The fight against human trafficking and Breast Cancer are just two of the causes that sisters Hannah & Rachel Vasicek’s jewellery brand Francesca have thrown their support behind since launching their designer jewellery business in 2013.
Since releasing their ‘Awareness Bracelet’ range four years ago, the dynamic duo has donated over half a million dollars to charities, with their ‘Be Hers’ collection contributing 100 per cent of the sale price to save women and children from the sex slave industry.
When passion meets purpose
As younger sister Rachel tells Kochie’s Business Builders, giving back has always been an important ethos for the brand.
“Having been raised in a family that is passionate about giving back, simply selling jewellery didn’t feel enough for us,” Rachel explains. “We wanted to create a values-driven company that would radiate from within and out into our community. The concept of the ‘Awareness Bracelet’ was created and we decided to support an Australian charity or cause each month. Since then we have donated over $500,000 to Australian charities and created an abundance of awareness. Our most recent triumph was donating $100,000 to the Australian Red Cross for the bushfires,” she says with pride.
The brands’ altruism is not the only thing the sisters have to be proud of. This millennial-pair have built the business from humble beginnings to become one of the nation’s best-loved designer jewellers. Along the way they’ve clocked up a string of accolades, including a Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for Hannah and a Telstra Business of the Year award. Not bad going for an after-school side hustle.
“It was our Mum who enrolled Hannah into beading school as an after-school activity in the small remote town we grew up in, as an effort to keep her busy,” Rachel recalls.
From market stall to Melbourne CBD
From there Hannah honed her jewellery-making skills and soon after set-up shop with a stall at the Salamanca markets. Hannah’s simple bead designs became hot property. It wasn’t too long before Rachel, eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps, began accompanying her to the market stall.
“I had been tagging alongside Hannah the entire journey as the little sister who wanted to be involved in any way,” she remembers. “Together we would design pieces to sell at the markets in our family living room. From the age of 13, I was at the markets with Hannah and actually had an offshoot business called ‘cute as a button’ where I made button jewellery for children my age.”
It’s clear the pair’s entrepreneurial spirit was strong. So when Hannah graduated her law degree in 2013 and Rachel wrapped up her high school studies, the sisters realised their destiny lay in the jewellery biz.
Risking it all on a dream
“We decided to really go for it together. Hannah was the business mind having just won the Global Student Entrepreneur award in 2012, and I had a knack for all things creative and marketing,” Rachel explains.
“We opened the first-ever tiny Francesca store on the outskirts of the Hobart CBD and we turned our very ‘handmade’ collection more modern and fashion-focussed. We would design and make pieces in the studio every night and have them for sale the next day. We grew the brand and a very loyal customer base and within a year we were able to move into our next store in the CBD.”
The business continued to scale at a rapid pace as more customers fell in love with the Francesca brand. In 2014 Francesca won the Telstra Tasmanian Business of the Year. It was at that point Rachel realised the business would grow exponentially. What started as a business with two sisters now employs over 35 women.
Rachel credits much of Francesca’s success to the brand’s celebration of ‘moments’ which allows customers to even craft their own designs if desired.
“While being beautifully aesthetic in design, the jewellery not only celebrates style but gives significant meaning to jewellery. Allowing the customer to create their own piece with unique quotes attached to the pieces brings a sense of emotion and importance to the pieces,” she says.