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pen and paper

“So, what are we looking at timeline-wise?” I asked my creative director as we mapped out a new project.

“Well, it will be about two months for the first launch and around five months for the second one,” she replied.

Five months?! That puts us into 2021!

I thought back nostalgically to launching Factory45 in 2014. I came up with the idea around March and it was live the next month.

That “lean startup model,” that had worked so well for me in the past, was feeling very far away.

In the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, you’re told to get a minimum viable product out into the world. You’re told to stay lean, fight perfection, and test the market.

These are still my favorite ways to launch a business.

But when you’ve been running the same company for 6+ years and you’ve built a brand and a track record, you simply can’t come out with a half-assed idea.

Because everyone is expecting a certain caliber.

And a “certain caliber” takes time. 

You’re dependent on other people, other schedules, and it’s just more… complicated.

I know what you’re thinking:

“What I wouldn’t give for a team! You’re so lucky to have resources around you, you’re so lucky to have experience and credibility!”

And those things are all absolutely true. 

My point is, entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily get easier. 

It just gets complicated in different ways. 

You go from struggling to connect your email provider with your landing page in year one — to struggling with pressure and expectations in year seven.

That’s all to say, if you’re planning on an entrepreneurial career for the long-haul, it really is the best.

But I would also say, appreciate where you are right now.

If you’re still in the early stages of launching your first business (it probably won’t be your last), then there’s a unique opportunity in that.

You’re learning more than you ever could in school just by doing and taking action.

And you have freedom — freedom to try new strategies, experiment with different marketing tactics, to explore your voice and your brand.

So, have fun with it. Try to relax. Know that you will make mistakes. 

Remember that every obstacle or “catastrophe” is a turning point in your story.

Because in reality, just by starting a business, you’re doing what 99 percent of people wouldn’t ever do.

And that’s something to celebrate.

 

 

 


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A banner that reads "We who believe in freedom cannot rest"

As I’ve been listening and learning over the past months, BIPOC leaders have been asking brands to come forward with a public anti-racism statement.

This is something that can be viewed on your website, as one way to stand in alliance with Black people and People of Color. 

It’s a commitment to building and maintaining an anti-racist business.

One of the most important parts of this request is for the statement to be made thoughtfully, knowing that the words are nothing without action. 

How will you reallocate funds to Black-owned businesses?

How will you diversify your team and ensure Black representation?

How will you represent Black Folx in your marketing and branding, without perpetuating tokenism?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a more equitable brand.

In July, I added my anti-racism statement to the Factory45 website after working with a DEI coach to ensure I could uphold my commitment.

And the intentions behind my words have been a primary focus this summer, as they will continue to be.

So, I have two calls to action for my fellow business owners and Factory45’ers today:

1.) Create your own statement and publish it publicly on your website (if you haven’t already). My statement is above the footer of my website if you scroll down. Feel free to use the words to make it your own, as mine is an adaptation from Rachel Rodger’s Anti-racist Small Business Pledge found here.

*It goes without saying, but the actions are more important than the words. This is not a marketing tactic or a branding opportunity, rather it’s a way to hold your business accountable to the commitment you’re making.

2.) If you haven’t made it a priority to reevaluate your business and how it can be more inclusive and diverse, then I have a free exercise for you here. It was inspired and guided by another DEI consultant Erica Courdae.

This public declaration is one step.

It’s one small thing we can do to ignite change.

And there’s no question that the world needs it.

 

 

 

 

do hard things

The other night I was listening to a podcast with a neurologist who specializes in psychology.

She was talking about neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself with new neural pathways.

(Stick with me.)

She said that by the age of 25, your brain relies on so many existing connections that it’s hard to break free of them.

Which is why, for example, it’s so much harder to learn a new language after the age of 26.

But the neurologist explained that in some cases, the medical field is starting to see people in their sixties who have more neuroplasticity than people in their late twenties.

Why?

Because they’re willing to do hard things.

A wordsmith who practices Sudoku puzzles, a mathematician who writes a novel, a Japanese person who learns Danish, a person with dyslexia who practices crosswords.

She said that the level of challenge should leave you exhausted and completely spent. 

As I was listening to her speak, I started thinking about the Factory45 entrepreneurs I’m currently working with to launch their clothing brands.

Right now, they’re in the thick of it.

We are about halfway through the program and most of them are tackling new skills and challenges that they’ve never encountered before.

Tech issues, design challenges, writing, negotiating, creating and organizing… 

I hear from many of them about how much this process is pushing their comfort zone.

But as entrepreneurs, that is what we want.

Because we can do hard things.

We should do hard things.

And there’s the science to back it up.

So, here’s my message to you:

Whether you’re pulling your hair out on the first day of virtual learning with your kids —

Or building a website with no clue how to design or code  —

Or spending hours on your business idea so you can create another income for your family —

I’m here to tell you, you can do hard things.

We can all do hard things.

And our brains will be better for it.

 

 

 


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strategy

“Huh, I’ve never put it like that before…” 

I was reading a book by an internet marketer that described a strategy to grow any online business.

As the author described the strategy that he’s used again and again to scale his software company to $100MM (without investors), I realized something.

What he was describing was the same process I had used to launch my clothing brand back in 2011, it was the same process I had used to launch Factory45 for the first time in 2014 and it’s the same strategy I teach today in the Factory45 program.

He had just put a name to it:

“Your Dream 100.”

As I continued reading, it dawned on me that the reason I love this strategy so much (and have used it for nearly a decade) is because it’s timeless.

We live in an age when marketing trends literally change by the month. One platform is hot, the next year it’s not. One strategy sells like hotcakes for a few weeks and then it flatlines.

While so many online businesses — particularly fashion brands — are dependent on the whims of Facebook and Google advertising, this strategy doesn’t require a cent.

And it will never go out of style.

Here’s how it works:

Your “Dream 100” is a list of 100 brands, influencers, media, podcast hosts, bloggers and business owners who have one particular thing in common —

Their existing audiences are made up of your ideal target customer.

In other words, the people following them on social media, reading their blogs, subscribing to their email lists, and listening to their podcasts are the same people who would love your brand and the products you’re selling.

In the Factory45 program, we make this a list of 20 but 100 is even better if you can do it.

Once you’ve made that list, the next step is to “dig the well” with your Dream 100 — i.e. build relationships.

So before you ask to write a guest post for their blog, or be a guest on their podcast or review your products, you have to put in the time commenting on their Instagram posts, replying to their email newsletter, leaving a review on their podcast, etc.

Like any business relationship, you give before you take.

The question you’re asking yourself is, How can you serve this person who has an audience you want to get in front of?

Once you’ve taken a few months to build these relationships, then you can make the ask.

The best part is that after you’ve been on their podcast, or done an IG Live together or written a guest post, then it’s a million times easier to ask them to promote your products and brand.

And here’s how the numbers pain out:

If just 30 people out of your Dream 100 agree to promote your brand, and each of those people has a minimum of 10,000 followers, that’s 300,000 new people who could potentially be introduced to your brand.

There’s no way to get that kind of free reach on your own.

And even better, this isn’t a strategy that will ever go away — the platforms and methods may change, but relationship building is timeless.

When I started my sustainable and minimalist fashion brand nearly a decade ago, my then co-founder and I used the year leading up to our launch to build online relationships with all of the minimalism influencers, travel bloggers and fashion writers that we possibly could. 

It resulted in us raising enough money to quadruple our first production run.

When I launched Factory45 in 2014 I reached out to 50 eco-fashion bloggers, media outlets and sustainable fashion influencers and wrote 25 guest posts and interviews in two weeks. 

It resulted in me selling out every spot in the six-month program, having never run an accelerator before.

The Dream 100 is truly the strategy, that if you commit to it, that will serve your business for years to come.

And it’s this same strategy that I’ll continue to use this Fall as I build my newest project.

Stay tuned for more on that : )

 

 

 

P.S. The book is called Traffic Secrets by Russell Brunson and it just hit the New York Times bestseller list this week. He gives the book away for free on his website — you just have to pay for shipping.


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Anti-Racist Fashion Brand

“Allyship is a verb…”

Said diversity consultant Ericka Hines during Rachel Rodgers’ Town Hall to Reimagine Small Business event. 

And her words have stuck with me.

As I’ve been learning, listening and absorbing how to be a better ally to BIPOC, I’ve also been struggling with the feeling of not doing enough.

With every realization of where I’ve fallen short as a result of my own blind spots, comes the urgency of wanting to fix it overnight.

But I know that’s not how this works.

True allyship is about steady, consistent and deliberate action. It’s not performative, it’s not temporary and it’s certainly not a marketing strategy.

So, the real question I’ve had to ask myself is:

What is one small action that I can take today to make sure I’m still doing this work a year from now?

In a webinar hosted by The Garment last week, DEI consultant Erica Courdae spoke about values.

“What do you stand for?” she asked, “What do you stand against?”

And as I listened to Erica speak, I discovered one of the first tangible changes I could make to my own business for lasting impact.

I realized there was a hole in the Factory45 program.

While I’m constantly encouraging my entrepreneurs to hone in on their business model, clarify their mission, write down their vision and identify their ideal target customer, I left out an important piece of that puzzle. 

I’ve never encouraged my entrepreneurs to think about their business values from the standpoint of diversity, equity and inclusion.

When really, those three things should be foundational to every business model.

So, thanks to Erica’s teachings, I’ve created a DEI exercise for Factory45 that will now be a requirement for all future Factory45 entrepreneurs.

I’m also offering it to any of my subscribers or readers so that you can use it to build an anti-racist fashion brand, even if you’re not one of my students.

You can download it here

I give all credit to Erica Courdae for the content.

It should go without saying that this exercise is only the beginning. Beyond identifying your values as a brand, taking action on those values is most important.

But I hope this exercise helps you to start answering some of the questions that you may not have thought of before.

I’m hopeful and excited about the prospect of future fashion brands being built around DEI principles from the ground up — 

I know that we can do this together.

 

 

 

 

Free Download: Creating a Foundation of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Your Fashion Brand

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

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

Every year around this time, I try googling a list of fashion events happening around the world, and I’m never able to find a comprehensive list… 

So, I put one together for us.

This list focuses mainly on sourcing, tradeshows and conferences with an emphasis on sustainable fashion, specifically.

I’ve also divided the events into USA and International — if there’s a tradeshow or conference that’s missing, please email me and I’ll add it to the blog post!

Enjoy,

 

 

*Designates the event being exclusively sustainable fashion-focused.

 

USA

Texworld USA

Jan. 19-21 | New York, NY

One of the largest sourcing events on the East Coast for apparel fabric buyers, product R&D specialists, designers, merchandisers and sourcing professionals. 

 

DG Expo New York

Jan. 20-21 | New York, NY

The fabric show features North American and European Fabric and Trim Suppliers with Global Production. Including: Made in USA / Low Minimums + Stock Programs.

 

Premiere Vision New York

Jan. 21-22 | New York, NY

Six major industries supplying materials and services to the global fashion industry come together in New York.

 

MAGIC Las Vegas

Feb. 5-7 | Las Vegas, NV

MAGIC is the most comprehensive fashion marketplace in the U.S., showcasing Women’s and Men’s Apparel, Footwear, Accessories, and Sourcing resources from around the world.

 

COTERIE

Feb. 11-13 | New York, NY

The COTERIE Marketplace brings together all categories of women’s fashion under one roof.

 

*Impact Fashion Shop

March 14 | Los Angeles, CA

One of the leading sustainable fashion events in Los Angeles, this free pop-up shop brings the best impact-driven, environmental-friendly, fair trade brands under one roof.

 

DG Expo Dallas

March 25-26 | Dallas, TX

The fabric show features North American and European Fabric and Trim Suppliers with Global Production. Including: Made in the USA / Low Minimums + Stock Programs.

 

*Sustainable Fashion Forum

April 24-26 | Portland, OR

A highly-curated, community-driven sustainable fashion conference that looks to the future by fostering an honest, thought-provoking conversation about the social and environmental effects fashion has on our world and what we can do individually and collectively to improve it.

 


INTERNATIONAL

The London Textile Fair

Jan. 15-16 | London, UK

Provides manufacturers and their agents with the opportunity to showcase their products to the most influential British buyers and designers.

 

IM INTERMODA

Jan. 16 | Guadalajara, Mexico

IM INTERMODA, is the most important international platform in the fashion industry in Latin America.

 

Future Fabric Expo

Jan. 29-30 | London, UK

The Future Fabrics Expo is the largest dedicated showcase of globally sourced available sustainably and responsibly produced fabrics and materials.

 

Pure Origin

Feb. 9-11 | London, UK

The UK’s only fashion sourcing show to bring every element of the fashion supply chain together in one location.

 

Texworld Paris

Feb. 10-13 | Paris, France

One of the largest sourcing events in Europe for apparel fabric buyers, product R&D specialists, designers, merchandisers and sourcing professionals. 

 

Premiere Vision-Paris

Feb. 11-13 | Paris, France

Six major industries supplying materials and services to the global fashion industry come together in Paris, the capital of fashion.

 

*Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference

March 11 | London, UK

Brought to you by Drapers, the event is for fashion brands and retailers, clothes manufacturers, supply chain experts, innovators.

 

*The Australian Circular Fashion Conference

April 1-2 | Melbourne, Australia

The conference is specifically designed as a call to action for collaboration within the

Australasian textile and apparel industry.

 

Fashion World Tokyo

April 1-3 | Tokyo, Japan

FASHION WORLD TOKYO in Japan's largest fashion trade show which consists of 6 specialized shows, held twice a year.

 

International Apparel & Textile Fair

April 7-9 | Dubai, UAE

Leading brand in the MENA region to source and showcase the best in textiles, fabric, footwear accessories and prints from renowned mills across the globe.

 

*Copenhagen Fashion Summit

May 27-28 | Copenhagen, Denmark

From CEO’s and creative directors to policymakers and thought leaders, the Summit brings together decision-makers from across the globe for agenda-setting discussions on the most critical environmental, social and ethical issues facing our industry and planet.

 

*MOCHNI Conscious Loft

July 4 | Hamburg, Germany

CONSCIOUS LOFT is a cozy 1-day event for people looking to connect, learn and shop in an intimate atmosphere. At CONSCIOUS LOFT you will feel consciously at home within a like-minded community.

 

International Sourcing Expo

Nov. 24-26 | Melbourne, Australia

The show provides an unmatched opportunity to meet and do business with some of the best suppliers from around the world in apparel, accessories and textiles.

 


fabric sourcing