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Factory45 Featured

Factory45 Featured on CNBC’s Nightly Business Report

A few weeks ago, a producer for CNBC contacted me about featuring Factory45 on Nightly Business Report’s “Bright Ideas” segment.

It was a whirlwind of logistics, falling right around Thanksgiving, but we managed to piece together a story about sustainable fashion, ethical manufacturing and how Factory45 has played a roll in it.

The best part is that we were able to incorporate two Factory45’ers, Cara of VETTA and Mary of Reprise Activewear, and my husband even made an appearance with his company Project Repat.

I’m so happy with how the final segment turned out — it’s always a little nerve wracking when you give someone else control of telling your story.

If you didn’t catch the live version on NBR last week, click the play button below to watch it now:

A huge thanks again to Factory45’er Cara Bartlett for making time to film on Cyber Monday (of all days) and Factory45’er Mary Bemis, who filmed right after flying back from Kenya!

Your support in watching and sharing the clip is so appreciated:

Watch Factory45 on NBR here.

Gratefully,

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

repeat customers

How to Create Repeat Customers as a Fashion Brand

On the move? You can now listen to Factory45 blog posts on audio! Just plug in your headphones and click play…

My husband tells me I turn everything into “a festival.”

This is his loving way of saying I turn everything into a production.

Take our Christmas tree, for example.

We couldn’t just decorate the tree on a random Sunday. There had to be holiday music playing, a fire burning, mugs of hot chocolate, candles lit and just the perfect amount of cozy lighting.

Believe me, I’m eye rolling at myself.

And I’ll admit, whether it’s Thanksgiving or a picnic in the park, my one and only goal is to turn that event into an experience.

I’m sure there are times when my husband wants to tranquilize me, but there is an upside to the madness.

Especially when it comes to running a business.

Even more, when it comes to running a fashion brand.

When so much of online sales is dependent upon repeat business and accumulating a loyal following of ongoing customers, you are required to provide an experience for them.

The process of shopping on your website, receiving a “thank you” email after the purchase, getting your product in the mail…

All of that accounts for the unique experience that you’re providing for your customer.

And it’s when you make it memorable, easy, fun, enjoyable or some other positive adjective that sets you apart from other brands selling a similar product.

It’s what turns one purchase into a future purchase.

So, this holiday season, when your sales are at an all-time high for the year, what experience can you create for your shoppers?

Can you build a custom email series that introduces them to other products on your site?

Can you include a handwritten ‘thank you’ in their package?

Can you send a free small gift that will surprise them?

Can you make the online shopping experience so seamless that the purchase is a no-brainer?

What can you do that will transform just another e-commerce transaction into something special?

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

email list

5 Ways to Get More Engagement from Your Email List

On the move? You can now listen to Factory45 blog posts on audio! Just click the play button below…

I talk a lot about your email list being the most valuable marketing asset you have as a fashion brand.

If you’re not building your list, then you are missing out in a big way.

In fact, I can’t name one successful, modern-day business that doesn’t have an engaged email list that is actively growing.

But growing your number of subscribers is only half the battle. It’s making sure that they’re engaged readers that really requires the hard work.

Here are five ways to get more engagement from your email list* so you can create customers for your brand:

*Note: When I’m talking about your email list I’m not referring to your list of contacts in Gmail. An email list for your business has likely been created on Mailchimp or another email marketing platform and your subscribers have “opted in” to receive marketing emails about your brand.

1. Subject lines, subject lines, subject lines.

It doesn’t matter if you have the most compelling, beautifully designed and articulately written email if your subscriber doesn’t open it.

Your “open rate” is largely dependent on the intrigue of your subject line. It has to elicit a curious response from your subscribers that entices them to read it.

As an example, what’s a more interesting subject line to you?

5 email marketing tips

OR

This is why your subscribers aren’t reading your emails

Of course this takes practice. For every email I send out to you, I write five subject lines before I narrow it down to the winner.

Your subject line should be a focal point of your entire email — not an afterthought.

2. Don’t underestimate the “readability” of your emails.

This is the simplest and most basic rule of email marketing, but I can’t tell you how many emails I receive from new brands that make me question if I need reading glasses.

When in doubt, use a 12 point sans serif font in black. If you make your readers squint at their screens, then they’re going to click delete.

Other “readability” factors: avoid large block paragraphs, bold phrases are your friend, create plenty of white space.

Take note of the emails that you’re subscribed to and notice the formatting – what stands out? What makes it an easy read for you?

3. Start with a story.

Research has shown that when a person starts reading a (compelling, well written) story, it’s very difficult for them to stop.

What does that tell us about email marketing?

Start with a personal anecdote.

Your subscriber is not only more likely to read to the end, but starting with a personal anecdote also builds trust and connection with your reader.

And it’s trust and connection that turns a reader into a customer.

4. Give one “call to action.”

Your call to action is what you want your reader to do after they open and read your email. Your CTA is essentially the whole point of sending out an email in the first place.

If you’re already selling, then your only goal is to move your reader from your email to the shop page of your website.

If you aren’t selling yet, then the goal of your CTA can be something else that helps you grow your following (forward this email to a friend, follow us on Instagram, read last week’s blog post, etc.)

The key thing to avoid here is giving multiple calls to action. I see a lot of emails that ask the reader to shop AND follow us on Instagram AND read our blog AND forward to a friend AND…

Asking for too much creates decision paralysis for your reader and instead of doing everything, they’ll do nothing.

Pick one CTA and test it one week. Choose a different CTA and test it another week. Use another CTA and test it the next week…

Which leads me to,

5. Track your analytics.

No matter which email marketing platform you’re using (Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, Klaviyo, etc.), there is a dashboard that gives you a series of very important stats. Do not overlook these!

For every email you send out, you need to be tracking your open rate and your click-through rate, with an additional glance at your unsubscribe rate.

I say “glance” because I don’t want you to obsess over how many people unsubscribe from your list. It’s normal for a healthy list to have unsubscribers so don’t dwell on it. However, if you notice a significant increase at any point, then you’ll want to be aware of what could have possibly triggered it.

Above all, tracking your analytics will provide insight into sending better emails. It will help you become better at writing subject lines, it will give you valuable data about what your readers want to see and it will help you increase traffic to your online store.


A final thought: So often new brands get caught up in the number of subscribers they have. And while yes, the goal is to grow your list as much as possible, I would much rather have a small highly-engaged list than a large list that isn’t engaged.

This goes back to what I wrote about how you only need 100 “True Followers” to launch a fashion brand. In this case, bigger isn’t always better.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


P.S. In the coming weeks, I’m sending out an ethical fashion gift guide to subscribers of Market45. If you’re looking for more simplicity and joy this holiday season, subscribe here and join us.

marketing

How to Go from “Hating” Marketing to Loving It

Last week I launched Market45 to start selling some of the brands that have graduated from the Factory45 program.

In the build up to launch day I was interviewed by a media outlet that asked me the following question:

What have you learned about yourself in launching this new business venture?

I know that I was probably supposed to say something heartwarming like, “I’m capable of more than I think” or “Hard work really does pay off”…

But instead I said,

“I love marketing even more than I thought I did.”

I know, not the most inspirational sentence I’ve ever said, but allow me to explain…

When you live in an industry of creatives, “marketing” and “selling” are often seen as dirty words.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this sentence from the designers I teach:

“I just feel so ‘sales-y’…”

And each and every time, I want to take them by the shoulders and say,

“Well, yeah, because you’re trying to make a sale…

In the Factory45 program we talk exhaustively about the “pre-launch phase.”

It’s those crucial months before you launch your business when you’re building up momentum, trying to attract an audience and getting ready to sell your product.

Having recently been in that pre-launch phase for Market45, I can confidently say:

I live for this phase.

To me, there is nothing better than building anticipation for your audience and getting them excited about what you’re creating.

But like many new entrepreneurs, I didn’t always feel that way.

There was a time when I worried about coming across as pushy or self important or annoying.

And here’s what I realized:

In order to run a successful business, you have to embrace the sale.”

The good news is,

When you believe in what you’re selling — that’s really easy to do.

My guess is that if you’re on my email list or reading my blog, then you have a product or idea or current business that is a better option than what the fast fashion retailers, or Wal-Mart or other big box stores offer.

And that’s something to immediately believe in.

Whether it’s a more ethical / sustainable / independent / conscious option compared to what else is on the market, you are providing an alternative that yes, the world needs.

So, the next time you question whether you should send one more email to your list or post one more Instagram about your Kickstarter or create one more Facebook ad, I want you to repeat after me:

>> The world needs to know that my product provides a better option.

>> My customer wants to hear from me because my product is solving a problem for them.

>> The industry needs independent brands like mine to succeed.

Because the future of fashion depends on it.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

 

 


Market45

The Factory45 Marketplace Launches Next Week!

For over four years, I’ve worked with designers and entrepreneurs to launch fashion brands that are sustainably and ethically made.

I’ve had the unique perspective of seeing these brands build their supply chains, think carefully about their business models and bring value to shoppers who are looking for better options.

It’s been a ride, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done.

But, like any serial entrepreneur, I know there’s still so much more to do.

Two years ago, I envisioned a platform where I could sell the products that have launched through the Factory45 program.

I wanted to create a marketplace that would make it easier to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

So, what did I do?

The same thing I do every time I come up with a new (sometimes hairbrained) idea.

I hopped on the phone with my creative director to walk her through the vision:

  • I want to launch with 20 Factory45’ers to start.
  • I want to send traffic to their online stores.
  • I want to offer a discount incentive to shoppers.
  • I want to make enough money to break even.
  • But ultimately, I want to help the brands grow.

Could we make that happen? I asked her. From a tech perspective, is it possible?

And for the sake of full transparency, at first we couldn’t.

The platform I initially envisioned was just too complicated — there were too many moving parts.

So, in June we decided to scrap the whole project.

But what usually happens when you take a deep breath and walk away?

You find clarity.

And thankfully, that’s what happened.

We put aside the ideal for “perfection” and came up with the “good enough” option. (This is a beneficial lesson for any entrepreneur.)

Six months later, we are one week away from launching Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace.

Featuring 20 invite-only brands that have launched through the Factory45 accelerator program, the marketplace will make it easy to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

Before we launch on Thursday, November 1st you can join our VIP list here and get 10% off any Market45 order.

By signing up to the Market45 email list, it will also ensure that you’re one of the first to know when we launch next week.

I can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on.

Grateful for your support,

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

marketing

Struggling with Marketing Your Fashion Brand? Follow the 30/70 Rule.

If you’re running a fashion business, it should be no surprise that marketing is a huge part of your day to day.

If you want to sell, then you have to promote — right?

We know this. It’s on our to-do list. We have a strategy in place for it. But…

How often does promotion get overlooked?

Here’s a scenario that I see too often:

  1. You’ve spent several hours crafting the perfect blog post.
  2. You finally click “Publish” and the post goes live.
  3. You sit back and wait for people to come across your post and praise its brilliance.

When put that way it sounds a little ridiculous.

And yet there are so many of us who expect it to happen like this.

The internet has made us live by the adage of, “If you build it, they will come.”

But nobody arrives.

If you’re struggling with marketing and being seen by your ideal target customer, then I have one rule for you to implement right now:

“30% content creation / 70% content promotion

What does that mean exactly?

It means that 30% of your time should be spent on creating marketing content. We’re talking blog posts, emails to your list, guest posts, photography, etc.

But 70% of your time should be put towards promoting that content.

It’s not enough to share a blog post on Facebook one time. That same blog post should be sent out to your email list and shared on social media over… and over… and over again.

“But, Shannon, won’t my audience get sick of seeing the same stuff?”

No, because unless it’s your mom, they’re not paying attention that closely.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s an example:

For the past month I’ve been promoting the launch of Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace, that will go live on November 1st.

I’ve mentioned it upwards of six times on Instagram and it wasn’t until the sixth time that I got a text from my own sister saying, “Just saw you’re launching a marketplace! Great idea.”

And while yes, she’s busy with her own life going on — so is everyone else.

You can’t count on people to retain your message, read your blog post or engage with you on social media the very first time.

Or even the second time… or the third…

And I know what you may be thinking, “Man, this sounds exhausting. I can’t keep up with all of this marketing.”

But what I’m telling you is actually good news.

Because the content creation (i.e. the 30%) is the part that’s usually hardest for everyone.

I know how many of you worry that you’re not a good writer or that it takes forever to write a blog post or newsletter.

But with the 30/70 rule, once it’s done you get to focus the majority of your time on promoting it.

And while it still requires writing, crafting a promotional Facebook post or Instagram caption is a lot less work than writing full content.

To put it in perspective:

I spend at least 1.5 hours every Wednesday scheduling social media to promote that week’s blog post. My assistant spends another hour putting that blog post on WordPress and scheduling it to send to my email list.

That’s 2.5 to 3 hours dedicated to content that took me 30-45 minutes to write.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

So whether it’s an upcoming launch, a Kickstarter campaign or something small like a blog post, focus on doing more with less.

You can’t argue with that.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

true followers

Why You Only Need “100 True Followers” to Launch a Fashion Brand

To be a successful creator, designer or entrepreneur, you don’t need millions of dollars.

According to author Kevin Kelly, all you need is 1,000 true fans.

Are you familiar with this theory?

The idea is this:

If you have 1,000 true fans, and make $100 profit from each one every year, that’s enough money to sustain your creative work.

It’s not a fortune, but you get to spend your day doing what you love.

I recently recalled the “1,000 True Fans” theory that I read in 2012, and it got me thinking about how it applies to the fashion entrepreneurs that I talk to every day.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from them is not being able to grow an audience fast enough.

“I only got 10 new Instagram followers this week.”

“I only have 50 email subscribers.”

“My Facebook post only got five ‘Likes.’”

For many of you, when you’re starting from zero, it probably seems impossible to get to 1,000.

The good news is, I don’t think you need 1,000 true fans.

To launch a fashion brand, you only need 100.

That’s it, “100 True Followers.”

Totally doable, right?

Most of you probably already have over 100 followers on Instagram.

But here’s the thing:

A “follower” is different from a “True Follower.”

And when you’re trying to build an audience to launch your brand to, the “True Followers” are the only thing you should care about.

These are the people who “Like” 9 out of the 10 Instagram posts you publish, the ones who actually reply to your email newsletter and the ones who leave comments on your Facebook posts.

These “True Followers” are the people who are going to be your first 100 Kickstarter backers or your first 100 customers or the first 100 shoppers to show up at your pop-up store.

And then, after they buy from you…

They’re the ones who will tell their friends about you.

And that’s where the magic happens.

So, how do you find these “True Followers?”

1.) Provide value.

It’s not about you, it’s about them. And it’s about how your brand provides value to their everyday lives — whether it’s looking forward to an Instagram post, reading one of your blog posts or being able to tell their coworkers about your weekly newsletter.

2.) Don’t try to appeal to everyone.

I’ve written about this before here. The bottom line is this: The fastest way to sabotage your business is by trying to be everything to everyone.

3.) Say something different.

The easiest way to get ignored is to say the same thing every other brand is saying. Beyond the obvious of avoiding buzzwords and cliches, your brand needs to have a voice. If you don’t know what I mean by “voice,” check out the marketing messages of companies like Reformation, Thundress or Girlfriend Collective. I’ve also written about this here.

4.) Treat every new follower like gold.

This is the most important one of all and it’s often the most overlooked. Every new subscriber, follower, fan and customer should be shown value and appreciation. Instead of lamenting your small following of 10 people, focus on providing those 10 people with the absolute best experience your brand can offer.

Do you know what happens when 10 people have a memorable experience that makes them feel connected to your brand?

Each of those 10 people tells at least one more person.

Then you have 20 followers.

And in no time at all, 100 True Followers (or even 1,000 True Fans) doesn’t seem so impossible after all.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

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

 


sustainable fashion

How to Stand Out as a Sustainable Fashion Brand

Last week I was on “workcation” with my family in Croatia.

And one day, while we were driving on the winding island roads of Hvar, I saw a sign for a restaurant that caught my eye.

(This isn’t the first time that’s happened.)

The sign for the restaurant said:

Mostly homemade food.”

I looked at my husband and said, “Well, you have to appreciate their honesty…”

And then it got me thinking about the sustainable fashion world — and all of the new brands launching with sustainability at the forefront of their business models.

The good news is that in the past 10 years the term “sustainable fashion” has become more and more recognizable and well known.

The bad news is that the term is now often overused and sometimes even greenwashed.

Companies claim to be “a sustainable fashion brand,” but they use it as an overarching brand mark instead of explaining exactly how their company implements sustainability into their supply chain.

There’s really no such thing as “perfectly sustainable,” and I see red flags anytime a brand claims to be so.

With many of you being the future of this industry, I’d encourage you to think more deeply about the words you use to describe your sustainable fashion brand.

Because I think we can do better.

Yes, there are words like “conscious,” “socially-driven,” “eco” and “ethical” but how can you describe your brand’s ethos in a way that stands out from the rest?

And even more so, in a way that is transparent and honest?

One way is by getting specific.

Think about the words that your target customer cares about. Sift through the phrases that would peak their interest.

Because the truth is,

A sign for “homemade food” wouldn’t have caught my attention.

My mind would have just categorized it as another cute local restaurant.

Adding the word “mostly” not only piqued my curiosity but made me feel trust.

I knew that if I went into that restaurant to eat, I would know exactly which items on the menu were homemade and which ones weren’t.

And that same thought process can be applied to your own customers.

Because ultimately, that’s what they want to feel. A customer who cares enough to seek out sustainable fashion wants to be able to trust you.

To trust that what they’re buying is mostly sustainable.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


research stage

3 Tips for Dealing with Information Overload

A few weeks ago, while I was talking with new designers at TexWorld, someone said something that stuck with me:

“I’m feeling overwhelmed by information overload. I’ve been doing research for months and months, but at what point is it enough? At what point do I stop researching and start ‘doing’?”

You’ve probably heard the statistic — it’s something along the lines of how the average person in 2018 consumes more information in a day than a person in the 1800s consumed in their whole life.

We are bombarded with advice, opinions, facts, stats, experts, gurus, advertisements and the like.

It’s enough to cause decision paralysis for even the most confident, decisive and organized of people.

Then there are the rest of us, grasping at which direction to take, which advice to listen to and which research to follow.

And I’m here to tell you,

You can probably stop.

Stop researching. And start implementing.

Because doing is the best research you’re ever going to get.

That’s when you’re going to find what works for you and your brand — instead of what works for someone else.

Is it important to use the guidance of the people who have been there before?

Of course. (I teach a whole fashion program based on that sole concept.)

But for as many articles you read, podcasts you listen to, courses you take and networking events you go to, you have to make sure you’re taking action at the same time.

So, what do you do?

  1. Pick one teacher to start. Maybe it’s Jane from Fashion Brain Academy. Maybe it’s Nicole from Startup Fashion. Maybe it’s Syama from Scaling Retail. Or maybe it’s me. But you don’t need all the experts. Pick someone you trust, someone’s style that jives with how you like to learn, and a personality you connect with.
  2. Implement while you learn. Again, make sure you’re taking action on the new information you’re absorbing. Binders and folders and colored coordinated labels are fun, but those aren’t moving the needle. Choose one thing every day that will move your business forward or get you closer to launch.
  3. Notice if you’re using “research” as a way to procrastinate. If you think you’ve done too much Googling, then you probably have. Step away from the search bar.

And above all, remember, you’re not going to get it all right. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to follow the wrong advice, you’re going to feel paralyzed by all of the decisions you have to make.

But that’s okay.

Because the best entrepreneurs know that when one road dead-ends, you can always reroute.

For better or for worse, there will always be another road to follow.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


the crowdfunding factory