hard work

Does Hard Work Really Pay Off?

When I was growing up my parents always said,

“Work hard and it will pay off.”

When I knew I really shouldn’t sign up for that AP Biology class I did it anyway because, you know,

“I’ll just work harder.”

When I made an audition tape for an internship with Nike, I scripted out the entire four-minute video, storyboarded each shot and had multiple costume and set changes, because well,

“They’ll see how hard I worked.”

When I applied for a fellowship with NPR, competing against thousands of top-tier journalism grads, I told myself, I’ll get it because…

“I work really hard.”

Turns out, I got a “C” in AP Biology, didn’t get the internship with Nike and wasn’t even asked for an interview with NPR.

(My parents also have many words of wisdom for dealing with disappointment.)

Of course you need a hearty dose of hard work to accomplish your goals.

But the disclaimer of “hard work pays off” should be, “it’s also no guarantee.”

This was never more apparent than when I became an entrepreneur.

I quickly learned that hard work isn’t going to get you that much farther than the entrepreneur next you. 

Because working hard is simply a given.

I’ve spent the past 2.5 years working with and observing other entrepreneurs who have set out to start businesses of their own.

A lot of them work hard. And some of them don’t.

But there are other qualities that make far more of an impact:

>> They’re resourceful. I don’t mean they can forage for wild berries and make a bonfire with two twigs, I mean they have an attitude of, “I’ll figure this out.” Successful entrepreneurs know that every problem has a solution and they aren’t afraid to take action to find it.

>> They’re willing to take risks. Deciding to start your own business feels like a huge risk in itself, but it’s just the first one. Your entire entrepreneurial career will be made up of opportunities to take more risks.

Unfortunately, the word ‘risk’ typically comes with a negative connotation. Most of us were taught to follow the straight and narrow path that has road signs with the word “Conventional” along it.

One of the best things I ever did for my own business, and peace of mind, was start trading out the word ‘risk’ for ‘experiment.’

I’m experimenting with this marketing strategy… I’m experimenting with this type of business model… I’m experimenting with hiring this person…

>> They’re not easily derailed. The true test of an entrepreneur is when things go wrong. How will you handle it? Will it be the end of the world and cause you to curl up in the fetal position? Or will you look at it as an opportunity to try something new and come up with a new solution?

Real success is a series of baby steps and the entrepreneurs who break apart from the pack are the ones who keep their energy up.

They don’t let a tech glitch destroy their mood. They don’t let a confusing email from a supplier derail their focus. They don’t let a botched sample force them under the covers.

I once had an entrepreneur friend tell me that she starts working at 10am and is done by 5pm because, “She gets more work done during that time than the average person gets done in a 12-hour day.”

Needless to say, I appreciated her honesty.

Hard work is not the same as productivity, or attitude, or impact.

Successful entrepreneurs know that “working hard” is just another day at the office.

 

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How to Get Featured by Fashion Bloggers as a Startup Brand

“25 thousand dollars?!”

My friend nearly spilled her glass of wine across the table.

“How is that possible?” she asked, mouth agape.

I was out for drinks on Monday night with a couple of friends — one of whom is in the fashion industry and the other who isn’t.

“Yep, we were quoted $25,000 to be featured in one blog post with three product photos and 500 words of text,” my friend, who runs a womenswear brand, went onto explain.

I have to admit that even I was shocked by that price tag.

For small businesses who are doing the best they can with the resources they’ve got, the world of fashion blogging can be very intimidating.

How much should I expect to pay?

Do I give them the product and a fee on top of that?

Is it going to be worth it?

Being a fashion blogger is big business these days, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable opportunities for smaller brands.

On Factory45 LIVE with the founders of Trendly we talk about what you really need to know about working with fashion bloggers.

Trendly is an app that connects influencers (like fashion bloggers) with authentic brands (like yours) that have social missions.

Pretty perfect, right?

So I wanted to bring Michael into the community so he can answer your questions about sponsored content, collaborations with bloggers and realistic expectations.

It’s true that just one Instagram post with the right influencer can skyrocket your revenue in a day.

It can also help grow your own social media following and get you on the radar of some of the bigger fashion bloggers in your niche.

But it can also be really hard to know which opportunity is worth investing in.

If you’ve dipped your toe into the blogger world but still haven’t quite figured it out or if it’s something you’ve been wondering about, then you can now listen to a recording to the interview.

Watch it for free HERE.

 

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If you know someone who would benefit from watching this interview on Factory45 LIVE, please share this link with them.

P.S. The next Factory45 LIVE will be with Lorraine Sanders, founder of Spirit of 608 on Wednesday, October 19th so mark your calendars : )

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How Much Money Do You Really Need to Launch a Fashion Brand?

A few weeks ago you may remember I sent out a questionnaire to all of you, asking one question:

What is your SINGLE biggest challenge right now when it comes to launching your clothing company?

And not too surprisingly, most of you said the exact same thing…

“I don’t have any MONEY!”

(Or something along those lines.)

A lack of funds can be a huge problem for a startup brand that has the vision and dedication to succeed but simply doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to invest upfront.

Even more significant is the fact that many of us have a lot of fear-based thinking when it comes to money.

Whether it’s because of the way we were raised or a feeling of lack throughout our lives, many of us operate in a cycle of scarcity rather than abundance.

When it comes to building an apparel brand there’s also a lot of confusion around how much you really need for product development. We say we want to pay the people we work with an “ethical” wage but most of us don’t really know what that means.

In the second interview for Factory45 LIVE, I talked to Nicole Giordano, founder of StartUp FASHION, about the money topic that most people don’t want to touch.

In addition to answering questions from the audience, Nicole and I covered:

  • How much money you should realistically expect to spend during product development.
  • Our top recommendations for funding your first production run without the risk.
  • Ways to determine your stage of business, develop a budget, create a financial plan — and STICK to it.
  • The personal stories of how we funded our businesses from the beginning without going into debt.
  • And other creative ways to raise money, with management advice about how to be less afraid to spend it.

The truth is, if you’re creating a physical product then it requires some money — there’s no way around that.

But whereas 10 years ago, you had to have all of that capital sitting in your bank account (or have some rich relatives), the industry has changed. There are now easier and smarter ways to start your brand with very little risk to your own finances.

Listen to Factory45 LIVE with Nicole Giordano of StartUp FASHION.

 

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If you know someone who would benefit from attending Factory45 LIVE, please share the recording link.

P.S. The next Factory45 LIVE will be with Michael Riddering, co-founder of Trendly.  : )

 

How to Legally Protect Your Fashion Brand from Copycats

Your product is as unique as you are. With this usually stems some level of fear that others will want to copy your ideas.

Although these feelings are common, you don’t want it to prevent you from taking those next important steps.

So how do you move forward through the production process without your unique product being knocked off?

There are the legal routes to help protect yourself, and then there are common sense precautions you can choose to implement.

Three legal ways to protect yourself are: US Copyright Law, Design Patents and US Trademark Law.

>> US Copyright Law: This law will protect your “original expressions” — as in texts or graphics. It will not however protect any functional elements. For example a jacket you have created, the design you have had meticulously stitched into it – that is covered. However, the squared physical shape of the jacket is not covered under copyright laws.

>> Design Patents: This law will provide 14 years of protection, covering exclusive industrial design rights for new and nonobvious ornamental designs of functional items. This process can take anywhere from 6-12 months, so keep this timeline in mind while you’re working through the process.

>> US Trademark Law: While copyright law will protect the original design creation, trademark law will protect the wording and logo of the designer. This should lower the risk of confusion with the consumer, allowing them to know where their product is coming from.

Now you also have personal approaches you can take:

>> Tighten the material controls. One unfortunate problem you could encounter is having your manufacturer slip your design out the back door for their own personal gain. This rarely happens — especially in the U.S. — but it’s something to be mindful of. You want to keep a close eye on the production of your product. 

For example, if you had 3,000 units produced, and you are only seeing 2,400 units ship out, then you have a problem.

Try to source your own material any time you can, and only send the manufacturer what is needed to fulfill your exact order amount. This will give you more control over what’s happening in the production phase.

>> Break up the production when your product has multiple components. Have each component produced by a different manufacturer and then shipped to a completely separate party for assembly.

This will allow you to be more discreet so that no one manufacturer will know the entire process involved in creating your product.

>> Focus on the strength of your brand. One sure shot way to know you can overcome the competition is to make sure you have a rock solid brand identity.

Develop a brand that sets itself apart from all others so that your customer will go out of their way to seek your products.

At the bottom of it all — fashion design cannot truly be protected. My advice is to save your money for more immediate needs than trademarks and patents although a lawyer will probably tell you otherwise. 

Stay focused on building an awesome product, attracting excited early customers, and getting your brand to market for fast feedback.


How to Create Shoppable Instagram Feeds with Your Customers’ Photos

In July I asked if anyone would be interested in a live interview series with different industry experts in the manufacturing, retail, design and eCommerce spaces.

Kind of like a podcast, but on camera and live…

The reaction was an overwhelming ‘yes, please.’

So, I’m very excited to tell you that I’ve started a new monthly project called Factory45 LIVE.

Every month, I’ll offer a free opportunity to hear from an expert through a live, on-camera Q+A. You’ll be able to ask questions (if you want to) and get real advice about growing your business.

The first Factory45 LIVE interview was on August 24th with Aaron Escalona, founder of Popharvest. Aaron is a social media marketing expert and through Popharvest, he has created a way for brands like yours to create shoppable galleries using your customers’ Instagram photos.

A few of my past Factory45 entrepreneurs already use Popharvest for their own stores and have had awesome things to say about it.

In the interview, Aaron and I talked about:

  • Ways to use Instagram to drive more traffic to your online store
  • How to increase sales conversions on your site
  • Facebook advertising and how to get started effectively
  • How to create shoppable Instagram galleries…

And much more.

If your online store is currently up and running or if you plan to launch your brand in the near future, this will be information you won’t want to miss.

Aaron lives and breathes this stuff and shared some gems that you’ll be able to incorporate right away.

You can watch a recording to this Factory45 LIVE interview by clicking here (it’s free).

I’m really excited to bring this new opportunity to the Factory45 community and kick things off with a bang.

 

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The 2 Most Important Things You Should Know About Product Testing

Consider this scenario.

You spend years dreaming up the perfect apparel product.

You spend months meticulously creating it.

You tweak and stitch and hem and haw over it until…

It’s perfect.

To you.

But what about the lady on the other side of the country, who really wishes the zipper slid up and down a little easier?

Have you tested it to make sure it’s also perfect for your customer?

There are two phases of product development that I would say are a must.

1.) To test your product in the pre-product development process.

2.) To test your product in post-product development.

First, you want to test your concept.

The easiest way to do this is by sending out a survey to your target market (ideally through your email list). This should help you identify your ideal customer, as well as let you know how likely they are to pay for your product.

Once you receive the feedback, consider every bit of it. Make any necessary changes before you move on to develop your patterns and samples.

An important note here: People may not know what they want, but they definitely know what they don’t want. Phrase your survey questions in a way that provokes your future customer to tell you what they don’t like about similar garments on the market and how they feel they could be improved.

The second test is a user test of the product after the sample has already been made.

Start this process by checking to see what is federally mandated by your country for the manufacturer. For example, in the United States, baby clothing has required testing.

If you aren’t sure what testing may be required by law, use this page on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to find out. (Note that this is specific to the U.S.)

You want to ensure that you’re offering a product of quality, value and safety. You need go that extra mile to make sure what you believe to be perfect, is actually perfect.

Don’t let this overwhelm you. Testing agencies are out there who specialize in a wide variety of consumer products. Many of these tests are budgetfriendly, as well. Do the research, find out what you need and factor it into your budget.

Your other product testing outlet is going to be much easier

Your family and friends.

This has proven by many first-time entrepreneurs to be the most honest and easiest form of feedback. Reach out to someone in your target market who will be brutally honest and let you know what they like and what can be improved.

Once those two tests are completed, you’ll feel ready and confident to move into production.


5 Tips for Creating a “Made in the USA” Apparel Company

So, I’ve laid it out before — new designers tend to have a bad reputation. Not to say it’s your fault, it’s just that some have, unfortunately, ruined it for others.

Suppliers and manufacturers here in the U.S. have been in this game for a long time. And they’ve seen it all — from NAFTA to their neighboring factories shutting down to the early days of a shaky revival.

They’ve also seen every type of designer and aspiring entrepreneur, and most have come to the assumption that 9 times out of 10, it isn’t worth their time to take on work with someone who is new to the industry.

While navigating the world of sewn manufacturing may be new and probably a little intimidating, there are ways to set yourself up so that you don’t come off as the “new kid on the block.”

Let me break it down for you:

>> First and foremost: Set goals. So you have an idea – that’s great. Now, get it all out of your head and put it down on paper. While keeping in mind the vision of your product, you’ll want to set both long and short term goals. This will not only help to keep you motivated (long term), but also allow you see the little wins (short term) along the way.  

>> Research. Creating your own apparel company takes a lot of time and money. You want to take all the time you need to ensure you have several reliable options for both fabric sourcing and cut and sew. Do all the research you can before narrowing down your list, this usually requires multiple prototypes, and check out any online reviews or references of past clients who have worked with the factories you’re hoping to partner with. 

>> Budget. Not only are you going to need time and a lot of patience, but you will also need startup capital. You can likely negotiate with suppliers, but err on the side of caution and take the time to figure out what your budget is for each phase of development. If money isn’t growing on the trees outside of your house, I would strongly consider launching a Kickstarter campaign.

>> Organize your construction methods. Before you approach a supplier or factory, you want to make sure all of your ducks are in a row. Ideally, you will have a very detailed description of the fabric and materials you need (including weight, weave and fabrication) or a detailed spec sheet. This should include measurements, materials, colors, trim, hardware, grading, labels, tags, etc. and any other important information that would be needed to create your design. This will show that you know what you’re doing, have thought things through, and are a serious potential client.

>> Communication. You want this to be a two way street and effective communication is critical to your success. When you reach out to a project manager, there are some important “do’s and don’ts”:

DO: Provide a sample, pattern, spec sheet.

DON’T: Say things like “patent,” “sign an NDA,” or “What steps do I need to take?” These are all red flags to the production partner, indicating that youre a newbie.

Above all, be polite, professional, responsive and appreciative. The world of domestic manufacturing is complicated but once you get your foot in the door, other doors will open.


Improve Your Marketing Strategy by Using this One Simple Trick

When I published this blog post two weeks ago it was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

I actually got teary eyed reading some of your replies.

So thoughtful, so heartfelt and then this —

“I think I am better off unsubscribing to your blog.”

It was the only negative response I received, rolled up into a few sentences of underlying racist vitriol.

“It’s just so frustrating,” I said to my husband. “Anytime you have anything worthwhile to say, you’re either preaching to the choir or falling to deaf ears.”

“I get that,” he said, “but what’s really wrong with preaching to the choir?”

And it got me thinking about all the marketing advice I give to the entrepreneurs I work with.

Find your ideal target customer, I tell them.

Establish your niche, I say over and over.

Market yourself to a specific group of people and they’ll come out to support you faster.

Because “preaching to the choir” actually means you’ve found your tribe —

The people who are going to support you and encourage you and eventually maybe even become your customers.

As small business owners, it’s not our job to write the perfect lines that are going to appeal to everyone.

It is our job to have opinions, offer insights and try to better the world for the people who we call our target market, our customers, our niche.

And that’s who you should set your focus on.

So, the next time you think to yourself,

“Should I share this?” or “Should I say that on my About page?” or “Should I retweet that?”

Think about your ideal customer.

Envision him or her in your mind.

And decide if what you want to say will resonate with the person you want to say it to.

Because there’s a beauty and a comfort in finding your people, and when that happens —

You don’t need to worry about anyone else.

 

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7 Tips For Getting a Fabric Supplier to Respond to Your Email

As a new business owner, it is vital that you know how to write an effective email that will earn a response.

Depending on who you’re writing to, it can be easier said than done.

When it comes to reaching out to fabric suppliers, especially, there are seven key rules to remember:

1.) Consider the audience you’re reaching out. The supplier is likely receiving hundreds of emails per week, so you want to make sure your inquiry gets straight to the point. The supplier does not care about your background or the mission of your company. At the end of the day, they just want to make a sale.

2.) Keep the email short and sweet. Yes, you will want to include a nice “Hello” and an appropriate “Thank you.” But again, make sure you are not wasting the recipient’s time.

3.) Do your due diligence. Make sure you do your own research on the supplier’s website before you reach out. Oftentimes, you can get many of your questions answered on the supplier’s About, Shop and FAQ pages.

4.) Know your stuff. Many fabric suppliers are going to want to see that you actually know what you’re talking about, so they don’t risk wasting their own time. One great way to show that you’re serious about being their customer is to send over a design, spec sheet or a visual example of the piece you’re needing the fabric for.

5.) Don’t ask about MOQ’s. Especially not in your first email. This mistake will make you come off as overly frugal and price-conscious before even making initial contact.

6.) Foster the relationship. Once you’ve received an initial response, take your time in building a relationship with the sales rep. While being courteous of their time, you want to cultivate the relationship and make it easy for them to help you. Down the road, they’ll be much more likely to negotiate MOQ’s with you later on.

7.) Stay persistent. Be mindful of not overwhelming the supplier, but don’t give up. Finding sustainable and low-impact fabrics is not an easy task for anyone. Stick to your values and keep up your search. Fabric sourcing is one of the steps in product development that can take the longest, so be patient.


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.