Francesca Kennedy is the founder of Ix Style, a sandal company working to solve the water crisis in Guatemala and simultaneously empowering the women who live there.
Francesca’s entrepreneurial spirit, compassionate soul, and her incredible drive have been the foundation to her success. And she’s really just getting started.
A girl boss after our own heart, we had the chance to sit down with Francesca and ask her some questions. We’re thrilled to share her answers.
You, your message, your brand- it’s all so inspiring. Who are some people (real and/or imagined) who have inspired you?
The founder of TOMS, Blake Mycowskie, inspired me to start Ix Style after I read his book Start Something That Matters. He was a pioneer of social entrepreneurship. I read the book and I was hooked. Blake’s story and success with TOMS inspired me to start Ix Style and I’m grateful to him for sharing his journey and making it seem like a triple bottom line was not only feasible but the future of business.
Wendy Berger the founder of Puente is one of the people who continues to inspire me on a daily basis. She is the former First Lady of Guatemala. She lives and breathes her mission of ending malnutrition and providing clean drinking water for every person in Guatemala by educating and empowering women. After her husband’s presidency term ended, she continued her program which has grown to help educate and promote health for thousands of Guatemalan women.
There are no words to describe her inclusivity, huge heart and modesty. She stops to talk to every single Guatemalan and spends quality time getting to know them and ask what their needs are and what they think viable solutions are for their communities. She always credit her team for their work and refuses to accept any credit for herself. She lives the most humble life on a farm with her husband.
I met with Wendy and her team a few months ago and I asked everyone what their dream was for the women in the program. Wendy and I agreed that the ultimate dream would be for one of the young women who graduate from the program to become the a President to Guatemala one day.
You started your company with only $1000 (and no investors!). That’s truly amazing. What’s the most important piece of advice you got at the start of your journey?
To follow your heart and your gut. Your intuition is always right. And that you only have one shot around this planet. The most important thing as a human is to live a fulfilling life and leave everything and everyone better than how you found them.
In addition to supporting your amazing mission, how else can we do our part to help end the clean water crisis in Guatemala?
Great question! Guatemala has the highest malnutrition rate in the Americas the 4th highest malnutrition rate in the world, which is unacceptable as Guatemala has every natural resource available on its land more than most countries on this planet. You can throw any seed and it will grow here. We have water but it’s contaminated. What we need is basic education and infrastructure. Many Guatemalans feed their children corn meal instead of nutritious fruits and vegetables simply because no one taught them the benefits.
Supporting Puente is a great way to help and I love them because they don’t believe in free handouts as a sustainable practice to reducing poverty. The women in the program must save 10% of the water filters that they receive as a graduation gift from the program, which consists of classes around sanitation, hygiene, basic reading and math skills, job training skills, they help open the women’s own private bank accounts that their husbands do not have access to, and family planning.
If you want to meet the people they help firsthand, they offer trips to volunteer in their program which is how I got involved with them. I got to see their model firsthand before I agreed to donate 15% of profit to them. I fell in love with the teachers in the program some of whom were graduates of the program itself! If that isn’t proof that the model is working I don’t know what is! I fell in love with the communities they help who are happy with the little they have. It’s then that I realized why Guatemalans have been voted the kindest and happiest people in the world!
Water has magical properties, it is essential to life. What else is essential to your life? Where do you find magic?
Besides water, miracles and synchronicity are essential to my life. Some people may call that magic but whatever you want to call it I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I believe in the magic of “coincidences” in my life as they are all assurances that I’m on the right path. There have been so many of these incidents since I first started Ix Style that have left me in joyful tears on numerous occasions.
I believe in the magic of manifestation. I understand that PR is a powerful instrument for growing a business. In February of this year, I began to practice yoga nidra a form of meditation and I manifested in my thoughts that I wanted powerful women to support Ix Style’s mission. A week after I started I was asked to speak on a panel with ultimate girl boss Alexandra Wilkis Wilson who ultimately loved my mission and tenacity and asked to be on my board of advisors. She then recommended to the producers of Project Runway: Fashion Startup to pitch my company to a panel of fashion judges. Ultimately, Rebecca Minkoff, Gary Wassner and Birchbox invested in Ix style.
I’ve believed in manifesting since I started Ix Style I just didn’t know to call it manifesting back then. I’m a one woman show with my rockstar interns and without the help of a PR company I’ve been able to manifest some powerful collaborations such as designing an exclusive capsule collection with Gwyneth Paltrow for Goop, collaborated with Amanda Seyfried or met the ultimate entrepreneur Richard Branson who loves the mission and carries our shoes at Necker Island. The odds of these run ins and collaborations are fantastically small yet they keep happening.
I recently manifested a collaboration with Steve McCurry who is the famous photographer behind the most prolific National Geographic cover of the Afghan girl with piercing green eyes. He’s collaborating on a coffee table book with me about the Mayan artisans who make our products. He’s joining me in Guatemala in February! I know these images will last lifetimes and to me it the thing I am most proud of besides our work with artisans and providing clean water to communities. I hope these images inspire people to visit our beautiful country of Guatemala and support the people there!
Because you can’t always be saving the world… what are you reading for fun right now? (Ahem, guilty pleasures are always welcome.)
I’m reading TED talks right now by Chris Anderson. I am giving a TED talk on December 13th at their HQ in Soho about my company’s water mission and I’m trying to soak up as much information as I can from Chris on what makes a great TED talk. Prior to that I read Spirit Junkie. I like to read nonfiction books that can either feed my soul or my brain!
Here’s Francesca sharing her story for Gap: