Francesca Kennedy, one of eight finalists at AccessLatina accelerator, is a truly inspiring Latina entrepreneur, designer, environmentalist and advocate for the indigenous people of her country of origin, Guatemala,. She is the founder of Ix Style, a fashion brand based on Guatemalan designs .
One characteristic of Latino immigrants is that we seldom cut lose our roots from our cultures of origin. Unlike many European immigrants that never traveled back home after arriving to the USA, visiting family periodically builds a constant and deep bond into the beauty and values of our people.
When Francesca Kennedy used to spend her summers at Panajachel, she not only enjoyed the greatness and calm of the Guatemalan highlands with impressive views to Lake Atitlan and its surrounding volcanoes, but also kept in touch with the indigenous villages around the lake, and their famous inhabitants, women weavers of magnificent Mayan designs.
Kennedy’s entrepreneurial blood and soul
Born in the United States, from an early age Francesca was an entrepreneurial aficionado. “I was always interested in making money one way or the other, either selling lemonade to neighbors, old books on Amazon or creating something to sell,” she told LIBizus.
After graduating from Lehigh University in 2005, Francesca worked in various roles in the financial industry in America. However, her life took a spin during a summer visit to her grandfather, when she heard of TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie and his Start Something That Matters initiative.
“I was still working at Goldman Sachs when I felt my true calling,” she remembers.”A Mark Twain quote kept pounding my mind, ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why’,” she said. And Ix Style was born.
Inspiration in Guatemalan designs
Guatemala is a country with a rich history and culture, yet it’s challenged with extreme poverty. After she saw the once beautiful Lake Atitlan, in which she swam in as a child, overrun with blue green algae and a new generation of children drinking its toxic water, Francesca was inspired to start Ix Style. ”I thought that if alpargatas had worked for TOMS, huaraches would work for us,” she said.
Tapping into her cultural heritage and beautiful Guatemalan designs, Francesca launched a fashion design company called Ix Style with a purpose in March 2013. Ix (pronounced “eye ex”) is the Mayan word for water. For every purchase they receive, Ix Style donates to provide clean drinking water to Guatemalan children, where Francesca Kennedy’s family is originally from. The products are handmade by local artisans, creating jobs for the community near the lake that inspired Francesca to start Ix Style.
Creating success while creating life
Empowered by her culture, Francesca recognizes she is eager to achieve success for many reasons, including helping her country and the people of Guatemala, sharing the beauty of her Guatemalan designs, and leaving the world a little better than she found it. “I realized my purpose was to create life, create jobs and create clean water,” she said.
“As a Latina business owner, I feel my strength is definitely my Latina passion. I don’t take no for an answer! I’m definitely not afraid to ask for something and go after what I want!”
Achieving her Latina entrepreneur dream
When was the moment Francesca realized she was achieving her dream?
“I launched the company while still working a full-time job –I never recommend to jump ship until you are sure of your results. Once our website was live, I pitched several design and clothing magazines,” she recalls.
Then, she received the first email of interest; the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. “It was a very empowering moment, when I saw the review. We had a marketable product and a great business model to pay it forward,” she affirms.
Since launching, Ix Style has garnered international press from high-profile publishers including Financial Times, LA Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Marie Claire, and Glamour magazines. Ix Style’s retailers include J.Crew, Anthropologie, Gap, ShopBop.com, Holt Renfrew, United Arrow, select Four Seasons and The Viceroy resorts.
International recognition of a successful Latina venture
Among celebrities that were attracted to the sustainable and philanthropic initiative, Richard Branson was one of Ix Style’s first clients. Francesca also collaborated with actress Gwyneth Paltrow on an exclusive style for Goop.com.
The Gap filmed and interviewed Francesca to highlight Ix Style’s water mission, work with artisans and focus on empowering women in Guatemala for their One Stitch Closer campaign that launched on Women’s International Day in March of 2015.
The film shares Ix Style’s challenges, mission and accomplishments with Guatemalan designs’ artisans.
Ix Style mission statement
This is Ix mission statement:
How do we help?
- By supporting and working with our non-profit partners.
- By empowering our artisans through commerce and production.
- By paying a premium on each pair to make sure each purchase is ethical.
- And while our focus and heart is in Guatemala, we coordinate with our partners that do work internationally as well.
- Because, ultimately, no one child is more important than another.
How do you help?
- By buying a pair, you help provide clean drinking water to children through water filtration systems, rain collection units and wells. Each purchase makes a difference in freeing up time for kids.
- Children who normally would walk miles a day to collect water for their families can instead spend that time in school.
- Education is the single most effective way to break the cycle of poverty.