Diamond venture leads Hudson grad to friendship with diplomat
Hudson played host to former Sierra Leone Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana this month s he visited old friend and Hudson grad Todd Franck.
Sam-Sumana was in the country to receive an IChange Nations award ahead of his presidential campaign in Sierra Leone.
The relationship between Sam-Sumana and Franck started years ago when Franck was looking to set up a diamond export business from Sierra Leone.
Franck made his first trips in 2008 getting the lay of the land, and began business in 2009.
The son of an independent salesman, Franck has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Previously he's worked on a coffee machine development, juice bar, art gallery and mortgage company, so he was willing to give the diamond business a try.
"It was really just on a whim," he said.
The adventure, however, did not go as planned. He discovered the syndicate he was working with was just trying to get his money. His first delivery of diamonds turned out to be nothing but broken glass.
Once back home, Franck, with the help of a new attorney contact, was able to arrange a meeting at the Sierra Leone embassy in D.C. It was here that he first met then Vice President Sam-Sumana, bringing forward complaints about his exporting experience.
"I was creating a stir," Franck said. "I was very upset."
After bringing the issue forward, Franck received a threatening phone call from the men he had been working with in Sierra Leone. They told him never to come back to their country.
"I was back within three days," Franck said.
In Sierra Leone again, despite the threats, Franck once again met up with Sam-Sumana, who provided him with members of his own security detail while in the country.
"We built up a friendship over six years," he said.
The men who had scammed Franck were apprehended, though the leader was eventually able to get away.
Sam-Sumana helped Franck get better established in the country, and Franck got more education on diamond cutting and grading so Franck could begin exporting on his own.
"You're not going to rely on anyone else here," Franck said Sam-Sumana told him.
He developed offices in two towns and went out around the country buying rough minerals. The business was difficult, and costly.
"The costs of getting those diamonds just offset what you would end up making," Franck said.
With too much financial loss, he had to quit the business in 2014. Franck returned to doing business in Hudson at a mortgage company.
That next year, Sam-Sumana was removed from office by the president. He has since launched a presidential campaign, something that Franck said he is more than willing to support.
"I just told him I wanted to help him," Franck said.
If Sam-Sumana's presidential race is successful, Franck hopes to re-establish his connection to the country.
"The connection to the country and to the people and the family that I gained over there as well is immeasurable," Franck said.
While there with his diamond business, Franck was able to give back to his newfound community, in small ways like buying a soda for a child and larger ways like helping build a dojo for a karate school.
"That's what keeps me going back," he said.
He hopes to do even more if he has the opportunity to return, especially with Sam-Sumana as president.
"It would allow me to give back a lot more," Franck said.
After a couple days with Franck, Sam-Sumana is continuing to work towards elections in March, and Franck will continue to help his friend.
"I will be back in Sierra Leone next year," he said. "I'm hoping I'll actually be there for the elections."