David: You know, we’ve, we’ve talked everything about your, but about your business. And I’ve been really having fun with this (laughs).
Francesca: Oh, I’m sorry (laughs). Yes. So, oh, let me go back. So, I’m sorry. Ask me, I can tell you about my business or is there something specific-
David: Well, tell, tell me about the, the Sennits and the, uh, and the knot that you were telling me about earlier.
Francesca: Okay. So, I’ve been in business for a very long time. My, uh, uh, I’ll just give you a really quick bio, which is, um, what … I, I graduated … I did my, um, junior year abroad. Uh, m- my family’s big proponents that everybody needs to live outside the United States to gain perspective on the country, and you need to be bilingual and you have to pay for it yourself (laughs ) you know. This is just my parents.
Francesca: Um, hard-core, middle-class people. Anyway, so I went, um, to, to Italy actually, and I did my junior year and I … Because I was I think the poorest kid in my class, the other kids in my class were all out buying Alfa Romeos and they had apartments, and I worked as an au pair. And that meant that I had like, uh, about eight- or nine-hour job every day taking care of the kids, cooking, ironing, cleaning, in addition to school. But I worked for very large merchant, uh, um, merchant families, families who would sit around the dinner table talking about business, and they have guests over ’till late in the evening.
And that’s where I really started getting my chops. So, when I got back, I had seen a lot of products in Europe that weren’t available here. And my first company began to import those products with connections that I made from the families that I used to serve food to, and that business grew quickly. I began to patent items because it was the only way to keep from being knocked off and that … This is what I mean by, in 11 words or less, I can make it sound so easy. And 11 years later I sold that company to Newell Rubbermaid, and it was acquired and it became part of the Goody Products division, and they moved to the company at … It was a manufacturing company here in Oakland, and they moved it, um, to Georgia.
And then my second company was called Clever Results. And it did … I, I launched that, and it went for 11 years. And we did, uh, it was a B2B business. We did, uh, product development and design for very large companies like Walmart and QVC and the Discovery Channel and, um, Glass, which is the largest glass manufacturer out of Malaysia, in the world. So that was the second.
And then it was during that wonderful experience, and I really loved the company, um, I invented what became known as Hairzing, which is H-A-I-R-Z-I-N-G. And, um, and it’s a handmade women’s product. And I, and I tried to license it because I did not want to do another manufacturing company and, um, that the two leaders in the industry said, “Nope, it’s too difficult for women to understand,” at which point I responded, “Well, you know, women give birth and they drive cars. I think they can figure out a freaking hair accessory.”
But, um, so I, I ended up saying, “Okay, I’ll prove the model.” And that is how Hairzing began. Uh, built my own supply chains in, uh, Asia and Africa, which means that we don’t use factory labor. I literally set our women’s collectives up in business, um, took women that had never known or understood business and taught it to them and, um, [inaudible 00:03:45] about 1,000 women working now.
Francesca: And we … Yeah. So, it, yeah, yeah. Uh, did I mention that I really would love to be eating chocolate in a hammock But-
David: Yes, yes. In your spare time.
Francesca: Somehow that’s … Uh, that’s … I’m gonna get to that next. That’s my next business is eating chocolate in a hammock.
David: I like it. So those three businesses together form-
Francesca: 30, 30 years (laughs).
David: Right. But there’s uh-
David: There’s, uh, there’s a knot there that you described to me early on that kind of talks about your integrity and, and, uh, your company in a special way, I think.
Francesca: Yes. So, so in … What I did with the third company is I said it has to be about more. It has to be … Is, you know, is that all there is, was my kind of was my thought. Um, so I decided to, to start our parent company, which is called Sennits. And that’s, um, spelled S-E-N-N-I-T-S. Now, Sennits is a, a … It’s a nautical knot. And it’s formed by taking three separate strands and weaving them together into a sennit, which makes one strand that is unbreakable. And … but, but it’s dependent on all three of those, all three of those fibers blending together. And the, the goal was that any project that came out of Sennits, the corporate Sennits was going to be something that had to fit three parameters.
One, it had to be profitable. I don’t … I, I’m not a non-profit. We run profitable companies. Number two was it had to absolutely be as sustainable and worker-friendly and, as edifying as possible. That means profit-sharing to employees and workers, that means benefits, that means, um, uh, an entire array of how do you treat, um, workers as the wonderful people that they are and reward them for their behavior. And then third is that it had to serve also, uh, our customer and a greater good. So, by that, I mean we wanted to have our customer as part of the entire business, the core part whether it’s talking to them, whether it’s using them in focus groups, whether it’s doing … Um, giving them, uh, product that is so superior to anything else that’s out there and then standing behind it with incredible ironclad guarantees. We wanted customers to know that they were as much valued as the company or anybody that works for the company.
And then of course, there’s this other part of it which is, and this is just me, I believe that every business per period, um, needs to give back whether you tied your income, whether you, uh, support, uh, you know, a small charity. Again, it doesn’t have to be something huge.
Francesca: It has to be something that’s meaningful to the business. So, we do things … We do … We support projects, um, in girl, in girls’ education. It’s a big passion for me. And we put an entire, uh, class of girls, from kindergarten through college. Uh, we pay their tuition in Africa and Kenya. We support tons of women’s and girls’ educational opportunities here because I think business and education are the two great equalizers in society. So, I support both of them.
David: Wow. I want … Could you adopt me (laughs)?
Francesca: Like (laughs). That’s great. Yes. Can you come into all of our voiceovers? We need that soothing radio baritone voice that you’ve got.
David: I know, and I’ll, I’ll deliver chocolate to your hammock, I promise (laughs).
Francesca: You know what? That’s (laughs) that’s … You know, I joke with my husband. He always says, “You know, you can do the hammock for a little while. Then suddenly, you’d get a phone cell charger out there and you’d have little desk near” … This, this is the sickness, this is the sickness that is an entrepreneur. Yes.
David: I love it. I absolutely love it. Francesca Kuglen. It’s been a treat beyond treats, uh, to visit with you today. I can’t thank you enough. It’s really been great.
Francesca: No problem. Thank you, David. If I can ever be of help and assistance, let me know.
David: Oh, I wanna interview you again. There’s no question about it. She’s founder, managing partner of Hairzing. And Sennits is her corporate, and she’s got to go in on folks.
If, if people want to learn more about you and your business and how do you do things, how can they reach out to you?
Francesca: You know, I, I … There’s two things. Of course, I’m on LinkedIn under Francesca Kuglen. You can always send me an invite. Um, our, our website for Hairzing is hairzing.com, which is H-A-I-R, like hair on your head, and then Z, as in zebra, I-N-G. So hairzing.com. You can always reach me through there. And my personal email, um, at the, at the office is my first name spelled out, Francesca, F-R-A-N-C-E-S-C-A. and my last name, Kuglen, K-U-G-L-E-N @hairzing.com, and you can shoot me an email any time.
David: Absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much and thanks for, uh, sharing so many of your gifts with, with us. We really appreciate it.
Francesca: Thanks, David, for having your, your podcast. I, I love it.
David: You bet. You, you’ve been listening to Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower and our special guest, Francesca Kuglen. Be sure to follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/your20minutepodcast. Until next time. Have a great day.