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The founders of Francesca jewelry talk about becoming a multimillionaire

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Australian sisters have transformed a small market stall in Hobart into a multi-millionaire jewelry empire in 10 years with no business experience – all the while donating nearly $1 million to charities.

Hannah, 32, and Rachel Vasicek, 26, taught themselves as teenagers how to make jewelry as a way to pass the time while living in a small coastal town in NSW.

After their family moved to the ‘big smoke’ of Hobart, Tasmania, the couple began selling the creations at the famous Salamanca Markets under the brand name ‘Handmade by Hannah’.

Though only a young teenager at the time, Rachel spent every Saturday with Hannah at 5 a.m. in the markets selling their handmade jewelry to locals and tourists stopping off from the cruise ships.

After a few years of market weekends, the sisters were able to recognize their more regular customers and their styles, and from there’Francescathe brand was born.

Hannah, 32, and Rachel Vasicek, 26, taught themselves to make jewelry as teenagers as a way to pass the time while living in a small coastal town in NSW

After a few years of market weekends, the sisters were able to recognize their more regular customers and their styles, and from this 'Francesca' the brand was born

After a few years of market weekends, the sisters were able to recognize their more regular customers and their styles, and from this ‘Francesca’ the brand was born

Hannah and Rachel spent 10 years in the Salamanca Markets until their brand grew to the point where they could say goodbye to the 5 a.m. weekend.

As their loyal customer base grew, the girls launched a small shop in Tasmania, followed by an online store and then a store in Melbourne Central.

Initially, the sisters wanted to be a fast-moving, fashion-forward brand, but eventually the sisters found their niche with the launch of ‘Francesca Create’ – a range of customizable jewelry that gives customers the power to create their perfect signature piece.

As the demand for custom jewelry grows, the Francesca brand has exploded and has become a cult favorite with some of Australia’s biggest influencers, including Steph Claire Smith, Emilee Hembrow and Sophie Cachia.

Hannah, who has a law degree, planned to specialize in IP law after college, with the jewelry business merely a “pastime” while she was studying.

Hannah, who has a law degree, planned to specialize in IP law after college, with the jewelry business merely a

Hannah, who has a law degree, planned to specialize in IP law after college, with the jewelry business merely a “pastime” while she studied

But Rachel joined Hannah's company full-time when she finished high school, when what was supposed to be a gap year turned into a gap year.

But Rachel joined Hannah’s company full-time when she finished high school, when what was supposed to be a gap year turned into a gap year.

But Rachel joined Hannah’s company full-time when she finished high school, and what was supposed to be a gap year turned into a gap year.

Both women are completely self-taught in all aspects of running a business – they use the business as an opportunity to brush up on their knowledge, such as product photography for Instagram.

But a background in law has served Hannah well as the company grew and contracts were drawn up to sign.

“In the beginning we couldn’t afford employees, so between the two of us we had no choice but to retrain ourselves and wear all the business hats, which was kind of taxing on both of us,” Hannah said.

The signature style for Francesca is the personalized range, especially the medallion collection.

“We love adding meaning to jewelry and giving customers the opportunity to create a piece that is truly special to them and tells a story,” Rachel said.

The signature style for Francesca is the personalized range, especially the medallion collection

The signature style for Francesca is the personalized range, especially the medallion collection

“Our medallions have certainly been our most popular product, selling over 20,000 medallions within 12 months of launch.”

But the road to success and an eight-figure business hasn’t always been easy.

“In 2014, our first store was broken into…everything was taken, and then we couldn’t afford insurance, so we couldn’t get anything back,” Hannah said.

“All our products are handmade, so after the heist we had to start all over again.”

Rachel added: “In the beginning, our biggest challenge was getting banks to believe in us enough to lend us the money to fund our first store.

Rachel added: “In the beginning, our biggest challenge was getting banks to believe in us enough to lend us the money to fund our first store.

Rachel added: “In the beginning, our biggest challenge was getting banks to believe in us enough to lend us the money to fund our first store.

“We had no business trading history outside the markets, or business experience as owners, and in the end Hannah sold her car to finance the basic furnishing of our first store.

“There were times in the early days when we had to borrow money from loved ones just to make the payroll for the week because cash flow was so tight.”

But they have big plans for the future, including donating $2 million to charities by 2025.

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