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The (Not-So) Secret Weapon for Every Startup Fashion Brand

“Which did you prefer….

Having a business partner or not having one?”

This question often comes up when I’m working with new entrepreneurs, because I’m in the uncommon position of having experienced both.

My first company, a sustainable clothing line, was my first taste of entrepreneurship and I worked with a co-founder for two years.

My current company, Factory45, is a business I started on my own as a “solopreneur.”

Of course there are pros and cons to both scenarios. (And for the record, I loved having a business partner.)

When you have a partner you only have half the workload.

When you’re solo you have all of the control.

When you have a partner you have someone to celebrate the wins and falls with.

When you’re solo you aren’t responsible to anyone else.

I could probably list out 50 other reasons to advocate for both, but there is one pro of having a business partner that takes the cake above all else.

And it’s this:

Accountability.

When you start a business with another person it’s a lot harder to give up.

For all the ways that having autonomy as a solopreneur is great, there is an intangible X factor that comes from having someone in the trenches with you.

Having said that, working with a business partner isn’t a natural fit for everyone. It takes a very special partnership to be able to work through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship together.

If you don’t have a business partner or if you don’t see one in your future, then my suggestion is to surround yourself with some sort of community.

Ever since I decided four years ago to start a business on my own, I’ve hired coaches, taken online programs and joined “mastermind” groups, knowing that I needed other people around to cheer me on.

It wasn’t enough to simply say, “I’m starting a business. See you in three years when I pull myself out of the hole in my home office.”

The entrepreneurs who have come through Factory45 will be the first to tell you how invaluable their peers have been in the infancy of their businesses.

Community is, quite simply, everything.

So, how do you go about finding it? Here are a few options:

  • My top recommendation is the online community at Startup FASHION. I’ve introduced you before to my friend Nicole (you may recall the interview I did with her here) — and she has created a global network of startup designers.

As I tell my Factory45’ers, joining Startup FASHION is the next natural step after graduating from Factory45, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is beyond “idea or early stage” of starting their line. Enrollment is opened for this week here and is super affordable for budget-conscious entrepreneurs. (Update: enrollment is now closed.)

  • Check out your local incubator, accelerator or co-working hub. The fashion hotspots like LA and NYC will have multiple options but you’ll be surprised by what you can find in cities like Boston, San Francisco, Austin and Raleigh. If you’re the type of person who craves personal connections in a physical space, then simply co-working with a few fellow entrepreneurs can do the trick.
  • Join an online program that offers personal mentorship and a community component. While there are many online programs out there, not all are created equal. Identify whether having a community is important to you and seek out the programs and courses that include that personal connection. (On that note: we have set an official open applications date for the 2017 program of Factory45: mark your calendars for May 17th.)

And if you’re the type of person who can work by themselves for hours on end, then more power to you. Keep doing what you’re doing — just remember to come out of the hole every once in awhile ; )

 

 


Report: The State of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship 2016

“You know what you should do?” said my friend Lorraine, who is the founder of the Spirit of 608 podcast. “You should create a report.”

“A report, like…” I trailed off, wondering where this was going.

“You know, like a media report that shows the state of sustainable fashion entrepreneurship. You could interview some of the designers you’ve worked with, poll your community and put together something with infographics and graphs that show your findings.”

I knew that following the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, there has been a surge of entrepreneurial interest in ethical manufacturing practices.

And after three years working with over 150 early-stage sustainable fashion brands, I knew that I could capture the shifts and trends I’m seeing daily.

We wondered if there was a way to also show what this means for the future of the fashion industry.

So after our conversation, I got to work.

And thanks to Lorraine’s help and encouragement, the participation of some of my most dedicated Factory45’ers and the execution of my talented graphic designer, today I’m releasing Factory45’s report on The State of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship 2016.

This 13-page study contains original case studies, infographics and anecdotes from 30 exclusive interviews with independent designers, as well as findings such as:

  • 82% of the brands interviewed know the people who make their products are paid a fair and living wage. Compared to 2% of traditional retailers.
  • 100% of the brands interviewed know where their products are made. Compared to 61% of traditional retailers.
  • 88% of the brands interviewed feel there is more access to sustainable supply chains than there was five years ago.
  • It now requires 99% less in startup capital to start an independent brand than in 2014.

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Despite what the mainstream fashion industry wants you to think, it is now easier than ever before to launch an independent fashion label. And with persistence, there are new sustainable and ethical brands proving every day that it can be done.

You can read the full report here.

And if you like what you read, please share the link with your network. I’ve put together an easy copy-and-paste description to go with it:

Factory45 has released its 2016 report on the State of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship. Did you know that it now requires 99% less in startup capital to start an independent brand than in 2014? Read the full report here: http://bit.ly/2fDrsop

Thank you so much for reading and sharing.

With your support, I’m looking forward to bringing even more sustainable fashion to the marketplace in 2017.

 

 

 

 

P.S. If you are a blogger or reporter and would like to use the report for a future story, please contact me directly at shannon@factory45.co.

6 Sustainable Fashion Projects to Watch in 2017: The Experts Weigh In

It’s the third annual edition of sustainable fashion projects to watch in the new year and below you’ll find our favorites.

I asked the experts to share the projects, designers, brands and technology that they’re most excited to follow in 2017. Enjoy!


lorraine-opalwall-headshot-9-7-16“There’s this incredible ecosystem of business resources, services and programs set up to help fashion brands incorporate more sustainable practices into what they’re doing, and it wasn’t that way even two years ago. Some to watch are obviously Factory45 (duh!), Startup Fashion, ProjectEntrepreneur and TrendSeeder.

I am also paying close attention to the necessary interconnectedness of sustainability in fashion, where you see companies like Evrnu partnering with Levi’s and The Renewal Workshop teaming up with multiple brands to present new ways of thinking about the lifecycle of the clothes we wear.”

Lorraine Sanders, Founder of PressDope by Spirit of 608 and host of the Spirit of 608 podcast


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“I’m really excited about the emergence of sustainable undergarment brands. It used to be that there were so few choices that you could feel good about. Now they’re popping up everywhere and range from the fancier styles of NAJA, which has a women-focused social mission, to the fun styles of La Vie En Orange, which recycles your t-shirts into cute cotton undies.”

Nicole Giordano, Founder of Startup Fashion


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“This year, I’m excited by brands that are blurring the traditional boundaries of fashion. New brands like Kirrin Finch are filling a void for (proper-fitting) menswear-inspired womenswear as established companies like Burberry make mixed gender shows a fixture of fashion week.

In addition, the concept of quality clothing that purposefully endures through sizes and seasons is resurfacing among sustainable lines: Sotela designs dresses that span several sizes while the made-to-order brand DE SMET rejects the fashion calendar to release just one piece per month over the course of the year.”

Elizabeth Stilwell, Creator of The Note Passer and Co-Founder of the Ethical Writers Coalition


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“From yeast-based synthetic spider silk to hybrid fabrics that convert solar power and movement into electricity, fashion innovation will continue to soar to new heights in the new year. But I think that more low-tech pursuits such as knitting, crocheting, and sewing will also see a resurgence, particularly in these uncertain political times, when getting down to brass tacks and working with our hands will bring a more visceral level of comfort.

I’d keep my eyes peeled, in particular, for organizations such as the Craftivist Collective, which uses the art of craft as a vehicle for “gentle activism,” and Knit Aid, which provides refugees with lovingly hand-knit blankets, scarves, gloves, and hats. On a personal note, I’m currently knitting my fourth Pussyhat Project hat for the upcoming Women’s March on Washington. It’s easy to surrender to feelings of hopelessness, but we can rally everything we have against the tide of tyranny and hatred. There is strength in numbers, and it can begin with a single stitch.”

Jasmin Malik Chua, Managing Editor of Ecouterre


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“I’m excited to see Increasing alternatives to leather come to the market. Right now most faux leather ‘vegan’ options are plastic-based, which of course is not compostable. But with pineapple-based and even mushroom leather alternatives becoming available, I’m hoping we’ll start to see more and more of them available on a larger scale!”

 

Rachel Kibbe, Founder of Helpsy


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“Because of where I stand in the fashion space, I’m lucky to see sustainable startups launching new projects on a regular basis. The ones that I get really excited about are pushing the boundaries of branding, storytelling and marketing to say something different about what it means to be an ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ apparel brand.

Some of the companies that stand out right now are Girlfriend Collective that opted out of traditional advertising and used their budget to get their product into the hands of their customers. Factory45’er Peche is pushing the boundaries of the lingerie industry by making undergarments for every “body” and defying gender norms. And then there’s mompreneur brand SproutFit that is challenging traditional sizing for infants and toddlers by making garments adjust as the baby grows.

If I’ve learned anything over the past several years working with sustainable fashion startups it’s that the companies that get people excited are the ones who tell a different story. It’s those unique stories that I’ll be keeping my eye on this year.”

Shannon Lohr, Founder of Factory45


Is there a sustainable fashion project / designer / business / technology you’re excited to watch in 2017? Share this post using the buttons to the left and add a comment with your project of choice.

A big thanks to everyone who contributed and a happy new year to all.

 

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Introducing NOVEL SUPPLY CO: Conscious Apparel for the Urban Adventurer

This is an interview with Factory45’er Kaya Dorey about the launch of her brand NOVEL SUPPLY CO. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Kaya is raising money (update: has raised money) for her first production run of conscious apparel for the urban adventurer.

Can you give us a brief overview of your brand and the pieces you’re pre-selling?

NOVEL SUPPLY CO. is conscious apparel for the urban adventurer. My line is made up of three comfy, casual, gender neutral styles made from all natural hemp and organic cotton including:

The Cabin Crew, The Adventure Tee and The Muscle Tank.

My brand connects with adventurers who love active lifestyles and mindful living, but also care about their style. The goal for NOVEL is to provide people with conscious apparel that doesn’t sacrifice style. Rad graphics created by local artists keep our designs fresh and manufacturing locally allows for transparency throughout the manufacturing process.

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Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

I chose Kickstarter because I was familiar with the platform and I had seen several other entrepreneurs (including Shannon and my fellow Factory45’ers) have success with their campaigns.

Kickstarter’s branding is super on point and their website is easy to navigate so I thought it would be the best fit for my campaign. Also, the demographic of people that use Kickstarter, or even know what it is, fit with my target market.

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

As I am still working full-time to help fund my business and life, it was crucial that I work somewhere that was relatively flexible, with people who supported me from the get-go. I am so grateful for my team at work and their constant support and motivation.

Also, my guy – and marketing guru – has been an integral part in helping me to launch this campaign, manage my time and has been there every step of the way to cheer me on. He believes in me sometimes more than I believe in myself and has been crucial in keeping my fire stoked.

My friends and family have also helped me maintain momentum not only financially but also just by believing in my vision, connecting me with the people I need to know and constantly encouraging me to hustle.

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

Stoke my networks. The NOVEL tribe is made up of some of the raddest, most supportive people. They are the adventurers, they are the ones who make conscious decisions about what they buy, they are the ones who are making sustainability cool, and they love all things creative. They have also turned out to be the mavens of my campaign.

I am super lucky to have collaborated with some of the most talented and creative entrepreneurs in Vancouver and, because of that, I have a solid lineup of visual content that will help spread the word about NOVEL. Stay tuned 😉

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

When self-doubt creeps up – which, I can tell you, it does – I go to the mountains, I have my friends over for a glass of wine, I have a good cry, I go stretch it out with some yoga, or take a timeout for myself and meditate. It’s the only way to tame a creative mind.

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

I love what I have come up with in terms of NOVEL apparel, and maybe I’m a little bit biased, but hey, my heart and soul is in The Muscle Tank, The Adventure Tee AND The Cabin Crew.

BUT, my favourite rewards being offered are the ones that I collaborated with others on! The growlers are sick! The handmade and hand-painted paddles are love at first sight! And, the designs, whether they are on the postcards, prints or NOVEL apparel are on point! It’s impossible to choose a favourite and I guess I haven’t really answered your question. Sarry.

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

Adventure always!

You can check out Kaya’s campaign for NOVEL SUPPLY CO. here

 

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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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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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Factory45 Success Stories

It’s been over two years since I started Factory45 and began working with entrepreneurs all over the U.S. and Canada to launch sustainable clothing brands.

In that time, I’ve done my best to introduce you to the designers who have come through the program, while sharing some of the success stories along the way.

I can easily get caught up in sharing the “how to” and “advice” articles, but I know how much value can also come from the inspirational — and the aspirational.

So, today, I want to share four success stories from past Factory45’ers who I’ve had the pleasure of working with to launch their brands. 


citizen-smalls-copySarah Davis, co-founder of CITIZEN SMALLS

When Sarah joined Factory45 during the Spring 2015 program she was already a seasoned entrepreneur but didn’t have a background in fashion or manufacturing. She was running a successful childcare service from her home base of Austin, TX but she was craving a different creative outlet.

From day one, Sarah was one of the most hardworking and focused people I’ve ever had the opportunity of working with. She meticulously followed each step that I laid out through Factory45 and went above and beyond to execute her vision for a children’s clothing line in six months.

In the Fall of 2015, Sarah launched Citizen Smalls, apparel for kiddos, through a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $20,000 to fund her first production run. In the past year, she’s been featured by Pottery Barn and has hosted pop-up shops all over the country. Every single piece in the Citizen Smalls collection is ethically made in the USA — you can shop both boys and girls items here.


sotela-copyHanna Baror-Padilla, founder of SOTELA

I love Hanna’s story because she’s a perfect example of how you can go through the Factory45 program at your own pace. One of the most common questions I’m asked by people who want to join Factory45 but aren’t sure if they can afford it, is how much money it takes to launch a fashion brand.

Hanna fully embraced the fact that she was working a full time job and didn’t have the savings to invest in patterns and samples right away, so she mapped out a launch schedule that better fit her finances.

As she gradually invested money into initial startup costs throughout the six months of Factory45 and after the program ended, she launched her womenswear company with a Kickstarter campaign a little over a year after starting Factory45.

Sotela, the last dress you’ll ever need, raised over $20,000 on Kickstarter in the spring of 2016 and Hanna just finished shipping out orders to her first customers. Every dress is ethically made in California from sustainable fabrics — you can shop all three styles here.


fair-seas-supply-copyTiffany Shown, founder of FAIR SEAS SUPPLY CO.

Tiffany has shared her story with us before (you can watch the whole video interview here), but I feel like a week doesn’t pass when there isn’t a new and exciting update from her.

Having started the Factory45 program with no idea about what type of product she wanted to create, Tiffany pretty quickly settled on the idea of round beach blankets and ran with it. Without a background in fashion or manufacturing, Tiffany tirelessly worked to set up a supply chain using organic cotton fabric while working with a cut and sew factory in California.

Having enough startup capital saved to self-fund her first production run, Tiffany launched Fair Seas Supply Co. just before the 2015 holiday season to an audience of raving fans. She has since produced a second collection, been featured in newspapers and magazines across the country and is selling her beach blankets in boutiques on both the east and west coasts.

You can shop from the California and New England collections here.


cause-i-run-copyAmanda Yanchury, founder of CAUSE I RUN

When Amanda started Factory45 she had recently moved from San Diego to Boston (where I live). I remember meeting her for drinks one night in the spring of 2015 and talking about her passion for running marathons.

She was getting ready for a big race and told me about the difficulty of finding running apparel that was sustainably and ethically made. It was this need she saw for herself that prompted her to launch her own athletic wear company.

Working a full time job at the same time as coming through Factory45, Amanda also built her company at her own pace and launched a year after starting the program.

CAUSE I RUN was fully funded through a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $15,000 to start production at a factory in Massachusetts. After her successful campaign, Amanda has continued offering pre-sales on her website as she starts production. You can shop sustainable running apparel from CAUSE I RUN here.


To read more success stories from Factory45, check out our Alumni Stories page.

 

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Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Over two years ago, I got an email from an old “blogger friend.”

My {r}evolution apparel co-founder and I had written a guest post for his blog during our 2011 Kickstarter and doing so had catapulted our campaign from around $40K to over $64K.

His large and dedicated fanbase of readers had been the exact target market our clothing company was trying to attract. And thanks in large part to them, we became the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history at that time.

The blog was called The Minimalists.

Several years later, it was a surprise to hear from him again and even more surprising to receive the following request:

Howdy! Long time no see. Do you have any interest in doing an interview for our minimalism documentary?

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On May 3, 2016 I attended the Boston screening of Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things in a jam-packed, sold-out theater.

Joshua and his co-creator Ryan now have a following of over four million readers and have been featured on ABC News, BBC, The Today Show, NPR and The New York Times, among other notable press.

The film, directed by Matt D’Avella, was named the number one independent documentary of 2016, won pre-screening awards at international film festivals, and has shown in 400+ worldwide screenings.

In the film, I was able to talk about the marketing messages that the fast fashion industry feeds us, why we look to fashion to make us happy, and how our clothing choices play into global consumption.

The documentary also asks, How might your life be better with less?

And it examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life — families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker.

You can get a taste of Minimalism by watching the trailer here:

As my mother-in-law said after she saw the film, “Minimalism isn’t for me, but I get it,” the point is not to transform into a minimalist overnight.

I do hope that the messages in the documentary provoke deeper thought about what we really need to make us happy, how our purchasing decisions impact the rest of the world and what it would feel like to find happiness from within.

To watch the film in full, the online screening is available here.

 

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Using Your Voice When the Words Aren’t Perfect

Today I had originally planned to share the process behind creating a sustainable and zero-waste wedding.

But in light of everything going on in the U.S. right now, the idea of talking about ethically-made wedding dresses and locally-sourced food is not something I could stomach.

This place of paralysis is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past week.

How do we write, market, message and sell our businesses and brands when all of it seems so trivial to the very real issues that are unfolding around us?

Is it a betrayal to offer a sale, feature a product, post an Instagram, promote ourselves when so much of the world is grieving?

I’m not sure.

There are platforms like Design*Sponge that took a hiatus over the weekend from posting anything. D*S founder Grace Bonney shared a heartfelt letter explaining the decision for the two-day pause in content.

Other brands have continued with regularly scheduled programming but have also used their platforms to share posts of allegiance and words of support.

And then other companies have chosen to be silent, for whatever reason feels true to them.

Tragedy occurs all around the world, every day, and if we paused every time something bad happened, we would get nothing done at all.

But the past week has felt different. And I’ve felt different about what I wanted to say to you today.

As an American-born, white female, I not only have the privilege that came with the lottery of my birth, but I also have the privilege of being an entrepreneur with a modest platform to voice my opinions.

As fellow entrepreneurs, no matter what race or gender you are, you also have a platform in which to express your beliefs.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to figure out what you want to say.

Last week my good friend and I were texting back and forth about how to address the murders in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas, as business owners.

The conversation went something like this:

“WTF is happening to our country?”

“I feel guilty doing other things and not saying something, but I don’t know what to say.”

“Isn’t it better to say nothing at all than to say something uninformed?”

“I feel like anything that comes out of my mouth sounds like I’m trying to be a better white person than the next.”

“Agreed. But then it’s like, get over how it makes you feel. This isn’t about you.”

And so it went…

I fully recognize how unfair it is that my friend and I are able to have (and leave) this conversation at all. For many Americans, this is the life they’re living. They can’t escape it.

For the past week, I’ve gone back and forth about what to write and what to say.

And yes, I considered saying nothing.

But what I came to realize is that it’s not so much about having the perfect words as it is about having a voice.

There are writers far more articulate than I, who are far more versed on these issues, and my instinct is to tell myself, “Leave it to them. They know more. They’ll say it better.”

But that’s not the point.

As entrepreneurs, we hold the expectation and the responsibility of being the changemakers, the freedom fighters, the revolutionaries.

If you have a public platform, then you are privileged in a way that so much of the world isn’t. And I want you to know that bringing your voice to this conversation, despite how awkward or scary it may be, matters.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

We can take action together towards fighting for justice and the fair treatment of our fellow humans — in a way that doesn’t sacrifice our brand, or go off message or lead customers astray.

Because when it comes to having a message, acceptance, tolerance and love are universal.

 

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Additional resources:

This is the best piece I’ve found on the tangible action steps that can be taken to create change via The Huffington Post

Why do we stay silent when racism is all around us? By Nisha Moodley

Code Switch is a podcast that explores race and culture.


Photo credit: Molly Belle

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.

 

shannon whitehead, founder

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.