With 10 years experience in social impact, Laura Francis is a leading voice in Asia by empowering communities and organizations to connect the dots between doing business and doing good.
What’s your story?
I’ve been working in social impact for over 10 years, starting in Canada, India, Malaysia and now Singapore. Leading non-profit Fashion Revolution in Malaysia and Singapore, co-founding social enterprise ‘Artisan & Fox’, founding international circular economy project ‘Clothing The Loop’ and most recently ‘ANEWKIND’ impact studio, my mission has evolved to push creative and cultural boundaries and design new ways of doing. I help create new systems and challenging people to think differently about how the world works and how we can make the most positive impact on people and the planet.
What excites you most about your industry?
The unknown. It’s at once the most exciting and most daunting thing about being in the social and environmental impact space. Standards are constantly evolving, as well as definitions, discoveries, methods – all of it! For the longest time, I was not even able to label what it is I do!
There are also so many opportunities for collaboration in this industry. Cross-sector collaboration between philanthropy, business, policy – but most importantly, the collaboration between the beneficiaries or individuals you are aiming to impact. They are most often the experts.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I completed studies in Singapore and India. Those were my first introductions to Asia. Since then, the context of all my projects has been localized to Southeast Asia, exploring multidisciplinary approaches to social and environmental change through collaboration and design.
An industry I’ve worked extensively in is fashion. Since 2012 I have challenged businesses to redefine their ideas of sustainability starting from fashion brands in Canada, to artisans to garment factories around ASEAN. I left Canada on a whim to deepen my understanding of the garment industry, and the larger environmental and social system at play.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore for it’s growing community of impact-driven entrepreneurs and businesses. However, Ho Chi Minh truly strikes me as a city unafraid of taking risk, and open to exploring new and exciting ways of doing. Despite the craziness of the city, I always find myself excited at the prospects of business there.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I need a reminder of that on a daily basis!
Who inspires you?
People who succeed in a healthy balance in working hard and playing hard. Those who do something for themselves every day as well as give back to the world. The more you give to yourself the more you can give to your business and others, and I’m still learning to find that balance.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Trees are very much like humans – we both feel the passing of time and an ability to store collective memory. Trees can also communicate to one another through cell to cell communication. In case you needed another reason to love the forests!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Write everything down. Learning from my own process of mistake making, risk taking and wins is an incredibly important reminder of growth. Reflection breeds better understanding and guidance for the future.
How do you unwind?
Spending time away from my cell phone and off the grid is the epitome of unwinding for me! Music is also an important part of my life, playing ukulele and singing is one of my favorite ways to detach from the hecticness of my work week.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Anywhere that includes sandy beaches and motorbikes for rent. Phú Quốc or Hoi An in Vietnam are favorites!
Everyone in business should read this book:
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp
Shameless plug for your business:
I help companies and organizations do good, better.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.