Respect is the foundation of all human relationships. I once had a boss that I worked for disrespect me and since that day onward, I was no longer loyal to him. People will follow a great leader when they respect them, yet never go the extra mile when they don’t.
I had the pleasure to interview Frances Prado. Frances took her “Aha!” moment, obtained a patent and is now building her own business helping other women organize their beautiful lingerie in a convenient way. She is the Inventor and CEO of Hanging Secrets, which won her the HSN (Home Shopping Network) Project American Dreams National Contest and is now sold on HSN. She is among the only 7% of sole female inventors that have ever been granted a Patent in the U.S.
Thank you for joining us, Frances. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I would have never imagined that becoming an early empty-nester would lead me to becoming an inventor and entrepreneur. My journey as an inventor started in 2009, a time in which my responsibilities as a mother reached its pinnacle, only to be downgraded to an inevitable decline of not being needed in the same way as I had been for so many years. Both of my children were adults and had begun to build their own futures separate from me and my husband. My son Leo was in Afghanistan serving our country and my daughter Ashley was off to college. Although I was proud of their accomplishments and the promise that each of their paths held, our house was bare and their absence painfully obvious. I missed them and I was restless but determined to work my way through it.
I specifically remember asking myself, “Frances, what are you going to do with all this extra time on your hands? Girl, you better start cleaning and organizing around you!” It was not my permanent solution; I knew that, but it was a good start. I focused my attention on my bedroom, and once I opened a drawer, that was it. My “aha” moment.
What does every woman wear? Bras and panties. What does every woman need? Something to organize and to protect her intimate apparel. These luxurious delicates that empower women are too often moved from their dainty pink bags they come in and shoved into a drawer only to be forgotten and eventually damaged. What if there was a product that could protect the integrity of the elegant apparel that women pay so much for, while at the same time, display their stunning designs in a convenient and practical fashion? I took my idea to the drawing board and translated my vision onto paper. After a few hand-made prototypes, I was able to come up with Hanging Secrets. In fact, my daughter Ashley, who was 22 years old at the time, was studying to be a graphic designer and created the Hanging Secrets logo.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
At our product launch on September 24, 2015, we teamed up with beauticians to provide twelve women, who were breast cancer survivors, complete makeovers. We wanted the women to feel pampered, loved, and special. During introductions, the women shared their stories of what it meant to be a survivor. Being in their presence put everything in perspective for me. I also realized that Hanging Secrets had the ability to accommodate these women because it can hold the breast prosthetics and arm sleeves that breast cancer survivors commonly use.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During the launch party, I was so caught up in the details of the festivities that, at the time, seemed so important to me. However, during the introductions, one woman shared that she was in Stage 4 cancer. The whole room gasped because she looked healthy, beautiful, and full of life. All of a sudden all of my concerns seemed so petty. At that moment I remember that I took a deep breath and was actually a bit embarrassed with myself. The lesson I learned was that as long as we have good health, everything else is secondary.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It takes a woman to know what women need. Invented by a woman… for women… to support women. That’s Hanging Secrets. It is not only a lingerie organizer, it empowers and inspires women to embrace their femininity rather than stuff it in a drawer. Hanging Secrets and the establishment of Ageless Beautiful Clever Creations in January of 2015, have always striven to give back to the community within the work our company has done. From the very beginning, we were adamant to ensure the first recipients of Hanging Secrets were breast cancer survivors because Hanging Secrets is all about our cause. We are committed to supporting organizations that assist breast cancer survivors. We donate a percentage of our proceeds to the Virginia Ann Scheunemann Memorial Fund, which assists low-income or uninsured women by providing free products and services.
Can you share a story? How do you think that will help people?
In the spirit of living one’s best organization is key. Hanging Secrets is a patented closet bra and lingerie organizer. It offers the ability to easily store and access bras and panties, which eliminates the need to dig through a chaotic underwear drawer. Secondly, according to the Bra Whisperer Susan Nethero in a USA Today article, “You can double the life of a bra with proper wear and care.” Hanging Secrets properly maintains the shape of bras, thereby increasing the longevity that women will be able to keep these delicate, yet expensive, purchases. Furthermore, women can feel good about using a helpful product from a wonderful company, which also happens to support a worthy cause.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Create an emotional connection with your team. This is crucial. Show genuine compassion for their personal life inside of work and at home. Understand that it’s okay to share some of your joys and heartbreaks with them. This will show them that you’re not perfect and that you’re human just like them. This makes you relatable and creates an organic foundation and atmosphere for the aforementioned emotional connection. It’s not forced. It just happens.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Identify the talents of each team member, and then match their talents to their work tasks. You not only want them to be clear as to what their job duties are but to actually do the work that they are good at. Cultivate a culture of trust, coach them, and mentor each team member to their full potential. Show your team respect, a positive attitude, empathy, provide support, protect them, make them feel valued, and correct and discipline them when necessary. Be consistent and lead by example.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? Did you have a person who you’re prepared to place here?
My parents and I were field workers in the late 1960s through the early 1970s. They worked from dawn till dusk. My father made sure we were the first ones to arrive in the fields and the last ones to leave. They instilled within us a strong work ethic through their example and our experience. They taught us to be persistent, to set goals, and to be productive. All of this with a “don’t-complain-and-just-get-it–done” attitude. These skills were put in my head as a child. I’m forever grateful. And for me, it’s been the best inheritance a child could receive from their parents. These “birthrights” couldn’t have been bought for me, nor can they be taken from me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My personal contributions of goodness are in my mentoring. I believe we have to continually learn, and most importantly, we have to continually share our knowledge along the way to foster, empower, and support the next generation. I pass along my business knowledge to future inventors; I teach Kid Inventors at Chula Vista’s LBM Academy in my spare time. While there, my goal is to plant the seed of creativity and develop within the children the self-confidence they need in order for them to have the courage to discover their talent and follow their dreams. It’s an eight-week pilot program that started Jan.25th and is ready to launch its summer session sometime in July. Statistics show that only seven percent of patents issued in the United States are issued to sole female inventors. Out of every 1000 patents issued, only three are issued to sole Latina inventors. If I can have a positive impact on those numbers in the future by helping children in the present that would be a big win for me.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Respect is the foundation of all human relationships. I once had a boss that I worked for disrespect me and since that day onward, I was no longer loyal to him. People will follow a great leader when they respect them, yet never go the extra mile when they don’t.
2) Clear communication leads to compassion and empathy. Understanding the perspective of another gives way for leaders to view situations and people from different angles, and to, therefore, make choices that serve the interests of the greater good.
3) A positive attitude is important. As a leader, you set the tone and energy for your team. Your energy is contagious and your people can feel it within you in person, via email, or text. I earned this positive attitude from my mother. At one point we were homeless, but Mom maintained a loving and positive attitude, which got us through that tough situation.
4) Consistency is another significant lesson. It requires discipline. A leader without discipline isn’t a leader at all. When a leader exemplifies consistency, it sends a powerful message that the daily goals are met, regardless of the challenges that arise.
5) Self-control demonstrates the ability to remain calm under any set of circumstances. You need to maintain a clear mind to make the necessary decisions in a matter of seconds because your team trusts that you will do so. I learned this from Mom as well.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Maintaining life and work balance is challenging. It requires constant pivoting and adjusting to co-occurring daily situations and events at home and work. I’ve learned that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Some days are going to be harder than others. You just need to embrace what comes your way and move forward, while keeping family first. My family is my number one priority. They make me happy and their presence gives me the inner peace I need to keep going. I have never met a woman who has not shared her guilt of not managing motherhood and career like she wanted to, including myself. The movement I would like to inspire is #FeelNoGuilt.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Create your dreams. Crave your dreams. Cultivate your dreams.” This is a quote that I authored, live by, and one that I invite others to live by as well. Ideas, dreams, and goals begin in the mind, and it’s up to you to take action and to take care of them. I took action as an inventor and entrepreneur. Hanging Secrets evolved from inspiration at a time in my life when I had the space to receive it because I was a new empty-nester. My mind was open to new ideas. Nevertheless, I had the ambition to do something with the concept, and I now have the compassion to take care of my invention and business as if they are my children.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love the opportunity to have breakfast With Michelle Obama. Back in 2016, she organized an event called the United States of Women Summit held in Washington, D.C. I was one of 5,000 women selected to attend. That event was life changing. It was a turning point in my life because it was a reminder that if we [as women] stick together and support one another, we can achieve so much more than if we were to work alone. After my experience at the summit, I was so motivated and excited to read Michelle’s book Becoming once it was released. What I enjoyed most about that bestseller was that it awakened me to the idea that the love of family is universal. Her love for her family is so evident in her present life and within her past as depicted in the book. She’s inspiring, beautiful, and warm.
Thank you for joining us!