Hobart Entrepreneur Hannah Vasicek
by Stephanie Williams
An entrepreneur, a law grad, a mum, an advocate for women facing human trafficking, Hannah Vasicek doesn’t do things in halves.
You were entrepreneurial from a young age. How did your business journey start? Indeed!! I had a business as a child before I got into beading. I lived in remote NSW and was commuting four hours a day to get to school and back, twenty hours a week on a bus with hungry children! At 12 years old, I saw an opportunity and a market. I visited the local wholesale lolly store and bought a box of 100 lolly strips for $20, and remarketed these strips for $1 each on the bus! A huge success as my first entrepreneurial pursuit! When I was 13 years old, my mum needed me to have an outlet to channel my energy so she took me into a beading store to do a lesson! I was hooked as soon as I made that first ever bracelet. I made jewellery every spare moment I could. I would take a shoebox of jewellery to school and sell it to the teachers in the staff room. I even set up a little stall outside the local IGA. My family moved to Tasmania when I was 16 and my little business grew. I supplied jewellery to a local gallery and began my first market stall at the Salamanca Markets.
You’ve grown your jewellery brand Francesca from that stall into a successful ‘bricks and mortar’ business. What role has Hobart played in your growth? I’m forever grateful to have grown up in Hobart from 16. Coming from a very rural town, Hobart was a big city to me and truly it seemed like the world was my oyster! The Salamanca Markets is hands down the reason why my business was able to flourish and survive over the years. What began as ‘Handmade by Hannah’ developed into a more boutique brand “francesca” – which is the name my mother wanted to name me when I was born instead of Hannah! The markets taught me so much – resilience, hard work, sales techniques. It gave me the opportunity to speak directly to my customers, test out my ‘elevator pitch’ and even test prices week to week to see what the sweet spot was. We have customers 15 years on who still shop with us from their original purchase at Salamanca Markets! I spent 11 years at Salamanca throughout the growth of the business, and am forever grateful for those times!
You completed a science/law degree but there was a decision to be made between your growing business or a career in law. It was definitely a risk at the time and something not everyone could always understand the vision I saw of the business. I’m so glad I took that leap of faith and trusted the process. I graduated after five years of university and was actually offered a full time law position – they gave me a month to decide between the business and the job. It was a phone call to my Dad which made me want to pursue my dream. He told me to do what would make me time rich, not money rich. Something I have been grateful for by pursuing business is the freedom it has given me. It has been the hardest work of my life and I used to be jealous of my friends who could clock in and out of their jobs, however I am forever grateful that I am able to work flexible hours as a business owner and be a Mum too!
Life is too short to be in a job which doesn’t light your heart on fire. I was sitting in an office doing a one month law internship in Sydney, and found myself sneakily looking up beading sites whenever I could! I knew my heart lay in jewellery.
You and your sister Rachel had a harrowing experience in Hong Kong, up close and personal with the realities of human trafficking. Can you share a little of your experience? A few years into our business journey we started to feel like we wanted success to mean more than just hitting goals. We decided to invest in bringing purpose and meaning behind what we put our efforts to. Be Hers, was a charity we partnered with in their fight against human trafficking. Although at the time we didn’t have spare money to donate to the cause, we were already making jewellery and had a following, so we decided to create a collection for Be Hers. The first day we sold $10,000 worth of the product, 100% of which went to Be Hers.
Funnily enough, it was two years later that we had a very, very real brush with human trafficking. Prior to this, it felt so far away from our blessed lives in Tasmania.
In 2016, I was newly married, and headed with my sister Rachel to our annual buying and designing trip in Hong Kong. It was a successful week and at the end we went out for dinner and a drink at a local bar. This is when things went very wrong. One minute we were chatting, the next minute I was on the floor passed out and Rachel was absolutely shocked as to what was happening. An ambulance arrived and a man came up to everyone and told them I was his girlfriend, and he needed to take me home. Luckily, another man could tell something was wrong and safely got us into the ambulance. The man who tried to take me originally also came to the hospital to try to take me from there. I’m so lucky that Rachel was there with me that night, and I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I had been taken by this man.
This experience lit a fire in my belly more than ever to help those women and children who have been taken against their will and are a victim of trafficking worldwide. We have worked closely with Be Hers since and I am actually a Director of the organisation now.
You won the Telstra Business Awards Business of the Year for Tasmania. What did that mean for you? We were finalists in the female awards in 2014 and we didn’t win. However, in 2015 after growth and more determination than ever, we entered the overall Tasmanian Telstra Business Awards and were not only shocked to win the Small Business category, but the overall award for Tasmania! We were so proud to have been celebrated against some huge local businesses. It really gave us confidence that what we were doing was working and that our hard work was paying off.
What’s been your lowest low? Lowest low was being burgled a year into opening our first store. I came into the store on a weekend and literally all of our stock was gone. Not only this, but we were very underinsured as I was trying to cut costs. It was such a horrible feeling – we had to start our restock from scratch!
You became a mum a couple of years ago, giving birth to your gorgeous daughter Vienna. Yes! At the end of 2019 my beautiful little girl was born! At her 12 week scan our world was turned upside down when we found out that she had been affected by a very rare and chance syndrome called Amniotic Band Syndrome – her arm was caught in a band in utero and her arm was amputated by 16 weeks in my belly. Knowing that my child would be born different brought up so many emotions, however I believe things happen for a reason, and my daughter is the most inspiring little girl I have ever met. She is so independent and determined, and having one arm has not held her back in the slightest!
What’s next for Francesca? And you? For me, it’s having baby number two due on Mother’s Day, this year! But also continuing our journey alongside my 60 beautiful franc fam staff members.
We have so much to look forward to – more charity relationships, more pop up events and a move into a bigger headquarters which will enable us to continue to grow our online presence worldwide! We are working on a new big collection and branding overhaul which is really in line with the heart of our brand. We’re looking forward to telling stories through jewellery and celebrating moments!
What does downtime look like for you? I absolutely love adventures with Vienna – going to the local beaches, picnics in the Botanical Gardens and for a bit of me time, I can’t go past a facial or massage for an hour of switching off! Being a mum, it’s quite hard to find those moments of downtime juggling business, but even a five minute breather does the trick.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks? I live on the Eastern Shore and have to say my absolute favourite meal of the day is breakfast! We are regulars at Abundance on the Quay – their smashed avocado is to die for! It literally has gotten me through both pregnancies.
Your favourite Hobart secret? An underrated favourite of mine is the Botanical Gardens, in the heart of the city and yet such a peaceful and beautiful place. Makes me so grateful to live in Tasmania surrounded by such beauty.
Quote to live by? “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul.” Mark 8:36