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Business Plan

When I was starting my fashion brand do you know one of the first rookie mistakes I made?

I know, it’s hard to narrow it down to one ; ) 

Having no prior experience in entrepreneurship and being very new to the fashion industry, the first mistake I made was writing a 40-page business plan.

Yes, 40 pages!

My then co-founder and I spent months going back and forth writing and rewriting this giant Word document and do you know what happened to it?

Do you know where it ended up?

That’s what I’m sharing during tomorrow’s Live Show…

I’m going to tell you the reasons you don’t need a mega-long business plan to start a fashion brand in 2021 and then, even better:

I’m going to help you write a business plan you’ll actually use.

My goal — by the end of Factory45 Live tomorrow — is for you to have a business plan for your fashion brand that you can use as a jumping off point.

And we’re going to do this with my one-page business plan template that is already created for you and I’m giving away for free. 

Here’s what you need to do before the Live Show starts on Thursday — text me at (760) 274-8577 and I’ll send over a link to your template. 

You can save it and browse through the prompts before we go through everything together on Thursday.

Even if you know you’ll have to wait to watch the replay, go ahead and text me now so you have the template ready when you are.

Sound good?

Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

 


P.S. If this is your first time joining my Live Show, you can tune in on Thursday at noon ET via our private Facebook group here or on YouTube here (make sure you’re subscribed so you know when I go live). You can also catch up on last week’s episode below!

Required Trait

The other day I was watching my three-year-old play with his train set. 

One piece of track… connected to another piece of track… connected to another… 

And then, uh oh.

The last piece wouldn’t fit.

I watched as he struggled to fit the piece, as it kept hitting up against the wall of the table, as he got more and more frustrated.

“I CAN’T DO IT!” he yelled out, red in the face. “IT DOESN’T WORK!”

How many times as an entrepreneur have you felt this?

The web domain won’t connect to the host!

The file size won’t upload!

The email form won’t populate!

The difference being, you can’t throw your computer across the room like you can a wooden train track.

One of the main messages you hear as a parent is the importance of building resilience in your kids.

It’s why you should resist doing things for them or providing the easy way out.

And honestly, entrepreneurship is very much the same.

“Are you calling me a toddler, Shannon?”

No : ) I would like to think the way we respond is more developmentally appropriate.

This message is about resilience.

How can you build more resilience into the day to day building of your business?

When something isn’t working the way we want it to, how can we be more resourceful in finding a solution?

Because honestly, that’s what it takes.

If you truly want to be an entrepreneur, then it virtually guarantees you will run into problems — in the beginning, it will probably be on a daily basis.

But to reach any level of success, problems require problem solvers.

There’s no way around it.

That’s all to say, be the toddler who picks up the train track even after he throws it… 

And tries again.

 


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pen and paper

“So, what are we looking at timeline-wise?” I asked my creative director as we mapped out a new project.

“Well, it will be about two months for the first launch and around five months for the second one,” she replied.

Five months?! That puts us into 2021!

I thought back nostalgically to launching Factory45 in 2014. I came up with the idea around March and it was live the next month.

That “lean startup model,” that had worked so well for me in the past, was feeling very far away.

In the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, you’re told to get a minimum viable product out into the world. You’re told to stay lean, fight perfection, and test the market.

These are still my favorite ways to launch a business.

But when you’ve been running the same company for 6+ years and you’ve built a brand and a track record, you simply can’t come out with a half-assed idea.

Because everyone is expecting a certain caliber.

And a “certain caliber” takes time. 

You’re dependent on other people, other schedules, and it’s just more… complicated.

I know what you’re thinking:

“What I wouldn’t give for a team! You’re so lucky to have resources around you, you’re so lucky to have experience and credibility!”

And those things are all absolutely true. 

My point is, entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily get easier. 

It just gets complicated in different ways. 

You go from struggling to connect your email provider with your landing page in year one — to struggling with pressure and expectations in year seven.

That’s all to say, if you’re planning on an entrepreneurial career for the long-haul, it really is the best.

But I would also say, appreciate where you are right now.

If you’re still in the early stages of launching your first business (it probably won’t be your last), then there’s a unique opportunity in that.

You’re learning more than you ever could in school just by doing and taking action.

And you have freedom — freedom to try new strategies, experiment with different marketing tactics, to explore your voice and your brand.

So, have fun with it. Try to relax. Know that you will make mistakes. 

Remember that every obstacle or “catastrophe” is a turning point in your story.

Because in reality, just by starting a business, you’re doing what 99 percent of people wouldn’t ever do.

And that’s something to celebrate.

 

 

 


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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.

 


 
 
 


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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.


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 : )