashion tips and lifestyle choices. 

The entrepreneur shares the story behind her platform and the lessons she's learned along the way.


Named after Elissa James’ grandmother, IrisLillian.com provides a network and source of support for ambitious, professional women. With a primary drive to make the lives and careers of all working women easier, Iris Lillian explores candid personal stories, tips and tricks, fashion advice and much more.

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Success doesn’t come easy
It’s really, really, really hard. It’s a personal struggle, but it’s your own baby. Be prepared for it to be challenging in ways that you don’t even know yet. Putting yourself out there and pressing publish -- that was probably the hardest thing for me

Know your strengths
Be very aware of what your skills are and the environment in which you thrive. I know that I thrive in a collaborative environment, with a team and a clear structure -- I know that now -- through a bit of trial and error! It is really clear for me now and that means that I thrive in a corporate setting, so I try to create that in my life now.

Connect with each other
We don’t have all the answers individually, but collaboratively we do. We can make changes together. We can learn from each other. Sometimes, we can just vent -- because sometimes you just need to vent. In terms of connecting, we have a great Facebook group, which is full of incredible, talented women to draw advice from and maybe just to chat with.

Find your structure
My husband and I have a morning routine that we stick to very strictly. Then I allocate each day of my week to a certain task and break it down into a list each day and I tick it off. That creates structure for me.


So what is your morning routine?
The alarm goes off at 6:30am and we both sit up and meditate in bed for 10 minutes. I know that’s a no-no, you’re not supposed to meditate in bed but whatever! Then, another alarm goes off and the radio comes on with the 7am bulletin.

Sometimes we have a little nap in between! We have a slow wake up. So, we get up, I have a shower and go make us a shake. Then, we sit and have our shake together and we catch up on emails independently and then we walk together down the escalator.

We grab a coffee from our favorite coffee shop, Blend & Grind -- it’s amazing coffee and relatively new! Then I go off to the gym for an hour and my husband goes off to work.

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How important is the gym as part of your daily ritual?

I go to the gym because that’s part of my job. A happy and healthy mind and body is all part of my formula for success. It’s not about pushing out 100-hour weeks anymore.

It’s a task you set yourself. If I happen to enjoy it, that’s great! You should enjoy your job.  After the gym, I head into the office and I dig into my list.

What are your favorite meeting spots?
For the first few months I basically lived at Mana Café! I really love it there; it’s just a great atmosphere. The ladies there are lovely and the owner is great.

I held a lot of my meetings there but I also sort of jump all over the place. I go to Cupping Room a lot and it has a great healthy breakfast! I order the scrambled egg whites there at least once a week.

Any must-have items in your purse?
My notebook. It’s my bible and I’m lost without it. The great thing that I do every day is that I get to tick off everything that I’ve done and that’s really satisfying.

The other thing I have is a paper diary. Planning everything on my phone was doing my head in, and being able to see my weeks and months all at once was a revelation for me.

Any parting words of wisdom?
We need to keep the conversation going. There aren’t a lot of things in the corporate world that aren’t set up for women to thrive and that needs to change and it’s not changing very fast.

We need to keep that on the back of people’s minds all the time -- men and women -- we both need to be part of the conversation.