When seeking out strong, entrepreneurial and inspirational women within the Singapore corporate eco-system, the first to spring to mind was Emma Harris. The New York native sits at the helm of one of the fastest growing fit-tech start-ups in Asia, Guava Pass, where as a founding team member she has taken creative and managerial lead as the Chief Of Staff (which she laughingly promised is a role that does truly exist outside the White House). Following a background spanning both the tech and media industries, in her latest posting Emma has been able to fuse her passions for fitness and wellbeing, with her relentless drive and ambition to spark the beginnings of what is sure set to be a truly vivacious career.
A champion of women, particularly those striving for leadership roles, you can count on Emma to lend an ear to budding entrepreneurs and give her full support to female-driven incentives. Using her purpose-led mission and expertise she regularly volunteers for organisations such as aidha – a non-for-profit with a mission to help foreign domestic workers and low-income Singaporean women achieve economic independence through entrepreneurship, financial education and wealth creation.
Emma is a friend, confidante and “expander” of mine. With an uncanny knack for seeing through the bullshit and telling it straight (it’s the New Yorker thing), she’s an unwavering support for her female peers, just as likely help you clarify business plans as she will throw a brunch in your honour to celebrate your success. She has been a strong voice on my pathway to learn to say “why not me?!” when searching for opportunity and finding my footing within the entrepreneurial rollercoaster –plus she also teaches a killer Vinyassa flow that will kick your ass!
So grab a bulletproof coffee and settle on in, here’s
“In Conversation with: Emma Harris”
Tell us what you do…
I am the Chief Of Staff at GuavaPass, which is the largest fitness community in Asia and the Middle East. My role is quite fluid and changes on a day to day basis, but in general I have my hands in most aspects of the business, including product, marketing, growth and especially, new projects and special projects such as GuavaLabs and StillBoxing, which are our physical studios based in Singapore. Plus some other exciting projects that are in the works…
What’s an average “day in the life” look like for you?
A day in the life – I wake up pretty early these days to walk my dog around 7am. I like to have a bulletproof coffee to really get my day going, and then I usually head to a morning workout class, whether that is an F45 or a more chilled yoga class to get my day started. I’m usually in the office from around 9am-630/7pm and after work, if I’m not meeting friends for drinks or an evening class, I go home to my dog and I like to cook during the week.
What was your entry into the fit life?
In high school I started doing yoga pretty religiously to help with anxiety and I just became really hooked. By college I was doing yoga all the time – I was teaching classes, got my yoga teacher certification and it kind of just went uphill from there!
What gives you a sense of accomplishment come Friday?
Oh wow! Good question! I feel accomplished come Friday when I feel like I’ve really put effort into the work week and got everything done that I need to and I can actually go ahead and enjoy my weekend without having to stress about work.
You run a team of staff, are a creative driver behind a scaling start up and maintain an incredibly active social life, what are your tips for staying grounded and ‘balanced’ on the daily?
My tips are honestly to have a really active and regular workout schedule. It is the hour a day I can count on to just do something for me and doing something for me that I know will release stress and anxiety and any built-up emotions I have. It’s a time I don’t have to speak to anyone, or think about anything else – work, or my social life or finances or anything else like that and I just think it is super important. I also really think travelling keeps me very grounded, as it helps me to see the rest of the world and remind myself that the small bubble that is my daily life isn’t happening everywhere else every day.
Where do you find inspiration for staying motivated, both in work and in fitness?
I’m inspired by lots of female entrepreneurs, I love The Wing – which I know we both do – which opened this past year. I really try to find inspiration in all different types of businesses that are opening, especially in the health and wellness segment. I am inspired in fitness by trainers and instructors who lead the classes, because that is a hard job and I know how hard it is! It is their job to motivate us even when we have a bad day – let’s say I walk into an Absolute Cycle class and I’m in a bad mood from my day and I’m there really to just blow off steam, it’s the instructors job to really stay positive and to help me feel better, and that is just emotionally and physically challenging to maintain and manage as an instructor – so I find inspiration from them!
How do you cultivate a culture of empowered women in leadership?
Good question. Hmmm, I think because it’s something that is super important to my personal mission and feeling like females feel empowered in the workplace I just try to give as much support as I can and empowerment to the other women on our team. I always look to hire great females, of course there are opportunities for men as well, but I think it is important for females to support each other, and to feel supported!
Favourite wellness hack
Definitely bulletproof right now! And if not a full bulletproof, then just some MCT in my coffee.
What are some of your favourite self-care rituals?
I’ve become really obsessed with facials recently and then collagen and just everything skin related! So, at night, if I’m in for the night, I’ll do a face mask or experiment with some new serums or potions, and I’m really into that. If I had a bathtub my answer would be taking a bath, but unfortunately at this current apartment I do not, but that is the ultimate self-care ritual!
You developed the concept of Still Yoga and we regularly see you on the mat around town, what’s your relationship to/journey with Yoga?
Like I mentioned before, I started doing yoga when I was in high school to help with anxiety. By college I was doing a lot of Bikram and hot yoga (up to 2 classes a day) which I wouldn’t recommend. Then after that and especially for the next 5-6 years, I wanted to go to as powerful and strong Vinyassa classes as possible, always looking for an advanced practice. But in the past year I have gravitated more towards Yin and restorative style sessions – as you know I’m really into the gong baths right now. So, I think my relationship to yoga is ever changing, based on what sort of balance I really need in my life. Right now, I just really need things that ground me and calm me, and don’t fuel that crazy fire that I can have in me and so it is really ever-changing.
What are your favourite studios for: 1. sweat, 2. a friend’s session 3. yoga?
1. Absolute Cycle for sure.
2. Pilates, because I can still see my friend and chat a bit, but we are getting a great workout in.
3. I really love Ascend Yoga Therapy.
What trends are you seeing that you want to expand on in Singapore?
Well in Wellness we really need a good onsen here, I had one in Bangkok (where we lived previously) and I really miss that, it’s the best self care. In terms of fitness, I would like to see more Megaformers and more of an alternative Pilates option. I really love a Megaformer and studios like SLT and Flex Studios in NY and it is something my body loves and I feel great doing, and I don’t think it exists in Singapore yet.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?!
Well right now it’s literally just my dog because he licks my face every morning before I can even wake up! But second would be coffee, because there is nothing as tasty as a hot cup of coffee in the morning.
But really what excites me about life is doing something I’m passionate about and that excites me – that gives me energy. If I am doing something that I am not passionate about, then it physically and emotionally brings me down, so I’m excited when I have a day of exciting meetings and new business ideas and brainstorms and that all really honestly gets me excited. Then of course on the weekends I love getting out of bed for a good class or a lunch with friends or a fun travel trip to a new city!