01 Jun 1998
Making Newsby Marguerite Rigoglioso; photograph by Webb ChappellTopics:
Traveling through Europe in the summer of 1990, Lisa Frankenberg stopped in Prague. The Czechs were reveling in their Velvet Revolution victory - the massive, peaceful demonstrations that in November 1989 had overthrown Communist rule. The excitement of a new society being born was irresistible to the bright sociology major just out of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Frankenberg found an apartment and soon launched a business venture that would make her one of the most prominent expatriates in the country.
"I saw the need for a reliable source of news and information, particularly for the English speakers who were suddenly flooding the country," says the young entrepreneur. With five other American backpackers, she helped start the country's first English-language newspaper, Prognosis, a monthly geared toward young people from around the world who were helping make Prague one of Europe's hip cities.
But Frankenberg soon realized that for an English-language paper to succeed, it would also have to appeal to the region's growing international business community. She pitched the idea for such a publication to Monroe M. Luther (MBA '64), a Houston-based fund manager whom she had serendipitously met when he was visiting Prague. With Luther's financial support, the Prague Post, a weekly publication emphasizing local and regional business news, went on the newsstands in October 1991, and the 23-year-old Frankenberg found herself president of her own company.
Despite bureaucratic difficulties in a country where laws were in flux, Frankenberg persisted in her vision to fill the new republic's information void. "Having total support from my investor made it possible," she says gratefully. Today, the Prague Post employs approximately 100 people, boasts some 43,000 readers in 59 countries, and is a respected and influential business voice for Central Europe.
After leading the paper through six years of steady growth, however, Frankenberg says she decided to come to HBS "to fill in the gaps in my financial and technical knowledge." She kept a hand in the paper's affairs as an HBS student by frequently flying back to Prague.
Frankenberg modestly brushes off inquiries about the meetings with international leaders and celebrities that have been a part of her high-profile work. "What's been most meaningful to me," she says, "is having helped rebuild Prague's Jewish community, which was nearly annihilated by the Nazis and the Communists." While living in Prague, Frankenberg worked to bring together the small remaining Jewish community with expatriate Jews through social and religious events. She even helped organize the first High Holiday services to be held in a Prague synagogue that had been closed for fifty years - a moving event, she says, that drew an unexpected crowd of more than two hundred people.
After graduation, Frankenberg will return to the Post for six months to set it on a course of expansion before leaving to work for Andersen Consulting Strategic Services in New York. "HBS case studies have exposed me to an incredibly wide range of issues, industries, and management styles," she notes. "I'm looking forward to applying the skills I've learned."