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fashion kickstarter

Yesterday I spent 36 hours in New York City, talking to fashion startups about ways to finance their brands.

Needless to say, crowdfunding (specifically Kickstarter) has been on my mind.

If you’re one of those entrepreneurs currently weighing your options about how to launch your company or new collection, keep reading.

Today I want to go over four of the major misconceptions about launching a crowdfunding campaign.

MISCONCEPTION #1: Kickstarter = “donations.”

This might be my biggest pet peeve when I hear people talking about crowdfunding or Kickstarter. Do not, I repeat do not, refer to your campaign as a place to “donate” or “accept donations.”

Kickstarter is not charity. And it’s not even fundraising in a traditional sense.

When it comes to raising money for your fashion brand, Kickstarter is a platform for pre-selling your product before you go into production.

In other words, your customers are financing your first production run for you by pre-ordering what you’re selling. Instead of using your own savings, you’re receiving the money upfront to go into production and deliver your product to your Kickstarter backers.

I repeat, it’s not a donation.

MISCONCEPTION #2: If you build it, they will come.

I estimate that about 75 percent of the work that goes into launching a Kickstarter should be focused on building an audience before you launch.

When campaigns fail it’s usually because the project creator didn’t put enough work into building their email list and social media following.

Will random people discover your project because they are browsing Kickstarter for cool brands?

Probably, but you can’t count on it.

Make sure you have a dedicated following of potential customers before you click that launch button. If that means waiting a few more months to build up your list, then do it!

MISCONCEPTION #3: Most Kickstarter projects succeed.

The majority of Kickstarter campaigns fail.

(That’s part of the reason I’m so proud of the success rate coming out of Factory45 and Market45!)

Kickstarter’s Fashion category has one of the lowest success rates, coming in at 25.46%.

I don’t tell you this to discourage you. I still believe that crowdfunding is the absolute best way to launch a new fashion brand.

I tell you this to emphasize how much work and advanced planning needs to go into launching your campaign.

I estimate that you should spend 6-18 months preparing for your campaign and again, building your audience before you launch.

MISCONCEPTION #4: Crowdfunding is dead.

Is Kickstarter saturated? Is social media noisy? Are email lists hard to grow? Yes.

But what’s the alternative?

If you want to launch a successful fashion brand — without wasting your own money and without going into debt — then crowdfunding is still the most low-risk and efficient way to do that.

Why?

Because you’re able to test the market before you launch.

You’re able to ensure that you won’t have unsold inventory sitting in your basement for years.

And you’ll know that you have a product people actually want before you invest the time and money into production.

There is no venture capitalist, bank loan or angel investor who can tell you that.


The moral of the story? Building a business takes a lot of time, thought, patience, hard work, creativity and persistence.

There’s no getting around that.

There is, however, a way to market and test your brand with very little risk to you personally.

And that’s where Kickstarter comes in.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


crowdfunding cta

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

 


Sustainable Fashion Advice

Where to Start

“I don’t even know where to start,” I thought to myself.

It was three weeks before my maternity leave was ending, and I was looking at a calendar next to my to-do list.

Pack for Cape Town, finish the baby’s daycare applications, schedule a photoshoot, hire someone to run digital ads, get a haircut for the first time in six months…

I had a million things to do with half the time to do them and everything felt like a priority.

Sound familiar?

Whether we’re really busy or starting something new or feeling pulled in a bunch of different directions, it’s normal to feel a sense of paralysis.

And the statement that most often comes up is:

I don’t even know where to start.

I know you know what I’m talking about because one of the most common questions I’m asked is:

Where do I start?

I get email after email from people who have an idea for a clothing line or product but they don’t know how to make it happen.

How do I know what fabric I need?
How do I create sketches if I can’t draw?
How do I organize all of my ideas? And which one should I choose?

Instead of zooming in on one thing to tackle first, they find themselves paralyzed by the overwhelm of everything else.

And they end up doing nothing.

The thing is, starting a clothing company is a lot more straightforward than people think. And so much of the process can be tackled by…

Simplifying.

That means when you think you should be doing more you should actually be doing less.

And over the next three weeks, I’m going to prove that to you.

If you have dreams of launching a fashion business I’m going to show you how you can simplify and start.

I’m going to walk you through the first THREE steps you need to take to start your company.

And the best part is, each of these three steps will take no longer than an hour to do. (Actually, each one will probably take less than 30 minutes!)

My goal here, and the goal of the Factory45 program, is to make “I don’t know where to start” obsolete.

My goal is to show you that “knowing where to start” is a lot easier than you think.

Next week I’m going to send the very first step to my subscribers. You can sign up here to get it in your inbox.

(It will be especially helpful if you’re one of those people who “can’t draw.”)

Talk soon,

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Sustainable Fashion Advice


 

December is one of my favorite months of the year as a business owner.

And it’s not because of the holiday shopping or smells of pine and cinnamon or waking up to the first snowfall.

We’re getting to that time of year when many of us stop to reflect on how we’re running our businesses, our goals for the new year, and what we can do to make operations more efficient.

While I’ll definitely spend December doing that, this month is also an opportunity to appreciate what’s already working well — including the tools that made things run smoother than years past.

Those top 5 tools are what I want to share with you today:

asana

1.) ASANA

There is no better friend to an entrepreneur than a to-do list. Nope, not even your accountant. I’ve been using Asana since 2013 and it is the peanut butter to my jelly – I really don’t know what I would do without it.

If you don’t have some sort of organized checklist of top priority tasks assigned to due dates, then please get Asana in your life. It’s accessible from both your desktop and phone and it’s super intuitive and easy to use.

planoly

2.) PLANOLY

I’ve written about Planoly before when I shared my best Instagram hacks — this is definitely one of them.

For $9/month, Planoly is an app that allows you to create an editorial calendar for your Instagram posts. You can move images around to see how they’ll appear in grid format, write your captions ahead of time, and set a reminder on your phone that notifies you when to post.

If you’re starting or running a fashion brand in this day and age, then you must have a thoughtful visual representation on Instagram. And Planoly makes it easier to do that.

edgar

3.) EDGAR

Edgar is a bit on the pricey side but honestly, it’s worth every penny.

If you already use a social media scheduler like Hootsuite or Buffer, you know how it works. You schedule your social media posts for Facebook or Twitter and then it posts for you.

The problem is, once that blog post, guest post or media feature is published, you have to schedule it again. And if there’s anything we know about social media these days, it’s that it’s not enough to simply publish something once.

Edgar is the social media scheduling tool that manages itself. Instead of publishing your post once, it saves it and recycles it at a later date. It is the social media gift that keeps on giving and makes those frustrating Facebook algorithms that much easier to deal with.

I’ve been using it since it launched in 2014 and will never go back.

Shopify

4.) SHOPIFY

If you sell anything online, Shopify is the e-commerce platform that I recommend above all others.

Comparing it to anything else is like comparing brass to gold — nothing against brass, but other e-commerce sites lack the lustre and shine that Shopify can offer an online store.

Beyond the benefit of how easy it is to build your site, my favorite thing about Shopify is the app library that you can use for free or at a very low cost. If there’s anything you need to customize or implement that your template doesn’t already offer, then they probably have an app for it.

I also love the personal support you can get from the “Shopify Experts” if you’re really not tech savvy. And then there’s the ease of managing the back-end of your shipping and fulfillment…

I could clearly go on, but I won’t… Shopify. Use it.

VAology5.) UPWORK / A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I *really* don’t know what I would do without my assistant, Erika of VAology, and I hired her through Upwork.

It took me a while (like two years) to hire someone that I could trust with the tasks I needed to outsource and she was worth the wait. If there’s something Erika doesn’t know how to do, then she figures it out — and that’s exactly what you want out of someone you hire.

When you get to the point of having some disposable business income, make a list of all of the tasks that take time out of your day but someone else could easily do. For me, that meant first hiring Erika to put my blog posts up on WordPress and format and schedule my email campaigns.

As our working relationship grew, I gave her new tasks that freed up my time to create, plan and spend more time focused on my entrepreneurs in Factory45.

A jack-of-all-trades assistant is the first hire I recommend making and you can easily research, vet and interview prospective candidates through Upwork.

(Also, Erika’s team is currently taking on new clients. They’re based in the U.S. and speak English as a first language. You can fill out their intake form here.)


And last but not least, here are the runners up to my top five: Google Drive and LastPass.

Happy planning, scheduling and outsourcing,

 

factory45 owner shannon


A few weeks ago I got an email from Jane Hamill of Fashion Brain Academy:

“I’m wondering if you’d like to be a guest on my podcast to discuss raising money for a product-based business.

Walk us through the way to do it RIGHT including what to do and what NOT to do.”

I could talk about raising money for your brand all day, so of course, I jumped at the chance to be on the podcast.

If you don’t know Jane, she’s a veteran of the fashion education world. She’s a former clothing designer, has had her work featured on CNN, WWD, Entrepreneur and InStyle, is a regular speaker at DG Expo and has 14+ years of running a successful boutique and wholesale business.

One thing she admittedly doesn’t know as much about is crowdfunding, which is why this interview was so fun to record. Jane was learning as we went and asked the questions that many of you are probably wondering, too.

Some of the topics we cover in the interview are:

>> What to do in the first 7 seconds of your crowdfunding video
>> How to tell your story to get people to back you
>> The 3V’s of a successful crowdfunding campaign
>> How to set your crowdfunding rewards for backers
>> Price points that work best for a fully-funded Kickstarter
>> How often to email people about your crowdfunding campaign
>> And much more.

You can watch the whole interview for free here or listen to it as a podcast.

Here’s some of the feedback we’ve been getting:

“Phenomenal information – so much to think about!”

“Really great! So much to think about, but this was so straight to the point!”

“All of this is so helpful.”

If you’re thinking about launching your brand or raising money for your brand through pre-sales, crowdfunding or Kickstarter, then this is a must-see… if I do say so myself ; )

Watch or listen here.

 

factory45 owner shannon


crowdfunding cta

branding lesson

“You know what I just realized?” I say to my husband as we’re cruising down I-95.

“What’s that?”

“A minivan and an SUV are, like, the same thing… they’re just different shapes.”

“Uh huh…” he replies in his best ‘where are you going with this?’ voice.

“They’re pretty much the same size, they provide the same functions, they’re available in virtually the same colors, and yet one of them is considered ‘uncool’ and designated to ‘soccer moms’ while the other is the vehicle of choice by rich athletes, Hollywood stars and rappers.”

“Okay…” (Clearly over this conversation.)

“So, how did it get this way? I mean, why don’t we see Jay-Z driving his kids down Rodeo Drive in a Dodge Caravan?”

“Uh, I don’t know…? Because Beyonce likes Escalades?”


And so it started — another internal dialogue from yours truly about branding and marketing.

When I started writing about this I googled ‘SUV and minivan branding’ to see what would come up.

It was no surprise that both versions of vehicles were intermixed in various lists of “Top 10 vehicles for families” and “Best cars for hauling your kids in 2017.”

I’ve never purchased a minivan or an SUV myself so I don’t personally know what makes buyers choose one over the other.

I’m sure that gas mileage, backseat DVD sets and trunk space all play a role in the decision making — but this post isn’t actually about cars.

It’s about perception.

branding lesson

In any purchase we make, we as consumers are consciously or subconsciously making a decision based on the “aspirational.”

[X product] will make my life easier.

[X product] will make my life more beautiful.

[X product] will make me appear a certain way to my friends / family / co-workers.

Whether you’re purchasing a car for tens of thousands of dollars or a piece of clothing for much less than that, the company selling it to you has the pressure of making you feel a certain way about that purchase.

As small business owners, the pressure on you is no different.

In every marketing decision you make you should be asking yourself, “How is my product being perceived by potential customers?”

And more importantly, “Who is my target market, truly?”

Because if you’re trying to be the SUV when you’re really the minivan, then you’re doing yourself, your product and your company a disservice.

And if it’s the other way around, then you’re also missing the mark.

As the past several decades have shown, there’s a market for both — and the apparel industry is no different.

Your job is to get clear on who you are, who you want to be and to find your place.

Because, let’s face it, the last thing you want is to end up as the PT Cruiser.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


sustainable fashion advice

crowdfunding factory

If you know anything about me (and what I teach) it’s that I unapologetically love crowdfunding.

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, iFund Women, pre-sales on your own website, whatever the platform you use I truly believe that launching your brand through crowdfunding is the smartest and most efficient way to go to market.

Why?

Because you can test your product before you make it, you can find out if anyone is willing to buy what you’re selling, and you can get your customers to pay for your first production run.

This saves you immense amounts of time, money and energy compared to traditional methods of creating inventory first and then trying to sell it.

At the end of last year, I launched a course called The Crowdfunding Factory that specifically focuses on raising money through pre-sale sites like Kickstarter.

To date, this course has a 100% success rate of participants who joined and launched a crowdfunding campaign.

So today, I want to share some of those stories with you.


COTTON BUREAU

This Kickstarter campaign wrapped up last week, raising a whopping $94,628.

Founder Michelle Sharp and her team set out to create size-inclusive, made-in-the-USA, premium t-shirts for men and women with a goal of raising $48K in 30 days.

The idea for the campaign stemmed from their existing business, Cotton Bureau, and the need to improve the sizing options of their women’s tees. They wanted to create something ultra-soft that could hold up in the premium t-shirt market without expecting adult women to fit into Junior sizes.

This clearly struck a chord with people as they gained the attention and support of 1,527 Backers who purchased their tees.

cotton Bureau


DUDEROBE

“Bathrobes for men kind of suck” – that’s the tagline for DudeRobe, a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $67,000 this summer.

Founder Howie Busch joined The Crowdfunding Factory at the end of last year and launched his campaign in just six months (the minimum amount of time I recommend). His hard work paid off when he reached his goal of $25K in under two days.

DudeRobe has been featured on BroBible, iHeart Radio, Product Hunt and other notable press and gained the interest of Shark Tank producers.

When I tell entrepreneurs to find their unique niche and try to solve a problem for those people, this is what I’m talking about. DudeRobe appealed to a very specific type of customer and it paid off.

duderobe


SEASON

Founder Jessie Artigue was already a notable lifestyle blogger through her site Style & Pepper, as well as the co-host of The Marriage is Funny podcast, before setting out to create her own dress line for women.

With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Jessie launched SEASON, ethically-made dresses that are the “super-hero cape for your everyday style.” The first collection offers one multi-functional and versatile dress in three different colorways and is cut and sewn in the USA.

The SEASON campaign raised over $20,000, earning 122 backers, and was featured on style sites like Verily Magazine, Clementine and more.

SEASON


LE REGARD

While this campaign didn’t raise multiple tens of thousands of dollars like the others, I wanted to highlight it for the same reason I mentioned DudeRobe.

Founder Ruth Yeboah launched Le Regard to solve a problem for a specific group of people — breastfeeding women.

Operating under the mantra that every woman deserves to breastfeed in style, Ruth set out to provide a solution to the question: “Could I nurse in this?”

Creating apparel for all seasons, that flatters postpartum bodies and provides convenience and ease of nursing, Ruth raised over $10,000 to bring her first collection to nursing mothers everywhere.

Le Regard


And the last thing I’ll tell you today is that Crowdfunding Factory alum Lady Farmer launched their Kickstarter campaign this morning!

The mother/daughter team has created a beautiful campaign and has invested *months* in pre-launch prep that never ceased to impress me. So, go check out their campaign and see if anything strikes your fancy >>

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


crowdfunding cta

kickstarter

This is a guest post by Factory45’er Dina Chavez who launched a Kickstarter campaign this spring for her womenswear line SixChel. Dina raised over $17,000, exceeding her goal amount, and learned a lot along the way. Today she’s sharing her “do’s and don’ts” for launching a sustainable fashion brand through crowdfunding. Here’s Dina:

It’s been about a month and a half since the launch of my fashion brand’s first sustainable capsule collection via Kickstarter.

The campaign was definitely a whirlwind, but now that the dust has settled and we are at the beginning stages of production, we have been able to clear the air and evaluate the process.

I realized that there were definitely a few things we should have done differently before and during the campaign and definitely a few things we should not have done at all.

It is a lot easier to look back and say, “I should have…” and because this information is no longer beneficial to us as far as Kickstarter campaigns are concerned, I decided to share my experiences with you in hopes you do not make the same mistakes I made.

DO:

DO think about public relations: If you have the budget to hire a public relations team, I definitely encourage you to do so. I was fortunate to work with Lorraine Sanders of PressDope, a DIY PR company “increasing earned media mentions” for FEST brands.

Months before the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, we were able to create public awareness of our brand, our story, our products and our launch which helped us increase our audience.

>> TIP: Start planning your PR strategy and media outreach now; you can never start preparing early enough.

kickstarter

DO review the Factory45 “Preparing to Launch” module: If you are a current member of Factory45 or are thinking about becoming one, this has been one of the biggest benefits for me.

The information provided by Shannon during the “Launch” module is very beneficial and should guide you to a successful campaign. I reviewed everything about Kickstarter through the module about a few weeks before I launched.

>> TIP: Review the “Launch” module about a month or sooner before you launch.

DO plan an announcement launch strategy: In order to have a big boom at the beginning of your launch, it is important to have a strategy to announce your launch.

Your audience needs to not only get excited about your brand and product, they also need to get excited about the actual launch. This will help them spread the word out to their friends and family, increasing your audience.

> TIP: Find a creative and exciting way to get your audience excited about your launch and eager to make a pledge on the first day.

DO host a trunk show or two: Selling products online can be tough, especially if you are a new fashion brand because people want to see and feel the product. We hosted four trunk shows throughout the campaign (unfortunately, we came up with this idea a bit too late into our campaign) and because of these trunk shows, we were able to show the brand in action on social media which did bring added attention to our campaign.

Trunk shows also helped keep up the momentum and eventually, turning interest into pre-orders, email sign-ups, followers, etc. Most importantly, because of the trunk shows, we were able to share images of our products on “normal” or “non-model-esque” women.

> >TIP: Find a location to host a trunk show where you can get good foot traffic. Also, think about asking friends to host private, more personal trunk shows amongst their friends.

DO be creative and have giveaways: People love the word “free”; anything anyone can get for free, whether an item or knowledge, will peak their interest. Offer an item, a selection of items, or a donation on their behalf in exchange for emails, follows, and/or pledges. Sometimes we need a bit of encouragement to find a reason to give a part of ourselves.  

>> TIP: Consider having small items to giveaway at your trunk shows in exchange of email addresses.

kickstarter

DON’T:

DON’T forget to have your products related to “real women”:

It helps to have “real” women/men (depending on your product) wear the clothes and/or use the product. When I say, “real,” I don’t mean fashion influencers or professional brand ambassadors; I mean people like you and me. Ask “real” people to wear the garments, take pictures and talk about how great the product is on their social media accounts.

>> TIP: Create a list of friends and/or acquaintances who would love to wear your products for a day. Create a hashtag that will help increase awareness about your brand.  

DON’T let people procrastinate: People truly do procrastinate and it is up to you to find a way to get them motivated to make a pledge and to pledge right now. It will be vital to find different ways to motivate people to act “now.” This is a hurdle throughout the entire campaign.

>>TIP: Be creative in your incentives; they truly need to give the audience something in return.

DON’T feel bad about approaching people: This was difficult for me because I am not much of an aggressive person in this way, but you will have to personally message people individually and ask them to consider pre-ordering and/or making a pledge.

Most of our pre-orders came from personally messaging people about our mission and campaign. The response you get will surprise you. Most people were gracious and extremely honest and the best part about the messages was the words of encouragement that were sent back.

>> TIP: Don’t get upset or frustrated with the rude people; there are always the people with no compassion for your honest hard work. Just ignore them.

kickstarter

DON’T get caught up with bloggers/brand influencers: During this process, I have definitely made great connections with wonderful bloggers and/or brand influencers. It is important to know that not all bloggers and/or brand influencers are created equal.

You will find some who are just interested in making money and not truly interested in sustainability and or properly promoting your brand. Find those who are genuine to your cause.

>> TIP: Pay bloggers/brand influencers who you know do honest work and who create write-ups that excite their readers about your brand.

DON’T give up: I think you can prepare, over prepare and then over prepare the wrong way. No matter what happens when you launch your Kickstarter campaign, remember you have 30 or so days to reach your goal.

I have to admit, I completely freaked out the entire first week of the campaign, ask Shannon. Plans A, B and C completely fell through for us and for a few days I was having no luck creating new ideas to promote the campaign. Luckily, I found a great group of women to network and brainstorm with and together they helped us reach our goal.

>> TIP: Gather a list of your network and resources, you will never know who will be able to help you when you find yourself in a bind.

Launching our collection via Kickstarter was a great way to get our brand out into the community and to move forward with production. We now know, that as a first time user of Kickstarter, you are definitely in for an experience. Good luck and much success on your launch!


Dina Chavez SixChelDina Chavez is the founder and designer of SixChel, an Austin, TX based sustainable fashion brand for the modern woman. She studied Costume Design at The University of Texas-Austin and Fashion Design at The Academy of Art University. Ms. Chavez’s looks have been shown at New York Fashion Week, Fashion X Austin, Fashion X Houston, Fashion X Dallas, The Pin Show (Dallas, TX), The Gotham City Films Studio (Los Angeles, CA) and have been created for Austin based rockstar, Kimberly Freeman for the Grammy Awards.


crowdfunding cta

Should You Tell Your Boss You’re Starting Your Own Business

A couple of weeks ago, this question came up in our private Factory45 Facebook group:

“Does anyone have tips for communicating your ‘side hustle’ to your current employer? I want to start talking about my business online, but my bosses follow me and I am worried about their perception…”

If you’ve started a business or plan to start a business, while also working a “real job” to pay the bills, then you’ve probably pondered this same question.

While everyone’s situation is unique, I thought it would be helpful to hear from three past Factory45’ers who launched their companies while also working for someone else.

We’ll start with one Factory45’er (who wishes to remain anonymous) and launched a line of womenswear in 2016. She has not told her employer about her business.

How long did you work at your day job while you were starting your company?

Anonymous: I currently still work at a “day job” while also running my company on the side.

How did you feel about your employer potentially finding out about your business? Why did you decide not to tell them?

Anonymous: I decided not to tell my employer because I didn’t want to risk losing my means of salary that was crucial to funding my own venture. I also thought it would create unnecessary tension that I wanted to avoid.

Did you do anything to keep your business secret?

Anonymous: A couple of my coworkers who are close friends know about my business. For everyone else, I mostly refrain from connecting on social media where they may see postings about my clothing line.

What was the ultimate outcome?

Anonymous: It honestly hasn’t been difficult for me to keep my business a secret from my employer. For over a year I’ve been able to continue gaining professional experience from another company while also developing my own clothing line.

Should You Tell Your Boss You’re Starting Your Own Business

On the other side of the spectrum, Tiffany and Colleen who launched in 2015 and 2017 respectively, both told their employers about their “side hustles.”

How far along were you in starting your company when you told your employer about it?

Tiffany: I didn’t have an intentional conversation with my employer about starting my own business, but I didn’t make any great efforts to hide it either. I’m friends with so many colleagues, including supervisors, on social media (and in person) and it would have been pretty impossible to keep it a secret from them. That said, they found out when the rest of my social media network did and I launched my website online.

Colleen: I was about three months into Factory45 before I told my boss. I eventually had to because I often had to stop at my pattern maker in the AM or had to leave early to pick up fabrics, etc.

How did you feel about it before you told them and why did you end up deciding to tell them?

Tiffany: I was pretty nervous about the idea of them finding out, but I also knew that as long as I was doing my job well, it shouldn’t be a problem and I always made my “real” job the priority. I’m a pretty open person and it would have ultimately been harder for me to keep it from them in the long run.

Colleen: I felt a little nervous because I didn’t want them to think I was slacking at my current job as a project manager.

How did your employer react?

Tiffany: There was a point that one supervisor expressed that, while she didn’t mind that I had my own business, others in the company could take issue with it. She cautioned that I should be as discreet as possible about it. Another supervisor, while I know he knew about it, never spoke to me about it. Another supervisor willingly gave me tips on how to pitch media and was super supportive. The reactions were all pretty predictable and mostly encouraging.

Colleen: They were understanding, but made it a point that my project management position came first. I always felt a little on pins and needles, juggling both jobs and feeling a little timid about asking to leave early.

What was the ultimate outcome?

Tiffany: Several of my co-workers, including one of my supervisors, ended up buying beach towels. A couple of them (myself included) even kept them handy at our desks and used them as a light blanket in our freezing office. I’d take off days here and there for trade shows and pop ups and really liked that I didn’t feel like I had to be sneaky about what I was doing. A year after I launched my business, I was a part of a series of layoffs. There had been a lot of movement in the company, so I wasn’t surprised, and truly don’t think it had anything to do with me having my own business. While money has been tight, it’s also been the most freeing thing to happen to me.

Colleen: I ended up quitting the full-time project management job and moved on to be a consultant. Now, I occasionally go into the office and work from home. Definitely not always a consistent paycheck, but I have much more time and a flexible schedule. It just got to be too challenging to stay on top of my project management position and start a clothing company.

 


 

So, there you have it — three different scenarios and outcomes.

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” decision to be made about whether or not to tell your employer, you probably already know in your gut what’s best for you.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Sustainable Fashion Advice

Contemporary swimwear

This is an interview with Factory45’er Blakely Wickstrom about the launch of her brand Gala Maar, contemporary swimwear for the modern muse. Blakely took a pre-sales strategy to launch her first collection through her online store. Read on to learn more about her company and hear her advice for new brands.

Tell us about your products and company. What do you make?

Right now, I’m producing women’s swimwear and being as sustainable as possible throughout the entire process — from my fabric, made of discarded fishing nets, to sourcing the only made-in-the-USA pad inserts and everything else in between.

The construction is very high quality and the design is more timeless than trend driven, with the intent being that the swimsuits should last my customer an especially long time. Swimwear is the beginning — I’m hoping to expand the product range with every season to grow into an ethical resort lifestyle brand.

Contemporary swimwear

From the beginning, you had a very strong vision for your branding and aesthetic (hello, Instagram). Can you tell us a little bit about how you got so clear on the brand direction you wanted to take and the inspiration behind it?

Coming up with the aesthetic direction was probably the most fun and organic part of the process. For my Instagram, it started with just opening myself up to all the things that inspire me and saving the images to my Pinterest without giving it too much thought.

From there I was able to organize and hone in the branding and be more strategic about what I posted. In the swimwear market, there is not a lot of diversity in the type of imagery brands choose to use. Typically it involves a “perfect” woman on a tropical beach, which is fine but I wanted to do things differently and to portray the qualities of a contemporary woman beyond shallow attributes.

When creating my own campaign images I think the most important part was hiring a photographer who was a natural fit. I loved the way Amanda Bjorn captures her subjects and how comfortable and intimate her photographs are. When casting the models I picked three girls I found super inspiring, from a dancer/ choreographer to an artist. They were all unique beauties and gave their own je ne sais quoi to the project.

And then there was the stunning location of Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson and apprentice, Eric Lloyd Wright, a compound high above Malibu which was a perfect mix of nature and architecture, my biggest inspirations aside from the female form.

contemporary swimwear

You’re one of my Factory45’ers who was really conscious about being patient and taking your time with the process. You didn’t rush your launch – can you tell us more about your journey with the pre-production process?

In all honesty, it was more the process than my patience that didn’t rush the launch. Finding my fabric was the first step and what really set the course for my business. I did some googling and discovered that they had an office in NY so I made an appointment and met with the US sales rep. Swimwear is super technical and when your goal is quality and fit, finding the right manufacturing partner is essential.

I did encounter multiple situations where the quality or communication wasn’t working out and I had to move on. Going to trade shows was key, talking to as many people as possible and making the connections so there were options and a point of reference. Although frustrating at the time, I am thankful for the way things played out as it allowed me to really hone my product, message, and branding.

Throughout this time, did self-doubt ever creep up? How did you get past it?

Quite often! Something I remember very well from the Factory45 program was your advice to celebrate the small victories, which I think is key. That and being able to reflect and see how far you have come.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed and get caught up in all the things you have to figure out and the laundry list that only seems to grow so it really helps me to reflect on all the obstacles that I have overcome. Entrepreneurship is undoubtedly a rollercoaster of emotion so you just have to welcome it, roll with it and keep checking things off the list.

What has been the best thing about launching and seeing your idea come to fruition?

After working for others for so long it’s really great to be able to see an idea through from start to finish and the crazy amount of learning that goes into the process is very fulfilling. I feel like I am finally being able to live my truth and practice my ethics in a proactive way. Something unexpected which I have really loved is all the amazing and inspiring women that I have gotten to meet and work with as a result.

Contemporary swimwear

What is your best piece advice for a new designer or entrepreneur that’s just starting out down this road?

I would say be open to the course things take. The path won’t always go how you planned and it might be the best thing for you in the end. Also, check the mundane things off the list as soon as possible. Once your launch is on the horizon you will be happy to have things like your shipping and return policies, website copy and sales forms already in place.


To shop contemporary swimwear for the modern muse, visit Gala Maar here. To read more about Blakely’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45