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This is a guest post from Brianna Kilcullen, the founder of Anact and a student of my Kickstarter course, The Crowdfunding Factory.

Today she’s sharing three things she’s learned about creating a Kickstarter campaign for anyone else who is considering it as a launch strategy. 

Here’s Brianna… 

I’ll begin by saying, I’ve never done a crowdfunding campaign before. Like ever. Knowing that I needed to create one to kickstart my business, I was on the hunt for a good resource that could help guide me along the way.

When I found out that Shannon ran one of the most successfully funded Kickstarter fashion projects at the time and had built an online course based on best practices, recommendations and preferred resources — I knew I had to take it. 

It was quick, simple and incredibly applicable. Thinking through the entire crowdfunding process before beginning helped prepare me for the highs and the lows and be proactive instead of reactive.  

Here are my top three takeaways: 

#1. CONSISTENCY. 

One of the biggest takeaways from The Crowdfunding Factory is that consistency is one of the most important parts of starting a business. More so than making a single ultra creative post or product. 

It can take seven interactions with a brand before a person decides to take action with a product or service. So I knew that in order for my business to be successful, I needed to make sure my content was being seen. 

I snagged up every social media account, and then I picked specific social media platforms that my target market frequented to maximize the return on investment aka my time and energy!  Anact is now on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my personal accounts.  

Consistency also means that I needed to be posting frequently. So Anact went from posting about once a day to posting 3 times a day (for now).  PS: Social Sprout has become my go to for scheduling synchronized social media posts.

Three times a day seems a bit extreme; however, our backers will come from all different time zones and we believe it was important to make posts that could be seen from various time zones until our Kickstarter launches. Once we launch, we will post less, but we will now make sure we post on a schedule so that we are always consistent. 

kickstarter

#2. RE-SHARE. 80% of your time should be spent promoting content you’ve already made.

Adding onto the consistency train, promoting your content should be a high priority. We learned not to spend all our time creating new content (blurbs for posts, pictures, etc.) and realized that we needed to share and share and share and share our current content so that more people can see it and so our time spent creating that content doesn’t go to waste. 

To help with that, we started paying Instagram and Facebook to promote our posts so that it reached our target audience easier. We also encouraged our friends, family, and fans to share our content.  #freeinfluencers

Prior to launching Anact, I wasn’t even active on social media. I have to say that I have been really amazed at the opportunity it holds in promoting your business and connecting with amazing people all over the world. 

#3. SPREAD THE WORD.

If you’re a startup founder like me, you are most likely spending most of your time on the product creation process. We all saw what happened with FYRE Festival — a hyped up marketing campaign with a bad product is no bueno.

So once you have perfected your product, you’ll need to navigate the press circuit and promote all of your hard work so you can share with the world! Shannon’s guidance and personal press contact list was instrumental in understanding how to navigate this aspect of startup life.  

Terms such as “editorial calendar” and “press pitch” have become ingrained in my vocabulary as we prepare for our Kickstarter launch.  

There are many more insights and takeaways that I have gained, but the common theme in each takeaway has been that it has created confidence in myself and the crowdfunding process and for that – I am incredibly grateful! 

-Brianna
Founder, Anact

Anact is short for “an act”. The simple act of creating impact. My simple act was developing a hemp-based towel that is good for all people and the planet. 

When you buy a towel, you’re already taking action and making a difference.  We hope you take it a step further and each time you use the Anact towels you’re inspired to take simple acts to create impact too.


crowdfunding cta

The fashion industry is competitive — there’s no doubt about it.

And yet, it’s not hard to find new, successful brands popping up across the industry.

No one knew about Everlane until it became Everlane.

No one knew about Reformation until it became Reformation.

And no one knew about Summersalt until… well, you get the idea.

There is room for you and the brand you want to create.

The key is to position yourself in a way that sets you apart from everyone else.

In today’s video, I’m going to share three ways to market your brand so that it attracts customers.

What’s your brand’s “X factor?” I’ve provided three different ways to think about.

Now it’s up to you to define that X factor for yourself.

Need some help? Leave a comment below the video and we’ll talk it out : )

 

 


sustainable fashion advice

Last week I *hopefully* convinced you that it’s not only worth the time and effort to blog about your fashion brand, but it’s imperative. If you missed that post you can read it here.

Today I want to talk about the not-so-sexy side of creating content for your brand and why your blog strategy depends on these three letters:

S
E
O

SEO stands for “search engine optimization” — Wait! Before your eyes glaze over and you click away… let’s take a pause for a puppy break.

Okay, still with me?

In layman’s terms, SEO is the language that the internet speaks and is the reason that some articles rank on the first page of Google and why a very similar article could be buried in the depths of the cloud.

Why is this important to you? Because you want to rank on the first page of Google.

Why should you care? Because it’s one more way that your target customers can find your business.

It looks like this:

Cara has a sustainable fashion brand that sells five-piece capsule collections through her Shopify store. 

Cara also has a blog that features articles about minimalism, sustainability, ethical fashion, travel, clean beauty and other topics that appeal to her ideal target customer. 

Now, here’s where SEO comes in.

Because her blog titles are “optimized” for the “search engines” with “keywords,” her blog posts come up when her ideal target customer searches for a topic she’s written about.

So, let’s say a potential customer is searching on Google, looking for bloggers to follow who have sustainable wardrobes. 

The very first article that appears on Google’s front page is Cara’s article: 10 Bloggers Who Will Inspire Your Sustainable Wardrobe

SEO

The potential customer clicks on Cara’s blog post, finds herself reading valuable and engaging content and knows she’s found exactly what she was looking for.

What happens next?

Maybe the potential customer clicks away, but it’s far more likely that one of three things happens:

  1. She clicks over to another related blog post and stays on Cara’s blog longer.
  2. She is invited to subscribe to Cara’s email list through an email opt-in.
  3. She clicks over to Cara’s Shopify site where she realizes that not only does Cara blog about sustainable fashion, she has an entire line of sustainable fashion to purchase!

Do you see how powerful this machine of SEO and blogging works?

The task of creating blog content is something that can benefit your brand for months and years to come. 

Okay, so now that I’ve *hopefully* convinced you that SEO is important to your blog strategy, it begs the question — how do you get started optimizing and finding keywords to write about?

First, I would encourage you to install an SEO plug-in to whichever blog platform you’re using (I use Yoast for WordPress.) 

This will help you find keywords and optimize your blog posts — there’s an easy red light, yellow light, green light system that Yoast uses to tell you if you’re good to go.

Beyond that, there are people much smarter than me who have written all about SEO, so I’m going to link to them below:

  • If you prefer reading, HubSpot has a very thorough guide here
  • If you prefer listening, Jenna Kutcher has an SEO podcast here.
  • If you prefer outsourcing, current Factory45’er Gabbby Covay runs an agency that provides SEO services here.

And if you want to take a closer look at Cara as my guinea pig, her blog is here and her brand is here

She’s also a Factory45 alum, so I’ve been able to witness from the beginning how she’s built each block of her business strategy (it’s impressive).

These technical things are what we, as creatives, tend to avoid but I’m here to tell you, there’s no point in blogging for the sake of blogging.

There needs to be a consistent strategy around what you write about, and SEO is a big part of that.

Phew. I know. It’s a lot of work… More puppies?

You can do this.

 

 


Sustainable Fashion Advice

If I polled an audience of startup fashion designers and asked them the number one business task they dread the most, I bet I could guess what most of them would say.

It’s not Google Analytics…

Or calculating costs… 

Or managing a budget…

(Although I’m sure those are high on the list.)

The number one thing that most fashion entrepreneurs resist is:

Blogging.

I’m not talking about blogging as in being a “fashion blogger” and sharing your #ootd and styled outfits.

I’m talking about blogging as a strategic marketing tactic to attract an audience and create potential customers for your brand. 

In other words, blogging as a means to sell your products.

I’ve done a lot of research on this and all of the experts agree,

Blogging is not going anywhere.

It is still an incredibly powerful tool to grow your brand presence, drive traffic to your landing page or online store and convert website visitors into paying customers.

If you’re not leveraging it for your business, then you’re doing yourself a disservice and that’s what I want to help you with today.

So, what in the world are you supposed to write about?

Let me first say that a blog post does not have to be written. 

There are multiple mediums for blogging today, including audio and video, so if you don’t consider yourself a “good writer” you’re not off the hook!

The content you produce depends on which stage of business you’re in. For our purposes, I’m going to apply this to those of you who don’t have anything to sell yet.

Because yes, you should be marketing and building an audience before you have anything to sell. (But you already knew that, right?)

When brainstorming content ideas, the “winning topics” should fall under one of two categories:

  1. A personal post about you, your story, why you’re starting your brand and a behind the scenes look at building your business. It should be written in a way that connects with your ideal target customer (i.e. reader).
  2. An educational, entertaining or inspirational post that provides valuable content for your ideal target customer (i.e. reader).

That’s it — one of those two things.

The goal is for every blog post to either 1.) connect or 2.) provide value — in an ideal world, it does both.

Now, here’s the key to blogging:

Consistency.

Once a week, on the same day, you want to publish a new blog post and send it out to your email list and social media following.

The easiest way to make sure you’re consistent in this is to brainstorm content ideas in advance and to devise a system.

You can stay organized by creating an editorial calendar and a workflow spreadsheet.

The editorial calendar ensures that you have blog post topics lined up weeks in advance.

The workflow spreadsheet ensures that you know exactly what you need to do to optimize your new blog post every week.

If you’re still reading, then you’ve earned this… 

You can access my Editorial Calendar template here and my Workflow Spreadsheet here.

Simply copy and paste the contents and put them into your own Google Drive spreadsheet.

Finally, and most importantly, how does blogging work to create customers?

By getting readers to sign up to your email list.

This is the number one goal for every piece of marketing content you create when you don’t have products to sell yet.

By growing your email list, you’re ensuring that when you do have something to sell you’ll have an audience to sell it to.

So, will you publish a blog post next week?

 


sustainable fashion advice

“Oh, man. I was going about this all wrong…” she said to me, looking like the ‘face palm’ emoji.

“No wonder no one was emailing me back.”

This is an all-too-common feeling for new designers who are just starting out in the overwhelming world of fabric sourcing.

You know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working, but you don’t exactly know why.

Maybe your inquiry email is unclear. 

Maybe you’re not asking for the right thing… in the right way.

Maybe the supplier simply overlooked your email.

Whatever the reason, I do know this:

The vast majority of new designers are making four very common fabric sourcing mistakes.

And in this week’s video, I’m going to tell you what they are so you can avoid them.

If you’re not making the progress you need to source fabric and materials for your fashion brand, then I hope this video will help you on your search.

In the comments below the video, let me know which of the four mistakes you might be making and we can talk it through more.

To your success,

 


sustainable brand

Last week I sent out a survey to gather feedback on email topics that would be helpful to you. You can still weigh in with your input here.

Most of you said you preferred watching videos or listening to audio to reading — and one of the most asked about topics was money.

How can you launch a fashion brand on a limited budget?

So, as a continued part of my YouTube experiment, that’s the question I’m answering today…

I’m sharing three ways to make the most of your money, launch your sustainable brand with limited risk and reduce the upfront price of product development.

I’ve worked with many brands over the years to effectively used these strategies without thousands of dollars sitting in the bank…

>> Click here to watch <<

Make no mistake, you need capital to start any business — especially a product-based business.

But to get off the ground, it’s not as much as you think.

You can watch the full video here.

Enjoy!

 


crowdfunding cta

Can you really launch a fashion line without going to fashion school?

YES.

Right around this time every year, I start to hear from many of you who want to apply to Factory45.

The biggest concern?

I don’t have a fashion background!
I didn’t go to fashion school!
I don’t know how to design or sew!

I ONLY have an idea!

And what do I have to say to that?

Great!

To be the right fit for the Factory45 program, you only need an idea in your head.

We’ll figure out the rest.

And today, to celebrate the launch of the Factory45 YOUTUBE channel — I’m sharing 3 reasons you can absolutely launch a fashion line without going to fashion school.

I’m going to use this channel to share tips and advice for every stage of running a sustainable fashion brand.

So, if you’re into video and want to see more of them, please click here and “Subscribe” to the Factory45 channel. You’ll simply get pinged when new videos go up (every Wednesday!)

And if you have suggestions or topics you’d like me to cover in a 3-5 minute video, then I’m ALL ears – simply email me at shannon@factory45.co.

More next week and in the meantime,

Check out the first two videos here >>

 


Last month, on a whim, I decided to start a YouTube channel.

I know, I sound like a 17-year-old beauty blogger.

The reasons for creating videos were obvious (which I won’t get into right now) but beyond filming the actual content, I had no idea where to start.

So, I bought an online course that teaches YouTube for entrepreneurs.

While I thought I could probably figure it out on my own, I didn’t want to.

I knew there was so much more that went into the strategy behind YouTube, and I wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do step by step.

So, I got to work.

And as I started going through the course, researching content ideas, writing scripts, sifting through Google Keywords, I started to wonder:

What did I get myself into?

Because, to be honest, the whole process not only felt unnatural to me, but very uncomfortable.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars creating the highest-quality video content for the Factory45 program and now I was supposed to sit in front of my laptop webcam and not try to make it look perfect?

Every ounce of my being wanted to shoot and reshoot and have multiple camera angles and great lighting and a professional set.

But guess what? When you have zero YouTube subscribers and haven’t made one video yet, you don’t get a professional set.

You start where you are — with what you have.

As I filmed the first four videos, I had to remind myself over and over: Progress over perfection, progress over perfection, progress over perfection.

I could come up with every excuse to procrastinate:

“I shouldn’t shoot today because the ring light hasn’t arrived.”

“I shouldn’t shoot today because there’s construction noise outside.”

“I shouldn’t shoot today because I’m getting a haircut on Friday…”

Instead, I told myself: Just get the first four videos out there, see if they help your people and then see if they help other people discover Factory45.

Because here’s the thing:

If I spend months creating videos and never grow my viewership past my mom and my mother-in-law, then at least I’ll know it was a “failed” experiment that isn’t worth pursuing.

That’s the only way to know if an idea is truly worthwhile — by putting it out into the world and testing it.

The timing is never going to be perfect, you’re never going to feel ready and yes, it’s going to feel vulnerable and scary as hell.

But what’s the alternative?

The alternative is playing small, never taking a risk and being too afraid to put yourself out there.

So, secret #5 is this: To build a successful business, you have to be willing to start before you’re ready.

Whether it’s launching a first-time fashion business, a brand new collection or a YouTube channel of all things, there is never going to be a better time than now.

Because whether you wait another month, or another year or another five years, you’re going to wish you had started today.

There is always a small step you can take now to set you up for bigger steps tomorrow — especially since everything takes longer than you think it will,

So, the most important thing I’ve learned in the past five years is this: Success comes from experimenting with new ideas and not being afraid to feel uncomfortable.

When you push the limits and stop waiting for perfection or permission, then that’s when incredible things happen.

 


This is a multi-part series, celebrating the five-year business anniversary of Factory45. If you missed it, the other four posts are here:

Secret #1 on starting niche is here.

Secret #2 on dealing with competition is here.

Secret #3 on the myth of “following your passion” is here.

Secret #4 on spending money is here.

 

So, here’s an unpopular (secretly popular) topic:

Money.

More specifically, how to start a business when you don’t have a lot of money.

If you scour the internet, you can find enough stories of multi-millionaires who started from zero, eating chickpeas out of the can while sleeping on their friend’s futon.

But there’s a less extreme version of this, and it’s far more common.

It’s the story of the woman craving a creative outlet. She’s managed to save a small “safety net” of cash and even has some disposable income at the end of the month.

She sees acquaintances on Facebook breaking out on their own.

And she wonders to herself, how did they do it?

What do they know that I don’t?

So she starts to research.

“How to start a clothing line,” she types into Google.

From Marie Claire to WikiHow to “Startup Bros,” she faces 938,000,000 search results.

Overwhelm begins to set in, but she makes one conscious choice:

To take the first step.


This was my reality in 2010.

I was just starting out, trying to launch a sustainable fashion brand, and I had no idea what was what or who was who.

The entire industry was a mystery to me with limited access.

Nevertheless, I committed to putting $5,000 into a business bank account as an investment in a company I didn’t yet have.

I’ll never forget transferring that hard-earned cash as one lump sum, knowing that it was all of my savings and probably money that I would never see again.

It was a calculated risk, and there were no guarantees.

When I look back on that first bank transfer I remember it as the first of many times I took a risk for my business without knowing how it would turn out.

Nine years later, I now know it’s the name of the entrepreneurial game.

Whether it was investing money into a Kickstarter campaign I wasn’t sure would be successful or hiring a business coach or buying the numerous online courses I’ve enrolled in, what I’ve learned is this:

You have to be willing to invest in your business before you know it’s a sure thing.

I don’t mean that you should take out a second mortgage or drain your 401K, but you have to be willing to spend money to start or grow a business.

There is no way around it.

So, how do you do this without succumbing to the fear of bankruptcy and homelessness?

Create a “worst case scenario” plan.

Over the years, I’ve always told myself that if I lost all of my savings I could jump behind a bar and start pouring drinks again. As much as I hoped my bartending days were over, I knew that I could make cash quickly if I had to.

For you, it might be nannying or waitressing or admin or cleaning houses or freelancing.

Depending on how dire your “worst case scenario” plan is, having one can do two things:

  1. Be an indication that you’re not ready to take action on your business.
  2. Or liberate you.

It’s the litmus test you need to make a big financial decision.

So, secret #4 is this: To start a successful business, you must be willing to invest in uncertainty.

Because there is not an entrepreneur I know who got their company off the ground for free.

 


This is a multi-part series, celebrating the five-year business anniversary of Factory45. If you missed “secret #1” you can read it here, if you missed “secret #2” it’s here and “secret #3” is here.

There is a lie being told in the entrepreneurial world.

It’s a false narrative that’s being targeted at people who are unhappy with their current work life and are looking for a change.

Maybe you’re one of those people.

The lie is this:

Follow your passion.
Quit your job and chase your dreams.
Do work you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

We see it every day: the Facebook and Instagram ads promising your “dream life” by people who look like they’re living their dream life.

It’s all palm trees and perfectly-foamed lattes and bright, white lighting. It’s breakfast trays in bed and bouquets of peonies and red painted lips.

But do you know what’s behind those beautiful photos and “dream lives?”

Many, many, many months (probably years) of it not looking that way.

Because the truth is, to become the picture of success — while creating a business that lasts — it requires this:

Doing work you don’t want to do.

In fact, when you’re first starting out, you can expect to do more work that you don’t want to do than work you actually enjoy.

And usually, it requires running your business as a side hustle while *still* going to your “real job.”

We all know there’s no such thing as overnight success.

But what I don’t think we always remember is that there’s so much more to the story than what we see on social media.

Chances are:

The fashion brand with the perfectly curated Instagram feed started with an iPhone and a Dropbox folder of stock photos.

The designer working in a beautifully-lit studio started in a converted home office that barely fit a desk.

The CEO flying first class to a paid speaking gig spent years sitting in the back of the plane to speak for free.

If you’re ready to start your own business, you should absolutely do it. It’s one of the most rewarding journeys you can take.

But there should be no illusions.

It will require “grunt work” — the things you think everyone else is outsourcing to interns — are the things you need to do yourself when you’re first starting out.

Packing and fulfilling orders, writing and scheduling your own social media posts, creating your emails and blog posts, going to networking events, dealing with tech issues that make you want to pull your hair out.

Those “annoying” tasks that tempt you to procrastinate or abandon them all together are the things you’ll look back on with genuine appreciation.

They’re the things that will make you grow, build new skills and realize that you’re capable of more than you think.

Because every successful entrepreneur I know has a similar story of doing work they didn’t want to do.

That’s what it takes.

So secret #3 is this: Successful entrepreneurs do things they’re not passionate about because they know that it’s not about passion.

It’s about purpose.

 

 

If you’re ready to put in the work to start your dream business, let’s do it together. Applications to Factory45 open in May 2020!


This is a multi-part series, celebrating the five-year business anniversary of Factory45. If you missed “secret #1” you can read it here, if you missed “secret #2” it’s here.