From a small stall at the Salamanca Markets in Tasmania, to international acclaim, FRANCESCA jewellery has flourished into an Australian brand loved by many. FRANCESCA prides itself on “beautiful designs with an empowering purpose,” and have been giving back to the community since day one in 2011. Going on to win Telstra Business of The Year Award (2014) and raising over $350,000 for Aussie charities, sisters Hannah and Rachel Vasicek’s inspiring business journey is one we could not pass up sharing with the world.
1. You both have a unique business partnership in getting to work with your sister. What’s it like?
Rachel: We get asked this question a lot actually! It’s funny because, of course we’re sisters so we definitely have our moments, but we actually work really well together and have the same vision for the brand, so I think this definitely helps!
Hannah: Yeah, I think we’re both lucky in the fact, we worked out pretty early on that we have different strengths, and I think this is what makes us mesh well together. Rach is the creative mastermind, and hence the Creative Director of the business, whereas my love for numbers makes my strength for the business side of things work well!
2. Where do you get the inspiration for your designs? Are the two of you responsible for all designs or does the ‘Franc Fam’ contribute as well?
Hannah: Each year we sit down and spend time designing upcoming collections and pieces for the year ahead! We then would usually head to the International Jewellery Trade Fair in Hong Kong and work with our suppliers to bring these designs to life! Last year with COVID though, things happened a little differently, but it meant we were able to draw on inspiration from the year that was and give pieces meaning that resonated with everyone!
Rachel: Yeah, so for example, our Vieira Collection was inspired by pilgrimage and embracing the path you’re on, knowing it will lead to your destination, no matter what! After a year of change and uncertainty, it was something we felt inspired our design process and we thought people could relate to. And yes, we love having our Franc Fam’s ideas and input in the design process! We will usually put a design together and show the Franc Fam for feedback! It’s amazing having a team around us who are passionate and supportive of the pieces we create!
3. From conception to launch, how long does it generally take to bring a new design/collection to life?
Hannah: It really depends on what it is! Our bracelets, for example, are made in our Hobart studio by our amazing team of beaders! So Rach will often design a new bracelet one minute, and by the end of the week we can have it ready to launch online and in store! Our collection pieces on the other hand take a little longer, as we usually send designs to our suppliers, then they come back to us samples, and we’ll make adjustments to make sure it’s perfect and exactly what we envisioned!
Rachel: It’s a pretty amazing process really! I love seeing sketches on paper come to life! One that I am really proud of, are our latest Lockets! We designed them early last year and released them just in time for Christmas last year. The concept though, was always to have beautiful moments held close to the heart, however about 2 weeks prior to launching the concept truly hit me! To print & package the lockets with the special moments, or photos inside the locket and box it arrives in, to make the whole experience one that takes you to that moment that’s meaningful.
Hannah: The response so far has been incredible! We’ve had so many people share their incredible stories of love, loss and more! It’s incredibly inspiring to see!
4. Giving back is a core principle of your brand. How did this, and the Charity Collection(s), first come about?
Hannah: I think we both grew up always valuing the importance of giving back or contributing in the community and it’s something that we definitely wanted to bring into Francesca. Our mantra is, “Success means nothing unless you’re giving back” and I think it’s definitely something that gives us purpose in everything we do.
Rachel: We had a moment very early on in starting Francesca where we realised that all we did was design and sell jewellery. There was no real purpose behind it, we knew we had to do more. This is where the concept of the Awareness Bracelet came about - partnering with different charities each month to raise awareness and funds to support the charity at hand.
Hannah: The response has always been so positive, and with the help of the community, we’ve donated over $600,000 to charities across Australia!!
5. Francesca was somewhat of a leap of faith: Hannah, you left your career journey toward law and Rachel dived right in after graduation! Was this a scary or difficult decision to make, and what advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs who may be needing to take a similar risk?
Hannah: It was definitely a risk at the time and something not everyone could always understand the vision I saw of the business, but I’m so glad I took that leap of faith and trusted the process. One piece of advice I would give is to understand if what you’re pursuing is something you’re passionate about, like really passionate about. Because you’ll have to give it your all and if at the end of the day you’re not passionate about what you’re pursuing, is it worth taking that risk?
Rachel: Also, I think doing what your heart wants you to do and not going by what everyone else thinks you should do. Everyone told me I should go to Uni first just in case, and also because all of my friends were going off to uni when I was starting my journey at Francesca. I’m so glad I went with what my gut told me, as I’ve learned on the job and spent the time teaching myself how to use software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere Pro, as well as learning photography! It’s so much more rewarding this way too!
6. Have there been any hardships over the years you are proud of overcoming?
Hannah: Gosh, last year is definitely something we can look back and be proud of! With the uncertainty that 2020 brought, there was a point where we were preparing for the worst. Nobody knew what the pandemic’s effects were going to be, and it truly could have been a dire situation. Instead we were able to come together as a team, pivot our plans and we ended up growing as a business! It was the busiest year we’ve ever experienced.
Rachel: To add to this, we’re so proud of the hardships of our Melbourne Store girls as well, who endured months of harsh lockdowns. With the store being closed for that entire period, each girl was able to pivot to find their strengths in other areas of the business! Some focused on customer care, PR, blog writing and website development; it was incredible to see them flourish during such difficult times.
7. This blog series covers women who inspire us at Me by Aleenta. You have an amazing team of over 35 women! Are there any in particular you’d like to highlight, or something in general you’d like to say about how they all may inspire you?
Hannah: We now have a team of over 50 amazing women, which is pretty crazy! We love our Franc fam! We’re so proud of each and every one of them!
Rachel: They all bring something different to the team and I think that’s what makes us so dynamic! From all walks of life too, it’s so cool to see everyone thriving in their roles!
8. Is there something you would tell your younger selves way back when this venture first started at the Salamanca Markets?
Hannah: One day it’s all going to be worth the early mornings standing in the freezing cold that Hobart is known for in the middle of winter, haha! But no, I think I would tell my younger self to continue doing what drives me and to always uplift others along the way, as it’s going to lead to a purpose filled life, which I love.
Rachel: I think I would tell my younger self to trust myself in going against the status quo as it’s going to lead you to more places than uni degree ever would have!
9. Anything else you’d like to add?
Hannah & Rachel Thanks for the interview, we love the message of empowerment Me by Aleenta offers & we’re excited to see you thrive! xx
Want to hear more inspirational stories from amazing Aussie women? Check out our last spotlight on Miss NAIDOC winner Katelan Stack.
Love learning about local, Australian businesses? Read Me by Aleenta’s list of female-owned favs in our blog for Women’s History Month!
Interview with Sascha Czuchwicki
Me By Aleenta Content Coordinator & Trainer