The Streets Were My Classroom
A rough life did not stop José Franco from pursuing his dreams.
He comes to business meetings with offerings of pastries, cakes, chocolates, flowers, hugs and a smile from cheek to cheek. A jolly fellow with a heart of gold, he never fails to please.
José's story starts in Uruguay where he was born, and more or less raised himself. As a child he was tossed from place to place, living in an orphanage, the streets, and with whomever took him in. Eventually marrying, as a young husband and father of three, he found himself working in the food industry importing goods from his home country to Malmö. But his road to success is far from what anyone would consider normal. It is full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and mostly the latter. "Oh don't be sad or feel sorry for me. I'm good," his eyes glistening and full of life.
In his book, "Tvingad Till Mognad I Ett Barns Kropp," ("Forced to Maturity in a Child's Body") he writes, "My life's journey began as an infant carrying an imaginary backpack, in which I had to pack everything that life began to give me since birth."
José's adoptive parents died when he was nine years old and he never knew his biological parents. Misguided, he found his way through trial and error and a long list of misfortunes including an abusive childhood, a marriage ending in divorce, distanced from his children living thousands of miles away, and the painful loss of a son.
Undeterred from his goals, and settled in Malmö for the last 17 years, he worked up to a managerial position at ICA, and has published a memoir, upon which he established a non-profit organization known as GIU (Ge Inte Upp), addressing an audience he knows intimately; men who have survived abuse. The streets were his classroom, and the lessons learned gave him the will to do more than just survive. Today, he comes to LEVEL as an entrepreneur with extraordinary drive, yearning to spread his message to more people still; in particular, men who have survived fates similar to his. Jose's outreach effort comes in the form of a podcast, a popular digital media platform used by many, and one that can garner millions of listeners. In the development phase, he comes regularly to us for advice so that he can touch the hearts of many. He certainly has touched our hearts.
Thank you, José, for being part of the LEVEL community.