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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

 


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

 

business startup marathon

The Marathon of Business & Why You are Capable of More Than You Think

“I’ve decided to run a marathon,” my friend told me last week.

“Oh, uh, you are? I didn’t realize you were, like, a runner now,” I not-so-subtly replied.

“I’m not, but I bought this book,” she says as she hands me a paperback copy of The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer.

I open it up to Chapter One and read the first sentence:

We human beings have a unique capacity to make our own reality.

Now, to be clear, I’m not a runner either. You could call me more of the “yoga / leisurely walk” type…

But this overly simple perspective on what it takes to complete a rather complex physical feat had me intrigued.

The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer is based on a “Marathon 101” class taught by the University of Northern Iowa, which has been taken by over 200 students.

The theory behind both the book and the class is simple:

To run a marathon is less about what physical shape you’re in before you begin training, and more about your mental ability to decide to do it, and then simply — do it.

The strategy is based on a four-month, four-day-a-week workout plan for non-athletes who have no running background.

The goal is to realize that you are capable of more than you ever thought possible.

Months of training?

No previous background?

Capable of more than you thought possible?

Training for a marathon was starting to sound a lot like the experience of Factory45.  

In this age of instant gratification — when we can have food delivered in 20 minutes, get 50 “likes” on an Instagram in an hour, and find a date with a swipe to the right — it’s easy to get impatient with long-term goals.

It’s just not that glamorous to put in the hard work —

Especially with social media constantly reminding us of how perfect everyone else’s business and life is.

But the truth is, if I set out to run a marathon tomorrow — without training for months — I wouldn’t make it anywhere near the finish line.

The same goes for starting a company.

If you’re not expecting to put in the time, dedication and right attitude, then it’s probably not for you.

The process of building a business is no different than the process of building endurance for distance running:

You take one step at a time.

And you take those steps knowing that it’s not always going to feel good, but it’s going to be worth it.

Just as one runner says in the book, “By staying relaxed, centered, and positive you can handle just about anything that comes your way.”

Because the truth is, if you don’t keep putting one foot in front of the other, then you’ll never find out how far you really could have gone.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


How to start your own fashion mastermind group

How to Start Your Own Fashion Mastermind Group

Raise your hand if you’ve been given this advice:

Build a community.

Network, network, network.

Success is about who you know.

We’ve probably all heard at least one of those mantras at some point in our lives.

And while I agree with them, there is one piece of advice that’s missing:

Find your inner circle.

I don’t mean it in a Regina George kinda way, I mean a few key people who you can go to about your business.

Your entrepreneurial peers, if you will.

Because let’s face it, your mom or boyfriend aren’t always going to get it.

And as someone who has been in the game for a while (experiencing entrepreneurship with both a co-founder and without), I can confidently say this:

You have to get out of your head.

When we run our own businesses it’s easy to think that the sun rises and sets on it. We get so caught up in the day-to-day grind of keeping things afloat that we often forget to come up for air.

And that’s where your “inner circle” comes in.

About six months ago, I started a “mastermind” group with Lorraine Sanders of Spirit of 608 and Nicole Giordano of StartUp FASHION.

We meet once a month to discuss our businesses — what’s going well, what’s been challenging, new tools and resources we’re using, people we’ve connected with, etc.

And tomorrow (Thursday, 4/27), we’re going to show you how to start your own.

fashion mastermind

But, here’s the deal. This is not like a normal webinar where you sit and watch slides — and it’s not even like Factory45 LIVE when I interview people on camera.

This is a live example of how we (Lorraine, Nicole and I) run our own mastermind. So, basically, we’ll be having a candid conversation – discussing different topics – as a live example of how you can create your own.

And we’ll walk you through how to apply it.

This will be totally unscripted and will give you a first-hand look inside our businesses.

So.

If you’ve ever wondered what we talk about behind the scenes, how we support each other and why creating an “inner circle” is a business’ best kept secret, then this is your chance to join us.

There are 100 spots available on a first come, first serve basis and there will not – I repeat, will not – be a recording!

Please only register if you know you can join us live.

This is all happening tomorrow (Thursday), 4/27 at 3:30pm EST / 12:30pm PST.

Register to attend LIVE here.

And don’t worry, you won’t be on camera, but you will be able to ask questions — so bring them : )

Hope to see you there LIVE (no recording) tomorrow!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

Report: The State of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship 2016

“You know what you should do?” said my friend Lorraine, who is the founder of the Spirit of 608 podcast. “You should create a report.”

“A report, like…” I trailed off, wondering where this was going.

“You know, like a media report that shows the state of sustainable fashion entrepreneurship. You could interview some of the designers you’ve worked with, poll your community and put together something with infographics and graphs that show your findings.”

I knew that following the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, there has been a surge of entrepreneurial interest in ethical manufacturing practices.

And after three years working with over 150 early-stage sustainable fashion brands, I knew that I could capture the shifts and trends I’m seeing daily.

We wondered if there was a way to also show what this means for the future of the fashion industry.

So after our conversation, I got to work.

And thanks to Lorraine’s help and encouragement, the participation of some of my most dedicated Factory45’ers and the execution of my talented graphic designer, today I’m releasing Factory45’s report on The State of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship 2016.

This 13-page study contains original case studies, infographics and anecdotes from 30 exclusive interviews with independent designers, as well as findings such as:

  • 82% of the brands interviewed know the people who make their products are paid a fair and living wage. Compared to 2% of traditional retailers.
  • 100% of the brands interviewed know where their products are made. Compared to 61% of traditional retailers.
  • 88% of the brands interviewed feel there is more access to sustainable supply chains than there was five years ago.
  • It now requires 99% less in startup capital to start an independent brand than in 2014.

sustainable fashion entrepreneurship

Despite what the mainstream fashion industry wants you to think, it is now easier than ever before to launch an independent fashion label. And with persistence, there are new sustainable and ethical brands proving every day that it can be done.

You can read the full report here.

And if you like what you read, please share the link with your network. I’ve put together an easy copy-and-paste description to go with it:

Factory45 has released its 2016 report on the State of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurship. Did you know that it now requires 99% less in startup capital to start an independent brand than in 2014? Read the full report here: http://bit.ly/2fDrsop

Thank you so much for reading and sharing.

With your support, I’m looking forward to bringing even more sustainable fashion to the marketplace in 2017.

 

 

 

 

P.S. If you are a blogger or reporter and would like to use the report for a future story, please contact me directly at shannon@factory45.co.

The Crowdfunding Factory Launches Next Week!

Six years ago, I told my friends and family that I was starting a business.

The kicker was, I didn’t have an idea yet.

I had found someone crazy enough to start the “business” with me, and I figured that was enough of a reason to keep going.

The first idea we came up with was to start an import / export business of fair trade textiles and artifacts, so we booked one-way tickets to Guatemala.

My then co-founder and I arranged to live with a host family so that we could learn Spanish in a month and start building partnerships with artisan cooperatives around the country.

Were we naive?

Um, yeah.

Did our original idea pan out?

Not even a little bit.

Did we learn something more valuable in the process?

Absolutely.

A year after we returned from Central America, we did in fact launch a business but it looked nothing like our original vision.

In retrospect, I could look back on the costs of flights, room and board, Spanish lessons, transportation and other travel expenses as money down the drain.

I could have thought:

“If only we had just known from the beginning that we’d end up designing a piece of clothing, manufacturing in the U.S. and launching with a Kickstarter campaign… Think of all of the money we could have saved!”

But for all of that money lost, you couldn’t put a price on what I learned.

It’s the one piece of advice that I’ve taken with me over the years.

It’s the one piece of advice that I tell all of the entrepreneurs I work with.

And it’s the one piece of advice that I hope you’ll take to heart today:

Start before you’re ready.



Why?

Because starting before you’re ready isn’t about being underprepared or unsure of yourself.

Starting before you’re ready is actually a marketing strategy.

It’s a strategy that you can use to build a business and generate customers before you’ve even launched.

And I’m going to show you how.

Next week, on Tuesday, November 15th, I’m opening enrollment to The Crowdfunding Factory. (Update: Enrollment is now closed for 2016. Get on the list to be notified when enrollment opens in late 2017.)

This online training program is for fashion entrepreneurs who want to launch or grow their brands with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

I’m going to show you how to raise money for your brand in a way that ensures you have an audience to launch to —

And guarantees that you have customers before you go into production.

If you know you need to raise money for your fashion startup, then make sure you’re signed up to be notified about early enrollment here.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728


pre-2-blog

 

hard work

Does Hard Work Really Pay Off?

When I was growing up my parents always said,

“Work hard and it will pay off.”

When I knew I really shouldn’t sign up for that AP Biology class I did it anyway because, you know,

“I’ll just work harder.”

When I made an audition tape for an internship with Nike, I scripted out the entire four-minute video, storyboarded each shot and had multiple costume and set changes, because well,

“They’ll see how hard I worked.”

When I applied for a fellowship with NPR, competing against thousands of top-tier journalism grads, I told myself, I’ll get it because…

“I work really hard.”

Turns out, I got a “C” in AP Biology, didn’t get the internship with Nike and wasn’t even asked for an interview with NPR.

(My parents also have many words of wisdom for dealing with disappointment.)

Of course you need a hearty dose of hard work to accomplish your goals.

But the disclaimer of “hard work pays off” should be, “it’s also no guarantee.”

This was never more apparent than when I became an entrepreneur.

I quickly learned that hard work isn’t going to get you that much farther than the entrepreneur next you. 

Because working hard is simply a given.

I’ve spent the past 2.5 years working with and observing other entrepreneurs who have set out to start businesses of their own.

A lot of them work hard. And some of them don’t.

But there are other qualities that make far more of an impact:

>> They’re resourceful. I don’t mean they can forage for wild berries and make a bonfire with two twigs, I mean they have an attitude of, “I’ll figure this out.” Successful entrepreneurs know that every problem has a solution and they aren’t afraid to take action to find it.

>> They’re willing to take risks. Deciding to start your own business feels like a huge risk in itself, but it’s just the first one. Your entire entrepreneurial career will be made up of opportunities to take more risks.

Unfortunately, the word ‘risk’ typically comes with a negative connotation. Most of us were taught to follow the straight and narrow path that has road signs with the word “Conventional” along it.

One of the best things I ever did for my own business, and peace of mind, was start trading out the word ‘risk’ for ‘experiment.’

I’m experimenting with this marketing strategy… I’m experimenting with this type of business model… I’m experimenting with hiring this person…

>> They’re not easily derailed. The true test of an entrepreneur is when things go wrong. How will you handle it? Will it be the end of the world and cause you to curl up in the fetal position? Or will you look at it as an opportunity to try something new and come up with a new solution?

Real success is a series of baby steps and the entrepreneurs who break apart from the pack are the ones who keep their energy up.

They don’t let a tech glitch destroy their mood. They don’t let a confusing email from a supplier derail their focus. They don’t let a botched sample force them under the covers.

I once had an entrepreneur friend tell me that she starts working at 10am and is done by 5pm because, “She gets more work done during that time than the average person gets done in a 12-hour day.”

Needless to say, I appreciated her honesty.

Hard work is not the same as productivity, or attitude, or impact.

Successful entrepreneurs know that “working hard” is just another day at the office.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 

 


Improve Your Marketing Strategy by Using this One Simple Trick

When I published this blog post two weeks ago it was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

I actually got teary eyed reading some of your replies.

So thoughtful, so heartfelt and then this —

“I think I am better off unsubscribing to your blog.”

It was the only negative response I received, rolled up into a few sentences of underlying racist vitriol.

“It’s just so frustrating,” I said to my husband. “Anytime you have anything worthwhile to say, you’re either preaching to the choir or falling to deaf ears.”

“I get that,” he said, “but what’s really wrong with preaching to the choir?”

And it got me thinking about all the marketing advice I give to the entrepreneurs I work with.

Find your ideal target customer, I tell them.

Establish your niche, I say over and over.

Market yourself to a specific group of people and they’ll come out to support you faster.

Because “preaching to the choir” actually means you’ve found your tribe —

The people who are going to support you and encourage you and eventually maybe even become your customers.

As small business owners, it’s not our job to write the perfect lines that are going to appeal to everyone.

It is our job to have opinions, offer insights and try to better the world for the people who we call our target market, our customers, our niche.

And that’s who you should set your focus on.

So, the next time you think to yourself,

“Should I share this?” or “Should I say that on my About page?” or “Should I retweet that?”

Think about your ideal customer.

Envision him or her in your mind.

And decide if what you want to say will resonate with the person you want to say it to.

Because there’s a beauty and a comfort in finding your people, and when that happens —

You don’t need to worry about anyone else.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 


instagram

Using Your Voice When the Words Aren’t Perfect

Today I had originally planned to share the process behind creating a sustainable and zero-waste wedding.

But in light of everything going on in the U.S. right now, the idea of talking about ethically-made wedding dresses and locally-sourced food is not something I could stomach.

This place of paralysis is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past week.

How do we write, market, message and sell our businesses and brands when all of it seems so trivial to the very real issues that are unfolding around us?

Is it a betrayal to offer a sale, feature a product, post an Instagram, promote ourselves when so much of the world is grieving?

I’m not sure.

There are platforms like Design*Sponge that took a hiatus over the weekend from posting anything. D*S founder Grace Bonney shared a heartfelt letter explaining the decision for the two-day pause in content.

Other brands have continued with regularly scheduled programming but have also used their platforms to share posts of allegiance and words of support.

And then other companies have chosen to be silent, for whatever reason feels true to them.

Tragedy occurs all around the world, every day, and if we paused every time something bad happened, we would get nothing done at all.

But the past week has felt different. And I’ve felt different about what I wanted to say to you today.

As an American-born, white female, I not only have the privilege that came with the lottery of my birth, but I also have the privilege of being an entrepreneur with a modest platform to voice my opinions.

As fellow entrepreneurs, no matter what race or gender you are, you also have a platform in which to express your beliefs.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to figure out what you want to say.

Last week my good friend and I were texting back and forth about how to address the murders in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas, as business owners.

The conversation went something like this:

“WTF is happening to our country?”

“I feel guilty doing other things and not saying something, but I don’t know what to say.”

“Isn’t it better to say nothing at all than to say something uninformed?”

“I feel like anything that comes out of my mouth sounds like I’m trying to be a better white person than the next.”

“Agreed. But then it’s like, get over how it makes you feel. This isn’t about you.”

And so it went…

I fully recognize how unfair it is that my friend and I are able to have (and leave) this conversation at all. For many Americans, this is the life they’re living. They can’t escape it.

For the past week, I’ve gone back and forth about what to write and what to say.

And yes, I considered saying nothing.

But what I came to realize is that it’s not so much about having the perfect words as it is about having a voice.

There are writers far more articulate than I, who are far more versed on these issues, and my instinct is to tell myself, “Leave it to them. They know more. They’ll say it better.”

But that’s not the point.

As entrepreneurs, we hold the expectation and the responsibility of being the changemakers, the freedom fighters, the revolutionaries.

If you have a public platform, then you are privileged in a way that so much of the world isn’t. And I want you to know that bringing your voice to this conversation, despite how awkward or scary it may be, matters.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

We can take action together towards fighting for justice and the fair treatment of our fellow humans — in a way that doesn’t sacrifice our brand, or go off message or lead customers astray.

Because when it comes to having a message, acceptance, tolerance and love are universal.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 

Additional resources:

This is the best piece I’ve found on the tangible action steps that can be taken to create change via The Huffington Post

Why do we stay silent when racism is all around us? By Nisha Moodley

Code Switch is a podcast that explores race and culture.


Photo credit: Molly Belle