Podcast Ep. 43: How to Decide Between Joining a Fashion Program or Hiring a Consultant

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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!