Introducing The 24 Hour Outfit, Sustainably & Ethically Made in Brooklyn

This is an interview with Factory45’er Rachel Fernbach about the launch of her brand PonyBabe. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Rachel is raising money (update: has raised money) for her first production run of The 24 Hour Outfit.

What are you pre-selling on Kickstarter?

PonyBabe is a line focused on creating ultra comfy, versatile wardrobe staples for women. The clothing is made from premium super soft eco-friendly fabric and manufactured in Brooklyn, NY.  

The 24 Hour Outfit, now available for pre-sale on Kickstarter, is a collection of 4 pieces: a large wrap, a racerback tank top, a cardigan, and a pair of delicately pleated pants. Meant to be mixed, matched, layered, and worn on repeat – the 24 Hour Outfit is ideal for creative professionals, expecting/new mamas, yogis/meditators/dancers, minimalists, and travelers.

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Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

I started PonyBabe with personal savings, and did not have the cashflow to fund my first production run. I needed to raise money to get that going, and also wanted to make sure there was a demand for the clothing before getting any deeper into the process. As a new label, Kickstarter is an ideal way for me to raise money while also testing the waters, and it’s an effective way to spread the word about PonyBabe.

What was the most challenging aspect of creating your campaign?

Oh my goodness. I’m not going to lie: If I had known how challenging this all would be, I… still would have done it, but at least I would have been emotionally prepared for the insanity of doing so many new things for the first time!

I would say that what has been most challenging is simply the fact that I came into this industry with very little knowledge, and have had to learn so many new things, on a constant basis. (How to get samples and patterns made, how to produce a photoshoot and video shoot, how to use social media, how to build a website… the list goes on.)  It’s tiring, exhilarating, exciting, and also super cool to learn new things — but some days my bandwidth runneth low…

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You’ve done months of prep. What helped you keep up your momentum and motivation?

I started building my email list very early, and though it has grown slowly, having a supportive circle of dedicated and caring people has been priceless… each time I sent out an update (even if it was to say that things weren’t going as planned), I received back an email here and there encouraging me to keep it up and make those clothes. Those little love notes really kept my spirits up when things were hard.

Can you give us a little insight into your campaign strategy? What has been working and what hasn’t worked as well?

The clothes I’m making are a great fit for a lot of different lifestyles. With that in mind, I honed in on a few niches – yoga, dance, minimalism, eco-fashion, American-made, and maternity – and researched blogs, boutiques, magazines, and influencers who might have an interest in seeing PonyBabe get funded. It’s pretty early in my campaign, so I’m still waiting to see what winds up working best!

What seems helpful is connecting through my networks – i.e., friends of friends seem much more likely to want to help… but I’m not letting that stop me from reaching out to others as well.  As in all arenas of life, relationships are key: it’s important to make personal connections, and make offers to give instead of just making requests to receive.

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What do you do when self doubt starts to creep up?

Notice it, allow it to have some space, then choose to focus on the positive. I actively shift my attention to what is going well, while also acknowledging that this is a stressful experience, and it’s normal and healthy to feel a little nervous or worried from time to time.

My nerdy self-encouragement mantra right now is “People love me and want me to succeed.”  It’s surprisingly motivating! 🙂

What’s your favorite reward being offered in your campaign?

The Whole Outfit, of course! Each piece is great on its own, but putting on the whole outfit is pretty much a perfect recipe for instant comfy cozy bliss. I love how it makes me feel like cuddling up with a mug of tea and a good book.

If you had one piece advice for someone considering launching a Kickstarter, what would it be?

Go for it! And ask for help from people, because it’s a lot for one person to take on.

You can check out Rachel’s campaign for The 24 Hour Outfit by PonyBabe here

 

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Sew Shop Talk: Introducing APaDS

Note from Shannon: This is a guest post by Savannah Fender who is currently a Master of Science candidate in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, College of Textiles, at North Carolina State University. 


When you think of fashion and apparel what are some of the top cities that come to mind?

The majority of people would probably identify with New York and Los Angles or Milan and Paris. However, it is what’s hidden under our noses that can help entrepreneurs thrive.

Against popular belief, the sewn goods and textile industry is alive and well within the United States.

Many times the facilities are a lot closer to home than you think. Perhaps they are even your next-door neighbors.

Today, we are going to be touring Apparel Prototyping and Design Solutions, LLC (APaDS) in Pelzer, SC. With a population of just below 100 people, you probably weren’t taught about Pelzer in your eighth-grade geography class! Pelzer is about a 20-minute drive south of Greenville, SC.

There I met with Darlene Martin, the senior pattern maker at APaDS with 28 years of experience; and Elroy Pierce, Founder of APaDS with over 38 years of experience in apparel manufacturing.

Before we got started with an in-depth discussion about domestic production, I took a tour of APaDS. The facility was established in May 2014, as a result of Clemson University making a decision to shut down Clemson Apparel Research (CAR). APaDS, where Darlene and Elroy are today is located at 6931 Hwy 29 N, Pelzer, SC, with six office spaces, a digital patternmaking room, and an open floorplan sewing/cutting room.

Darlene got started in the industry when she was in her early 20s. She had taken a home economics course in high school and discovered her passion for sewing. Darlene went to work  at a local “blouse plant” and from there, her mentor taught her pattern work straight from fabric draping.

They worked for clients like Victoria’s Secret, Sears, and Coldwater Creek. As CAD (computer-aided design) programs became more popular, Darlene’s company encouraged her to go to Atlanta for a two-week program to learn digitizing and grading. Darlene hasn’t stopped working in the industry since.

Even in shutdowns she managed to keep pushing.

Today APaDS is working with about 150 different clients, including Reese Witherspoon’s brand Draper James.

When you enter APaDS you can see firsthand the passion the employees put into their work. For the people at APaDS, domestic manufacturing was what they always knew, so why move away from it?

They understand the industry has changed drastically and are willing to adapt everyday.

When asked what trades-off companies have to take to stay domestic, Elroy responded:

“There is still a large skill set in the States, it is diminishing very quickly… companies are going to have to look to semi-automation… produce smaller qualities on a faster turn time, than what they did in old production… ”

APaDS is very optimistic about the future of American manufacturing, although it will take time, they feel they are doing their part to promote domestic manufacturing and help entrepreneurs grow.

APaDS is passionate about what they are creating.

If you are looking for someone in the same time zone (or even just a few hours off) that is willing to work with you face-to-face to produce outstanding quality, this is certainly a place your products can be developed.

Breaking it down:

  • What can APaDS do for you?

>> They are the front people you want to be working with before manufacturing or mass-producing. APaDS can help with your sewn product needs from pattern design, pattern grading, marker plotting, garment samples, garment costing, industrial engineering, apparel consulting, and even small runs (upon request). These are some of the initial steps you MUST take before finding a manufacturer that will work with you.

  • How much do they cost?

>> They are very competitive and cost varies depending on the services and needs of a client.

  • Do I need a Tech Pack?

>> Not necessarily, however it will save APaDS some time when it comes to product development. If you don’t have a technical pack created, APaDS is more than happy to help you format exactly what you need page by page.

  • Am I allowed to visit the facility?

>> APaDS loves it when their clients come for initial consultations, or later in the process to view their work. However, if you aren’t near the area don’t let that stop you! Darlene is very accessible via phone, email, and even Skype.

  • What is the time frame for a returned product?

>> Anywhere from 4-6 weeks.

  • What if I already have a pattern ready?

>> The timeframe may be shortened a bit, but the pattern will still need to be reviewed by Darlene for marking and digitalizing.  

To learn more about the incredible people working at APaDS, be sure to check out their website here and Facebook page here.


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Savannah Fender is currently a Master of Science candidate in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management, College of Textiles, at North Carolina State University. She completed her B.F.A at Radford University in Fashion Design and Marketing. She is currently in her last semester at NC State working on her thesis, which focuses on domestic manufacturing within the sewn goods and  textile industry. Savannah is passionate about garment production and helping entrepreneurs thrive!

 

 


4 Ways to Negotiate Minimums with Fabric Suppliers

There are so many moving parts that go into launching a sustainable apparel company and one of the steps that can take the longest is fabric sourcing.

As any seasoned designer knows, the moment you realize you have found the fabric can be a mixture of relief, hope and — apprehension.

The first question that will come into your mind is:

Can I meet the supplier’s minimum order quantity (MOQ)?

Maybe you’re planning to start out with 500 yards (or less) because you’re just getting your brand up and running.

It wouldn’t be unheard of for a supplier to require an MOQ of 1,000 (or more) yards, and there may be many reasons for it depending on who you’re working with.

The first thing you need to is find out why the minimums are set at the amount that they are, keeping in mind that the exact reasons will be specific to the individual suppliers.

Once you find out their “why,” you’ll be better equipped to negotiate.

And then you can devise a plan.

Before you start to propose negotiations, make sure you’re not making one of these other fabric sourcing mistakes and take a look at the supplier’s website before you call or email.

Sometimes you can find the MOQ and the company’s capabilities right on the site, and it can help set you up to make the perfect proposal for negotiation.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you devise the right plan:

>> When a supplier sets a MOQ because of time efficiency for custom dyeing your fabric, offer to pay  a flat “dye fee” in addition to the per yard cost of the fabric. This may add to the final cost of the order, but it will likely be much cheaper than ordering three times the amount you need just to meet the MOQ.

>> If the MOQ is in place because it “costs what it costs,” then you can either offer to put down a deposit, but place smaller orders at a time OR you can see if there is the option of “piggy-backing” onto one of their existing client’s orders and splitting the cost. Keep in mind that your production schedule will need to be flexible.

>> If the MOQ is in place because it’s a custom order, let’s say there’s a very particular blue fabric you want but it’s never carried in stock, it may be worth conceding to what the supplier already has available in their warehouse. If you can meet the minimums of an in-stock fabric that is only a slightly different shade of blue, then it’s probably worth settling for it. You don’t want to be so committed to your original vision, that you can’t see the “good enough” version staring you in the face.

>> And lastly, you can try offering to pay a higher price per yard, in order to purchase less than their normal MOQ.

There are many ways that you can go about this, and you will find and choose what works best for you. Go with your instincts, but don’t force it. 

If a supplier won’t budge, then it’s better to cut your losses amicably rather than burn a bridge. When one door closes another opens…

Remember, that no matter what avenue you choose for negotiation this is your journey, your brand and your company’s future.

Give it all you got.


 

Launch Your Clothing Company with Factory45

*UPDATE: Applications to the 2016 program of Factory45 are now closed! Enrollment will open again in Spring 2017. Get on the list to be notified here.*

YES, you can now apply to join the 2016 program of Factory45!

If it’s the right fit, I’d love to have the opportunity to work with you.

You can get all of the details about the program here.

Over the past two years, Factory45 has helped entrepreneurs from all over the country launch clothing companies that are sustainably and ethically made in the USA.

Whether you still can’t find a fabric supplier whose minimums you can afford or the process of finding a manufacturer has been a giant headache, I know there is a way to launch your company with more confidence, less frustration and without wasting valuable time and money.

In fact, I’ve proven it.

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to share my own story of entrepreneurship, introduce you to some of the alumni who have successfully launched through Factory45, and answer all of your questions about what you can expect.

If you’ve been waiting months for this day to come, then I invite you to fill out your application now.

If you’re still new to Factory45 and aren’t sure what it’s all about, then click the play button below. We’ve been working on this video project for months, and I’m so excited to be able to finally share it with everyone today.

Get inspired, get to know me and get ready. If you’ve been dreaming of starting your own apparel company but haven’t known where to start, Factory45 may be just what you’re looking for.

Apply to join me here.

 

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P.S. If there’s someone in your life who’s been talking about starting a clothing company please share the Factory45 application with them.

Entrepreneurship was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I hope that everyone (who wants to) gets the chance to run their own business.

Fashion Revolution

What is Fashion Revolution Week & Why Should You Care?

Three years ago this week, a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed in the middle of the workday, killing 1,134 workers and injuring over 2,500 others.

The workers who perished in the worst tragedy in the history of the world’s garment industry were making the clothes that we buy — from western retailers such as, J.C. Penney, Joe Fresh, Benetton, The Children’s Place, Inditex (the parent company of Zara), The North Face and Wal-Mart, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign.

Igniting a long overdue call-to-arms by a concerned group of educators, designers, journalists and consumers, “Fashion Revolution Day” was created as a global movement to commemorate those lives lost, while promoting a conversation around supply chain transparency.

Three years after its inception, Fashion Revolution Day has become Fashion Revolution Week and tens of thousands of consumers from across the world will be asking brands, #whomademyclothes as part of a global social media campaign.

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As activist Livia Firth points out, you can “become an active citizen through your wardrobe,” and here’s why you should:

1.) Not only is fast fashion cheating its workers, it’s cheating you.

It’s no secret that fast fashion retailers such as Zara, Forever21 and H&M design clothes to fall apart. It’s the foundation of their bottom line.

The fast fashion business model is dependent on consumers buying fashion in excess. The clothing only lasts a few washes so that you’re prompted to go out and buy more.

“When you go to make a purchase, take a look at the product and ask yourself: ‘Am I being cheated?’” Maxine Bedat, co-founder of eCommerce company Zady told Fortune. “If a product from a fast fashion chain is falling apart before you’ve even bought it, it’s not a deal. It’s the fast fashion company trying to get you to buy something that is quick on trend but slow on quality.”

2.) “Discounts” aren’t really discounts.

The “discounted” designer labels you think you’re buying from outlets like TJ Maxx and Saks’ Off 5th have likely never seen a designer label before, according to Jay Hallstein in “The Myth of the Maxxinista.”

In fact, the “excess” or unsellable items that you think you’re getting at a fraction of the price are likely produced in an entirely different factory than the designer brand you think you’re buying.

As Hillary Crosley writes in her article for Jezebel, “The jig is up: Big brands like J. Crew, Gap and Saks’ Off 5th aren’t selling you discounted or out of season merchandise at their outlet locations. You’re just buying lower quality cardigans and patterned pants.” 

The reality is that outlet stores (under the name of brands like J. Crew and Banana Republic) have actually become fast fashion retailers of their own. In an effort to keep up with the rapid pace of the giant fast fashion brands, these outlet stores must lower cost and lower quality to compete on price.

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3.) Fashion is a $3 trillion industry and many of its workers are children and marginalized women.

The next time you chase a sale for $4.95 dresses, ask yourself: “How is that possible?” Seriously, think about it. How does that dress magically appear in front of you at such a cheap price?

Somewhere, someone has to pay for it and it’s likely at the cost of indentured servitude. Yes, slavery.

As of 2016, there are an estimated 27-30 million enslaved men, women and children across the globe, according to non-profit Made in a Free World.

There are people in countries such as Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh and India who are forced to work against their will. Whether they’re picking cotton or tanning leather, they don’t earn a penny for making your clothing. They are literally bound to a life of enslavement with very little hope of getting out.

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4.) Fast fashion is anti-feminist.

I’m not about to go on a political rant, but if you do consider yourself a feminist then it’s time to start thinking seriously about how your values are reflected in your closet.

Of the 1000+ people who died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the vast majority of them were young women. It’s estimated that 80 percent of the women working in garment factories in developing world countries come from rural areas to seek out a better life with little education.

“Many face working excessive hours – often 14-16 hours per day – with forced overtime and no job security, for poverty wages and without trade union rights recognized,” Ilana Winterstein, a director at Labour Behind The Label told HuffPost UK Lifestyle. “They suffer poor health, are victims of sexual and physical abuse and cannot afford to send their children to school.”

With inadequate health and safety checks, in the worst case resulting in tragedies like Rana Plaza, Winterstein says the repression of trade unions means that workers are too fearful to speak out about their reality.

5.) You actually have the power.

That’s right, you have the power to change an industry that so desperately needs to be revolutionized.

Fashion is the third-most damaging industry to the planet — after oil and animal agriculture — and it’s all so that we can we can enjoy a little retail therapy.

I don’t think any of us would try to justify the deaths of 1,134 people for our fashion needs, so why do we keep buying and supporting the brands that we know don’t deserve our dollars?

It’s not too late to get educated, stay informed and make your own individual impact. With the help of Fashion Revolution Week, it’s the perfect time to start.

Find more information on how to get involved here. Attend a Fashion Revolution event in your city, by browsing the event list here. Photos courtesy of www.fashionrevolution.org.

 

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Please forward and share this post to spread the word about Fashion Revolution Week and help your friends become informed. We have the power when we use our voices.


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The Most Important Step of Pre-Production

The Most Important Step of Pre-Production: An Interview with Good Clothing Company

If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you know that I’m a big fan of Kathryn Hilderbrand, who is the owner of Good Clothing Company, a cut and sew manufacturer in Massachusetts.

From tailor to designer to full-scale manufacturer, Kathryn has seen more parts of the apparel industry than most people. She is an expert in her field and today she is bringing that knowledge to Factory45.

Following up from the last interview I did with Mindy Martell of Clothier Design Source, my interview with Kathryn goes more in depth to focus on only one piece of the apparel production puzzle.

In this 15-minute interview, Kathryn and I discuss:

  • Why it’s so important to know that a home-sewing pattern and production-ready pattern are not the same thing.
  • What an entrepreneur needs to have ready to begin the pattern-making process.
  • Why patternmaking is so important to the pre-production phase.
  • How each step of the patternmaking process work.
  • What an entrepreneur can do to ensure the patternmaking process goes as smoothly as possible.
  • Why you shouldn’t expect the very first pattern to come out perfect.
  • The importance of fit and specs.
  • And much more.

Click the video below to watch the whole interview.


If you thought the interview with Kathryn was helpful, we’d love for you to share it — use the social sharing buttons for the platform of your choice (they’re on the left and down below!).

 

 


3 Podcasts for Sustainable Fashion & Startup Inspiration

Has anyone else jumped on the podcast train? I can’t seem to get enough of them.

I’ve shared before that podcasts have been apart of my morning routine since 2014. It’s usually the first thing I do when my alarm goes off.

Recently, though, I’ve had the opportunity to get in front of the microphone myself. So today, I wanted to share three different interviews I’ve done (about three different topics) in case you’re like me, and are constantly looking for more content to tune into:

The Creative Giant Show: How to Sew Business Success in the Fashion Industry with Sustainable Apparel Strategist Shannon Whitehead.

I connected with host Charlie Gilkey back in 2010 when I was just starting to explore the world of entrepreneurship. And I was recently invited on his podcast to talk about:

  • Why I decided to start a sustainable apparel company, despite the risks involved.
  • Which challenges to consider if you’re thinking about starting a clothing company.
  • Which business trends are disrupting the fashion industry.

>> Listen here 

Conscious Chatter: Made in the USA

I mentioned this new podcast in my blog post from last week — it was started by my friend Kestrel Jenkins who has been in the sustainable fashion industry for years. Our interview focuses on “Made in the USA” and Kestrel and I discuss:

  • How outsourcing affected the U.S. economy after NAFTA was signed.
  • Why localized manufacturing is important for every country.
  • How the movement is growing because of small, independent brands.

>> Listen here

Bootstrapping It: Creating an Online Accelerator Program for Apparel Startups with Shannon Whitehead, Founder of Factory45

Host Vince Carter interviews entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping their companies rather than trying to raise VC funding. So, of course, we had a lot to talk about. In the interview, we cover:

  • Why you should be honest with yourself about your business ambitions.
  • How to use Kickstarter and pre-sales to fund your business startup.
  • How to strategize so that you spend your startup funds on the right resources.

>> Listen here

Enjoy!

 

 

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Introducing the Entrepreneurs of Factory45 Fall 2015: Part IV

It’s hard to believe six months have passed since Factory45 started and my third cohort embarked on this program. We will wrap up the Fall 2015 program on April 1st and applications for the 2016 program will open on May 18th.

Before then, I want to introduce you to another batch of entrepreneurs I worked with this year (in no particular order). If you missed introductions to the other Factory45’ers I’ve highlighted, you can read those here, here and here.

And if you’re feeling inspired or motivated to start your own sustainable apparel company, make sure you’re on my list here so I can notify you when applications open in May.

gillian-nashGillian Nash is a bridal designer in the East Village of New York City. In addition to headpieces and hair adornment, Gillian creates gowns with three silhouettes: strapless, spaghetti and sleeved. She then overlays each gown with draped tulle and handmade silk flowers to make custom bridalwear. Each headpiece is handmade using traditional flower-making techniques that Gillians says are a lost art in the present day. Gillian Nash Bridal is “sustainably handmade with love” and will launch in Autumn 2016.

 

amy-rubinAmy Rubin is based in Indianapolis and is launching an active vintage-wear line called Polymath Apparel. Her first line, MODified, is a collection of contemporary, sustainable fabrics, as well as patterned vintage fabrics. The intention for the collection is to create looks with a “mod” touch inspired by bold colors and graphic lines of the 1960’s and 70’s. The Polymath mood board is live on Instagram and you can sign up for launch updates here.

 

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Ginamarie Georgees & Chauntea Foster came together as business partners in Southern California to launch Mharbana, a sustainable athletic apparel line that uses superior fabrics and embodies an empowered lifestyle. With fitness being a main focus of their daily routines, Ginamarie and Chauntea are appealing to the cross-fit and bodybuilding community that they’ve grown to know. You can sign up for launch updates here and learn more about the mission behind Mharbana on their blog.

 

heather-cucciaHeather Cuccia is the founder of Fairly Fauna, a cruelty-free and vegan boutique that promotes healthy living. As Heather was curating other lines to sell through her online store, she realized there weren’t many animal-free clothing companies to choose from. She’s now creating her own line to fill the hole in the market. Fairly Fauna works with animal rescue groups and is a partner of Being Pawsitive, an online magazine dedicated to pets. You can shop vegan and cruelty-free fashion on Fairly Fauna here.

 

Jason Ozenkoski

Jason Ozenkoski started his entrepreneurial journey one serendipitous evening when he was bartending at a community lake house. He saw a couple sitting by the lake and the man was to trying to keep his wife warm by draping a beach towel over but it kept falling down. Envisioning a better solution, Jason came up with a prototype for a convertible blanket / jacket that he later named The Thracket (throw jacket). From 2001 until now, Jason received both wholesale and direct orders, but wanted to avoid moving manufacturing overseas. He’s held out to set up manufacturing in the U.S. and rebrand the product. He’s aiming to start production in the Carolinas in 2016.

In case you missed it last week, Factory45’er VETTA is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for their five-piece capsule collection that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits. You can check out their campaign and order pieces for pre-sale here.

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Why Appealing to Less People Will Help You Make More Sales

When I was a sophomore in high school my best friend’s mom told me:

“Shannon, you’re not for everyone. People either love you or they don’t.”

In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say to an insecure 16 year old but in her defense, I was a pain in the ass.

When I was younger I was opinionated, bossy and vocal. There were multiple times when I was asked to leave my world history class for arguing a point too emphatically (Ms. Gillard, I owe you a drink).

Much of my formative years were spent relishing in my “individuality” and how people responded to it. I prided myself on being polarizing because no one had to guess where I stood.

Over the years I’ve chilled out and matured, but this idea of “not being for everyone” has stayed with me — and it’s taught me something about entrepreneurship.

The fastest way to sabotage your business is by trying to be everything to everyone.

Have you heard the expression: If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, then you’re actually appealing to no one?

This is one of the most valuable pieces of marketing advice you can remember.

I’m not suggesting that you start pissing people off, arguing with your customers and forcing your opinions on others. We’re not teenagers anymore.

What I am suggesting is that you get very clear on who your company is meant to serve, so that you don’t waste time trying to market to people who don’t fit that mold.

Not only will this cut down on the risk of competition (which I’ve written about before here and here), but it will ensure that the right people find you.

Market studies have proven that the better you are at establishing a niche, the faster your customers will come out to support you.

Here’s an example: I have a current entrepreneur in Factory45 who launched her company last week. VETTA is a five-piece capsule collection that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits.

Cara, and her co-founder Vanessa, did an excellent job of designing, positioning and marketing their first collection to appeal to a particular niche of women.

While yes, it would be nice if every woman in the world pre-ordered from their Kickstarter campaign, VETTA doesn’t try to appeal to every woman in the world.

The VETTA customer is an aspiring minimalist, conscious consumer and wants to do more with less. The majority of women in the world don’t think about their fashion choices that way, but this positioning has ensured that the right people find out about VETTA and the right press writes about them.

If it was just another run-of-the-mill women’s clothing line on Kickstarter, then I guarantee they wouldn’t have seen the success they’ve had.

That’s all to say, VETTA reached its $30,000 goal in five days and was featured by Who What Wear and Darling Magazine.

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So, how do you make sure that you’re not for everyone?

First, you have to figure out who your customer is by digging deep — in Factory45, I ask my entrepreneurs to answer over 30 questions about their ideal customer.

Where does he/she live? What kind of books does she read? Where does she hang out online? Where does she shop? Is she religious? What political affiliation does she gravitate towards?

You can’t begin to effectively market to your customers until you know who she is, how she feels and what she believes. Everything you message and market is riding on the fact that you know your customer inside and out.

As another example, we can look at my own business. Factory45 is positioned, messaged and marketed in a way that appeals to a certain type of person:

  • I believe in localized manufacturing, so I only work with entrepreneurs who are in the U.S. or Canada where my production partners are.
  • I don’t believe in making more clothing for the sake of making more clothing, so I market to entrepreneurs who want to solve problems for people.
  • Environmental responsibility is important to me so I only accept entrepreneurs who care about sustainability, too.

Factory45 isn’t the only fashion accelerator out there, but it is the only one of its kind. My business model is unique, my philosophies are different, and what I teach can’t be found elsewhere in the fashion education landscape.

This helps to ensure that the right people apply to Factory45 and the wrong people join a different fashion accelerator.

It’s that simple. And it can be that simple for your business, too.

So, the next time you find yourself writing a product description or an “about” page or a sales page that is boring and generic, just think of teenage Shannon…

What would she do? ; )

 

 

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Photo credit (second photo): VETTA


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6 Fashion Brands Weigh in on “What I Wish I Had Known Sooner”

One of the reasons people become “serial entrepreneurs” is because of how much you learn through the process of starting your first, or second, or even third company.

It’s easier to say what you should have known or what you wish you had known when you’re looking back.

I started Factory45 with this in mind — after going through the process of starting a sustainable clothing company with my co-founder, I realized afterwards that there were so many things I wish I had known sooner. I wanted to impart those lessons learned on other aspiring entrepreneurs so they wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

On that note, I’ve asked six designers running established fashion brands to share what they wish they had known as a young fashion startup:

 

katie-rock“I wish I’d known that, no matter how much you love the product, you absolutely have to ensure that: (a) you can get it produced fairly simply/easily (to avoid loss of time/sleep and potential burnout); and (b) the margins are healthy enough that you can not just sustain, but actually grow, the business (or you at least see a clear path to get the margins to that place).  

I also wish I had understood that startups often take time! We thought we’d be an overnight hit, and we took it hard at times when we realized it would take longer than expected. Definitely be hopeful and excited and all of that good stuff, but also be realistic.”

— Katie Rock, co-founder of Activyst

 

tara-st-james“I wish I had known that fashion is about breaking the rules, not following them. That theory is applied to design all the time, but the business of fashion should also be about challenging the status quo, not following the calendar, not following what everyone else does and not doing as we’re told. That’s the only way change will happen in this industry and I wish I had known that sooner.”

— Tara St. James, founder of Study NY

 

colette-chretien“I wish I had known which parts of the sampling and manufacturing process would be good for me to figure out on my own and which steps are vital to have carried out by an experienced professional. There were some things I realized I should have done myself, and a few things that would have saved me time and money in the long run had I outsourced.

I also wish I knew that everything takes so much longer than you think it will. Both in terms of developing a product, and establishing a brand. Patience is important, but complacency is dangerous.”

— Colette Chretien, founder of La Fille Colette

 

taylor-gamine“I wish I had known how much clarity I had starting off—that I felt content and confident knowing what I was setting out to do and who I was trying to speak to. Had I taken stock of this intuition at that early stage, it would have been much easier as my audience grew to know when I’m being true to myself and the narrative I am trying to tell. Even now, as I slowly start to roll out new work, I realize that the hardest thing I have to do in this (post) post modern, socially nomadic world we live in is to just fiercely be myself.”

— Taylor Johnston, founder of Gamine

 

BrassClothing_©HOGGER&Co._web_013“I wish I had known just how important it is to have an audience to launch to. If you want a product-based business, first start by generating a following. This could be through a blog, via Instagram or Twitter. Build up a community of people that is in-line with your future product. When you’re ready to launch you’ll have an invested group of people you can turn into customers.”

— Jay Adams, co-founder of Brass

 

Delta+Leather+Tote+Bag“I wish I had known that finding great US manufacturing is kind of like speed dating. If it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out, make a polite exit, but move on. Their existing operations shouldn’t have to adjust much at all to achieve the product to be produced. It should be a very close fit from the very beginning.

I’ve realized over the years that in spite of a manufacturer’s best effort and enthusiasm, sometimes it wasn’t enough to get a good product at the right price point in the end. Their capabilities sometimes just didn’t match what I was trying to achieve. And as a designer I had to learn how to recognize the pitfalls early in the game to avoid a lot of wasted money time and effort.”

— Matt Mahler, founder of Skye Bags

Know someone who would benefit from reading these six lessons? Use the social buttons on the left of your screen to share on the platform of your choice.

 

 

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