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Are they even “secrets?” Well, they were definitely secrets to me when I was first starting out. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with “teamwork makes the dreamwork” cliches. I’m going to teach you the real, tactical advice with the personal stories and proof behind them. After a decade of entrepreneurship and mentoring hundreds of fashion entrepreneurs… Here are my 5 secrets to fashion business success. 

Resources mentioned in this episode:

The Fashion Business Summit



TRANSCRIPT

Before we jump into this episode I want to make sure you know that our one-day, online event is happening tomorrow, Jan. 26th and today is the last day to register! The Fashion Business Summit is for early-stage fashion entrepreneurs who want to take action, pursue their passion and make 2023 the year they start selling. You can register for free and grab your VIP Pass at factory45.co/summit Okay, onto the episode.

So, what are the 5 secrets to fashion business success? Let’s dive right in with #1… 

#1 Successful fashion brands start niche

In other words, narrow down your audience to a very specific type of person, or a very specific type of product — or ideally, both.

I know, I know, why wouldn’t you want to broaden your audience and products to sell to as many people as you possibly can? Because if you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one. Broad does not equal better.

You will increase your likelihood of success exponentially if you start narrow and widen your offering over time, as your company grows and your cash flow increases. Why? Because starting very specific 1.) Ensures that your ideal customer finds you faster, 2.) Makes them feel like your brand was made for them, 3.) Creates clarity for you every time you write any sort of marketing copy, create brand imagery, make design decisions, etc. You know exactly who you’re creating for

Look at brands like Eileen Fisher, Reformation and Patagonia. These are pretty big companies and they’re still appealing to niche audiences. Brands like Spanx, Nike and Coach started with one product offering and then expanded that niche offering as they grew.

You wouldn’t believe how many people overlook this advice when they’re first starting out. And it kills me when I see new entrepreneurs making their first year of business even harder than it has to be. Because another benefit of starting niche is that it allows you to simplify, in every way. And if you ask any successful entrepreneur, the ability to simply move forward is half the battle.

#2: Successful businesses aren’t derailed by competition. 

There is nothing that can quite prepare you for discovering your first real competitor. I’ve gotten more than one late-night email from Factory45 grads along the lines of: “Shannon, do you know about this brand? It’s so similar to mine! What do I do?”

The first time it happens, you’re allowed to freak out. It’s normal to enter a state of panic. As long as you don’t quit. Because that’s likely going to be your first instinct. “Well!” *throws hands up in the air* “If she’s doing it, then there’s no point in me doing it! Guess that dream is OVER.”

As soon as those words come into your mind, here’s what I want you to do: Walk away. But only for a day. Go to yoga, play with your kids, have dinner with your partner, call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. The next day, come back. Because you’re going to find that the initial disappointment of discovering a competitor will have diminished — at least slightly. Gradually, you’re going to feel reinvigorated by your idea and your business and you’re going to be glad you didn’t give up on it. For all of these reasons

And as your business progresses and your customer-base grows, the concern about competition is going to fade. You’re going to become more certain about your place in the market and more confident that you’re the person to pull it off. You’re going to realize that there really is room for all of us. Let me repeat that, there is room for all of us.

Having been through this experience myself with competitors coming in and out of the fashion education space, I’ve been able to get a grip on how competition makes me feel. While I’m aware of it, I generally don’t worry about it anymore. Not because I don’t still have fears, but because I know it doesn’t serve me in any positive way.

Successful businesses aren’t derailed by competition. They don’t slow down, they stay the course and they don’t get distracted. Most of all, they keep showing up.

#3: Successful entrepreneurs do things they’re not passionate about because they know that it’s not just about passion. 

There is a lie being told in the entrepreneurial world. It’s a false narrative that’s being targeted at people who are unhappy with their current work life and are looking for a change. Maybe you’re one of those people. The lie is this: Follow your passion. Quit your job and chase your dreams. Do work you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

We see it every day: the Facebook and Instagram ads promising your “dream life” by people who look like they’re living their dream life. It’s all palm trees and perfectly-foamed lattes and bright, white lighting. But do you know what’s behind those beautiful photos and “dream lives?” Many, many, many months (probably years) of it not looking that way.

Because the truth is, to become the picture of success — while creating a business that lasts — it requires this: Doing work you don’t want to do. In fact, when you’re first starting out, you can expect to do more work that you don’t want to do than work you actually enjoy. And usually, it requires running your business as a side hustle while *still* going to your “real job.”

We all know there’s no such thing as overnight success. But what I don’t think we always remember is that there’s so much more to the story than what we see on social media. Chances are: The fashion brand with the perfectly curated Instagram feed started with an iPhone and a Dropbox folder of stock photos. The designer working in a beautifully-lit studio started in a converted home office that barely fit a desk. The CEO flying first class to a paid speaking gig spent years sitting in the back of the plane to speak for free. If you’re ready to start your own business, you should absolutely do it. It’s one of the most rewarding journeys you can take. But there should be no illusions. It will require “grunt work” — the things you think everyone else is outsourcing to interns — are the things you need to do yourself when you’re first starting out. 

Packing and fulfilling orders, writing and scheduling your own social media posts, creating your emails and blog posts, going to networking events, dealing with tech issues that make you want to pull your hair out. Those “annoying” tasks that tempt you to procrastinate or abandon them all together are the things you’ll look back on with genuine appreciation. They’re the things that will make you grow, build new skills and realize that you’re capable of more than you think. Because every successful entrepreneur I know has a similar story of doing work they didn’t want to do. That’s what it takes.

It’s not about passion. It’s about purpose.

#4 To start a successful business, you must be willing to invest in uncertainty.

So, here’s an unpopular (secretly popular) topic: Money. More specifically, how to start a business when you don’t have a lot of money. If you scour the internet, you can find enough stories of multi-millionaires who started from zero, eating chickpeas out of the can while sleeping on their friend’s futon. 

But there’s a less extreme version of this, and it’s far more common. It’s the story of the woman craving a creative outlet. She’s managed to save a small “safety net” of cash and even has some disposable income at the end of the month. She sees acquaintances on Facebook breaking out on their own. And she wonders to herself, how did they do it? What do they know that I don’t? So she starts to research. “How to start a clothing line,” she types into Google. From Marie Claire to WikiHow to “Startup Bros,” she faces 938,000,000 search results. 

Overwhelm begins to set in, but she makes one conscious choice: To take the first step. 

This was my reality in 2010. I was just starting out, trying to launch a sustainable fashion brand, and I had no idea what was what or who was who. The entire industry was a mystery to me with limited access. Nevertheless, I committed to putting $5,000 into a business bank account as an investment in a company I didn’t yet have. I’ll never forget transferring that hard-earned cash as one lump sum, knowing that it was all of my savings and probably money that I would never see again. It was a calculated risk, and there were no guarantees. When I look back on that first bank transfer I remember it as the first of many times I took a risk for my business without knowing how it would turn out. 

Nine years later, I now know it’s the name of the entrepreneurial game. Whether it was investing money into a Kickstarter campaign I wasn’t sure would be successful or hiring a business coach or buying the numerous online courses I’ve enrolled in, what I’ve learned is this: You have to be willing to invest in your business before you know it’s a sure thing. I don’t mean that you should take out a second mortgage or drain your 401K, but you have to be willing to spend money to start or grow a business. There is no way around it. So, how do you do this without succumbing to the fear of bankruptcy and homelessness? Create a “worst case scenario” plan.

Over the years, I’ve always told myself that if I lost all of my savings I could jump behind a bar and start pouring drinks again. As much as I hoped my bartending days were over, I knew that I could make cash quickly if I had to. For you, it might be nannying or waitressing or admin or cleaning houses or freelancing. Depending on how dire your “worst case scenario” plan is, having one can do two things: 1. Be an indication that you’re not ready to take action on your business. 2. Or liberate you.

It’s the litmus test you need to make a big financial decision. You must be willing to invest in uncertainty. Because there is not an entrepreneur I know who got their company off the ground for free.

#5 To build a successful business, you have to be willing to start before you’re ready. 

A couple years ago I started a YouTube channel – on a whim. I know, I sound like a 17-year-old beauty blogger. The reasons for creating videos were obvious, but beyond filming the actual content, I had no idea where to start.

So, I bought an online course that teaches YouTube for entrepreneurs. While I thought I could probably figure it out on my own, I didn’t want to. I knew there was so much more that went into the strategy behind YouTube, and I wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do step by step. So, I got to work. And as I started going through the course, researching content ideas, writing scripts, sifting through Google Keywords, I started to wonder: What did I get myself into? 

Because, to be honest, the whole process not only felt unnatural to me, but very uncomfortable.  Every ounce of my being wanted to shoot and reshoot and have multiple camera angles and great lighting and a professional set. I could come up with every excuse to procrastinate: “I shouldn’t shoot today because the ring light hasn’t arrived.” “I shouldn’t shoot today because there’s construction noise outside.”

Here’s the thing: If I spend months creating videos and never grow my viewership past my mom and my mother-in-law, then at least I’ll know it was a “failed” experiment that isn’t worth pursuing. That’s the only way to know if an idea is truly worthwhile — by putting it out into the world and testing it. The timing is never going to be perfect, you’re never going to feel ready and yes, it’s going to feel vulnerable and scary as hell.

But what’s the alternative? The alternative is playing small, never taking a risk and being too afraid to put yourself out there.

Whether it’s launching a first-time fashion business, a brand new collection or a YouTube channel of all things, there is never going to be a better time than now. Because whether you wait another month, or another year or another five years, you’re going to wish you had started today. There is always a small step you can take now to set you up for bigger steps tomorrow — especially since everything takes longer than you think it will,

So, the most important lesson I have for you today is this: Success comes from experimenting with new ideas and not being afraid to feel uncomfortable. When you push the limits and stop waiting for perfection or permission, then that’s when incredible things happen.

If you’re thinking about starting a sustainable fashion brand this year, I want to help set you up for success. I’m hosting the Fashion Business Summit tomorrow January 26th from 12-4pm ET. Today is the last day to register at factory45.co/summit – grab your VIP Pass right now and I hope to see you there!

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As any parent knows, the word “balance” is a loose term. Whether you’re working a full-time job, starting a business or working as a stay-at-home parent, you always sort of feel like you’re on a see-saw that literally goes up and down all day. Sometimes you’re on top, doing all the things, feeling like you’re conquering life… but more often than not, your see-saw is down on the ground, heavily weighted by the responsibilities of the day. Quite the picture I’m painting, huh? In this episode, I’m getting real about parenting and how to start or grow a business if you also have tiny humans you’re responsible for growing, too.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

The Fashion Business Summit



TRANSCRIPT

Okay, so as any parent knows the word “balance” is a loose term. Whether you’re working a full-time job, starting a business or working as a stay-at-home parent, you always sort of feel like you’re on a see-saw that literally goes up and down all day. Sometimes you’re on top, doing all the things, feeling like you’re conquering life… but more often than not, your see-saw is down on the ground, heavily weighted by the responsibilities of the day. Quite the picture I’m painting, huh? In this episode, I’m getting real about parenting and how to start or grow a business if you also have tiny humans you’re responsible for growing, too.

So a little personal background if you don’t know me, I’ve been an entrepreneur for 13 years and I’ve been a mom for five years. I had been running my current business, Factory45, for four years before I had my son.

Before I became a mom, I had the luxury of time. My days truly felt endless – I could take a noon workbreak to go to yoga, I could meet a friend for lunch, I could end the workday early and go to happy hour with my husband. Worst case scenario, I could always hop back on my computer at night if a work task didn’t get done during the day.

And then motherhood happened. And let me tell you, the days still felt endless but for a completely different reason. In the early days, I was lucky if I got to shower. But as my son got older, and eventually went to daycare and then pre-school, my days started to feel a lot shorter. I had between the hours of 8:30am and 2:30pm to get everything done before he came home from school.

And I started to get really good at time management. Which actually, became a silver lining of parenthood… I learned to prioritize. I got more efficient at identifying what needs to get done in the workday versus what would be nice to get done but isn’t really necessary. 

Parenthood was also great for my perfectionism – I no longer had the luxury of trying to make everything perfect so my mantra became, “done is better than perfect” which is a crucial lesson for any entrepreneur. Parenting forces you to make the most use of your time – before having kids, I could let three tasks take the entire day. Now those same three tasks take a couple of hours. 

Here’s another silver lining of having less time due to the demands of having children: you learn to find, what I call, the “in between time.” The procrastinator in me used to love to saturate my to-do list with the tiniest tasks. I was the queen of the daily long list: Write an email to that person, change the link on my Instagram profile, pay that bill, write a caption… these are all things that take around the same time to write on a to-do list as they do to just complete them in the moment. Becoming a mom has helped me make the most use of the in between time by getting things done when I think of them instead of waiting.

When I had my daughter back in April, I spent the first few months after my maternity leave, getting everything done for the day in four 45-minute naps. I would put her down in her crib, open my computer and focus on completing just one task during that 45 minute block. First nap of the day: answer any pressing questions or review requests from my team. Second nap of the day: write a podcast episode. Third nap of the day: write Instagram captions for the week and review our social media calendar. Fourth nap of the day: Tie up loose ends for the day and answer some emails.

Is this “start and stop whiplash” throughout the day ideal? Probably not. But when you’re an entrepreneur, and a parent, you have to figure out how to optimize your time in either spurts or in blocks of time when you know you won’t be interrupted. 

You could say the same for starting a business while working a full-time job. The key there is also finding the in between time – or blocking off your nights and weekends, depending on what else you have going on in your life.

That’s all to say, despite the obvious challenges of having kids and trying to start a business, there are some ways in which parenthood is helpful for entrepreneurship. And I will also say that you’ll get better with practice – just like anything, the time management will feel hard at first but eventually you’ll find a rhythm and routine that works in your favor.

And that’s exactly what I’ve observed through the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with in Factory45. The most successful graduates to launch their brands are often parents. There is some very strong mom energy within Factory45 – we have a lot of women in the program whose kids are starting elementary school and they suddenly have some free time back – and they are the ones who have usually already mastered time management, so they know how to get things done. And after six years of having kids at home to wrangle, they have an appreciation for their newfound freedom and want to make the most out of it. I love working with other moms for that reason – we don’t overthink, we tackle the task at hand and we get it all done before school pickup.

I would be remiss to not mention, though, that help is required. It would be very difficult to run the business that I do without other caregivers around to help me. And that’s why it’s so important to have your partner on board and supportive of your entrepreneurial goals. Because starting and running a business takes time, and you’re going to have to lean on them to free up some of your time so that you can work on your brand. If they’re not supportive of your business goals, then that’s when resentment builds as well as feelings of inequities in the relationship – so it’s definitely a conversation worth having and continuing to have before and throughout your entrepreneurial journey. My husband is 110% the coparent I need him to be and in the early days of motherhood, we also had both sets of parents around to help out before my son started daycare. Now that my son is five and in pre-school and we have our 9-month old daughter, we also have the help of a full-time nanny at our house. Yes, it’s expensive and yes, there is privilege that comes with having that level of help. That’s a conversation for another day but my point is, in whatever capacity you can get it, there is some help required. Unless of course you’re superwoman : ) 

So to sum it up: Prioritizing is a non-negotiable (which means you also have to say no to things), find the inbetween time, try to get one thing done in the blocks of time available to you and get help wherever you can find it – maybe it’s grandparent help, maybe it’s a full-time nanny if you’re lucky, maybe it’s daycare, maybe it’s your partner or maybe it’s just a twice weekly playdate with a neighbor. Get it wherever you can find it.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how other entrepreneurs balance parenting and entrepreneurship, join us for The Fashion Business Summit on January 26th. Natalie Freed, founder of MSL Bags, will be talking about the challenges and silver linings of raising kids while starting her product line. You can register to attend the Summit for free at factory45.co/summit – the link is in the show notes below. This is the industry event to kick off 2023 as a fashion entrepreneur, so I hope to see you there.

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Are you thinking about taking the leap from a more traditional career to the world of entrepreneurship? Have you thought about how your daily life will change? Have you talked it through with your partner or spouse? And also, where do you even start? In this episode, I’m going to give you some questions to ask yourself and some things to think about if you are considering a career shift.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Should You Quit Your Day Job to Start Your Fashion Brand

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Sustainable Fashion Brand

The Fashion Business Summit



TRANSCRIPT

Are you thinking about taking the leap from a more traditional career to the world of entrepreneurship? Have you thought about how your daily life will change? Have you talked it through with your partner or spouse? And also, where do you even start? In this episode, I’m going to give you some questions to ask yourself and some things to think about if you are considering a career shift.

Okay, so there are a few things to think about here – actually I have seven things, so I’m going to go through each one.

  1. First, you’ll want to decide if you should quit your day job or current career. If that’s still up in the air for you and you’re not sure what to do, I have a whole separate episode called “Should You Quit Your Day Job to Start Your Fashion Brand?” that I’ll link to in the show notes below. Take a listen to that if you’re on the fence about what to do. Also, the advice I give is probably not what you think it’s going to be.
  2. The next thing you’ll want to decide, if you do decide to keep your current job or career while you launch your startup, is if you should tell your boss, manager or coworkers that you’re starting your own business. I talk about this in the same episode I just mentioned but obviously everyone’s situation is going to be different. I feel like in the current state of the world, though, most companies are okay with their employees having a side hustle or project they’re working on as long as it doesn’t affect their work. Again, this is situational so you want to make sure there won’t be any repercussions if you do tell anyone. You also want to make sure there won’t be any repercussions if you don’t tell anyone and then someone finds out via social media or word of mouth. Sometimes a casual chat with your HR department (if you have one) can help you figure this out.
  3. The third thing you’ll want to figure out is if your spouse or partner is on board with you starting a business. This is a really important conversation to have because if you do go down the road of entrepreneurship, then other things in your life – like free time and disposable income – will likely be sacrificed. If you have kids, for example, is your partner willing to take on more of the childcare responsibilities on a Saturday afternoon so you can work on your business? Is your partner going to be okay with seeing less of you in the evenings if that’s when you have time to work on your brand? Do you have a joint bank account or separate accounts? Will your partner be okay with you spending money on initial startup costs that will help you get your brand off the ground or are they going to see it as a waste of money? A supportive partner – even if they’re not invested or fully “get it” – is imperative to your long term success as a business owner. And to be honest, this doesn’t change as your business grows. Nearly a decade into entrepreneurship, I still need to lean on my husband to take the baby some afternoons so I can get work done that I may have not been able to complete earlier in the day.
  4. On that note, you’ll want to identify “open hours” and create a schedule. What do your day to day commitments look like? Do you commute to a 9-5 job that will require you to dedicate your evenings and weekends to building your brand? Do you have a more flexible schedule that allows you to work from home and complete business-related tasks in between the responsibilities of your “real job”? Are your weekdays packed with childcare, after-school activities, grocery shopping, meal prep and the other commitments that come with running a home and family? To successfully make the transition into entrepreneurship, you’ll need to sit down, look at your daily schedule and identify the open hours or blocks of time that you can dedicate to working on your business. That time should be worked into your schedule and put on your calendar so that it’s blocked off just as any other commitment would be.
  5. The fifth thing is to create a budget for your business. Maybe you have a disposable income each month where a percentage can be allocated to startup costs. Maybe you’ve saved up a chunk of money over the years because you knew that you always wanted to start a business and this was the funding you put together for it. Again, if you have a partner or spouse that has joint ownership of your finances, you’ll want to have a conversation about budgeting, expectations and how much you expect everything to cost. I have a separate episode called How Much Does it Cost to Start a Sustainable Fashion Brand? 
  6. The sixth thing you’ll want to do in pivoting from a traditional career to fashion entrepreneurship is to start networking and attending industry events. Connect with other fashion entrepreneurs in your local area, take online workshops or classes, attend in-person and online events that allow you to immerse yourself in the industry and make connections with people who are doing or who have done the same thing you want to do. You can kick this off right now by registering for The Fashion Business Summit that we’re hosting on January 26th. It’s a one-day event that will give you the opportunity to hear from other fashion founders about how they started their brands and we’ll be covering topics like starting a fashion brand while working a day job, running a brand while raising kids, creating a fashion brand with no fashion background and lots of other relevant topics. I’ll pop the registration link into the show notes but you can register for The Fashion Business Summit at factory45.co/summit 
  7. And the final advice I have for making this transition from career to entrepreneurship is to set realistic expectations. What do I mean by that? If you’re starting your own business, while also keeping your day job, then it’s important to have realistic expectations about your progress, how long things will take, your timeline and benchmarks. If you’re working and/or have a family to raise, then of course things are going to take longer than if you were dedicating all of your time to your startup. Give yourself grace, know that everything always takes longer than you expect to but that’s why it’s also important to start before you’re ready.

I’ve seen so many Factory45 alumni successfully make the transition from a traditional career to entrepreneurship – they’ll all say, it wasn’t necessarily easy but it was definitely worth it.

Speaking of career changes, we’re hosting The Fashion Business Summit on January 26th and one of the main speakers will be talking about how she runs her brand while working full-time, going to grad school and pursuing a corporate career. She has a lot of wisdom, lessons learned and experience to share on this topic, so come hear what she has to say. You can register to attend the Summit for free at factory45.co/summit – the link is in the show notes below. This is the industry event to kick off 2023 as a fashion entrepreneur, so make sure to be there.

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Are you deciding between joining a fashion program or hiring a consultant to start your brand? We’re asked about this a lot by people starting their own fashion brands. So, in this episode, I’m going through the pros and cons of joining a fashion program like Factory45 vs hiring a consultant, so that you can weigh the options and decide for yourself.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

The Fashion Business Summit

CEO Hour



TRANSCRIPT

Welcome, welcome back to the first episode of 2023! I wanted to start the new year with this topic because it’s something we’re asked about a lot by people starting their own fashion brands. I’m also in a unique position, having been a consultant (and now still doing private consulting), as well as running Factory45, our fashion business program. So in this episode, I’m going to go through the pros and cons of joining a fashion program like Factory45 vs hiring a consultant, so that you can decide for yourself which option is right for you.

Before I start, I want to give credit to Hannah, who is a Factory45 Mentor and our Director of Enrollment – she came up with an extensive list comparing both options so shout-out to her for her help on this episode.

Alright, let’s start with hiring a private consultant. First, what is a consultant? In this case, I’m talking about someone you work with 1 on 1, either on a project basis or on a monthly retainer, to help you launch or grow your fashion brand. There is no group element although the consultant will obviously have other clients.

Here are some of the benefits of working with a consultant:

  1. You’re working with someone who can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you in terms of making connections and setting up your brand infrastructure, and possibly supply chain
  2. By outsourcing the major components of your brand development (and possibly marketing) you will have more free time
  3. Things can get done quickly thanks to their existing connections in the industry + strategic referrals to preferred partners

However:

  • The cost over time is high, for multiple reasons. First, getting that 1on 1 time and access to a consultant typically costs between $1000-5000/month with a required minimum retainer. If you hire someone on a project basis, you’re looking at a fee anywhere between $3,000-15,000, depending on the scope. The second reason the cost over time is high is because you will need to hire them for each collection since you won’t necessarily develop the skills or network to navigate the process on your own.
  • There are also potential service fees every step of the process (sourcing, pre-production, production, branding etc)
  • If you ever want to move your supply chain outside of their recommendations, you will be starting from scratch – without knowledge or the personal connections to do it yourself.
  • And you will always be dependent on someone else’s opinions, industry knowledge and connections to advance your business.

In other words, hiring a consultant is much like fishing for you instead of teaching you to fish.

Okay, so on the flip side, let’s talk about joining a fashion program. Just like hiring a consultant, no two fashion programs are exactly alike. So I can really only tell you about the benefits of joining a program like Factory45 but hopefully it will help to create some clarity in what Factory45 has to offer if it is something you’re considering.

The benefits of joining Factory45 are:

  1. You get access to a trifecta of resources: the first one is me, Shannon, who fills the consultancy role, the second is our mentorship team that fills the role of personal support, camaraderie and accountability and the third is the structure and roadmap of an online program that teaches you exactly what to do and how to do it in chronological order and on the most efficient timeline. 
  2. You have a 1:1 coaching relationship with a Mentor who has already graduated from the Factory45 program, has successfully launched their own brand and is currently running that brand. They have been in your shoes, are seeing what’s happening in the industry in real time and they understand your business challenges and goals
  3. You have access to vetted databases of sustainable and ethical suppliers, pattern makers, sample makers, production partners, media outlets and more. Which means you are in complete control of your supply chain and own each of those relationships. This is something you have lifetime access to so anytime a new manufacturer or supplier is added to the database, you get it – even if you started Factory45, let’s say four years ago.
  4. There is a community of other sustainable fashion entrepreneurs to support you, partner and collaborate with, as well as cross-promote each other. It’s a built-in marketing network for when you launch.
  5. You have weekly live classes (online) that cover up-to-date information about running a fashion brand in 2023 – we offer two live calls per week (with a member of our Mentorship team or me).
  6. You have LIFETIME access to all of these resources – this is unmatched in the fashion education space. You literally have access to your Mentor, as well as the program resources, for as long as the Factory45 program exists. And we have the credibility of being around since 2014, which is the longest running online program in the fashion education space.
  7. You will learn how to raise money and test the market before going into production, so you don’t have to use your own money or savings.
  8. When you are finally ready to outsource aspects of your business, you will have the knowledge and confidence to tell them what YOU want for your brand because you will have already done it yourself.

However:

  • The one-time cost of the program is a significant investment. Even though it will help you spend your startup budget wisely and again, provide you with lifetime support, skills and resources, I know the cost of tuition is not feasible for everyone. I will say, we’ve had entrepreneurs tell us that Factory45 was more valuable than getting their MBA.
  • Also, it’s important to know that you will need to put in more work, learning the in’s and out’s of your own business – no one is going to do that for you.
  • And third, it will likely take more time to do things the right way, because you’re in complete control, but a solid foundation is crucial to a successful business.

In the fishing scenario, Factory45 teaches you how to fish instead of fishing for you.

So, which option should you choose?

My thought is this: My recommendation is to hire a consultant after you’ve launched your brand and have a specific need or project you want to work on. Or in the case of the consultancy I run, let’s say you’re looking for a CEO type figure to strategically advise you each month. If a consultant is what you’re looking for, check out CEO Hour at shannonlohr.com (that’s my first name, Shannon and my last name, L-O-H-R dot com) and it’s linked in the description below.

If you haven’t launched your brand yet and you want to have control over your supply chain, the education of how to thrive in the industry and the foundation of a sustainable business, then I recommend joining Factory45. Applications are closed right now, depending on when you’re listening, but enrollment will open for the 2023 on Jan. 26th.

And if you want to hear more about running your own fashion or accessories brand from people who are doing it themselves, I’m very excited to announce that we’re hosting The Fashion Business Summit for early-stage entrepreneurs who want to start a sustainable fashion brand. It’s a one-day event that we’re hosting on Jan. 26th where you’ll get a chance to hear from current fashion founders, join in on strategy sessions with me and get connections to suppliers and manufacturers. It’s a free online event happening on Jan. 26th from 12-4pm ET and you can register at factory45.co/summit – the link is in the description below. I really hope to see you there!

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify


If you’re building a sustainable fashion brand, you’re probably in the thick of it. As a fashion entrepreneur, you’ll be tackling new skills and challenges that you’ve never encountered before. Tech issues, design challenges, writing, negotiating, creating and organizing… most of it will push you out of your comfort zone. But as entrepreneurs, that is actually what we want. 

We can and should do hard things. There’s the science to back it up, and that’s what I’m talking about in today’s episode.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Factory45, The Business School For Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurs

Book a call to learn more about launching your fashion brand with Factory45



TRANSCRIPT

The other night I was listening to a podcast with a neurologist who specializes in psychology.

She was talking about neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself with new neural pathways. (Stick with me.)

She said that by the age of 25, your brain relies on so many existing connections that it’s hard to break free of them. Which is why, for example, it’s so much harder to learn a new language after the age of 26.

But the neurologist explained that in some cases, the medical field is starting to see people in their sixties who have more neuroplasticity than people in their late twenties. Why? Because they’re willing to do hard things.

A wordsmith who practices Sudoku puzzles, a mathematician who writes a novel, a Japanese person who learns Danish, a person with dyslexia who practices crosswords.

She said that the level of challenge should leave you exhausted and completely spent. 

As I was listening to her speak, I started thinking about the Factory45 entrepreneurs I’m currently working with to launch their clothing brands.

Right now, they’re in the thick of it. Most of them are tackling new skills and challenges that they’ve never encountered before. Tech issues, design challenges, writing, negotiating, creating and organizing… I hear from many of them about how much this process is pushing their comfort zone.

But as entrepreneurs, that is what we want. Because, not to get all Glennon Doyle on you (also, has she trademarked that phrase yet?), we can do hard things.

We should do hard things. And there’s the science to back it up. So, here’s my message to you:

Whether you’re pulling your hair out on the first day of virtual learning with your kids —

Or building a website with no clue how to design or code  —

Or spending hours on your business idea so you can create another income for your family —

I’m here to tell you, you can do hard things.

And your brain will be better for it.

If you’re ready to do hard things but do it with a community of peers around you, with a roadmap, and a team of experienced mentors, then Factory45 may be what you’re looking for. The access, resources and support you receive through Factory45 is unmatched in the fashion education space and will set you up for successfully launching your fashion brand. Book a free discovery call to learn more at factory45.co/apply

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify


If you’re thinking about starting a fashion brand, chances are you’re doing a lot of research. And when you’re bombarded with advice, opinions, facts, stats, experts, gurus, advertisements… It’s enough to cause decision paralysis for even the most confident, decisive and organized of people. So how do you do your research and avoid information overload? That’s what I’m talking about in today’s episode. 

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Book a call to learn more about launching your fashion brand with Factory45



TRANSCRIPT

Throughout my career, as the founder of Factory45, I’ve heard some variation of this sentiment more than once… and it’s this:

“I’m feeling overwhelmed by information overload. I’ve been doing research for months and months, but at what point is it enough? At what point do I stop researching and start ‘doing’?”

You’ve probably heard the statistic — it’s something along the lines of how the average person today consumes more information in 24 hours than a person in the 1800s consumed in their whole life.

We are bombarded with advice, opinions, facts, stats, experts, gurus, advertisements and the like. It’s enough to cause decision paralysis for even the most confident, decisive and organized of people.

Then there are the rest of us, grasping at which direction to take, which advice to listen to and which research to follow.

And I’m here to tell you, You can probably stop.

Stop researching. And start implementing.

Because doing is the best research you’re ever going to have.

Doing the thing is when you’re going to find what works for you and your brand — instead of what works for someone else.

Is it important to use the guidance of the people who have been there before?

Of course. (I started Factory45 for that very reason.)

But for as many articles you read, podcasts you listen to, courses you take and networking events you go to, you have to make sure you’re taking action at the same time.

So, what do you do?

  1. First, pick one educator, coach or mentor to start. Maybe it’s me and the Factory45 team or maybe it’s someone else in the fashion education space, but you don’t need all of the experts. Pick someone you trust, someone who’s style jives with how you like to learn, and a personality you connect with.
  2. Implement while you learn. Again, make sure you’re taking action on the new information you’re absorbing. Binders and folders and colored coordinated labels are fun, but those aren’t moving the needle. Choose one thing every day that will move your business forward or get you closer to launch.
  3. Notice if you’re using “research” as a way to procrastinate. If you think you’ve done too much Googling, then you probably have. Step away from the search bar.

And above all, remember, you’re not going to get it all right. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to follow the wrong advice – or maybe it’s even the right advice that goes wrong, and yes, you’re going to feel paralyzed by all of the decisions you have to make.

But that’s okay.

Because the best entrepreneurs know that when one road dead-ends, you can always reroute.

For better or for worse, there will always be another road to follow.

If you’re ready to stop researching and start taking action, I want you to go to factory45.co/apply and book a call to speak with someone from the Factory45 team. If you’re ready to dive into making your idea happen and are ready to launch your fashion brand in 2023 Factory45 is the next right step. You can book a free 15-minute consult call to find out if your business goals are a fit for what Factory45 provides. Go to factory45.co/apply Thanks for listening and see you next week!

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify


Everyone loves the hero’s journey and I’m sure you can recount a dozen other failure-to-success, rags-to-riches stories of celebrities and athletes. But what about your own? As an entrepreneur, regardless of whether you’re established or aspiring, what is your relationship to failure? To thrive in this industry, you have to be okay with mistakes, frustration and yes, failure. That’s what we’ll explore in today’s episode.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Free Workshop: Raise Money for Your Fashion Brand

Does Hard Work Really Pay Off



TRANSCRIPT

A few years ago I was watching an interview with comedian and screenwriter Tina Fey. She was talking about the highs and lows of her career, the missteps and the slip-ups and then she started telling a story about her early days in stand-up comedy.

She was recalling the multiple times that she performed a set, only to leave the stage in complete misery. No laughs, no engagement from the crowd — hardly any giggles of pity.

And then she said this: “Everyone should experience the feeling of bombing.”

I sat with that for a minute, and I started to think about my own experiences of failure. Like the time I spoke at Eco Fashion Week in 2013 and could barely get the words out of my mouth. Or the time I tried working for someone else and got fired three months in. Or the myriad other times I didn’t land the internship or the fellowship or get into my dream school.

Everyone should experience the feeling of bombing. Because the highs will never feel as high as the lows feel low.

Tina Fey is a New York Times bestselling author, she has a net worth of $75 million, she’s won 9 Emmy Awards, 3 Golden Globe Awards, 5 SAG Awards and the list goes on. Do you know how she got there?

By failing time and time again… and not letting it stop her. It’s a cliche story, right?

Everyone loves the hero’s journey and I’m sure you can recount a dozen other failure to success, rags to riches stories of celebrities and athletes. But what about your own?

As an entrepreneur, regardless of whether you’re established or aspiring, what is your relationship to failure? Because I can tell you this:

To thrive in this industry and for your business to survive, you have to be okay with mistakes, mishaps, discomfort, frustration and yes, failure.

The only other alternative is fear.

And do you know what fear of failure does?

  1. It stifles creativity.
  2. It promotes procrastination.
  3. It feeds into victim mentality.
  4. And it holds you back from your true potential.

And I don’t think that’s a world that any of us want to live in.

So, the next time you’re tempted to hit the panic button before you can experience the feeling of bombing, I want you to pick one of these Tina Fey originals and hold onto it:

“It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. Perfect is boring.”

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

Or, my personal favorite:

“Confidence is 10% hard work and 90% delusion.”

If you’re ready to push past fear to launch your fashion brand this year, then this is a reminder to sign up for my free workshop on How to Raise Money for Your Fashion Brand – without investors, without taking out a loan and without risking your own savings. This is the first step you can take to learn how to launch your fashion brand with less risk, more market validation and money in the bank. Go to factory45.co/sustainable-fashion-event or click the link in the description below. Thanks for listening!

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify


How many times have you wanted to give up? Whether it was entrepreneurship, a job, your education, a relationship or something else… If you ever faced feelings of wanting to throw it all away, what stopped you from doing it? What kept you going and invested in the long game? Perhaps you already know the answer, but the next time you face these same feelings I want you to consider this… because it might just be *the* key to success.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Book a call to learn more about launching your brand through Factory45.



TRANSCRIPT

How many times have you wanted to give up? Whether it was entrepreneurship, a job, your education, a relationship or something else… If you ever faced feelings of wanting to throw it all away, what stopped you from doing it? What kept you going and invested in the long game? Perhaps you already know the answer, but the next time you face these same feelings I want you to consider this… because it might just be *the* key to success.

I’ve shared this story before, so if you’ve already heard it bear with me because I think it does a great job of communicating the main point I want to convey in this episode.

Back in 2011, when I was starting what would eventually become a New York Times-featured sustainable fashion brand, my co-founder and I felt so far away from any semblance of success that to think about a New York Times reporter wanting to interview us would have sounded like a prank.

We had been working on our brand for months and had just spent our first significant amount of money – several thousand dollars – to hire a pattern and samplemaker who would create a prototype of our first design. 

We felt good about the decision. We had flown to North Carolina to meet with the patternmaker in person – they even had us over to their house. We had gone over our spec sheet, talked through all of the details, measurements and design elements. And we left North Carolina having made a 50% deposit with the promise of a finished prototype in three weeks. 

And then that three weeks turned into three months. Three months of waiting for one completed sample, out of the 10 designs we had planned for our first line… I wish I could tell you that it was worth the wait, but after all of that time the sample finally arrived in the mail looking nothing like the original design from our spec sheet.

It was as if our samplemaker forgot we paid her to do this project and then when she remembered, she took an old sample of a different dress that she never used and sent it to us hoping we wouldn’t notice.

It was completely demoralizing. A waste of thousands of dollars on a sample we couldn’t use, a waste of three months that we could have used to sample other pieces, a waste of air travel to go across the country and meet this person. All for what? 

It was the closest we came to giving up – before we had really gotten started. Had we walked away at that point we would have never seen our names in the New York Times, never would have pre-sold to 800 very excited first customers, never would have been paid $3,000 for our first big speaking engagement.

There was so much success to come that we never would have known about.

So why did we stay? Why did we keep going? Why did we continue spending time and money on a project that didn’t seem to have any legs?

Because of accountability.

Accountability is one of the key factors of success.

What do I mean by that?

Well, in this case, my co-founder and I were accountable to each other. It was an “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird” situation… without the romance… and Ryan Gosling.

We wouldn’t dream of disappointing each other. And when one of us was ready to quit, or feeling down, then the other one immediately jumped into the role of cheerleader and optimist. We continuously took turns taking on that role.

The other piece of this was the accountability we had to our audience – our loyal following of future customers.

Because we had been writing to our email list, blogging and posting on social media for months leading up to this point, we had a small but mighty group of people invested in our journey and in our eventual success. We were accountable to them and didn’t want to let them down.

So it begs the question: how do you find this level of accountability? Accountability that will keep you going through the hard moments so that you eventually get to the good ones.

Besides finding a co-founder (which is truthfully difficult to do and has other complications) and besides being accountable to your audience, I want to share some other ways you can find accountability so that it plays a hand in your own success.

The first way is through COMMUNITY. Community is such a general term and can look many different ways but the main thing here is to look for a formalized community. That means structure, time or financial investment from the other members and a routine or schedule in how often you meet. The great thing about building a community is that it can be self-led with two or three other people or it can be led by an educator, brand, consultant or leader in the fashion education space. This is the option for accountability that you can do for free – by just reaching out to a few other fashion brand founders – but I do know from experience and observation that generally speaking, the paid communities tend to be more valuable because people are quite literally invested.

The second option for accountability is to hire a COACH or CONSULTANT. When I started Factory45 and no longer had a co-founder and didn’t have employees or contractors yet, this is what I did for accountability. In fact, even now that I’m 10+ years into my entrepreneurial journey and have coworkers around me, I continue to work with a business coach. I always get a return on investment – and having an outside party, who can see a different perspective on your business, but is still invested in your success, can pay itself tenfold. Whether its a 1:1 consultant or group coaching from a consultant like myself, through a program like Factory45, the accountability and again, the personal investment in holding yourself accountable is a huge factor in getting to that next level of success.

And the third option is to find a MENTOR. Like the Community that I already mentioned, you can sometimes find an informal mentor that doesn’t cost anything but if you go that route, I do recommend trying to formalize it when you can. Of course you have to be conscious of this person’s time and energy in how they’re mentoring you, if it’s free, but if you can get them to commit to a once per month or every other month meeting schedule then that’s what I’d recommend. Again, you often get what you pay for, and in this case, since you’d be paying nothing you can’t count on the person to keep the commitment, not reschedule or cancel last minute. And then of course you can find mentorship through a program, course or community you pay for. For example, in Factory45, you have me as your consultant but we also have 12 Alumni Mentors that each entrepreneur is matched up with at the beginning of the program for 1:1 support. And then of course there’s the element of peer mentorship that you can find in other coaching programs and education platforms through the other student entrepreneurs who you’re working alongside. I can think of three Factory45’ers who formed their own internal peer mentorship group and took it upon themselves to meet every week and hold each other accountable.

And not to just completely plug Factory45 here, but the Factory45 program is all of those – each of those three elements of accountability – wrapped up into one. It’s an investment that earns you lifetime access to both the program and the accountability from your mentor, from myself and from your peers.

And as a bonus, we also teach you how to market your brand so that you build an audience to be held accountable to as well.

But Factory45 aside, whether you eventually join the program or not, find a way to be held accountable to your business dreams and goals. Because when times get tough and obstacles come up, you’re going to need an outside force to get you back into gear. Even solopreneurship is not something you want to go at alone.

If this episode was showing the value of accountability and you want to learn more about how Factory45 can provide that next level of accountability for you. If you’re looking for support, guidance, and other people who are going through a similar journey – if you want someone who can walk you through all the steps from idea to launch and implement them… then I want you to take a closer look at Factory45. 

If it looks exciting to you and you’re ready to raise money for your fashion brand without taking on debt, find an ethical manufacturer to produce your line, and have customers ready to buy as soon as you launch, I want you to go to factory45.co/apply . You can book a free discovery call with us – there’s no commitment required – and you can simply talk about whether Factory45 is right for you. The link is in the show notes below – we hope to hear from you.

The last time I worked in an office was 2007. 

It was the closest I ever came to having a “real job” – and I was an intern in Sports Illustrated’s editorial department.

Which means, I’ve essentially been some version of an entrepreneur for over a decade.

I’ve learned a lot from it.

Business lessons, relationships lessons… lessons in risk… lessons for life.

And it’s five of those lessons that I’m going to share with you during Thursday’s Live Show.

I’m not going to give you any cliches – “work smarter, not harder” is great advice, but you’ve probably heard it before.

My goal in opening up about these five lessons is to get your wheels turning, spark a creative insight and inspire you in a way you haven’t been before.

So join me this Thursday, Nov. 3rd at 12:30pm ET on Instagram Live (@factory45co).

You can click this link to tune in.

If you’re new to entrepreneurship, this is a free opportunity to learn from someone who has been in the thick of building businesses for her entire career, I hope I’ll see you there.

 


ON THE PODCAST:

                 Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify


Today I want to introduce you to five podcasts on topics ranging from conscious style to business to sustainable fashion.

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by each host and I think the conversations will be helpful in inspiring your own journey into fashion entrepreneurship. 

Browse the shows below and choose the one (or five!) that looks most interesting to you!


Conscious Style Podcast

Ep. 32 – How to Launch a Sustainable Fashion Brand with Shannon Lohr


Working Women Mentor

Ep. 37 – Shannon Lohr: An Insider’s Guide to Sustainability and Using Clothing as a Source for Good


The Sustainable Fashion Wingman

Ep. 28 – How to Launch a Sustainable Fashion Brand, with Factory45’s Shannon Lohr


The Good Dirt

Ep. 89 – The Real Scoop on Sustainable Fashion: A Discussion for Producers and Consumers with Shannon Lohr of Factory45


Marrin Costello Radio

Originally aired on Dash Radio: Shannon Lohr of Factory45


And then, of course, there’s always the Factory45 podcast for 20-minute-or-less episodes every week → Start Your Sustainable Fashion Brand

Happy listening!

 

 

P.S. Join me on IG Live tomorrow at 12:30pm ET for Factory45 LIVE, the Live Show for Fashion Entrepreneurs! 

The topic I’m covering is: How to Launch a Fashion Brand Without Taking On Debt. 

Bring your questions!