true followers

Why You Only Need “100 True Followers” to Launch a Fashion Brand

To be a successful creator, designer or entrepreneur, you don’t need millions of dollars.

According to author Kevin Kelly, all you need is 1,000 true fans.

Are you familiar with this theory?

The idea is this:

If you have 1,000 true fans, and make $100 profit from each one every year, that’s enough money to sustain your creative work.

It’s not a fortune, but you get to spend your day doing what you love.

I recently recalled the “1,000 True Fans” theory that I read in 2012, and it got me thinking about how it applies to the fashion entrepreneurs that I talk to every day.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from them is not being able to grow an audience fast enough.

“I only got 10 new Instagram followers this week.”

“I only have 50 email subscribers.”

“My Facebook post only got five ‘Likes.’”

For many of you, when you’re starting from zero, it probably seems impossible to get to 1,000.

The good news is, I don’t think you need 1,000 true fans.

To launch a fashion brand, you only need 100.

That’s it, “100 True Followers.”

Totally doable, right?

Most of you probably already have over 100 followers on Instagram.

But here’s the thing:

A “follower” is different from a “True Follower.”

And when you’re trying to build an audience to launch your brand to, the “True Followers” are the only thing you should care about.

These are the people who “Like” 9 out of the 10 Instagram posts you publish, the ones who actually reply to your email newsletter and the ones who leave comments on your Facebook posts.

These “True Followers” are the people who are going to be your first 100 Kickstarter backers or your first 100 customers or the first 100 shoppers to show up at your pop-up store.

And then, after they buy from you…

They’re the ones who will tell their friends about you.

And that’s where the magic happens.

So, how do you find these “True Followers?”

1.) Provide value.

It’s not about you, it’s about them. And it’s about how your brand provides value to their everyday lives — whether it’s looking forward to an Instagram post, reading one of your blog posts or being able to tell their coworkers about your weekly newsletter.

2.) Don’t try to appeal to everyone.

I’ve written about this before here. The bottom line is this: The fastest way to sabotage your business is by trying to be everything to everyone.

3.) Say something different.

The easiest way to get ignored is to say the same thing every other brand is saying. Beyond the obvious of avoiding buzzwords and cliches, your brand needs to have a voice. If you don’t know what I mean by “voice,” check out the marketing messages of companies like Reformation, Thundress or Girlfriend Collective. I’ve also written about this here.

4.) Treat every new follower like gold.

This is the most important one of all and it’s often the most overlooked. Every new subscriber, follower, fan and customer should be shown value and appreciation. Instead of lamenting your small following of 10 people, focus on providing those 10 people with the absolute best experience your brand can offer.

Do you know what happens when 10 people have a memorable experience that makes them feel connected to your brand?

Each of those 10 people tells at least one more person.

Then you have 20 followers.

And in no time at all, 100 True Followers (or even 1,000 True Fans) doesn’t seem so impossible after all.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

How to Optimize Your Productivity as a New Entrepreneur

I looked up from my computer and thought to myself,

“Man, I should really be working.”

I glanced at the clock. Two hours had passed since I last looked at it.

It took me a second to process that in that time, I had written copy for the Market45 website (coming soon), drafted the agenda for an upcoming webinar and written captions for several days worth of Instagrams.

“Oh, so I was working.”

Has that ever happened to you?

You get so caught up in your work that you look up and realize your work didn’t actually feel like work?

It doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes it doesn’t even happen every week. But when it does happen, there’s something so satisfying about it.

It’s what productivity experts call the “flow state.”

(You may also know it as “being in the zone.”)

Psychologists describe the flow state as the most productive and creative state of mind in which to work.

Some even say it’s the secret to happiness.

Our goal as entrepreneurs, then, is to enter that flow state as often as possible so that we can create, design and build our businesses in a way that is not only efficient but also brings us joy.

I know, no pressure.

There are tips all over the internet from work performance experts who will tell you how to enter a flow state.

But most of that advice assumes you’re a top performance athlete or a top-level executive.

What if you’re hustling to build your fashion brand as a side job with limited hours in the day?

What do you do then?

Here are the four steps to being “in flow” when you’re a new entrepreneur.

(And because I think acronyms are funny, I’ve put one together so you can remember it: PACE)

1. Prioritize

When you first sit down to work — whether it’s on your computer or in the studio — focus on one task, and one task only. As you practice, you’ll be able to jump to other tasks without leaving the flow state but in the beginning, it’s important to prioritize.

In choosing your task, it should be something “long form.” In other words, it feels like an investment to sit down and complete it. Tasks that are long form are things like: writing the campaign page for your Kickstarter, or mapping out financial projections or designing next season’s collection.

When you complete the task it should feel like a significant accomplishment and take between 1.5-3 hours.

2. Ambience

For me, ambience is everything. You can’t enter a flow state with the TV on in the background or sitting in the parking lot waiting for your kids. You need to know you’ll have two hours of uninterrupted time in a space that feels good to be in.

Turn on music if you like, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, light a candle, put on your “writing sweater” — pick some sort of cue that tells your brain it’s time to get down to business.

3. Challenge

Challenge + Skill Set = Flow State. I didn’t come up with this — researchers say that the optimal way to enter a flow state is to present yourself with a challenging task that matches a capable skill set.

In other words, if you’re not tech savvy you’re probably not going to find your flow while trying to set up a Mailchimp account. If you’re not math-minded, then you’re not going to enter a flow state figuring out your production costs.

When you’re first experimenting with this you’ll want to purposely choose tasks that are the appropriate level of challenging.

4. Energy

Do not try to reach a flow state when you’re exhausted, grumpy, having a bad day, etc. The essence of being in flow requires positive energy — they go hand in hand. Don’t underestimate how important it is to get your energy levels up before you sit down.


Hey, look at that — I just wrote 700 words! I didn’t even realize it until now.

I must have found the PACE to just… flow…

; )

Your turn.

factory45 owner shannon

 


sustainable fashion

How to Stand Out as a Sustainable Fashion Brand

Last week I was on “workcation” with my family in Croatia.

And one day, while we were driving on the winding island roads of Hvar, I saw a sign for a restaurant that caught my eye.

(This isn’t the first time that’s happened.)

The sign for the restaurant said:

Mostly homemade food.”

I looked at my husband and said, “Well, you have to appreciate their honesty…”

And then it got me thinking about the sustainable fashion world — and all of the new brands launching with sustainability at the forefront of their business models.

The good news is that in the past 10 years the term “sustainable fashion” has become more and more recognizable and well known.

The bad news is that the term is now often overused and sometimes even greenwashed.

Companies claim to be “a sustainable fashion brand,” but they use it as an overarching brand mark instead of explaining exactly how their company implements sustainability into their supply chain.

There’s really no such thing as “perfectly sustainable,” and I see red flags anytime a brand claims to be so.

With many of you being the future of this industry, I’d encourage you to think more deeply about the words you use to describe your sustainable fashion brand.

Because I think we can do better.

Yes, there are words like “conscious,” “socially-driven,” “eco” and “ethical” but how can you describe your brand’s ethos in a way that stands out from the rest?

And even more so, in a way that is transparent and honest?

One way is by getting specific.

Think about the words that your target customer cares about. Sift through the phrases that would peak their interest.

Because the truth is,

A sign for “homemade food” wouldn’t have caught my attention.

My mind would have just categorized it as another cute local restaurant.

Adding the word “mostly” not only piqued my curiosity but made me feel trust.

I knew that if I went into that restaurant to eat, I would know exactly which items on the menu were homemade and which ones weren’t.

And that same thought process can be applied to your own customers.

Because ultimately, that’s what they want to feel. A customer who cares enough to seek out sustainable fashion wants to be able to trust you.

To trust that what they’re buying is mostly sustainable.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


research stage

3 Steps to Simplifying the Research Stage

A few weeks ago, while I was talking with new designers at TexWorld, someone said something that stuck with me:

“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 in 2018 consumes more information in a day 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 get.

That’s 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 teach a whole fashion program based on that sole concept.)

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. Pick one teacher to start. Maybe it’s Jane from Fashion Brain Academy. Maybe it’s Nicole from Startup Fashion. Maybe it’s Syama from Scaling Retail. Or maybe it’s me. But you don’t need all the experts. Pick someone you trust, someone’s style that 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, 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.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


the crowdfunding factory

fashion kickstarter

4 Misconceptions About Launching a Fashion Kickstarter

Yesterday I spent 36 hours in New York City, talking to fashion startups about ways to finance their brands.

Needless to say, crowdfunding (specifically Kickstarter) has been on my mind.

If you’re one of those entrepreneurs currently weighing your options about how to launch your company or new collection, keep reading.

Today I want to go over four of the major misconceptions about launching a crowdfunding campaign.

MISCONCEPTION #1: Kickstarter = “donations.”

This might be my biggest pet peeve when I hear people talking about crowdfunding or Kickstarter. Do not, I repeat do not, refer to your campaign as a place to “donate” or “accept donations.”

Kickstarter is not charity. And it’s not even fundraising in a traditional sense.

When it comes to raising money for your fashion brand, Kickstarter is a platform for pre-selling your product before you go into production.

In other words, your customers are financing your first production run for you by pre-ordering what you’re selling. Instead of using your own savings, you’re receiving the money upfront to go into production and deliver your product to your Kickstarter backers.

I repeat, it’s not a donation.

MISCONCEPTION #2: If you build it, they will come.

I estimate that about 75 percent of the work that goes into launching a Kickstarter should be focused on building an audience before you launch.

When campaigns fail it’s usually because the project creator didn’t put enough work into building their email list and social media following.

Will random people discover your project because they are browsing Kickstarter for cool brands?

Probably, but you can’t count on it.

Make sure you have a dedicated following of potential customers before you click that launch button. If that means waiting a few more months to build up your list, then do it!

MISCONCEPTION #3: Most Kickstarter projects succeed.

The majority of Kickstarter campaigns fail.

(That’s part of the reason I’m so proud of the success rate coming out of Factory45 and The Crowdfunding Factory!)

Kickstarter’s Fashion category has one of the lowest success rates, coming in at 25.46%.

I don’t tell you this to discourage you. I still believe that crowdfunding is the absolute best way to launch a new fashion brand.

I tell you this to emphasize how much work and advanced planning needs to go into launching your campaign.

I estimate that you should spend 6-18 months preparing for your campaign and again, building your audience before you launch.

MISCONCEPTION #4: Crowdfunding is dead.

Is Kickstarter saturated? Is social media noisy? Are email lists hard to grow? Yes.

But what’s the alternative?

If you want to launch a successful fashion brand — without wasting your own money and without going into debt — then crowdfunding is still the most low-risk and efficient way to do that.

Why?

Because you’re able to test the market before you launch.

You’re able to ensure that you won’t have unsold inventory sitting in your basement for years.

And you’ll know that you have a product people actually want before you invest the time and money into production.

There is no venture capitalist, bank loan or angel investor who can tell you that.


The moral of the story? Building a business takes a lot of time, thought, patience, hard work, creativity and persistence.

There’s no getting around that.

There is, however, a way to market and test your brand with very little risk to you personally.

And that’s where Kickstarter comes in.

If you want to learn all the steps you need to take to create a fully-funded crowdfunding campaign enrollment to my course, The Crowdfunding Factory, is opening soon.

You can get more details about this self-study program by signing up to the waiting list here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


crowdfunding factory cat

Meet Factory45 for Fabric Sourcing at TexWorld USA

July is here… which means TexWorld USA — one of the largest fabric sourcing trade shows — is quickly approaching!

And registration is now open HERE.

This is a free opportunity for designers like you to not only see hundreds of different fabrics in person, but to also take advantage of the free fashion education happening at the show.

And I’m going to be there on July 24th!

I would love to meet you in person, so here’s what I’ll have going on:

Tuesday, 7/24 at 3pm | Financing Your Emerging Fashion Brand: A Look at New and Traditional Options.

Moderated by Nicole of StartUp Fashion, I’ll be part of a bigger conversation about financing your startup fashion brand.

I’ll cover the ins and outs of financing your production through fashion crowdfunding. Syama Meagher of Scaling Retail will talk about collection development and building a business based on cash flow and capital limitations. And Juliet Obodo, founder of FRWD Startup Solutions, will talk us through options available to founders who suddenly need capital to cover orders or unexpected expenses.

It’s free to attend but you need to register HERE.

Tuesday, 7/24 at 4pm | Independent Designer Meetup

Directly following the panel, join us for an afternoon break to connect with fellow designers and chat fashion business.

Come hang out, have a drink, compare notes and share stories with other entrepreneurs like you.You must be registered for TexWorld to join us, but it’s free to sign up HERE.

fabric sourcing

TexWorld is so much more than just a “fabric show” with a whole slew of free education resources available at your disposal.

It will also be my first night away from the baby, so you know it has to be good : )

If you can make it, I’d love to see you there!

You can register for free HERE.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Haven’t attended a trade show before? Make sure to read my free guide to sourcing fabric at a trade show here.

failure

What’s Your Relationship to Failure?

The other night 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 said 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 $45 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.”

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Get Access to 4 Fashion Industry Experts & Do Your Part to Help Reunite Immigrant Families

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the coverage of the U.S. border crisis in a state of paralysis.

So, when Nicole of StartUp Fashion reached out with an idea for how we could do our small part, I jumped at the chance to join her.

I hope you will, too.

HERE’S WHAT WE’RE DOING:

I’m co-hosting an online fashion event to raise money for RAICES, an organization working to reunite immigrant families.

Donate at least $5 to RAICES and get two hours of business access to me, Nicole of StartUp Fashion, Lorraine of Spirit of 608 and Jane of Fashion Brain Academy in an “Ask Us Anything” style Q+A.

We’ll answer as many questions as we can about running a fashion business, manufacturing, PR, marketing, raising money, etc.

THE DETAILS:

  1. Make a donation (minimum $5) to RAICES Family Reunification Fund here: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/bondfund
  2. Forward the email receipt to: donations@startupfashion.com
  3. When we receive your receipt we’ll send you an email within the hour with the link to access the upcoming Q+A.

The event is happening on Thursday, June 28th at 7:30pm ET, but if you can’t join us live your donation also gets you access to the recording.

Yes, an executive order was signed, but the fight isn’t over.

Thousands of children have been forcibly removed from their parents, sent all over the country, with no plan of how to reunite them. So we need to keep pushing.

This is a rare opportunity to get business consulting for as little as 5 dollars (!) and contribute to one of the most worthy of causes: keeping families together.

Our goal is to raise $5,000, so please help us spread the word (there is an image below that you can repost on social media).

I’m so grateful to this amazing community and have no doubt about our power of doing business for good.

Hope to “see” you on Thursday!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

Skeptical about charitable donations? Read Why Even Viral-Fundraising Skeptics Can Feel Good About Donating to RAICES

 

what to expect

What to Expect from Factory45 in 2018

Every year, June feels like January. It’s the month that truly feels like the “new year” for me.

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was first starting out was to create a schedule and plan for my business that I wanted to follow.

Schools start in September. Corporations end their fiscal year in December. Well, Factory45 starts in June.

Because, hey, I’m the boss and I get to decide.

(Also, good advice: You don’t have to follow other people’s rules.)

With that said, I’ve been looking towards the coming months and planning for the year with a refreshed spring in my step — it’s a wonder what warm weather will do…

So, here’s what’s going on and what you can expect:

FACTORY45

Last week I onboarded this year’s entrepreneurs for the 2018 program of Factory45! This is my fifth year and sixth cohort to come through the accelerator program and every year the caliber of applicants gets more and more impressive.

The majority of my time and focus for the remainder of 2018 will be focused on helping them build their businesses. And I’ll be sharing more about what they’re all working on in the coming months.

PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT

For the next six months, I’m teaming up with Joyelle West, one of Boston’s most talented photographers for a project that I’ve been thinking about for over a year now. Through our collaboration, I’ll be sharing, promoting and showcasing Factory45 products, as well as other sustainable and ethical brands, on Instagram.

You’ll be able to follow along here.

THE MARKETPLACE

The photography project will lead up to the launch of the first-ever… drum roll… Factory45 Marketplace! (Name to be determined.) I am SO excited about this and it’s been long overdue to have an online store to sell some of the Factory45 brands that have launched through the program.

I’ll be sharing more about the process of creating the marketplace with my web designer, Emily Belyea Creative, and you can expect it to be live for holiday season 2018.

TEXWORLD

Thanks to my pal Nicole of StartUp Fashion, I was invited back to TexWorld USA this year to speak on a panel about funding your fashion startup.

I’ll be in New York City for the independent designer meetup, as well as the panel, on July 23-24.

Designers and startups can register to attend for FREE here.

THE CROWDFUNDING FACTORY

Speaking of funding your fashion startup, this topic is my bread and butter. I love teaching low-barrier-to-entry ways of raising money so that you don’t have to go into debt to start your own company.

Throughout the year, I’ll spontaneously open enrollment to my other course, The Crowdfunding Factory, that teaches you how to fund your fashion brand through pre-sales and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

If you don’t have money in the bank to pay for your first production run, I created this course for you.

You can get on the waiting list and be notified when enrollment opens here.


Between all of that, I’ll be over here doing my mom thing! Baby Lohr turned five months this week, and I’m trying to soak in these early days (as sleep deprived as they may be!)

Wishing all of you a wonderful start to the summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you’re in!)

I’ll be back next week with more free startup advice, entrepreneurial musings and the like : )

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


the crowdfunding factory

Launch Your Sustainable Fashion Brand with Factory45

Enrollment is now open for the 2018 program of Factory45!

You can apply to join me here.

Over the past four years, Factory45 has helped entrepreneurs from all over the world launch clothing companies that are sustainably and ethically made.

You can get all of the details about the program here.

And yes, Factory45 is now open internationally!

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 & money

In fact, the entrepreneurs who have graduated from Factory45 have proven it.

Applications are open for the next two weeks and in that time I’m going to share:

  • My own story of entrepreneurship
  • Introduce you to some of the alumni who have successfully launched their companies through Factory45
  • Answer all of your questions about what you can expect
  • And more…

If you’ve been waiting months for this day to come, then I invite you to fill out your application now. You can live anywhere in the world to apply.

Get inspired, get to know me and get ready.

If you’ve been dreaming of starting your own sustainable fashion brand but haven’t known where to start, Factory45 is what you’ve been looking for.

Apply to join me here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. If there’s someone in your life who’s been talking about starting a clothing or accessories 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 start their own business.

And if you’re not sure it’s right for you, at least come check out the new website…