Limits only exist in our heads. These crazy little boundaries we set are as real as your mind allows them to be. The reason why we create them is because most of the time we refuse to accept this fundamental part of life, often thinking and believing with every fiber of our being that one person is simply not enough to make a significant difference. This notion leads us to become mere spectators of fate, because it’s easier to sit at the sidelines of life and do nothing, rather than take the reins and lead the pack. But the thing is you can’t ignore history and if there’s anything that history has taught us is that sometimes all it takes is one brave individual to change the world for better or worse. Believing in the power of that one person can seem crazy and yet there are people who are constantly proving that every significant global movement has at its forefront a leader who’s crazy enough to think that she or he can shake up the status quo and have a tremendous impact on how the future will play out. What all of these charismatic leaders have in common is not only the drive, reselience and persistance, but the unshakable belief in themselves paired with a pretty heavy responsibility chip they carry on their shoulders, forcing them to act on it.
So, this story of Cool Faces of Bastet Noir has at its forefront a very strong and brave young woman, Francesca Kennedy, a social entrepreneur whose mission to provide clean water for the people in Guatemala was born out of her inner desire to clean up the contaminated waters of the Atitlan Lake and restore its former glory. Her idea was to start a company that would help local women artists to keep their culture alive through selling this beautiful and intricate handmade Huarache sandals in the United States and donate 15% of the profits to charities that work on providing clean drinking water for the people of Guatemala. What started as a passion project, throughout the years Ix-Stylehas grown into a company that employs hundreds of female artists and has provided thousands of children with clean drinking water. Since its inception Francesca has partnered with J.Crew, Goop, and The Gap, among others to help her spread the message and has secured an investment of $150,000 from Katia Beauchamp, Rebecca Minkoff and Gary Wassner. Today the beautiful products her company makes are worn by celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o, Bar Rafaeli, Valentina Ferragani, Zanita Whittington, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rachel Roy among many others. Her story of hope is an amazing example of how powerful one person’s quest to do good can truly be. Read on as she shares her mission, invaluable advices for all future entrepreneurs and her favorite female empowerment speech.
BASTET NOIR: Who is Francesca Kennedy?
FK: A social entrepreneur at heart, with a mission to change the world for the better.
BASTET NOIR: The idea behind your company, Ix Style stemmed from this need to clean the Lake Atitlan in Guatemala back in 2010 by helping local women artists keep their culture alive through selling this beautiful handmade Huarache sandals. Could you tell us how the idea developed into an actual company?
FK: I was working in PWM at GS as a Wealth Management Professional when I had the idea for Ix Style. I’d come home and work on my side hustle of launching and growing Ix Style. It’s what entrepreneurs like to call suffering from Cinderella syndrome. I’d come home every night after my day job and work on my pitches to glamorous magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and I would correspond with well renowned editors. I would write to stylists and send samples to celebrities. It was so exciting to share my story and water mission with these influencers. Then I’d wake up and go back to my desk and grind away at my day job.
BASTET NOIR: What were the everyday challenges you’ve faced while trying to build this company up and how did you deal with them?
FK: Raising capital. When I first started Ix-Style,I received a line of credit from my bank, but apart from traditional debt vehicles raising capital as a female and as a Latina especially has been difficult. The “capital challenge” and the ability to secure and maintain enough funds to not only keep the business going, but also to help it grow is a challenge that I continue to discover.
I had to get creative to find ways to raise capital, which is why I went on a version of Shark Tank called Project Runway: Fashion Startup at the suggestion of one of my board of advisors Alexandra Wilson Wilkis, the founder of Gilt and Glam Squad. There was a bidding war among three of the judges and ultimately [thanks to] Birchbox, Rebecca Minkoff and Gary Wassner I secured a $150,000 investment from the judges. It was a gamble to go on a show in which I had no control how the producers would edit the show. I was proud of how my pitch and segment went but it was a risk; a calculated one that paid off.
BASTET NOIR: As entrepreneur, it oftentimes happens when faced with challenges and obstacles to let self doubt sort of creep in. How do you fight these moments when it sort of feels like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders?
FK: I always start the day with yoga. It sets the tone for the day.
BASTET NOIR: You have so many powerful women wearing and supporting the product and that’s not only because of the beautiful products your company creates, but also the impact Ix Style has in providing Guatemala with clean water. Did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that your company would be so successful and have such a big impact on Guatemalan communities?
FK: If you are creating a business for the right reasons — with purpose and passion — your customers will feel your authenticity and share your story and promote and help your cause. It’s my life’s purpose to be a brand ambassador for the people of Guatemala, create a world market and help highlight their gorgeous products, ensure premium fair trade wages, and provide clean drinking water for communities in Guatemala. Of course the celebrity endorsements help, but what’s most important is the impact we make with IxStyle and that’s the metric on how I measure my success.
BASTET NOIR: Three things you wish you knew before starting out…
FK: That you cannot do everything by yourself!
It’s ok to take some time for self-care. In fact, you must!
Failure is ok. If it doesn’t work out exactly as you wanted it does not mean you failed. You learn valuable lessons, dust yourself off and you move on. But you have to try! No one wants to look back at the end of their life and say, “what if I had tried…?”
BASTET NOIR: Best female empowerment motivational speech
FK:Hillary Clinton’s ‘Women’s Rights Are Human Rights’and her concession speech are both powerful speeches to listen to if you have not about women empowerment.
Also, watch RBG, a great movie that will make you so proud to be a woman and so grateful for all the women who fought for our rights!
Also, watch Makers:Women Who Make America about all of the women pioneers who were the first in their respective fields and all of the barriers they knocked down so that we could walk through.
BASTET NOIR: Any advices for women entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
FK: You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with. So you better make sure the influences around you are brilliant, smarter than you, motivated, passionate, and optimists. Also, who you follow on social media should motivate you to be a better person, motivate you and challenge you to do more.
Also, write all of your life goals — physical, mental, professional, personal — down on paper with small steps that can help you accomplish those major goals.
Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a championship, or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about. Don’t!
Make small improvements every day only by 1% and it will be far more meaningful in the long run. If you can get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.
Write 100 words a day if you want to write a book. You’ll have finished a book in less than a year. The same goes with all goals. Take small steps in achieving your goal but be consistent.
Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. — Jim Rohn
BASTET NOIR: Proudest moment to date
FK: Physically — running the NYC marathon.
Professionally — Of course, Ix Style but I think the best is yet to come. I have some important projects in the works related to Ix Style that I’m excited about as I think their impact to help Guatemala will be great. I can’t wait to share!
Also, the coffee table book that I’m working on with Steve McCurry the photographer who photographed the Afghan girl and green eyes for the famous National Geographic cover.
BASTET NOIR: What’s in your Bastet Noir cart?
FK:Black maxi shirt dress — clean lines yet so powerful!
Regardless of what you believe to be true, the undeniable fact remains that the world needs more leaders like Francesca, because they shake up the status quo through their fearless actions, grit, unshakable belief in the good in people and pure drive to help those less fortunate. They inspire and make the rest of the human race better by forcing us to think about our own legacy. Because at the end of the day when all is said and done, the impact we’ve made is measured by those moments of selfless acts we either choose to ignore or do and I have the impression that you’d want your imprint on the world to be something more than just mindless selfies scattered across a social media platform.
We love strong, confident and self reliant women, so if you think you got what it takes, send us an email with your Instagram account and the story you’d like to share and you might just become Bastet Noir’s next cool face.
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