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white fashion business

This is not another templated blog post telling you that Black Lives Matter.

This is a call to action.

Over the past week or so, I have absorbed more education about one subject than I have about anything else in my life.

From articles to books to conversations to webinars, I have been processing what it truly means to be a white ally to BIPOC, what it means to do anti-racist work — and more importantly, acknowledging my unearned privilege in a system that was rigged to my benefit. 

Brands across all industries are being called out for their implicit (and yes, explicit) biases, and we’re realizing that we can all do better. 

Most of us have heard the expression, “We are not born with ‘isms.’ Racism is taught.”

And just as people aren’t born racist, most businesses aren’t born racist either.

The vast majority of entrepreneurs don’t start companies to deliberately suppress people of color.

But here’s the thing:

Most of us don’t go into business with plans to amplify and support people of color either.

Our passive decision making is directly harming anti-racist work. By not putting diversity and equity at the forefront of our core business values, we are not only contributing to the problem… 

We are the problem.

We simply cannot continue business as normal, without addressing the fundamental flaws of the sustainable and ethical fashion industry and it’s white-washed behavior.

As a leader in this space, someone who encourages people to start sustainable fashion brands for the good of planet and people, it is my responsibility to ensure that we’re starting brands that are good for all people.

I also recognize that there are professionals in diversity and inclusion training that will do a far better job teaching anti-racist business principles than I can.

So today, I want to introduce you to one of those people.

Erica Courdae is the CEO of a hair and makeup business that disrupted industry standards to consider the beauty of those not regularly featured. 

After decades of experience in creating a space for dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion, she is now a consultant and coach for businesses that are committed to being imperfect allies of BIPOC.

On Thursday, June 18th, sponsored by The Garment, Erica is teaching a webinar exclusively for fashion brands about how we can be better allies.

“Step into a reality that isn’t the one you inhabit every single day. This is where the growth happens.” — Erica Courdae

Erica is being compensated for her time, knowledge and skills, but the webinar is free for you to attend. You can register here.

I will be there with an open mind, listening, learning and challenging myself to dig deeper in how I can commit to doing the long-term work.

Because believe me, there isn’t an overnight solution in showing up

The point is to continue showing up — within yourself, within your family and within your business.

If we truly want to live in an equal and just world, then there’s no other option.

See you next Thursday here,

 

 

 

 

Want to take action right now? Rachel Rodgers is hosting a Town Hall for small businesses TONIGHT at 6pm ET / 3pm PT. You can register here.


I know we’ve all been inundated with resources, but here are two links that have particularly stood out to me. 

*Note: If you’re sensitive to explicit language, then you may want to skip.

White Apathy & The Bullshit Argument that “They Could Help Themselves If They Really Wanted To” by Ash Ambirge

Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (If you can’t commit to 30 minutes, then just watch the last two minutes.)

 

fashion entrepreneur

Do you want to make the leap from the traditional fashion industry to the sustainable fashion industry?

Or maybe you want to start off as a sustainable brand from the get go.

Sustainable and ethical fashion is a constantly growing industry, especially as more consumers are becoming aware of how important it is to planet and people.

So, where do you start?

Today, I’m sharing the three most important aspects of a sustainable fashion brand and what you need to make sure you know how to do.

 

 

If these three things are already top of mind for you and you’re ready to get started, then applications to Factory45 are now open HERE!

To changing the fashion industry,

 

 

fabric sourcing template


designer woman walking in california

The other day I was on a podcast interview, and the host asked me how I reach big goals.

I’ve shared with you before that I’m not a goal-setter in the traditional sense. Instead, I focus on the small “action steps” needed to achieve big goals.

And that’s where I started in January of this year.

The “goal” was to create a new brand video for Factory45 that would portray the experience of being an entrepreneur in the program.

I had a vision of what the final video would look like, but I really didn’t know how to bring it to life.

I’m not a filmmaker, I’m not a script writer and I’m certainly not an actress.

So, I got out a notebook and I made a list of all of the things that would need to come together to make this big goal happen within the budget that I set.

Hire experts who do this professionally… write a script… edit, edit and re-edit the script… approve a storyboard… find an “actress” for the video… hire a voiceover… lay out a timeline… create a shooting schedule, etc…

Thankfully — and this is always applicable advice — we started working on the video so far in advance that we finished filming two weeks before we got stay-at-home orders.

Advanced planning paid off more than ever this year.

So, how did it all come together?

I hired Drew and Kestrel of Falcon Related, who have worked with me before to create the Factory45 portal videos.

Jen Long, who is the founder of Noble Carriage, happens to live in San Diego (where I’m based right now) and she was willing to be our actress. 

She also happens to be the consulting client I worked with in 2014 who inspired the idea for the Factory45 program — how’s that for a full-circle moment?

Holly Stavnes, the co-founder of Left Edit, provided the voiceover for us — and she also went through the Factory45 program in 2017.

That’s all to say, the new brand video came together in such an authentic and genuine way that I couldn’t have planned it better in January if I tried.

It’s a lesson in trusting the process, setting up a plan of action and following through on the little steps to make it happen.

Anyway, you can see for yourself — just click the play button below : )

 

 

 


Factory45 Mentors

the mask project featured image

The past five days have been a whirlwind — to put it lightly.

It started on Friday when I received three emails from people interested in sewing masks for medical workers.

As the day went on, I kept hearing from our factory partners that they wanted to help, but they didn’t know where to send the masks.

So much of my experience through Factory45 is based on connecting entrepreneurs with manufacturers. 

It got me thinking about how I could translate that into connecting hospitals with manufacturers.

And that’s how The Mask Project was born.

The Mask Project

In record time, we launched a website on Saturday night (thanks to Emily Belyea Creative) and with the help of a 70-person email chain of sustainable fashion influencers, we started spreading the word about the project on Sunday.

Kathryn and her team at Good Clothing Company got to work designing a more efficient pattern for the mask.

JOANN Fabrics stepped in to donate thousands of yards of fabric and as of Tuesday afternoon, we have 54 factories willing to sew medical masks. 

We’ve also received requests for over 100,000 masks from hospitals all over the country.

I’ve estimated that with our factory network, we could manufacture over 500,000 masks per week — two million masks per month — for medical professionals across the U.S.

But here’s the thing: right now, these factories are donating their time and labor.

While they’re pivoting their business models to help with the mass shortage of medical supplies, they also need to keep themselves in business.

This is different from the home sewers and hobbyists making 100 masks a week and donating them. It’s still amazing, but it’s different.

The real impact in this mask shortage can be made by our network of U.S. factories that want to keep their sewers employed.

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve learned more about hospital supply chain, government funding and the intricacies of budget restrictions than I ever thought I would.

It’s clear that the city government and hospital funds are maxed out. The money that they do have should be spent on N95 respirators and ventilators directly in contact with COVID-19.

The masks that we’re making are meant to be used in sterile environments and operation room settings to free up the “real masks” for treating contagious disease.

And while I’m working on strategic partnerships with influencers who can amplify the message for funding, it’s ultimately going to come down to individual donations.

So, in what I thought would be a very different blog than what I’m posting today, I’m asking you to consider supporting these factories that want to help and that also want to stay in business.

You’ll see a “Donate” button on The Mask Project website here.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on alternative ways to get mass amounts of funding for our manufacturing partners, while continuing to research hospital supply chains (if this is your area of expertise, please email me!)

Thank you to so many of you who have already spread the word and supported the project on Instagram this week.

Our community is the best.

Gratefully,

 


 

Safety Boots

When Emily Soloby applied to Factory45 in 2018 she had an idea for a sleek, comfortable, all-weather boot for professional women. 

As the co-owner of a transportation safety company that she runs with her husband, Emily would often have to run from client meetings to the job site and couldn't find boots that had the protection she needed, while also looking good with what she was wearing. 

I remember reading Emily’s Factory45 application and thinking, now there’s a woman I want to work with. 

Safety Boots

One of the first things we tackled at the start of Factory45 was market testing.

Before joining the program, Emily thought she needed to focus on a more generalized boot to appeal to a larger customer base. 

But then she began conducting focus groups and surveys and discovered that it wasn't just women in the transportation industry who needed stylish safety boots — it was women in STEM, architecture, engineering, construction, and many more industries. 

“It was a much bigger market than I thought,” she told me in an interview for this story.

womens safety boot

So she quickly pivoted back to her original idea to create stylish women's safety boots.

“It was the best decision I could have made, because now we are not just putting yet another fashion boot out there,” said Emily. “We are filling in a true market need, and helping women to feel seen and acknowledged in their industries.”

From the start of Factory45, Emily followed the program to a tee. 

I can go back and look at emails we sent during office hours and recognize not only her acute attention to detail but also her patience in building the business the right way, from the start.

“We began testing out materials by having companies send us samples, and we traveled to leather suppliers to see their facilities and understand their process,” Emily told me. “We visited materials shows, and spoke to as many people as we could, to try to better understand the safety shoe sourcing process.”

She visited over a dozen factories and eventually found one in Mexico near the world-class Gold-rated tannery where she sources the leather for her boots.

Emily says, “One of the most important things to us was that we source our leather close to where the shoes are being made, because this saves on the resources typically involved in shipping and transport.”

She spent over a year building a community, social media presence, brand identity and email list, while simultaneously working on her supply chain.

Then in February 2019, Juno Jones launched to the world through pre-orders on Kickstarter and reached its goal in 29 hours.

With over two weeks left in the campaign, Juno Jones has more than doubled its goal with over $20,000 raised.

So, what were the three most important marketing strategies that Emily attributes to the success of Juno Jones’ launch?

  • Building community on Instagram, and being consistent with posting. Emily is a believer in posting and creating the content yourself, because people want to connect with you, not an anonymous social media professional.
  • Personal networking, attending events, following up, and staying friends with potential customers.
  • Sending personal messages to remind people about your campaign.

To keep up momentum, Emily says she is following up on all of the press leads, writing articles, and doing lots of podcast interviews.

womens safety boot

What I personally love about the Juno Jones brand and Kickstarter campaign is that it appeals to a niche market

There is no question that a women’s safety boot is more interesting as a brand story and product offering than a generic boot. When the right customer discovers Juno Jones, she immediately knows it was made for her.

And that’s incredibly compelling in a business debut.

So what’s next for Juno Jones?

Emily says, “Our mission is to provide women with beautiful safety boots, and in doing so, to empower and normalize women working in nontraditional fields. Often times, in male-dominated fields, women can feel invisible, isolated, and like their voice isn't heard. By creating safety footwear especially for women, we want them to feel seen, acknowledged, and empowered to rise to the top of their industries.”

More of that, please. 👏

 


Know a woman in STEM who would love a stylish pair of safety boots?  Send them this link to pre-order from Juno Jones.

 


crowdfunding cta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click the play button below to watch this short video!

Enjoy,

 

 


fabric sourcing

Do you know the number one reason that new fashion brands lose money or go out of business in their first year?

Manufacturing mistakes.

From over-ordering inventory to garment construction errors, starting production is the most vulnerable time for new fashion brands.

I’ve heard the stories.

The brand blames the factory… the factory blames the brand… and when all is said and done, only a fraction of the production order is good enough to sell.

And both parties lose money.

In the case of the new brand, it’s enough of a loss to put them out of business — before they’ve even started.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Because the primary reason for manufacturing mistakes is a lack of communication.

The tech pack isn’t specific… the sew-by sample isn’t perfect… the brand and project manager haven’t had enough conversations about the end goal of the product.

The good news is: Communication is something that can be improved upon.

And while yes, the factory manager could probably be quicker about responding to your emails or returning your phone calls, effective communication is the responsibility of you — the founder and designer of your brand.

Can you control the skill set of the sewers? No.

Can you control the attention of the quality control manager? No.

But you can control the clarity of your expectations and needs up until production begins.

And that’s everything.

Between the free resources in books, blogs and YouTube, there’s really no excuse anymore to go into apparel manufacturing knowing nothing at all.

So, I’ve put together a little quiz for you, so you can better understand where your knowledge lies… 

Which of these questions can you answer?

  1. What is a “time study” sample?
  2. Name the three things you need to be able to start product development.
  3. What’s the most important question to ask a pattern/samplemaker before you hire them?
  4. What’s the number one way to save money in production?
  5. Should your production partner sign an NDA?

If you were able to confidently answer four out of these five questions, then you’re in good shape!

But if you know that you’re new to the manufacturing industry and you have plans to start an apparel or accessories brand, then it’s imperative that you arm yourself with the knowledge and know-how to get through production without losing money.

And that’s why I created The Manufacturing Kit for you.

It includes eight resources that will answer the questions above, as well as teach you other valuable information like:

  • The 14 things you need before starting product development. 
  • How to translate your sketch to a spec sheet template so you don't have to pay to have one made.
  • 9 questions to ask a pattern/samplemaker before you hire them.
  • 9 questions to ask a manufacturer before signing a contract.
  • And more…

You can check out The Manufacturing Kit in more detail here.

And if you have any questions about it, just reply to this email — I’ll personally get back to you.

As they say, “knowledge is power” and my goal with The Manufacturing Kit is for you to be able to confidently and calmly go into production without wasting time and losing money.

To your success,

 

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But really, I think the reason is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What an opportunity.

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

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

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

More moments of hearing the birds.

 

 


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If you’re like most of the entrepreneurs I work with, then you know this:

  • You want to start a fashion brand that’s socially-conscious
  • You want to do something to combat the “fast fashion problem” 
  • You don’t want to be just another fashion brand

In your heart, you are committed to building a sustainably-made and ethically-manufactured brand, but where do you even start?

While I run an entire six-month accelerator program to help with exactly that, I want to get you started with the first four things to consider right now.

In today’s episode of Factory45 TV, I’m sharing where to begin when you’re building a sustainable fashion brand from scratch.

These four things are not generic answers like, start a business plan or research your competition or trademark your business name.

Click the button above and in four minutes you’ll have four steps to building your sustainable fashion brand right now.

Enjoy!

 

 


manufacturing kit

About this time of year, I traditionally write an annual review of how life and business went this year.

You may recall 2018 being a doozie with the health status of my mom, the arrival of Baby Lohr and the post-partum blues that came with it.

But this year I’m doing something a little differently, inspired by my own 2020 business planning.

At the beginning of December when I got out my notebook and wrote “2020 PLAN” at the top of the page, my immediate instinct was to write “Goals” just as I’ve done every year.

But I wrote this word instead:

FOCUS

In that moment, I realized it was never my past goals that were that important — it was the tangible steps that I focused on to achieve those goals.

And it’s this system of focused planning that I want to share with you as an exercise today.

First, I divided the year into two parts — Q1/Q2 and Q3/Q4 — but you can divide it into four parts (or more) if that works for you.

For Q1/Q2, I wrote down one singular focus: MARKETING
(i.e. spreading the word about the Factory45 2020 program)

Then for Q3/Q4, I wrote down one singular focus: FACTORY45 EXPERIENCE
(i.e. making sure the entrepreneurs in Factory45 2020 have the best possible experience)

Next, I made a list of all of the tangible action steps that would enhance each of these two focuses.

For MARKETING, I came up with a list of seven “buckets”. 

For FACTORY45 EXPERIENCE, I came up with a list of four “buckets.”

For example, one of my MARKETING buckets was “Email List & Blog,” so underneath that bucket I listed all of the things that go into my email list and blog as they relate to marketing. 

  • Repurposing “best of” blog posts 
  • Sending out a new YouTube video every month
  • Cross promoting other people in my industry 
  • Using paid ads to promote my best blog posts and videos
  • Driving new subscribers to my email list via lead magnets
  • Cultivating and fostering the existing relationship I have with my current readers

For each bucket, there was a list of actionable steps like the one above that would get me closer to my broader focus of Marketing.

*Important note here that you may find interesting: Social media did not come up in any of my buckets. Sure, I’ll still post on Instagram, FB, etc. but it isn’t a task that I’m putting emphasis on for my Marketing Focus. So, if you’re one of those people who is putting all of their eggs into the Instagram Stories basket, I encourage you to think outside the box!

Alright, still with me?

The final step was to list out January through December 2020, and allocate the most important steps in each bucket to a month or multiple months. 

It looked like this:

JANUARY

  • Paid ads
  • YouTube
  • Pitch podcasts
  • Outline new workshop
  • Activate free TCF webinar
  • Research video companies

The first three bullets span across every month of the year. But the other three bullets only exist in that month because they have a deadline.

Make sense?

The idea here is to have actionable steps each month, rather than general goals, that amplify what you’re focusing on for the first half (or first quarter) of the year.

The final step was to move this calendar out of my notebook and into Asana (the to-do list of my choice) so that I know exactly what I’m taking action on and when I’m taking action on it.

So in review, here’s how you can effectively plan for 2020 for your own business instead of creating general goals:

  1. Create 2-4 Focuses for each quarter of the year.
  2. List all of the “supporting actors” for each focus and divide them into Buckets.
  3. Under each bucket, list the sub-steps that go into each one.
  4. Allocate each bucket to certain month(s) of the year.
  5. Add the to-do list for each month into your task management platform, to-do list or digital calendar.

That’s all to say, I think I’m over “goal setting” in the traditional sense. 

Yes, it’s incredibly important to have a vision for your business.

But you know what’s more important? 

Taking action to achieve that vision.

 

 

This will be my last blog post and email of 2019 — I’m wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and will be back on Wednesday, January 8th : )


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