What is your product(s)?
Vesta Studio is a line of modern, minimal womenswear made from innovative vegan and eco-friendly fabrics. We use fabric like Cupro, Modal and Tencel, and only choose fabrics dyed with low-impact dyes to reduce water usage. Before starting Vesta, I was so frustrated at never being able to find clothing that was vegan (which means no animal products are used), organic or made from sustainable fabrics, affordable, and fit with my minimalist but feminine aesthetic, and I figured other people must be feeling the same way I did. So much “vegan” clothing out there is made up of yoga clothes or slogan tees, and I wanted to offer more of a modern alternative, and show people that buying ethically and sustainably can be easy and beautiful. I'm also happy to say that my pattern and samplemaker and factory are all right here in the Bay Area, which allows me to support the local economy and oversee quality.
Where were you with your idea or business before joining Factory45?
Before Factory45 I attended Parsons in NYC, interned for sustainable designer Titania Inglis, and then worked at vegan fashion label Vaute. In the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to start my own line, but at Parsons we were told often that in order to be successful with your own company, you need to work for someone else for about 10 years. So I assumed anything I started would just fail miserably because I wouldn't know what I was doing.
Then my family and I left New York and moved to the Bay Area. As usual, I was a total idealist and just assumed there would be a ton of ethical fashion companies that I could work for out here. There weren't. I was frustrated, and honestly, I felt like I screwed myself over by leaving NYC. But then someone pointed out that what I had was an opportunity, not a loss. What if I started my own line, not later, but now?
So I started working on my own line every day when my son started Kindergarten. But without any real clue as to where to start, what to focus on, and in what order to do things, I quickly lost steam (and confidence). By the end of his school year I had a ton of half-completed patterns, lots of sketches, ideas and plans, and not much else to show for it. When I came across Factory45, I knew it was exactly the program I needed to join.
How did joining Factory45 help you?
Although I had a lot of technical sewing, patternmaking, and branding experience, I was completely clueless as to how to start and run my own business. With Factory45, I was thrilled that someone was essentially taking me by the hand and showing me what to do, and in what order to do things. The list of fabric suppliers was a godsend, as it is really hard to find those on your own. For the first time, I started to take action on my ideas and not just dream about them. With every email I sent to suppliers asking for swatches, each showroom I visited, and each fellow Factory45'er I got help and support from, I finally started to feel confident enough to take each next step. Before I knew it the momentum and flow was carrying me towards making my dream come true.
In your opinion, what is the most valuable thing about Factory45?
It is REALLY hard to say which aspect of the program has been the most helpful. The detailed lessons, worksheets, databases and spreadsheets were invaluable. But if pressed I would have to say that the community (including Shannon) has been the most important aspect that I don't think I could have done this without. I now have lifelong friends from this program and I cherish their guidance and support and I know they cherish mine. One thing that always held me back from starting my line was that I felt I couldn't do this alone. Well, I was right, but I didn't need a business partner. I just needed a community of like-minded people going through the same challenges I'm going through, to lift me up and make me sure that I can succeed at this crazy thing called entrepreneurship.
What were some big or small milestones you hit after going through Factory45?
After much debate I decided to do a preorders launch instead of a Kickstarter. I'm happy to say that it was a success: I offered a special discount of 30% off during a period of 2 weeks, and I'm thrilled that I pre-sold 29 pieces and raised $3,800 in that short time, which covered all of my production and most of my fabric. These were all sales (as opposed to donations), so it was a great way for me to gauge the response and get an idea of the most popular pieces and fabrics.
Please describe your business after Factory45.
Currently I am about to start production on my first two styles and I'm reaching out to press more to get more coverage for my next preorders launch. Sometimes I can't believe that I did it: I am officially a designer with my own company! Eternal gratitude for Factory45!