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Here’s an all-too-common frustration I hear from new entrepreneurs who don’t have a fashion background:

“There are just too many fabric options — it gives me complete decision paralysis.”

One of the first obstacles to overcome as a new fashion brand is how to determine the fabric you need for your product(s).

It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of fabric options to choose from.

You may decide on the fiber you want to use, but you don’t know if it should be a knit or a woven.

You may know that you want an organic cotton jersey knit, but you don’t know which weight you need.

Then there’s the confusion of ounces versus grams, depending on which country you’re sourcing from.

No wonder fabric sourcing is the very first module of the Factory45 accelerator program — it’s usually the part of the process that takes the longest!

So in today’s video, I’m sharing a quick and easy hack to start determining the fabric you need — and you don’t even need to leave your house (unless you want to).

I want you to feel empowered to tackle fabric sourcing head-on and overcome the paralysis of “too many options.”

Just this little exercise can help create some clarity around fabric and prove that even a beginner can successfully source fabric for her fashion brand.

Click the play button below to watch this short video!

Enjoy,

 

 


fabric sourcing

The other night I was out for Thai food with some friends and we started sharing our hopes for the new year.

My friend, Megan, was telling us about the morning she woke up on the first day of 2020.

She said she was lying in bed, mentally preparing to get out from under the covers, when she noticed birds chirping outside her window. 

So she laid there, listening to the birds for longer than she would have in 2019.

“I want to have more ‘bird moments’ this year,” she told us. “It’s more than just stopping to smell the roses — it’s taking the time to really be in that moment.”

For the week since then, I’ve tried to adopt Megan’s intention as my own — consciously stopping to appreciate little moments throughout the day.

The way a bright yellow tree contrasts against a clear blue sky.

The way my son’s chubby little hand rests on my knee.

The way it feels to wrap up in a blanket in front of a fireplace.

But throughout this week, I’ve noticed something else.

I haven’t had any bird moments while I’ve been working.

Maybe I’ve been focused on getting into a “flow state” instead (I’ve written about that before here.)

But really, I think the reason is this:

Even if you’re your own boss and you run your own business, we’re mostly programmed to focus on the negative associations of “work.”

The to-do list that doesn’t let up, the technology that isn’t working, the customer who isn’t happy, the ads that aren’t converting… 

“Doing the work” and “bird moments” don’t naturally go hand-in-hand… 

But I wonder, how much of our productivity and satisfaction would increase if they did?

If we looked up every once in a while and paused for longer than usual, what would it do for our mental state as entrepreneurs?

There’s a reason why the majority of big-time CEOs and successful business people take time to meditate every day.

There is science-backed evidence that meditation increases creativity, focus, memory, and emotional intelligence.

And taking the time for bird moments is an easy way to start implementing some of that mindfulness towards your own business.

A nice Instagram comment about your latest product launch → bird moment.

An enthusiastic email from one of your customers → bird moment.

The moment you finally connect your website to your email platform → bird moment.

Just the simple thought: “I’m running my own business…”

What an opportunity.

What an opportunity to truly appreciate how far you’ve come.

So, that’s my wish for all of us this year.

To stop and appreciate the moments that affirm why you’re here, what you’re doing and how truly monumental that is.

More moments of hearing the birds.

 

 


CTA-Factory45 SHOP

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.

 


This is a multi-part series, celebrating the five-year business anniversary of Factory45. If you missed it, the other 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.

 

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. It’s breakfast trays in bed and bouquets of peonies and red painted lips.

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.

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

It’s about purpose.

 

 

If you’re ready to put in the work to start your dream business, let’s do it together. Applications to Factory45 open in May 2020!


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.

I felt like I was going to throw up.

My stomach churned and my heart raced as I stared at my computer in disbelief.

It had only been six months since I stayed at her apartment, attended a documentary screening together and went out for ice cream with her sister and husband.

I thought we were friends.

And now, as I stared at her newly-launched website, it hit me hard.

“Sustainable Fashion Business Incubator,” it said in big, bold typeface.

My friend — someone who I trusted and supported and grown close to — had launched a competing (almost identical) program to Factory45.

As I scrolled down her site, the similarities between the two programs were nauseating. There were even entire paragraphs taken from my website and plagiarized.

When I got on the phone to ask her why she would launch such a similar program — one that I had already been running for two years — she insisted her course was different.

Five minutes into the conversation, there wasn’t anything left to say


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 industry 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 that experience with my friend and seeing even more competitors come into the space since then, 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.

So, this is Secret #2: 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.

 

 

P.S. If you’re wondering what happened to my friend’s competing program, she went out of business after a year. While I did come to terms with there being enough room for both of us, I also saw firsthand how hard it is to stay in business if it’s a direct replicate of someone else’s idea. Needless to say, I learned a lot of lessons.

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


Factory45 Instagram CTA

What I’m about to tell you is going to sound completely counterintuitive but I swear to you, it is a big reason I’m still in business.

And it applies to virtually every startup — whether it’s physical products, online products, a service-based business, a subscription business, etc.

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, and I’ve written about why appealing to less people will result in more sales before here.

One of the best things I did in 2014 when I launched Factory45 for the first time was narrow down my niche to “sustainable fashion made in the USA.”

I didn’t try to appeal to every single person on the planet who wanted to start a fashion brand.

There were already other general fashion accelerator programs out there, and I probably would have been swallowed up.

It worked in my favor that I was only interested in sustainable and ethical fashion, and it allowed me to attract the type of people that shared my same ethos.

If you’re thinking, okay, that’s great but physical products are different…

I’m here to tell you, the rule still applies.

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.

So while yeah, this isn’t exactly a “secret” per se, 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.

So while most new brands are spending countless hours trying to cast a wider net (that in 99 percent of cases isn’t going to yield better results), you’ll already have a very clear focus allowing you to move forward quickly and efficiently.

And if you ask any successful entrepreneur, the ability to simply move forward is half the battle.

 


Five years ago, I had no idea what in the world I was doing.

I was saying goodbye to my first company and although I knew it was the right decision, I couldn’t help feeling lost.

For the first time in years, I didn’t have direction.

I tried freelance consulting, writing a book, wardrobe clean-outs, working for a self-help author, all the while bartending in between.

After a year of falling haphazardly from one thing to the other, I finally bit the bullet and hired a business coach (that I could just barely afford).

And I finally started to feel reinvigorated by entrepreneurship.

I realized that yes, I definitely wanted to start another business  — but it took several months to get clear on two major things:

  1. What I wanted that business to look like.
  2. What my “Why” was.

Once I could identify those, and get really specific, everything else seemed to crystallize.

Just five months later, I launched Factory45 for the first time — completely terrified.

Would anyone enroll?

Would the program work?

What if everyone asked for a refund?

In the worst of times, the fear was completely paralyzing. In the best of times, the fear sat in a pit at the bottom of my stomach waiting for something to set it off.

But somehow, I was able to push past the negative self-talk.

And it paid off.

This April I’ll celebrate my FIVE year business anniversary.

*cue solo dance party AND an oat milk latte*

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of celebrating your wins.

So, that’s what we’re going to do.

While I would prefer to have everyone over for a champagne toast, we’ll have to keep the party on the internet.

For the entire month of April, I’m going to share my five secrets to staying in business for five years.

They were definitely secrets to me when I was first starting out.

I promise, these won’t be “teamwork makes the dreamwork” cliches.

I’m talking about real, tactical advice with the personal stories and proof behind them.

I’m excited to share them with you.

Next week I’ll share the first one, so keep an eye out : )

 

shannon signature


Sustainable Fashion Advice

There are three types of entrepreneurs…

I’d love to know, which one are you? (There’s a chance to tell me at the end!)

Behind door #1, we have Taylor.

Taylor is an enthusiast. She can come up with a new business idea every week and her excitement is contagious. She loves dreaming and scheming, making vision boards, setting big goals and envisioning what her business will look like 10 years from now. She is vision-oriented.

Entrepreneur Type

Behind door #2, we have Sydney.

Sydney is a doer. She is known for sitting down to work, not getting up for eight hours straight and forgetting to eat. She is detail-oriented, thrives under pressure and is often labeled by her friends as a “workaholic.” She loves to-do lists, labeled folders and is a self-described “perfectionist.” She is action-oriented.

Entrepreneur Type

Behind door #3, we have Jaime.

Jaime is an enthusiastic doer. She sets lofty goals and the specific action steps to reach them. She loves imagining what could be, but she focuses her energy on what needs to be done to get there. Jaime knows that progress is better than perfection and that finished is better than perfect.

Entrepreneur Type


Most of us want to be Jaime.

The problem is, whichever door you fit into is already a part of your ingrained personality. It’s in your psyche, work ethic and overall human make-up which means that if you’re a Taylor or a Sydney, then it’s really hard to change.

The good news is, if you’re not already a Jaime you don’t necessarily need to change.

You just need to figure out how to make your “entrepreneur type” work for you.

How exactly?

If you’re an enthusiast (Taylor), then it’s pretty simple. You either need to find a doer (Sydney) as a business partner. Or you need to have the budget to outsource specific tasks to a team. While true Taylors are really great at seeing the big picture and coming up with fresh ideas, they have a hard time implementing on those ideas and taking action.

If you’re a Sydney, then you don’t necessarily need a business partner, but it would probably benefit you to outsource some of the tasks that aren’t “worth” your time: things like formatting your email newsletters or publishing your blog posts or scheduling your social media posts. They are time-consuming tasks that could be outsourced to a great assistant and free you up to focus on some of the bigger picture items.

If you’re a Jaime, then you’re in a good spot. But let’s be honest, most of us aren’t. And even Jaime needs a little help — she can’t do everything, especially as her business grows.

Disclaimer: This is purely for fun and obviously open to men, too — I used female pronouns but gender-neutral names : )

 

factory45 owner shannon


sustainable fashion advice

“That’s huge!” I say in my most celebratory voice.

“Yeah… but I still have to print my hangtags and my button supplier isn’t calling me back,” she tells me with a tone of defeat.

I pause for a second.

“Okay, sure, but you’ve finalized a CUSTOM sustainable fabric that you’ve been working on for MONTHS. That is a HUGE win!”

“Yeah… I guess you’re right…” she says, only slightly waning to my enthusiasm.

Why do we do this?

As entrepreneurs, why are we the last people to celebrate our own wins?

Even worse, why do we focus on all of the things that aren’t working rather than taking a moment to recognize how far we’ve come?

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to celebrating my own progress.

I’ll remember to send my web designer a bottle of champagne on launch day, but I won’t pour a glass for myself.

What gives?

The most obvious excuse is that there’s just too much to do.

As small business owners, we don’t have time to focus on the things that are going well because there’s always something else to be working on.

But I’m not suggesting you go on a Carnival Cruise every time your fabric order arrives on time.

What I am suggesting is that you take a beat to reflect.

To appreciate.

To sigh a breath of relief.

To recognize that in at least one way, you are doing great.

So, here’s your call to action for this week:

Come up with one small thing you can do to celebrate your wins.

Maybe it’s a five-minute office dance party to your all-time favorite song.

Maybe you take 10 minutes at night to luxuriate with a bubble bath and face mask.

Or maybe you splurge for the $5 oat milk latte instead of the $2 drip coffee.

Whatever you decide, it’s not so much the act of treating yourself as it is taking the time to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.

And most of us need a physical trigger to remind us to do that.

Why is this important? Why do we need to celebrate our wins, you ask?

Studies have shown that when we take time to celebrate small victories, we become better at goal setting and more importantly, reaching those goals.

And I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to set a goal then I’m willing to do whatever it takes to increase the odds of accomplishing it.

So, the next time you’re busting moves to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” know that you aren’t just indulging in a dance break…

What you’re really doing is increasing your odds of long term success.

And that’s something to celebrate.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


For the past three nights, I haven’t been able to fall asleep.

(Sleeping is one of my best talents, so this is highly unusual.)

And as I’m laying there, I end up doing the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing when you can’t fall asleep:

I start scrolling through Instagram.

(I know, I know… I’m only human!)

But last night, as I was scrolling, I started to pay attention to which captions I clicked to read.

And I realized something…

There is one very crucial skill that I see many new fashion brands lacking.

And that’s the ability to write compelling sales copy.

If you’re not familiar with the term “copy” it refers to any text you write to represent your brand.

In other words, your emails to your list, subject lines, blog titles, any “call to action,” Instagram captions, blog posts, the “About” page of your website, the product descriptions on your shop pages, your social media bios, etc.

To be honest, if you asked me why some fashion brands are successful and others aren’t, I would boil it down to two main marketing components:

#1 Great product photography

#2 Great sales copy

And it’s #2 that I want to talk about today, because I think this skill is detrimentally overlooked by startup fashion brands.

To be able to sell *anything* online, you need to be a strong writer.

Before you throw your hands up in the air and tell me, “It’s just something you’ve never been good at!” hear me out:

I’m not talking about the type of writing you learned in high school English class.

The writing skills that are required for the internet are far more attainable than learning how to construct a 42-page essay analyzing Jane Eyre.

(Bleh, aren’t you glad those days are over?)

To write compelling sales copy, it simply requires you to write how you talk.

Back in high school, Mrs. Sullivan would have called this “the vernacular.”

That’s where I want you to start.

I want you to write in a way that’s conversational.

And as with anything you practice over and over, you’re going to get incrementally better at it.

Even if you think you “can’t write.”

But here’s what I would not recommend:

Hiring someone to write your copy for you.

(Unless you have endless amounts of money that you can pay this person for as long as your brand exists… and who really has that?)

Copywriting is a “teach a woman to fish” type of situation.

You really and truly do not want to rely on someone else to be the voice of your brand when you’re just starting out.

Sure, if you reach $1M in revenue, then go ahead and hire a marketing team — but in the beginning, your brand is relying on you to hone your chops at writing.

There are courses out there to teach you how to improve (CopyHour is run by my friend Derek and Marie Forleo has a program called The Copy Cure.)

There is also plenty of free content if you google, “How to become a better copywriter.”

But the bottom line is this:

You need to be able to effectively communicate what your brand has to offer.

That requires you to be clear, genuine, persuasive and most of all, compelling.

Because if you aren’t, then you’re going to train your followers (i.e. potential customers!) that your words aren’t worth reading.

And if your words aren’t worth reading, then how will they know that your products are worth wearing?

 

factory45 owner shannon