blog

Why You Need a Blog for Your Fashion Brand — Really.

If I polled an audience of startup fashion designers and asked them the number one business task they dread the most, I bet I could guess what most of them would say.

It’s not Google Analytics…

Or calculating costs… 

Or managing a budget…

(Although I’m sure those are high on the list.)

The number one thing that most fashion entrepreneurs resist is:

Blogging.

I’m not talking about blogging as in being a “fashion blogger” and sharing your #ootd and styled outfits.

I’m talking about blogging as a strategic marketing tactic to attract an audience and create potential customers for your brand. 

In other words, blogging as a means to sell your products.

I’ve done a lot of research on this and all of the experts agree,

Blogging is not going anywhere.

It is still an incredibly powerful tool to grow your brand presence, drive traffic to your landing page or online store and convert website visitors into paying customers.

If you’re not leveraging it for your business, then you’re doing yourself a disservice and that’s what I want to help you with today.

So, what in the world are you supposed to write about?

Let me first say that a blog post does not have to be written. 

There are multiple mediums for blogging today, including audio and video, so if you don’t consider yourself a “good writer” you’re not off the hook!

The content you produce depends on which stage of business you’re in. For our purposes, I’m going to apply this to those of you who don’t have anything to sell yet.

Because yes, you should be marketing and building an audience before you have anything to sell. (But you already knew that, right?)

When brainstorming content ideas, the “winning topics” should fall under one of two categories:

  1. A personal post about you, your story, why you’re starting your brand and a behind the scenes look at building your business. It should be written in a way that connects with your ideal target customer (i.e. reader).
  2. An educational, entertaining or inspirational post that provides valuable content for your ideal target customer (i.e. reader).

That’s it — one of those two things.

The goal is for every blog post to either 1.) connect or 2.) provide value — in an ideal world, it does both.

Now, here’s the key to blogging:

Consistency.

Once a week, on the same day, you want to publish a new blog post and send it out to your email list and social media following.

The easiest way to make sure you’re consistent in this is to brainstorm content ideas in advance and to devise a system.

You can stay organized by creating an editorial calendar and a workflow spreadsheet.

The editorial calendar ensures that you have blog post topics lined up weeks in advance.

The workflow spreadsheet ensures that you know exactly what you need to do to optimize your new blog post every week.

If you’re still reading, then you’ve earned this… 

You can access my Editorial Calendar template here and my Workflow Spreadsheet here.

Simply copy and paste the contents and put them into your own Google Drive spreadsheet.

Finally, and most importantly, how does blogging work to create customers?

By getting readers to sign up to your email list.

This is the number one goal for every piece of marketing content you create when you don’t have products to sell yet.

By growing your email list, you’re ensuring that when you do have something to sell you’ll have an audience to sell it to.

So, will you publish a blog post next week?

 


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4 Fabric Sourcing Mistakes Most New Designers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

“Oh, man. I was going about this all wrong…” she said to me, looking like the ‘face palm’ emoji.

“No wonder no one was emailing me back.”

This is an all-too-common feeling for new designers who are just starting out in the overwhelming world of fabric sourcing.

You know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working, but you don’t exactly know why.

Maybe your inquiry email is unclear. 

Maybe you’re not asking for the right thing… in the right way.

Maybe the supplier simply overlooked your email.

Whatever the reason, I do know this:

The vast majority of new designers are making four very common fabric sourcing mistakes.

And in this week’s video, I’m going to tell you what they are so you can avoid them.

If you’re not making the progress you need to source fabric and materials for your fashion brand, then I hope this video will help you on your search.

In the comments below the video, let me know which of the four mistakes you might be making and we can talk it through more.

To your success,

 

Instagram Experiment

The Instagram Experiment that Doubled My Engagement

“The Instagram algorithm is literally paralyzing me.”

I was talking to two startup designers at TexWorld, a fabric sourcing trade show in NYC.

“Gah, I’m so happy to hear you say that,” one of my Factory45 alum replied, “It’s paralyzing me,  too.” 

If you use Instagram to attract new customers and market your own brand, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

There is so. much. pressure. on the backs of small businesses to excel on this platform and with the ever-changing algorithms, Instagram is not making it easy on us.

Over the past two months, I’ve posted no more than THREE times on Instagram. 

And I’ve deleted two of those three posts after the fact because they didn’t look pretty “in the grid.”

The struggle is real. 

We are all putting in so much time and effort creating the content… making sure it’s aesthetically on-brand… writing a thoughtful caption… and then creating even more content for Instagram Stories.

Once we do finally click publish, only 2 percent of our followers even see the photo. It’s a wonder we haven’t already abandoned ship.

BUT, this is not a complain-festival.

After doing a bunch of research, I’ve accumulated some expert advice on the subject.

And then I did an experiment to pass along my “findings” to all of you.

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

Okay, I’ll start with the bad news first.

> 99 percent of the time, photos of you will perform better than anything else.

I know, I know, you did not want me to say that but deep down, you already knew it.

The number one way to increase likes and engagement is to post photos of yourself (and apparently, selfies really crush it).

I’m not going to get into the details about how to get in front of the camera and take good photos, but Jenna Kutcher has a helpful podcast episode (and transcript) about it here

Also, if you’re thinking, “How is showing my face on-brand to what I’m selling?” check out the fashion brands @shitthatiknit and @dudley_stephens to see how founders Christina and Lauren get in front of the camera.

Okay, now for the good news.

> When it comes to Instagram photos (not Stories), it’s about quality over quantity.

Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for people to post on IG every single day or multiple times a day.

Nowadays, it’s actually recommended to do less. And I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge relief. 

For maximum results, post 2-3 days a week (and try to hop on Stories every day).

> And now for the results of my experiment…

Last night I posted a photo after over two weeks of barely being on Instagram. In my head, I was thinking, the algorithm is going to kill my engagement for this.

But, I followed some of the advice I was getting and immediately before I published the photo, I spent 30 minutes engaging with other accounts I follow — I *wasn’t* just scrolling and “liking,” I was commenting, DM’ing, messaging on Stories, etc. 

And then I published this photo from TexWorld that yes, is a photo of me, has a thoughtful caption and a call-to-action at the end.

Instagram Experiment

In less than 12 hours, I had double the likes and comments in over six months of posts — and I didn’t have to pay to boost it. The engagement was 100% organic.

So, what does that tell me?

  1. Yes, I really do need to get in front of the camera in an authentic way.
  2. Besides advertising dollars, Instagram’s main goal is to keep people on the platform for as long as possible. If you engage with others, instead of mindlessly scrolling and “hearting,” then you are helping Instagram with its goal. They will reward your own account for it.
  3. Continue engaging after you publish. If you can, keep checking back in for about an hour after you post and try to respond to comments on your photo as quickly as possible. Again, Instagram is looking for engagement and they will boost your post to more of your audience if its algorithm sees people engaging with it.
  4. If you need to take a digital detox or IG hiatus for a bit, it won’t kill your account. Yes, you may lose a few followers but you can jump right back in after some time to refresh, regroup and plan more thoughtful content.

So, whether this is breaking news to you or you’ve heard it all before, the summary is this:

Get in front of the camera & plan to engage.

I’m challenging myself to do more of this, and I’m challenging all of you who may be struggling with the platform.

I’m going to commit two hours a week to batch shooting with a self-timer on my phone, writing captions and scheduling 1-2 weeks in advance on Planoly.

And then I’m going to commit to 10 minutes a day of genuine engagement with the accounts I follow.

It sounds like a lot of work but hey, running and growing a business is a lot of work.

And Instagram is still a valuable tool for getting in front of your ideal customer.

So, instead of feeling “paralyzed,” I’m making a conscious choice to feel empowered.

Will you join me?

 

 

P.S. Continue reading >> 4 Instagram Hacks You (Probably) Didn’t Know on the Factory45 blog

trade show

How to Source Fabric at a Trade Show

It is officially fabric trade show season! What does that mean for you?

There is a good likelihood that there is some sort of wholesale fabric show happening in a city near you — whether that’s a short plane ride or right down the street.

StartUp Fashion put together a comprehensive list for 2019 here.

Why would you want to go to a fabric trade show as a designer or brand?

It’s not because you should buy fabric.

It’s not because you should collect business cards.

And it’s not because most of them are free.

The reason to go to a fabric trade show is so you can see hundreds of different fabrics in one place. 

So you can hold them in your hands.

So you can compare them to each other.

So you can feel the different weights and textures.

It’s so you can cut down on the amount of time you spend waiting for swatches to arrive in the mail.

If I’ve convinced you that it’s a worthwhile trip to make, here’s what you need to know next:

How to make the most of your time there.

And that’s what this video is all about… 

5 tips for making sure you have a successful trade show experience.

Have you already been to a trade show before? Leave a comment below the video and let me know which one(s) you’ve gone to. 

Also, leave a comment if I’ll see you at TexWorld USA next week!

 

 

texworld

What to See at TexWorld USA 2019

If you’re a designer or fashion startup searching for fabric, then you’ve likely heard of TexWorld USA

TexWorld is one of the leading fabric trade shows and every July it comes to New York City for three days of supplier exhibition, education and networking.

If you live in the Greater New York or New England areas, I highly recommend attending. 

While the show is a bit overwhelming, and the supplier MOQs can be high, there is no better way to see thousands of fabrics at your fingertips.

It’s also an opportunity to hear from leading industry experts on a wide variety of topics — at no cost to you.

That’s right, attendance to the trade show is absolutely free.

If you can join us, here are some of the events you won’t want to miss:

MONDAY, 7/22

Fashionsustain

The entire first day of the show is dedicated to the future of sustainability in the fashion industry.


TUESDAY, 7/23 @ 11:30am

From Launch to Growth: How to Gain Traction and Surpass Goals in Your Fashion Business

Hosted by Nicole Giordano of StartUp Fashion, this “Textile Talk” on the showroom floor will discuss how to grow beyond launch by creating brand personality, building customer relationships, and overcoming obstacles to better market your business and reach your goals.

@ 2:30pm

Starting a Sustainable Fashion Brand from Scratch: A Conversation with Factory45

Join me for a chat with two brands that have launched through Factory45. Mary Bemis, founder of Reprise Activewear, and Tiffany Shown, founder of Fair Seas Supply Co., will share how they launched their brands without investors or thousands of dollars sitting in the bank.

texworld

WEDNESDAY, 7/24 @ 11:30am

Upcycling: Exploring Options in Today’s Landscape and How Brands and Individuals Can Make a Difference

This panel boasts some of the leading names in the circular economy of fashion, including Nicole Bassett of the Renewal Workshop and Rachel Kibbe of Helpsy. This is a chance to hear about different aspects of upcycling and what options and opportunities are available to both brands & individuals to be better stewards of reducing our environmental impact.


The full schedule for the educational program is here.

And if you’re wondering if the show is worth attending or how to navigate the time you spend with exhibitors, I wrote a guide to fabric sourcing at a trade show here.

Hope to see you on July 23rd!

brand

Build Your Sustainable Brand on a Limited Budget

Last week I sent out a survey to gather feedback on email topics that would be helpful to you. You can still weigh in with your input here.

Most of you said you preferred watching videos or listening to audio to reading — and one of the most asked about topics was money.

How can you launch a fashion brand on a limited budget?

So, as a continued part of my YouTube experiment, that’s the question I’m answering today…

I’m sharing three ways to make the most of your money, launch your brand with limited risk and reduce the upfront price of product development.

I’ve worked with many brands over the years to effectively used these strategies without thousands of dollars sitting in the bank…

>> Click here to watch <<

Make no mistake, you need capital to start any business — especially a product-based business.

But to get off the ground, it’s not as much as you think.

You can watch the full video here.

Enjoy!

 

shannon lohr founder of factory45

How to Launch a Fashion Line Without Fashion School

Can you really launch a fashion line without going to fashion school?

YES.

Right around this time every year, I start to hear from many of you who want to apply to Factory45.

The biggest concern?

I don’t have a fashion background!
I didn’t go to fashion school!
I don’t know how to design or sew!

I ONLY have an idea!

And what do I have to say to that?

Great!

To be the right fit for the Factory45 program, you only need an idea in your head.

We’ll figure out the rest.

And today, to celebrate the launch of the Factory45 YOUTUBE channel — I’m sharing 3 reasons you can absolutely launch a fashion line without going to fashion school.

fashion school

I’m going to use this channel to share tips and advice for every stage of running a sustainable fashion brand.

So, if you’re into video and want to see more of them, please click here and “Subscribe” to the Factory45 channel. You’ll simply get pinged when new videos go up (every Wednesday!)

And if you have suggestions or topics you’d like me to cover in a 3-5 minute video, then I’m ALL ears – simply email me at shannon@factory45.co.

Thank you so much for your support in this latest creative endeavor… and don’t forget, applications to the 2019 program of Factory45 open NEXT WEEK!

I’ll send out an email on Wednesday, 5/15 to let you know that applications are open.

If Factory45 is the right fit for you this year, I’d love to hear from you.

More next week and in the meantime,

Check out the first two videos here >>

 

 


Factory45 CTA

The *Most* Important Lesson I Learned in Five Years of Business

Last month, on a whim, I decided to start a YouTube channel.

I know, I sound like a 17-year-old beauty blogger.

The reasons for creating videos were obvious (which I won’t get into right now) 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.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars creating the highest-quality video content for the Factory45 program and now I was supposed to sit in front of my laptop webcam and not try to make it look perfect?

Every ounce of my being wanted to shoot and reshoot and have multiple camera angles and great lighting and a professional set.

But guess what? When you have zero YouTube subscribers and haven’t made one video yet, you don’t get a professional set.

You start where you are — with what you have.

As I filmed the first four videos, I had to remind myself over and over: Progress over perfection, progress over perfection, progress over perfection.

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.”

“I shouldn’t shoot today because I’m getting a haircut on Friday…”

Instead, I told myself: Just get the first four videos out there, see if they help your people and then see if they help other people discover Factory45.

Because 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.

So, secret #5 is this: To build a successful business, you have to be willing to start before you’re ready.

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 thing I’ve learned in the past five years 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 willing to start before you’re ready and launch your sustainable fashion brand this year, let’s do it together. Applications to Factory45 open on May 15th…


This is a multi-part series, celebrating the five-year business anniversary of Factory45. If you missed it, the past four posts are here:

Secret #1 on starting niche is here.

Secret #2 on dealing with competition is here.

Secret #3 on the myth of “following your passion” is here.

Secret #4 on spending money is here.


Factory45

How to Know If You’re Ready to Invest in Your Fashion Brand

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.

So, secret #4 is this: To start a successful business, 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.

 

 

If you’re ready to invest in your idea and start your dream business, let’s do it together. Applications to Factory45 open on May 15th…


This is a multi-part series, celebrating the five-year business anniversary of Factory45. If you missed “secret #1” you can read it here, if you missed “secret #2” it’s here and “secret #3” is here.

 

Factory45 CTA

Introducing the Market45 SS19 Lookbook!

When I launched the Factory45 accelerator program in 2014 I couldn’t have dreamed that we would eventually create an online marketplace, selling some of the brands that have launched through the program.

In creating Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace, my goal is to showcase the small, independent brands that are moving the fashion industry forward in a more conscious way.

The Market45 SS19 Lookbook is a way to celebrate that.

Each page showcases nine brands that have graduated from Factory45 and are selling on Market45. Their collective goal is to lessen their environmental impact, educate shoppers and provide better clothing choices to consumers.

As you flip through the pages, I invite you to get to know the products as well as the female founders behind them.

If you see something you know you’ll wear for years to come, you can find everything on Market45.co and get 10 percent off your purchase.

So, without further ado, click on the cover page below to meet the brands of the Market45 Spring/Summer Lookbook!LOOKBOOK