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Factory45 Featured

Factory45 Featured on CNBC’s Nightly Business Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Factory45 on NBR here.

Gratefully,

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

The Factory45 Marketplace Launches Next Week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what did I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You find clarity.

And thankfully, that’s what happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grateful for your support,

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

research stage

3 Tips for Dealing with Information Overload

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m here to tell you,

You can probably stop.

Stop researching. And start implementing.

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

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

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

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

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

So, what do you do?

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

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

But that’s okay.

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

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

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

what to expect

What to Expect from Factory45 in 2018

Every year, June feels like January. It’s the month that truly feels like the “new year” for me.

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was first starting out was to create a schedule and plan for my business that I wanted to follow.

Schools start in September. Corporations end their fiscal year in December. Well, Factory45 starts in June.

Because, hey, I’m the boss and I get to decide.

(Also, good advice: You don’t have to follow other people’s rules.)

With that said, I’ve been looking towards the coming months and planning for the year with a refreshed spring in my step — it’s a wonder what warm weather will do…

So, here’s what’s going on and what you can expect:

FACTORY45

Last week I onboarded this year’s entrepreneurs for the 2018 program of Factory45! This is my fifth year and sixth cohort to come through the accelerator program and every year the caliber of applicants gets more and more impressive.

The majority of my time and focus for the remainder of 2018 will be focused on helping them build their businesses. And I’ll be sharing more about what they’re all working on in the coming months.

PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT

For the next six months, I’m teaming up with Joyelle West, one of Boston’s most talented photographers for a project that I’ve been thinking about for over a year now. Through our collaboration, I’ll be sharing, promoting and showcasing Factory45 products, as well as other sustainable and ethical brands, on Instagram.

You’ll be able to follow along here.

THE MARKETPLACE

The photography project will lead up to the launch of the first-ever… drum roll… Factory45 Marketplace! (Name to be determined.) I am SO excited about this and it’s been long overdue to have an online store to sell some of the Factory45 brands that have launched through the program.

I’ll be sharing more about the process of creating the marketplace with my web designer, Emily Belyea Creative, and you can expect it to be live for holiday season 2018.

TEXWORLD

Thanks to my pal Nicole of StartUp Fashion, I was invited back to TexWorld USA this year to speak on a panel about funding your fashion startup.

I’ll be in New York City for the independent designer meetup, as well as the panel, on July 23-24.

Designers and startups can register to attend for FREE here.

THE CROWDFUNDING FACTORY

Speaking of funding your fashion startup, this topic is my bread and butter. I love teaching low-barrier-to-entry ways of raising money so that you don’t have to go into debt to start your own company.

Throughout the year, I’ll spontaneously open enrollment to my other course, The Crowdfunding Factory, that teaches you how to fund your fashion brand through pre-sales and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

If you don’t have money in the bank to pay for your first production run, I created this course for you.


Between all of that, I’ll be over here doing my mom thing! Baby Lohr turned five months this week, and I’m trying to soak in these early days (as sleep deprived as they may be!)

Wishing all of you a wonderful start to the summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you’re in!)

I’ll be back next week with more free startup advice, entrepreneurial musings and the like : )

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

shannon Lohr factory45 maternity leave

On Maternity Leave Until April 11th!

Happy 2018! I hope everyone had a joyous and stress-free holiday season.

I spent much of December making (semi-successful) attempts at vegan baking, listening to way too much holiday music (guilty pleasure) and putting the finishing touches on my biggest creative project to date…

Making a human!

Our estimated due date is January 16th – keeping our fingers crossed we don’t have a blizzard baby! – so this is a quick note to let you know I’ll be on maternity leave until April 11th.

For the next three months, most of my time will be focused on spending quality time with Baby Lohr, so you won’t see as much of me on Instagram and there won’t be any new content on the Factory45 blog.

I will, however, be sending out a “Best Of” email series of the most-read / most-loved Factory45 blog posts from the past three years. If you subscribe here, I’ll pop into your inbox once a week with startup inspiration and advice.

For many of you, these will be posts that you’ve never read before so I hope you enjoy them (they’re also my personal favorites).

Once I return from maternity leave on April 11th, there will be brand new content and we’ll start to gear up for the 2018 program of Factory45!

Applications will open on Wednesday, May 15th so if you’re hoping to launch your clothing company with Factory45 this year, make sure to mark your calendar.

*This date includes international entrepreneurs who want to apply to Factory45 Global.*

If you have questions, I’ll periodically be checking email until baby’s arrival so send ‘em over : )

I’m wishing you all a productive and exciting start to the new year and look forward to reconnecting with you in the spring!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. And no, we don’t know what we’re having! Almost all of our family and friends think it’s going to be a boy, though… (the old wives tales are endless!)

Photo credit: Joni Lohr

How to Make Next Year Better than the Last: Your Business in Review

I’ve mentioned before that I’m in a “mastermind group” with Nicole Giordano of StartUp FASHION and Lorraine Sanders of Spirit of 608.

We meet once a month via video conference to discuss our businesses, bounce ideas off of each other, ask questions and problem solve.

Most of the time it ends up being half business strategy and half mental cleansing – I always hang up the calls feeling reinspired and refreshed.

Yesterday we had our last meeting of 2017 and the focus was centered around a “yearly review” of our businesses.

This one hour together ended up being especially clarifying — I think sometimes you just need to hear yourself say your goals out loud — so I thought I would pass along our outline to you.

Even if you’re not in a formal mastermind group, you can grab a couple of other small business owners (they don’t have to be in your industry) or you can go through the questions on your own.

Here’s how you can follow what we did:

FIRST 25 MINUTES: HIGHLIGHTS OF 2017

We each spent several minutes processing through the last year, sharing what went well and what didn’t go so well. For example:

What went well for me:

  • I re-launched The Crowdfunding Factory in February and transitioned the course to rolling enrollment.
  • I spent the spring rebranding the Factory45 website with Emily Belyea Creative. I hired a graphic designer to create content for the 2017 launch, and I worked with Falcon Related to reshoot the on-camera videos for the Factory45 program.
  • I opened applications for the the Factory45 2017 program, exceeded the number of applications from the previous year and started working with a new group of awesome entrepreneurs.
  • I spent the summer building Factory45 Global and launched the program for international entrepreneurs in September.
  • I co-hosted two live events and spoke at another one.
  • Factory45 wrapped up on December 1st which brought me to the end of the year and a much needed break!

What didn’t go well for me:

  • I had plans to launch a “Factory45 Marketplace” last spring but it didn’t happen. I realized I was trying to do too much in too little time, so it got pushed off as a non-priority.
  • I tried to outsource my Instagram content strategy and it was a total bust. The agency I hired was a huge disappointment and we parted ways shortly after.

As each of us went through our highs and lows of the year, we also allotted time to interject and ask questions, but for the most part it was stream-of-consciousness talking with little interruption.

LAST 25 MINUTES: GOALS OF 2018

We spent the second half of the call focused on goals and plans for 2018 — the big picture items, if you will.

One thing I find really helpful in this part of the call is to make affirmative statements about your plans. So, instead of staying “I want to…” or “I’m going to…” say “I will… “ For example:

  • I will open applications for both Factory45 and Factory45 Global in May and they’ll run together as one six month program in 2018.
  • I will spend the summer working with my designer to build the online store for the Factory45 marketplace, launching holiday season 2018.
  • I will spend the fall creating Factory45 2.0 (actual name TBD), which will be a new online program for product-based startups that are past the “launch phase.”

During this part of the call, we spent a lot more time asking each other questions, offering suggestions and giving constructive feedback. I highly recommend finding people to do this with who will be honest and upfront with their thoughts.


So, here are some prompts to ask yourself (and your peers) in your own yearly review:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go as planned?
  • What do you want to accomplish next year?
  • What steps do you need to take to make those accomplishments happen?
  • Which goals take priority?
  • What are your deadlines / launch dates?

Again, honesty (and realistic goals) is the best policy.

Happy year-end planning… no spreadsheets, budgets or accountants required!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

factory45

Here’s What’s Happening in September

I’ve got three bits of news for you and because I know this is a busy time with summer winding down, kids going back to school, college classes starting, I’ll make it quick.

Here’s what’s happening this month: 


FACTORY45 IS FEATURED IN HEMISPHERE MAGAZINE BY UNITED AIRLINES!

september

That’s right, Factory45 is in PRINT and circulating at cruising altitude across the world.

If you happen to be on a United flight this month, check out the September issue featuring a five-page spread on sustainable fashion.

It’s a big, big deal to have this conversation go mainstream, and the article covers common problems in the industry and what different sectors are doing to create solutions.


JOIN STARTUP FASHION & FACTORY45 FOR A LIVE EVENT IN NYC

factory45 startup fashion September

New Yorkers, I’ll be back in the city on September 14th for another collaboration with Nicole Giordano of StartUp Fashion.

We co-hosted a similar event in May for emerging designers at Flying Solo, and we’ll be offering another one this month.

We’ll feature three startup fashion brands (including current Factory45’ers Deklan & Active Joy!) and address current challenges and solutions as a new company.

It’s free to attend but space is limited, so RSVP here – refreshments will be provided by Harmless Harvest Coconut Water : )


GOING BACK TO MY BARTENDING DAYS…

factory45 bartending september

While in NYC, I’m teaming up with my web designer and original partner-in-crime Emily Belyea to guest bartend at Coup NYC.

Coup is a “politically-motivated bar” that donates 100% of its profits to organizations that are either being defunded by the current administration or need money to fight the current administration.

In light of the recent events in Charlottesville and the ongoing demonstrations of white supremacy and hate-speech across the country, Emily and I will be donating all of our proceeds and bartending wages to Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that advocates for civil rights, justice and equality while fighting hate and bigotry.

If you’re in NYC or have friends in the city, join us on 9/13 for a night out that’s worth your time, money and attention.


Have a great week, everyone!

 

factory45 owner shannon

Contemporary swimwear

Introducing Gala Maar: Contemporary Swimwear for the Modern Muse

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

Can you start a fashion business without a fashion background?

Can You Start a Fashion Business Without a Fashion Background?

Here is an email I get at least once a week:

“I’m so excited about Factory45 and really want to join this year! The only thing is, I don’t have a background in fashion – will this affect my chances of being accepted into the program?”

And every time, my answer is…

“Absolutely not!”

Going to fashion school has absolutely nothing to do with how successful you’ll be at launching your own apparel brand.

I’ve witnessed how true that is — over and over again.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs to come through Factory45 couldn’t have told you the difference between a serger and a die-cutter.

What did they have on their sides instead?

They understood the value of hard work, grit, creativity and resilience.

And believe me, those skills are far more valuable in starting your own brand than knowing how to draft a pattern or sew a garment.

Don’t believe me?

Factory45’er Angela Tsai, who designed and launched the Mamachic, was a reporter for the NBA before she set out to start her own apparel company.

Hanna Baror-Padilla, who joined Factory45 in 2015, was a transportation planner while she launched her womenswear company Sotela.

Factory45’er Tiffany Shown was working for a PR firm when she started creating Fair Seas Supply Co., a line of organic cotton, round beach blankets.

I’ve had massage therapists, Wall Street bankers, stay-at-home moms, humanitarian workers, executive assistants, advertising execs, and the like, join Factory with no knowledge of manufacturing and without any background in fashion.

That’s all to say, any dog can learn new tricks as long as they seek out the education and are willing to learn.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Introducing The 24 Hour Outfit, Sustainably & Ethically Made in Brooklyn

This is an interview with Factory45’er Rachel Fernbach about the launch of her brand PonyBabe. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Rachel is raising money (update: has raised money) for her first production run of The 24 Hour Outfit.

What are you pre-selling on Kickstarter?

PonyBabe is a line focused on creating ultra comfy, versatile wardrobe staples for women. The clothing is made from premium super soft eco-friendly fabric and manufactured in Brooklyn, NY.  

The 24 Hour Outfit, now available for pre-sale on Kickstarter, is a collection of 4 pieces: a large wrap, a racerback tank top, a cardigan, and a pair of delicately pleated pants. Meant to be mixed, matched, layered, and worn on repeat – the 24 Hour Outfit is ideal for creative professionals, expecting/new mamas, yogis/meditators/dancers, minimalists, and travelers.

ponybabe-1-copy

Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

I started PonyBabe with personal savings, and did not have the cashflow to fund my first production run. I needed to raise money to get that going, and also wanted to make sure there was a demand for the clothing before getting any deeper into the process. As a new label, Kickstarter is an ideal way for me to raise money while also testing the waters, and it’s an effective way to spread the word about PonyBabe.

What was the most challenging aspect of creating your campaign?

Oh my goodness. I’m not going to lie: If I had known how challenging this all would be, I… still would have done it, but at least I would have been emotionally prepared for the insanity of doing so many new things for the first time!

I would say that what has been most challenging is simply the fact that I came into this industry with very little knowledge, and have had to learn so many new things, on a constant basis. (How to get samples and patterns made, how to produce a photoshoot and video shoot, how to use social media, how to build a website… the list goes on.)  It’s tiring, exhilarating, exciting, and also super cool to learn new things — but some days my bandwidth runneth low…

ponybabe-2-copy

You’ve done months of prep. What helped you keep up your momentum and motivation?

I started building my email list very early, and though it has grown slowly, having a supportive circle of dedicated and caring people has been priceless… each time I sent out an update (even if it was to say that things weren’t going as planned), I received back an email here and there encouraging me to keep it up and make those clothes. Those little love notes really kept my spirits up when things were hard.

 

Can you give us a little insight into your campaign strategy? What has been working and what hasn’t worked as well?

The clothes I’m making are a great fit for a lot of different lifestyles. With that in mind, I honed in on a few niches – yoga, dance, minimalism, eco-fashion, American-made, and maternity – and researched blogs, boutiques, magazines, and influencers who might have an interest in seeing PonyBabe get funded. It’s pretty early in my campaign, so I’m still waiting to see what winds up working best!

What seems helpful is connecting through my networks – i.e., friends of friends seem much more likely to want to help… but I’m not letting that stop me from reaching out to others as well.  As in all arenas of life, relationships are key: it’s important to make personal connections, and make offers to give instead of just making requests to receive.

ponybabe-3-copy

What do you do when self doubt starts to creep up?

Notice it, allow it to have some space, then choose to focus on the positive. I actively shift my attention to what is going well, while also acknowledging that this is a stressful experience, and it’s normal and healthy to feel a little nervous or worried from time to time.

My nerdy self-encouragement mantra right now is “People love me and want me to succeed.”  It’s surprisingly motivating! 🙂

What’s your favorite reward being offered in your campaign?

The Whole Outfit, of course! Each piece is great on its own, but putting on the whole outfit is pretty much a perfect recipe for instant comfy cozy bliss. I love how it makes me feel like cuddling up with a mug of tea and a good book.

If you had one piece advice for someone considering launching a Kickstarter, what would it be?

Go for it! And ask for help from people, because it’s a lot for one person to take on.

You can check out Rachel’s campaign for The 24 Hour Outfit by PonyBabe hereTo read more about Rachel’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

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