How She Got There: Francine LeFrak, Founder of Same Sky

Name: Francine LeFrak                                                                                                       
Job Title and Description: Founder of Same Sky                                                    
College/Major: Finch College/Art History                                                     
Website: www.samesky.com                                                                                           
Twitter Handle: @FrancineLeFrak and @SameSkyBracelet

What does your current job entail?
Francine LeFrak:
I am the founder of the ‘trade-not-aid’ jewelry line Same Sky. We employ HIV positive, Rwandan women to hand crochet beautiful glass bead jewelry for a wage that is 15 to 20 times the average of Sub-Saharan Africa’s wage.

What is the best part of your job?
FLF: Knowing that I am empowering the lives of HIV positive women and inspiring women to empower other women.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
FLF: I was reading scripts for producers. I got it by knocking on a lot of doors and finding a producer that wanted to open a New York office.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
FLF: Nobody knows anything more than you—business is all about how confident you are.

Why did you decide to merge jewelry with the HIV/AIDS cause?
FLF: I wanted to give these HIV positive women something that they both enjoyed doing and felt proud of. I wanted to teach them a marketable skill so that they could have their own self-esteem and self-confidence to rebuild their lives.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
FLF: Muhammad Yunus and his book Banker to the Poor taught me a new vision on global poverty and the power of businesses to benefit the employees rather than focusing on their profits.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
FLF: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton

“Educate a woman, save a nation; educate a man, save one person.”

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
FLF: When I went to work on Leader of the Pack, I was assigned to be a “limited partner.” The show didn’t come out to be a success and I decided I would never let myself fail on someone else’s vision. If you’re going to fail, make sure it is your own vision.

Where do you see Same Sky in 10 years?
FLF: From 85 artisans to 8,500 artisans – all over the world.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
FLF:
Their ambition to make a positive difference in the world.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
FLF:
Be true to your passion, never give up and always go for it!

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