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Silla Francis

Silla Francis has always made a place in her life for art. Born in South Korea, she began doodling and drawing cartoons early on. As a young girl, she immigrated to America with her hard-working parents and was raised in Houston. Soon, Silla was saving her allowance to buy Italian Vogue.
 
“I think from a young age, I started to figure out that I liked details,” she says. The editorial photos and visual artistry of fashion magazines inspired her to sketch whatever caught her eye. This love for drawing motivated Silla to pursue an arts education.
 
But the decision wasn’t an easy one. Silla’s father passed away when she was at college, and she suddenly felt a great responsibility toward her family. Thinking she would make her dad proud and be able to care for her mother and younger brother, Silla planned to become a doctor and earn a good living. But abandoning her drawing pencil for a stethoscope was unimaginable. “I was so young and naive,” Silla says. “Though it was misguided, I just wanted to support my family. Both of my parents had worked so hard and sacrificed so much, I felt like it was my turn.”
Realizing that medicine wasn’t right for her, Silla fell in love once again with the arts and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design from Baylor University. Her free time was spent teaching inner-city kids in after-school programs at the Art Center in Waco. Any chance she could find, Silla tapped into her artistic side.
It was probably kismet. Her dad was artsy by nature, and Silla suspects he would have been a fashion designer had the choice been his. It’s from him that she got her eye for detail and her laser-like focus, which are a boon for her online hair accessories business, Silla Soup.
 
It all began when she was living in Boston for a few years with her husband Jeff and their two young children, Noah, now 12 years old, and Darby, now 10. Silla started channeling her creative energies as a stay-at-home mom into working with felt. “I had leisurely started making clips for my daughter and soon saw that each one was like a tiny canvas,” she remembers. She then began selling her creations on Etsy, the website for handmade goods that she occasionally scoured for unique finds.
 
Not a bold person by nature, Silla found success in her e-commerce business partly through the amazing group of friends who spread the word about Silla Soup and partly because of the quality of her work. “Once my stuff did get out there, it spoke for itself,” she says of her humble beginnings.
 
Most recently, Silla has started to use her hair accessories to impact the cancer community. Reading a news article one day, “It dawned on me,” she says, “when I read that what affects girls and women with cancer the most is losing their hair. It strips them of their identity. So I thought this is a clear way for me to be able to give back.”
 
Her daughter Darby suggested using soft, thick headbands that would be comfortable on bare skin. Silla then borrowed the one-for-one model for which TOMS is known and donated the first batch of hair accessories last fall to the MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Knowing that I’m doing something that’s beyond just making some money, knowing that I can help girls and women … that’s sustainable,” she says.
 
The charitable component seems to have breathed new life into Silla Soup, which is getting a new website and logo this spring with plans to achieve an even bigger online presence. “I count myself lucky in so many ways. To be able to work from home, I can still be here for my kids,” Silla says.
 
With Noah and Darby on the cusp of the tween years, Silla and Jeff make family a priority. They spend time together enjoying movie nights, big dinners with lots of different foods, and father-daughter and mother-son dates that usually involve laser tag.
 
Noah is coming into his own with a passion for Taekwondo and plenty of sarcasm on the side. “He has this wit,” Silla says. “I’m just so proud.” He’s always the first to ask how his mom’s sales are doing.
 
Darby meanwhile is taking after Silla, tagging along at craft shows, contributing ideas for color combinations and even modeling some of her mom’s designs. Naturally, she received a sewing machine for Christmas.
 
The family of four is putting down solid roots in Grapevine, where they love having a chicken coop and a pool in the backyard. After living in Plano for seven years, they’d been looking for a change of pace and more connection with their community. Now, they’re part of a neighborhood where the kids have Nerf wars and slumber parties nearly every weekend. Piano lessons with a teacher down the street and a school homecoming parade that everyone attends make suburban life all the nicer.
 
But one of the best parts about the Francis family is their “happy jar.” Whenever the kids are caught being nice to each other, Silla sticks a dollar in it to fund something fun. There’s currently a balance of 60 bucks. That could buy a ton of Italian Vogue, but it’ll more likely end up as a nice long night of laser tag.

Published March 2014