Learn more about one of our incredible EO Ambassadors, Laura François, a social impact strategist and social entrepreneur who is maximising environmental and social impact through creative arts. Laura’s work has been featured on BBC World News, Forbes, TedX, The Disruptive Design Festival (DIF) and Singapore Design Week, and has help launched over 25 startups through her mentorships and masterclasses.
Laura François is a trained social impact strategist working globally to empower startups, nonprofits and governments to maximise sustainability and use creativity in business as a force for good.
Wearing multiple hats at the same time, Laura is also a social entrepreneur who has founded four companies, ranging from ethical fashion platforms to impact entrepreneurship education to a creative storytelling agency, to help drive effective change in sustainable development.
Originally hailing from Canada, Laura François has spent the better part of the past 10 years across East Asia, from studying in India and Singapore to working in Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia. She knew early on in life that she wanted pursue her studies and career around human rights, as evident by her frequent participation in social justice clubs and current affairs debates during high school.
But it wasn’t until learning how access to a clean environment was also a fundamental human right that she became increasingly involved in the environmentalism movement. “I remember attending the Millennium Development Goal summit in our capital during my graduating year of high school. The goals were set for 2015 by the United Nations, and on the drive back home, it became clear to me that there was no way we would achieve the goals in time. The urgency set in, and hasn’t ever left,” said Laura.
It was then that Laura found her North Star and started her journey in social and environmental impacting, starting off in the creative arts sector and in philanthropy – such as palliative care – before moving towards sustainable development and startup businesses.
“I was stuck on the idea that human dignity can’t be bypassed in life, business or even in death. That fire hasn’t stopped burning for me, and in many ways it has directed the course of my professional life.”
Since then, Laura has co-founded The Spaceship impact entrepreneurship programme, leading masterclasses on launching businesses through “lenses of impact strategy, circular economy design and sustainable development”, co-founded international art based impact project, Clothing The Loop, as well as leading the non-profit, Fashion Revolution, in Singapore and Malaysia.
Though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “Starting any kind of business is a chaotic process, most often making up the rules as you go. I’ve deeply enjoyed creating business, as well as coaching others in their entrepreneurship journey, because it’s almost an art form. It requires you to participate with detachment, to let go of what’s not working and make space for new insights to emerge.” One of the biggest things Laura has learnt is overcoming the challenges and “the need to ‘let go’ of something you’ve dedicated your life to – if and when it doesn’t work”.
As a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry, Laura has also witnessed the gender discrepancy in the landscape and leadership, but believes change is already happening within the sustainability space.
“It’s clear as day that there is a discrepancy between the push for female leadership, and supporting that push financially,” Laura said. “As I’ve reflected on the incredible mentors I’ve had over the years, I’ve realised that every single one of them have been male. But when I look at those I’m mentoring in turn, there are just as many women as there are men in the sustainability space. In my opinion, this so-called ‘eco-gender gap’ is closing.”
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