Francesco Rulli is a Judo Master, entrepreneur, and advocate for women in digital literacy.
In 2009, as I was engaging in a journey of self-realization and discovery, I sought answers to questions in my life through meditation in my New York yoga studio. But instead, I found Mr. Rulli. Francesco’s many career accomplishments includes being the founder of both a film-based social media platform, Film Annex, and also his not-for-profit organization Women Annex, an organization that supports digital literacy in Third-World countries. We became immediate friends because of the common passion we share for sports, life philosophy, and fine cappuccino.
“Why aren’t there more entrepreneurs in America?” This hot-blooded Italian brimming with wide-ranging ideas asked when we first met. I clearly remember his answer, “We all need creativity and freedom to become balance whole human beings.” He encouraged me to start my own business and become more expressive about my ideas. At that time, years ago, I was still working in a corporate environment. Little did we know that he would become my mentor in life and that I would finally find myself working and living for what I am passionate about years later.
Francesco, a native of Florence, Italy, traveled to America in the pursuit of love and ended up calling New York City his home. He has several successful businesses which includes fashion and film. He pursued fashion, drawing upon his experience with fine Italian apparel. He studied film, specifically documentary production which led him to create Film Annex, a social media platform. He also brings his athleticism to professional sports, where he’s involved with two football teams. While Film Annex is his primary outlet, Francesco also focuses a great deal of energy on building schools in the Middle East and helping women have better access to the digital world via Women Annex. He devotes not only his expertise to this cause, but also invests his own funds to help the organization grow. Francesco shares the impetus for his organization:
“In my opinion, women in Afghanistan…need connectivity. Often, for cultural reasons, they are locked in their home. Instead of changing their culture, saying that men should let women outside, we provide tools for women to be financially self-efficient. Organically, their family will become more open to greater freedoms in consideration of better digital literacy among women.”
Francesco sponsors one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2013, Roya Mahboob, to establish schools and spread digital literacy in Afghanistan and other Third-World countries through the Women Annex Foundation. Together with Film Annex, he helps to build Women Annex Web TV, which provides a great gateway for women to speak their mind anonymously. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, Women Annex Web TV uses customized meta (animated characters) on a member’s profile photo instead of real pictures to adjust to different cultural restrictions. Mr. Rulli believes the best way to empower women around the world is to provide both literacy and the platform for women to express and share their opinions, which is what women Annex Web TV seeks to accomplish.
For Francesco, entrepreneurship is like a playground where he gets to take a creative and fun approach to expressing his beliefs about life and his faith in humanity. From fashion to films to charity, Francesco seems to sail smoothly from one field to another. How did he become a successful entrepreneur?
“The first step is that you have to train yourself to accept failure. I make a hundred mistakes a month, and I have to learn from my mistakes. I am very lucky, [I learned my life lesson from sports]. I have done 30 years of Judo, and I have competed in many competitions. I lost many matches…I think it is very important to accept defeat and learn from mistakes. The fear of making mistakes is the biggest obstacle for people to succeed. It is very important to focus on one specific thing and to go all the way instead of having ten things going on and just doing them halfway.” Sports like Judo or surfing help us keep on going after failure, and this mentality is the key in our life as independent thinkers.
Mr. Rulli’s words have guided me throughout the years. We both agree having a supportive mentor for business, health, and life is one of the key elements to become successful.
“I would suggest finding mentors who come from a different culture. They offer different doors that you are not able to reach.” Francesco now lives in NYC, where every time he steps outside his home he gets to meet people from various cultures who possess different perspectives and expertise. He continues to emphasize that one needs to identity the best environment for one’s own journey to success. Also, he believes there’s a direct correlation between the body and mind. Therefore, sports and simply being active are very important to overcome stressful situations.
Surfing, for example, allows surfers to deal with different kinds of unpredictable situations, such as tides, weather, water and wind currents. Also, surfers need to make peace with the ocean by being patient and respecting the wildlife in the sea. Being in water is like being in a business situation— how you calmly deal with the uncertainty and unpredictability of a vast, dynamic, and diverse environment is the key to success.
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