What is your product(s)?
THOM KELLY is a socially conscious fashion brand for men and women, with a focus on button-up plaid shirts. We use high quality eco-friendly materials and the fabric is custom designed by us from scratch, making each plaid pattern one-of-a-kind. Our shirts are produced locally in North Carolina to ensure they are made ethically and to help bring back manufacturing to the United States. We are also giving back through our 1% for the Planet partnership.
Where were you with your idea or business before joining Factory45?
When I joined Factory45 I only had an idea and company name. I was questioning whether or not I should move forward with this new venture. I told myself if I got accepted into Factory45 then I should follow through with the idea to create THOM KELLY and also knew with the support of the program I would have no excuses. This program gave me the confidence to start before I was ready and never look back.
How did joining Factory45 help you?
With absolutely no fashion experience, Factory45 provided insight and direction on how to navigate the often difficult world of manufacturing. It walked me through the process step by step and provided the necessary lingo to be taken seriously. The templates provided saved hours I would have spent agonizing over emails and how to word inquiries to potential partners. I was able to find my pattern maker through Factory45, and having the reference of Shannon and the trust of her community made the connection effortless.
In your opinion, what is the most valuable thing about Factory45?
In my experience, the most valuable thing about Factory45 is the personal connection to Shannon. When people ask me about Factory45, it’s hard to simply call it a fashion accelerator program when I feel like it’s so much more. You get the feeling Shannon is your own personal mentor, guiding you and providing thoughtful answers and encouragement along the way. She was always available and I never felt embarrassed to ask a question, no matter how simple. The support of Shannon and the Factory45 community is invaluable and can’t be found anywhere else.
What were some big or small milestones that you hit after going through Factory45?
We were not able to find existing plaid fabric that fit our style and brand, so we decided to create our own custom designed fabric from scratch. It was a long road to conquer this big milestone, but definitely one that was worth the time and effort, especially after hearing “no” so many times. The launch of our website was another key milestone that felt really good to hit. Rather than crowdfunding, we decided to launch pre-sales on our website to help fund the first production run. Overall though, a milestone that really stands out is simply doing what many said couldn’t be done. We were constantly being told what we were trying to create was too difficult and would be much easier and cheaper if we weren’t stuck on eco-friendly fabric, or told the sustainable materials we wanted did not exist in the quantities we required.
Please describe your business after Factory45.
Now that our first production run is complete and pre-orders are fulfilled, we have enjoyed having a live website and being able to fulfill orders as they come in! I looked forward to these days for a really long time. Sometimes it feels surreal as I sit in my basement and pack up orders. Our next line of shirts will be launching in the fall and we are currently working on the custom designs and continuing to improve our product. If I am being honest though, I don’t really feel like this is life after Factory45. It is more an extension of that experience since we still have the resources and community to support our efforts in growing.