Francesco Clark is founder and CEO of Clark’s Botanicals, based in Bronxville, New York. At age 24, he became paralyzed from the neck down after a swimming pool accident. Some physicians thought he would never move or breathe without assistance again. But with great effort over several years, Mr. Clark made strong progress and, given his physical-therapy experiences, developed an award-winning line of skin-care products that became Clark’s Botanicals, now sold in Europe, Asia, and the United States. We met with Mr. Clark in New York to discuss coming back from tragedy, what it takes to fight against overwhelming odds, and entrepreneurship as an option for people with disabilities and special challenges.
Kaizen: Where did you grow up?
Clark: I grew up in Italy — in Bologna — for seven years and then we moved to New York. Since sixth grade, I grew up just outside of New York City in Westchester.
Kaizen: When you were a teenager, what were you thinking your likely career would be?
Clark: My original career path was to be become a diplomat. So I went to Baltimore and studied at Johns Hopkins. I double majored in International Relations and Romance Languages. I liked that because it gave me kind of a wide funnel, a wide array of options to go into. I took the Foreign Service Exam and I passed, and it gave me the option in going into that aspect, or business, or law. But in reality, I didn’t really know what I wanted; I was just curious. I love learning and I’m still just as curious as I was before about that. And then I just kind of started working after I graduated.