Jazmin de la Guardia is the co-founder of Franca NYC, a small Brooklyn based design studio that focuses on handmade ceramics.
Franca NYC was born from an idea: There are common threads that bind us. No matter where you come from or where you are going, there is a commonality to be discovered. This common language, or lingua franca, is what we strive to achieve. Craftsmanship, design, and artistry make up the foundation of our work, and we continue to seek out ways to bring the soul of lingua franca to each piece.
Born in Paraguay, with a mother from Uruguay and a father from Cuba, Jazmin grew up with a passion for travel and art. That passion eventually led her to Pratt Institute in NYC where she received her Bachelor’s in Printmaking. Following her education at Pratt, Jazmin took her skills and passion for art to co-found Franca NYC with her business partner, Sierra Yip-Bannicq.
The idea for their ceramics design studio came about in 2016, after both women expressed an interest in owning a business.
“We were both working in small design studios at that time and as much as we loved our jobs, we were both really excited about the idea of starting our own business,” said Jazmin. “We decided to launch our brand at NY NOW, where we got a lot of exposure all at once and thankfully started getting orders to get us through those first months.”
The women chose the medium of ceramics to be the focus of their business because it was something they both loved and had been drawn to back during their college days. Focusing on ceramics also had the benefit of being low-cost. Starting out, Jazmin and Sierra had a very limited budget, like many new entrepreneurs, so making their products in-house from start to finish without having to make a huge investment in machinery and production equipment was a big advantage.
Jazmin recalls one of her fondest memories of these early days, while she and Sierra worked in their first studio making their products.
“Sierra and I are working long hours in our first studio, just the two of us, making what felt like a million cups and mugs. We felt like we were melting, we had no AC and the studio was so hot the tar from the rooftop—we were on the top floor, walk-up—was literally melting into our space. The kiln was firing and it just seemed like we were inside a giant oven. Even though the situation seemed less than desirable to most people, we were thrilled to be there and would not have wanted it any other way. For us it was all worth it because we were working towards building something of our own and being independent.”
The threads that bind: Leveraging social media and community
As they developed their business, they learned to navigate challenges and obstacles and leverage their strengths.
One of the biggest challenges they faced as their business grew was learning to be flexible with their production volume. Jazmin shared that there were many times when they had more orders than they could accept, while other times when the flow of orders was much slower.
“It was important for us to try and keep our staff throughout the year so we decided to try and ride the slower times as best we could,” said Jazmin. “During the slower moments, we relied on social media to keep up with brand awareness. Thankfully things seem to be more stable now and we feel we can plan our production accordingly, but I would say trying to be as flexible as possible was key to us growing as a business.”
Through the use of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, Jazmin and Sierra were able to stay connected with customers and gauge what products they were interested in. It’s this connection, both online and in their local community in NYC that has been their strength and helped Jazmin and Sierra drive their business forward.
“Thanks to our community we were able to ask for advice when we needed it and learn from our peers. We’ve been very lucky in this sense,” said Jazmin.
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Jazmin admits that at the beginning, she never would have even thought to reach out to other people, or even strangers, to ask for advice or just chat about their experiences as a business owner.
“Now I can say it’s one of the things I recommend most people do, especially women. A quick Instagram or Messenger DM can go a long way,” Jazmin said. “Always reach out to other women. Creating that network and community will be not only great for your business but will also help you get through some of the overwhelming times you’ll inevitably go through as a business owner.”
As Franca NYC’s message states: There are common threads that bind us. No matter where you come from or where you are going, there is a commonality to be discovered.