I’ve been fortunate to be able to build my career around my passions, from real estate to my global community of women NetworkHer. As a business entrepreneur, I am incredibly committed to my work but more importantly my priority remains my role as a mother.
Being a mother is my greatest passion. Being a mother has made me a better person, a better entrepreneur and a more effective leader. I am now more patient, I am more aware, I feel things on a deeper level. I have a new understanding about my body and about being a woman. I improved essential skills that are transferable to my business: I prioritize, plan and organize much better now, I am better at listening, communicating and trusting my intuitions.
Pregnant women show increased activity in the right side of their brain, the area related to emotional skills, as they prepare to bond with their babies. These skills are transferable to business. Mothers have an innate ability to listen, nurture the ideas of others and create loyal teams. Juggling the responsibilities of being a mum, a wife and a business woman can be very demanding on your time. Mothers are by definition more resilient and better at coping. We are multidimensional and capable of multitasking!
The woman who influenced me the most and who mattered the most was and still is my mother. My mom is one of my greatest sources of support. She is a dynamic woman who maintains the highest standards of all aspects of her life, a true feminine lady in a male industry, politics. She taught me one important lessons through her own example- there is no role more essential and more eternal than that of being a mother. We never truly know the love of our own parents , until we become parent ourselves.
I’m inspired by the current president of Libia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She is the first woman elected head of state in Africa. She said “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” If there is an area where I know I can do more, it’s to dream bigger-for my self, for my daughter, and for all the women in the world.
We live in a age where traditional standards and values are being questioned. This is not new it is happened throughout the ages. As a mother both biologically, and by innate common sense there are certain truths which are not variable. Today it is perhaps “old-fashioned” yet necessary to resubmit our lives to these truths. We live for our children, we raise them to respect themselves and those around them, to believe in God and the basic truths which have emancipated man and women over time. Guiding our children to pursue their passions indeed there self interests and guiding them in the same is a timeless act and virtuous role of all of us so blessed to be mothers.
As we all know from our own parents, parenting can be the toughest job but for sure the most rewarding. When you are a mother and you run your own business , there are sacrifices like lack of sleep and less time for friends, but it is all worth. Motherhood, just like Entrepreneurship is not a 9-5 job. Some days I stay up till 3 am working and then I wake up at 7 am to organize my daughter’s day. Going back to work after having a baby can be very hard especially if you are breastfeeding and during periods of separation anxiety . Every day is a roller coaster of emotions. But women are so incredible and able to face any challenge for the success and the happiness of our children. When you become a mother , you learn about your inner strengths you didn’t know you had and fears you never knew existed.
I would say my greatest triumph as a new mom is that I was able to put my daughter on schedule since she was 3 months old. She has a perfect routine and I worked very hard to achieve it. Having her sleeping through the night since the very beginning allowed me to get my work done and taking care of myself. I’ve been always so careful with food diet when I was pregnant, while I was breastfeeding and when I weaned my daughter . She is 15 months now and I am so glad that she never had any health problem so far. I dedicate my life to her and to her health. my daughter understands perfectly 4 languages and she is very confident under water due to our swimming classes since the early age of 3 months. I am a big believer that kids absorb like sponges everything around them, if you talk to them , if you sing and dance for them , if you create an healthy and positive environment around them , they will grow up and develop happy and content. I am proud of many things in my life, my flourishing real estate business, NetworkHER and my marriage with Robert. But nothing is more gratifying than being a mother.
There is no one way that works for everybody to balance work and life. The priorities are constantly shifting, sometimes we have to work more and sometimes, we have to spend more time with our families. It’s a give and take. But there are some things you can do to make it all a bit more manageable. First of all let go of trying to be perfect. If you obsess like I am on making the perfect 5050 balance life at home and business, you will fail at both or just have a mental breakdown. Be kind to yourself. Ban toxic people from your life. You don’t have time already so don’t waste it with pointless individuals. Don’t over-schedule yourself. Create the job you want – family friendly companies, family-friendly-schedule.
The only way to balance a happy home and healthy business is to take care of yourself first, so you have the energy to care for all the needs of your kids and clients. It is crucial to prioritize your wellness. Most important component of wellness is sleep. Second to sleep, stay healthy, eat healthy. I don’t have a strict workout routine but I try to go to the gym, exercise, walk or pray daily. Create a mental space and schedule daily “me” time. Manage your energy well. You can’t be a good mom and wife if you are cranky. Reconnect with your spouse, weekly “date nights” are a great idea. Stay focused, prioritize. Have a morning routine and a “to-do” list. These are essential and make your life much easier. My daily schedule is usually a combination of my daughter’s needs, personal and business. This is the major reason of my success. Have a routine will make you more efficient and consistent. So as a consequence you will suffer less stress. Make technology work for you. For instance, it enables me to be with my daughter when she is awake and check email when she sleeps. Get up early. The earlier you get up, the more time you will have to accomplish your goals.
While we try to teach our children about life, our children teach us what life is all about. Don’t just tell your children about your passion for your work, but show them how passion gets you out of bed every morning. If kindness matters to your family, don’t just talk about it, live it in your interactions with others, and not just when it is easy, but when it is hard. When your husband or your kids are hungry, grumpy, tired, that’s when they need your compassion and caring most. Being the best example we can be for our daughters and sons includes respect for ourselves, for others and for the world. We are women who work at prioritizing our families and our passions alongside our professional aspirations. Women encourage team work, women create opportunities for women.
We help others to fly. We love to learn. We don’t like dilemmas. We like solutions. We believe. We bring people together. We dream and do. We are inspired and we inspire. We own our femininity. We live to the fullest. We are determined, respectful, engaged, ambitious, motivated, dedicated, and optimistic. Always, no matter what! That’s what being a mother is all about!
“OLD-FASHIONED”-STYLE BIO Francesca Lana holds a first class honor degree in Literature and Philosophy at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, in Rome, Italy.
She is an international real estate advisor and the Founder and Director of ERA International, a global luxury realty brokerage.
She is the President and co-founder of Networker, an organisation that seeks to connect professional women around the world. With homes in Europe and America her business and non for profit activities are active on a global basis.
Francesca is the former President and co-founder of ILA (Influential Ladies Alliance), a multinational non-profit organization of successful entrepreneurial women.
She is a benefactor of the Kirsten Haglund Foundation and an active board member and supporter of other numerous charities and non-profit activities that support women and children.
She is also sits on the advisory board of the Robert F.Agostinelli Foundation, which provides support for veterans and broad based freedom agenda. President & co-founder of NetworkHER, Founder & Director of ERA International (UK)
If Malcolm Gladwell had a poster girl for the “connectors” he famously described in his best selling book The Tipping Point, it might just be Francesca Lana. The London-based entrepreneur and mother-to-be is well-known among friends and colleagues for bringing people together; sometimes through a quick email exchange or other times, through the dinner parties she organizes with a meticulousness and passion that would make the grandest of dames proud.
Being a connector is inherent to Francesca, who splits her time between New York and London. It’s a natural skill that has served her well as an entrepreneur and international real estate adviser. It’s also inspired the development of her latest venture, NetworkHer, an organization that seeks to connect professional women around the world.
Emmy-winning journalist Rita Cosby sat down with Francesca at The Carlyle, the luxurious Upper East Side NYC hotel, to talk about NetworkHer, her new role as a mother, and home favorite spots in New York and elsewhere. The two power women met two years ago at a private dinner party on Memorial Day Weekend, appropriately organized by Francesca, to honor our veterans and their families as she is dedicated to many great philanthropic causes.
Rita: Tell me how you got your start in business?
Francesca: When I moved to London from Rome in 2012, I met a successful real estate agent, Grant, through the process of finding my apartment. I began introducing Grant to friends who were interested in buying properties or investing money in real estate, and we quickly became business partners. I quickly realized I had a true passion for real estate – and further developed my appreciation for architecture from around the world. After a two-year partnership, I started my own real estate company, ERA International.
This was my first foray as an entrepreneur and I was able to make this leap, which can be overwhelming, because I trusted in my ability to connect people, and knew this skill would serve me well in bringing buyers and sellers together.
As the founder of ERA, I advise international clients, from more than 30 countries, on real estate purchases. Most of my clients are time-strapped and my mission is to Facilitate their search, negotiate the best price for them and manage the buying process so it is seamless for them.
Rita: You recently launched NetworkHer, which has grown out of your great affinity for bringing people together and for supporting women. Can you take me back on how NetworkHer came about?
Francesca: I travel a lot for work and it can be quite isolating. Three years ago, while on a brief stay in London, in order to reconnect with friends, I started organizing dinners for women in London, and asking them to invite their broader networks to join in. Based on the amazing response to those dinners, and the incredible relationships that developed from them, I decided it would be great to formally organize this to reach a broader group of like-minded women.
From my experiences and extensive conversations with many diverse women, I realized that there is a tremendous need and desire for support amongst women. Even the most self-reliant woman can benefit from the support of other women. I love collaboration and believe one woman’s success can only help another’s. I have been blessed with a very wide network, filled with vibrant and dynamic ladies, and I wanted to build the same global community of support that I have been able to develop for myself.
My co-founders, Jackie Cuyvers and Lika Dossybieva, have different backgrounds than mine, but we all have the same goal: to build a powerful and inspiring network of brilliant women. On our small, but powerful team, we have corporate leaders and successful entrepreneurs, social media experts and business consultants.
Rita: What are your long-term plans for NetworkHer? This sounds so exciting and boundless.
Francesca: We’ve heard so much about the importance of women “leaning in” over the past few years, but often leaning in, can require support from other women. NetworkHer is creating a global community of professional women who can give each other a real boost, so to speak, in their respective professional goals. For example, we know many women would like guidance on how to become a board member, how to set up a foundation, or how to prepare for their first TV interview. Through the NetworkHer community, women are supporting women. We consider ourselves unique because our members are quite accomplished in their various fields.
Even at this early stage, we have members from more than ten countries. We are planning a series of regular events in New York, London and online, including two annual conferences. We are building business and personal development workshops around topics such as how to develop a personal brand and how to become a smart angel investor. We are also establishing partnerships with significant charitable organizations.
Rita: This is fantastic. So…how can I join NetworkHer?
Francesca: We would love to have you join, Rita! Your work in journalism has inspired so many women! You can learn more about our network and organization at our website NetworkHer.org.
Rita: I know firsthand you are active in various charities, but how did you become interested in promoting women? It’s something we often hear spoken of, yet in reality, it doesn’t always happen.
Francesca: My mother works in politics in Rome, where I was born. Politics is male-dominated in Italy, much like in the United States. But, that has never deterred my mother. In fact, she has always invited her fellow female colleagues to our home so they could get to know each other and grow to support each other, too. Over the years, I’ve witnessed how these women have created a powerful female network and the successes, big and small, that they have been able to effect. Seeing my own mother’s role in shaping a strong women’s network, has in part inspired NetworkHer and its endless possibilities.
I am also very proud to work with three other organizations: the Robert F. Agostinelli Foundation, which supports American war veterans; the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, which helps men and women seeking treatment from eating disorders, and Techo, which works with young volunteers to fight poverty in Latin America.
Rita: You’ve turned your skill for connecting into a business… and way to give back. What is your advice to others for making meaningful connections to enhance their personal or professional network?
Francesca: I think everyone has something interesting to share or teach us. Show your genuine interest in what people do and what interests them. Be an active listener. When you listen closely, you remember small details about a person and they will appreciate you for doing so. And, always start with a strong handshake!
Rita: You are juggling a lot these days and you are about to become a mother this summer. How do you find that balance, which we all strive for?
Francesca: My passions and my optimistic outlook on life often lead me to my endeavors… so work is never really “work.” And that helps me from feeling overwhelmed by what I do. I also try to leverage what I do well, rather than doing things that don’t come naturally. My friendships, professional relationships and travel are rewarding personally and have helped me grow professionally as well, for which I’m immensely grateful. Now that I’m about to become a mother, I know that I’ll be balancing the hardest job in the world with my professional life. Like all new moms, I’ll have to find the right balance for me, but I hope my work in business and in supporting women will inspire my daughter, just like my mother’s work has with me!
Rita: When you’re not thinking about new business ventures, what do you enjoy most about New York?
Francesca: Well, as I’m Italian, I love the food in New York. My favorite haunts are Sette Mezzo and Kappo Masa, and I adore the green mille crêpes at Lady M’s. I’ve had quite the sweet tooth during pregnancy!
I adore being able to spend time with my close friends in New York, going for walks in different parts of the city, which is the best way to discover new shops and restaurants. New York is a great place to indulge my love of the arts and every year I attend the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet. This is near and dear to my heart as I was a classically trained ballerina starting at the age of three. Even back then, I was fast on my feet!
When I need a quiet moment, I love visiting the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer to pray and thank God for the many blessings I’ve received. I feel so fortunate now being able to give back to others based on what I’ve learned on my incredible journey. I look forward to helping other women find their life’s mission so they too will discover great joy in inspiring and connecting others.