Franche Founder: FRANCIE WILLIS
Francie Willis began her professional career with the Wendy Ward Charm School where she coached 6,000 young women over a period of six years. During this time, she also joined the staff of Miss Teenage America as the event choreographer. In 1976 Ms. Willis developed a Business Etiquette Program for Women nationwide. She traveled the U.S. and made presentations to fortune 500 companies, and consulted with the management staff of U.S. corporations.
In 1989, Ms. Willis took a visionary step when she co- opened Urban Retreat, now one of the leading day spas in Texas. Just four years after opening, Modern Salon and Spa, the two leading industry magazines, named Urban Retreat the 1993 and 2001 Spa of the Year. As Co-Founder and CEO of Urban Retreat, Ms. Willis also was recognized for her success by Allure, Better Homes & Gardens, Elle, Redbook, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country and Day Spa Magazine.
With her reputation well established, Ms. Willis opened Urban Retreat West Day Spa and the Urban Retreat Skin Care Center and Medi Spa. The Skin Care Center and Medi Spa offered men and women advanced skin care procedures in a clinical environment. Utilizing the knowledge gained from her skin care business, Ms. Willis created Franche?® Mineral Cosmetics and Franche?® Chirally Correct Skin Care, the first mineral-based makeup with freeze-dried vitamins and sun protection factor (SPF) 20. Franche?® launched at Henri Bendel department store in New York City. Ms. Willis believes traditional cosmetics can be changed one step at a time. In 2008 the following additions were incorporated to the Franche?® line; Reflexions, a Chirally Correct Skin Care and shaving line developed for men. “baby my baby”, a Chirally Correct Bath Care designed especially for babies; baby mousse, shampoo and moisturizer all in one and “baby my baby” balm, for the prevention and healing of diaper rash, and chapped skin due to extremely cold or hot weather conditions and CranMary Bath & Body products for women.
Ms. Willis was named one of the “Top 50 Women Business Owners” by the Houston Business Journal. Her name was on the prestigious list for twelve years. Besides her business interests, Ms. Willis has had a leading role in community service for the past 24 years. She has served on the boards of three educational institutions, including the University of Houston. As chairperson of 16 galas since 1986, she has helped raise more than $10 million for Houston charities. The galas she chaired most recently are: May 2009, Dancing With the Stars Gala, benefiting The Monarch School, February 2008, Moore School of Music Gala, benefiting Moore’s School of Music @ The University of Houston. March 2000, Houston Grand Opera Ball, benefiting the Houston Grand Opera, October 2002 Mediterranean Magic, benefiting the University of Houston, October 2000, Ann B. Norris Gala, benefiting the Houston Gulf Coast Chapter of the Sickle Cell.
Ms. Willis has received the following awards:
- “Houston Treasure Award” – February 2009, Social Book of Texas
- “Business Entrepreneur Award” – March 2009, Texas Women’s Chamber of Commerce
- “2008 Community Hero Award” – April 2008, the Houston Fire Museum
- “Texas Women’s Chamber of Commerce Business Woman of the Year” – October 2007 Texas Women’s Chamber of Commerce
- “Distinguished Service Award” – January 2007, University of Houston, HAO
- “Windows of Opportunity”, Business & Entrepreneur Honoree – December 2006, Benefiting Inner City Kids with Scholarships
- “Lifetime Volunteer” Award – November 2006, Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP)
- “Top 25 Houston Leaders and Legends Award” December 2006
- “Inspiring Business Woman of the Year” – November 2005, by The Inspire Women’s Organization
- “Top 50 Houston Woman Owned Businesses” – Consecutively 1996- 2008, Houston Business Journal and National Association of Women Business
- “Volunteer of the Year” -September 2004 by the National Association of Fund Raising Executives
- “2004 Women of Vision” – October 2004 by Houston Delta Gamma Foundation
- “Humanitarian of the Year Award” -October 2003 by the Cleveland Amory National Association
- “Community Service Award” – 2000 by the Houston Business Journal
- “Business Woman of the Year” – 1996 by A Tribute to Business Women
Ms. Willis' Published Works Include:
- Marchione, Francie, “Sugar & Spice”, (Etiquette and Charm for the 6-8 year old Princess), Houston, Texas/ Madison Press, 1978.
- Marchione, Francie, “Pre-Teen Answers”, (Etiquette, Charm and Natural Beauty for the Pre-Teen), Houston, Texas/Madison Press, 1978.
- Marchione, Francie, “A Guide to Teen Age Beauty”, Houston, Texas/ Madison Press, 1978.
- Willis, Francie, “Bonna Comes To America”, Houston, Texas/Francie Willis Publishing Co.
- Francie Willis Books For Young Readers, 1993.