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How to Be More Productive 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

 


relationship to 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

 


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

 


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

How to Define the “Why” Behind Your Business

Last week, I was having celebratory drinks with a friend right around the time applications to Factory45 were closing.

“So…” she asked. “How did it go?! Did you have a lot of awesome people apply?”

When I told her yes, that I doubled the applicant pool and grew by 156%, her next question was:

“What’s next then? Are you going to blow this thing up or what?”

I took a sip of my drink, giving me time to try and come up with an answer that wouldn’t disappoint her.

“I don’t think so…” I said. “I like keeping things relatively small and manageable. I like having work / life balance and not being overwhelmed by a ton of other commitments.”

As the words came out of my mouth, I knew how they sounded.

Unambitious, at best.

Lazy, at worst.

My friend, on the other hand, runs a women’s clothing brand and is gunning for an IPO.

Her and her business partner dream of ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, having hundreds of employees to manage, and working out of a big corporate headquarters.

Me? I just want to be able to go to yoga at noon on a Tuesday.

While there was once a time that I dreamed of running a 7-figure business, the “why” behind my work has changed over the years.

And having been on both sides of the spectrum, I can tell you there isn’t a right or a wrong motive for doing business.

What can get you in trouble is deciding to start a company and not having a “why” at all.

Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, the “Lean In” movement, feminism and the amazing work that female executives are doing to boost leadership, women business owners are being pushed to want it all.

Yes, we hear, you can be a CEO and be a really great mom.

And while I believe that’s absolutely true, it doesn’t mean that you have to want it.

Is it okay to start a business so your family has an extra $1,000/month in spending money? Yes.

Is it okay to start a business so you can quit your full-time job and be at home when your kids are done with school? Absolutely.

Is it okay to start a business so you can work remotely and travel the word? Of course.

And YES, it’s also okay to want to be the next Tory Burch.

At the very beginning of the Factory45 program, I ask all of my entrepreneurs to write down the “vision” for their company in a one-page business plan.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we should all be asking ourselves to write down the “vision” for our lives, as the owners and creators of our businesses.

As you take this big step and make the commitment to embark on entrepreneurship, ask yourself:

What is my “why?”

What are the personal reasons for wanting to start a business?

Is it for fame, for glamour, for wealth, for freedom, for security, for flexibility, for fun?

As time goes on, your answer can change. But it’s your “why” that’s going to keep you moving past the hurdles and the hard times.

It’s your “why” that’s going to define you as an entrepreneur.

And whether you’re the entrepreneur who comes home at 10pm every night, fulfilled by a hard day’s work, or the entrepreneur who works 30 hours a week and has afternoon dance parties in her home office, only you know what will move you and drive you forward.

Define your “why” and you’ll be that much closer to defining your business.

 

 

Photo credit: Bench Accounting


fashion entrepreneur

From Journalism Student to Fashion Entrepreneur: What They Won’t Tell You

Ever since I graduated in 2008, I have been some sort of entrepreneur. Ironically, my worst grade in four years of college was in my “Entrepreneurship 101” class (heyo, Professor Rossi).

What I realized later on — that they don’t teach you in an academic setting — is that entrepreneurship has very little to do with getting good grades and is so much more about being able to take a risk.

My first experience with big risk-taking was during my senior year of college when I bailed on the law school entrance exam and booked a one-way ticket to Australia instead.

That one decision completely changed the trajectory of my life, and I spent two post-grad years bartending and traveling around the world, from Australia to Southeast Asia to South Africa.

When my parents thought I was coming home to get a “real job,” I would only stay for a few months, bartend every night, save up more money, and leave to travel again.

fashion entrepreneur

When I eventually returned to the States in 2010 I brought my wanderlust and relentless craving for adventure with me.

I had once been the girl who envisioned herself in the corner office — but after two years abroad, I knew that I would never get a “real job.”

I wanted to create something bigger than myself. I wanted to start a business that would allow me to wake up every morning and go after my dreams. Maybe you can’t relate… I didn’t want to help build someone else’s dream.

It was a divine twist of fate when I got a Facebook message from a friend shortly after I got home. She said she was going through a “quarter-life crisis,” dreading the possibility of sitting in a cubicle all day, and suggested we start something together.

That “something” turned out to be a sustainable clothing company.

Of course, it didn’t happen immediately. Little did we know, we were about to embark on a three-year journey into self-discovery, entrepreneurial freedom and the pursuit of living life on our own terms.

Our plan was to create a company that would be 100% made in the USA, using fabrics and materials that did the least amount of harm to the environment as possible.

It was called {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable clothing company for female travelers and minimalists, and it prompted my early exploration of conscious consumerism and the practice of living with less.

fashion entrepreneur

I learned about the downsides of fast fashion: the environmental damage, the humanitarian violations, and the psychological effects of modern-day consumer culture.

These realizations completely changed me, and I decided to dedicate my career to creating a more conscious world where people see the power of voting with their dollars.

That’s all to say, we quickly found out that having a “vision” wasn’t enough. We were naive, unversed in industry lingo, and had zero connections in the fashion industry. It became obvious very early on that what we were trying to accomplish wouldn’t be easy.

We spent money on the wrong things, made every mistake possible, wasted time pursuing leads that ended in dead ends and continuously took two steps back with every one step forward.

Looking back at the emails I sent to fabric suppliers, I now know that my inquiries surely got a swift click of the delete button. I didn’t know how to talk to industry veterans, I had no idea how to walk “the walk,” and it showed.

But after a year and a half, having nearly depleted both of our savings accounts, the stars aligned.

fashion entrepreneur

We received a response about a private label inquiry we had sent on a whim to a general contact form. After a few meetings, we made the decision to source and manufacture our first production run under the guidance of a company who had done it before.

The company was a startup itself but was farther along and had the production infrastructure that we lacked. They also had the knowledge, connections and reputation that we needed on our side.

After pushing forward solo for so long, we had found someone to take us by the hand and walk us through the process.

We had finally found the mentorship we needed.

More doors opened at the end of 2011 when we launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first production run of our signature piece, the Versalette, one garment that can be worn over 30 different ways.

fashion entrepreneur

What happened over our 30-day campaign far surpassed our wildest dreams. Not only did we acquire nearly 800 new customers, quadruple our first production order and attract the attention of The New York Times, but we finally saw a year and a half of hard work pay off.

Having gone through a unique entrepreneurial journey, I had developed a set of skills that were totally unexpected. I knew from my experience with the Versalette that breaking into the fashion industry was very difficult, and I wanted to make it easier for other aspiring entrepreneurs to do the same.

It’s my hope that I can continue to foster a space for creativity and collaboration while helping others start down their own path towards creating a business.

In the last few years, I’ve helped entrepreneurs all over the country set up supply chains in the U.S., source sustainable materials and bring their products to market.

fashion entrepreneur

Factory45 is the program I created for entrepreneurs, like me, who have a vision and a plan but need the mentorship, framework and resources to get started.

If you have your own plans to launch an apparel brand, I hope you’ll consider joining me through your journey. Mentorship is the very thing that pushed my first company forward and I would love to do the same for you.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Important Marketing Tool

The Most Important Marketing Tool for Fashion Brands & How to Use It

So, I’m in yoga the other day and after the final “Namaste,” my teacher starts to make her daily announcements.

Instructor training begins again on Friday… Four beginner yoga classes are being offered on Saturdays… And then this:

“I also just want to let everyone know that I’m starting an email list.”

And as I’m putting my socks back on, I’m thinking, “Yes, go girl, start that email list.”

(It’s one of the first steps towards entrepreneurship, after all.)

But what begins to unfold has me cringing on my mat:

“So, um yeah, the clipboard is at the back of the room if you want to sign up… I’ll only send out, like, two emails a year…. I probably won’t send out the first email for a few months… You don’t have to sign up if you don’t want to, but I’ll just use it to stay in touch with you…”

And on it went as people started rolling up their mats.

I hung back and waited for a bit until I was one of the last people to leave the studio. As I walked past the clipboard that was sitting by the door, I looked over to see that not one person had signed up.

I wasn’t surprised. And it got me thinking about the startup brands I see online, desperately trying to build an audience, but failing to make an effective “ask.”

I should start by clarifying that your email list is your most important marketing tool — by far. It’s more important than Instagram, more important than Facebook, more important than Pinterest, more important than any other online marketing tool you can leverage.

Your email list is the fastest and most direct way to connect with your potential customers, and it’s yours. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, that now make you pay to connect with your followers, your email list belongs to you.

In the case of my yoga teacher, she was making a verbal “ask” to her studio of aspiring yogis. In the case of your online business, your “ask” is your opt-in incentive and call-to-action (CTA).

(If these terms are starting to sound like crazy-speak, consider joining Factory45 in May. We go into extensive detail about email marketing throughout the program.)

I know this isn’t very “zen” of me, but I want to analyze what my teacher did wrong so that it can help you grow your email list more effectively.

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>> She lacked confidence. If you don’t believe in what you’re offering it will show, and she seemed nervous to come across as too “salesy.” While marketing may not be a natural skill for a yoga teacher, it must become a natural skill for you if you plan to sell your collection, designs or products online.

If you’re not confident in making the “ask” and it shows through your copy, then you might as well not have an email opt-in at all.

(And don’t even think about doing that…)

>> She didn’t incentivize. So often I see email opt-ins that are as incentivizing as an annual flu shot. If your opt-in rate is low, it might be because your call-to-action is lackluster.

“Sign up to our mailing list” is not a call-to-action! That type of language doesn’t do anything to inspire people to want to hear from you. They need to know what they’re going to get and why they should care.

You can try discount codes, free shipping, and style guides to incentivize sign-ups, but the options are endless. The bottom line is that you have to provide real value to entice people to sign up.

>> She didn’t provide an expectation. She said, “I’ll just use it to stay in touch with you.”

What does that even mean?

She doesn’t know all of her students by name and if she did, “staying in touch” is a very allusive expression.

What will I receive emails about? Will I be interested in the topic? What kind of updates will be sent out?

Again, if you’re asking someone to opt into your list, instead of the email list of a competing brand, then you have to have a damn good reason why. “Staying in touch” doesn’t mean anything.

>> She didn’t sound consistent. There is a big difference between what online marketers call a “healthy list” and an “unhealthy list.”

A healthy list is engaged. You have an open rate above 25%, you have a consistent click-through rate, and your “unsubscribes” are generally low. A healthy list comes from consistency — weekly to bi-weekly emails that provide value, interest and intrigue to your following.

If you’re only going to send out two emails a year and you’re going to wait several months to send out the first one, then why bother?

By the time she sends out her first email, anyone who opted into her list will have already forgotten. And do you know what happens when people forget that they signed up?

They unsubscribe and mark the email as spam.

If you have something of value to offer to your target audience, then you need the confidence to market it. As a new business owner, you’re likely running the show on your own, so you have to be equal parts “the creative” and “the marketer.”

Building your email list is the most effective way to grow your brand, sell more products and make your mark in the industry.

But it doesn’t come easy.

It takes experimentation, rewriting your offers, asking for feedback and figuring out what value you can provide.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 

 


Factory45

The Reason New Designers Get a Bad Rep

I’m in the business of working with startups and new designers. A lot of the people I work with don’t have a fashion design background. They’re entrepreneurs with a cool idea, but other than that, they don’t have much knowledge on how to get started.

One of the reasons I started Factory45 was because I know there aren’t many industry veterans who want to “deal with” new designers. I’ve had three people in the past week say, “Oh yeah, so-and-so doesn’t even attempt to work with college grads / newbies / design students / etc.”

The fact is, new designers have a bad reputation. If you’re starting to squirm a little, just hear me out.

I’m not saying that you are necessarily to blame for the bad rep, but there are other people who have “spoiled it” for others.

For the most part, suppliers would rather not work with you, sew shops would rather not work with you, factories would rather not work with you. And this is why fashion startups have such a hard time getting started.

Manufacturers in the States have been doing this long enough to know that 9 times out of 10 it just isn’t worth their time to take on the additional baggage of someone new to the industry. They have a responsibility to the construction and production of a product, but they don’t have a responsibility to educate you.

Let me give you an example of an all-too-common email that the vast majority of project managers have probably received:

“Hello – I have a patent for an innovative new apparel product. I’m looking for a production partner to work with – do you do apparel? Are you willing to sign an NDA? What next steps do I need to take? Thanks, [name]”

If you don’t see anything wrong with this example please keep reading.

I want to break this down because there are few different pieces that we should look at:

“PATENT”: If you are trying to patent an apparel product, you are wasting your money. The only person who will tell you otherwise is a lawyer (for obvious reasons). There are .01% of apparel products in the world that are unusual enough to legally protect. Even then, someone else could come in, rip off the design, change one button and your product is no longer protected.

I know the warm and fuzzy feeling you may get from “legitimizing” your company, but trust me, you’re wasting valuable time and money that could be spent on finding out if your customers even want your product.

“INNOVATIVE NEW APPAREL PRODUCT”: This says nothing. There is no sew shop, factory, manufacturer or supplier that is going to take you seriously (or even know how to respond to you) if you don’t give a description of the product you’re trying to make. Ideally, you will be able to tell them the type of garment, the type of fabric you’re using, how many units you’re looking to produce and what your timeline is.

“SIGN AN NDA”: Asking a manufacturer to sign an NDA is akin to writing “amateur hour” on your business card. If your product is good enough to be ripped off or stolen, it won’t be your production partner who does it. Many of the manufacturers in the U.S. have been in this industry for decades. If they were in the business of screwing over designers, then they wouldn’t have lasted this long. I don’t know anyone who would sign an NDA, so please, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by asking.

“WHAT STEPS DO I NEED TO TAKE”: Oh lordy. This has to be the biggest pet peeve of all. And it’s probably the most common question asked. I’m just going to go ahead and put out a PSA for every manufacturer out there: Again, it is not your production partner’s job to educate you. If you don’t know what the next steps are, then you need to go back to the drawing board, do some research, read some blogs, books or hire someone to help you. (I have 30 people coming through Factory45 this spring, because they were smart enough to do that.)

If this all sounds a little harsh, I know you would never do this — I just want to make sure you know why ; )

The thing is, I really want you to succeed. We need entrepreneurs creating products that solve a problem for people. We need new designers working with manufacturers in the U.S. and keeping the momentum up.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to make that happen. I want to make sure you’re doing it the right way.

Here are the things you need in place to approach a potential production partner:

  • A sample
  • A pattern
  • A spec sheet
  • (A good head on your shoulders)
  • (Good communication skills)

Some will require more than that, but at the most basic level, that’s what you need before you should even send out an inquiry email.

If a production partner agrees to take your project on, then you’ll also need:

  • Fabric (don’t wait to source it, but wait to purchase it)
  • Materials
  • Capital

Production will not start until you have all of those items and can pay 50% upfront.

 

I remember reading Kathleen Fasanella’s book several years ago, and she went so far to say: Because designers have a bad rep, don’t call yourself a designer — call yourself a manufacturer.

So now you know — it’s not just me saying it.

 

 

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Are you an aspiring entrepreneur or designer who’s new to the apparel industry? Get the free “Manufacturing Checklist” from Factory45 here.

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Francis