Since launching Factory45 in June 2014, I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs from all over North America to launch sustainably and ethically-made apparel companies.
A lot of people ask me: “Why did you start Factory45?” or “How did you come up with the idea?”
And the answer is:
I created the program I needed for myself when I was first starting out in this industry. The idea for Factory45 came to me as a lot of ideas show up in entrepreneurship: to create what I wish existed.
With the second session recently wrapped up and the upcoming fall session kicking off on October 5th, I want to take a look back at the progress that has been made by some of the entrepreneurs who have “graduated” from Factory45.
As you read through these stories, there’s one very important thing to keep in mind:
Not long ago, each of these women had little else than an idea. Only one of them knew how to draft a pattern, or create a “flat” or build a spec sheet. They didn’t have fabric or samples or a production partner. Most of them had never blogged before or been featured in the press or written a guest post.
They did have two major things in common, though — all of them had drive and vision.
It’s easy to think of people who are a few steps ahead of us as having something we don’t.
“Oh, well they have more money.”
“She doesn’t have kids.”
“She only works part-time.”
That dialogue that comes into our heads (and it happens to all of us) are just excuses. Because every one of us has obstacles and roadblocks and reasons not to move forward.
The excuses make it easier to always stay in the same place.
Here are four women who didn’t give into the excuses and as a result, moved on to launch full-fledged companies.
ANGELA TSAI, CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF THE MAMACHIC
Before Factory45, Angela and her husband, Mike, had been working on a prototype of the Mamachic for three years. They spent thousands of dollars on consultants in LA, patents, trademarks and financial projections for their future business.
When Angela gave birth to their second child she and Mike realized there was a whole other need for the original “burp cloth” they had created — they wanted it to double as a nursing cover.
Deciding that they no longer wanted to go through the process alone, Angela applied to Factory45 and joined the 2014 session. Since then, she has created the final prototype of a “do-it-all accessory for the do-it-all mama,” sourced closed-loop sustainably-made bamboo fabric, and signed a production contract to work with a sew shop in North Carolina.
To fund her first production run, she launched a Kickstarter campaign in April and hit her goal amount of $20K in one week. She finished her campaign with nearly $10K more than that and in the process was featured on Good Morning America and Forbes.com.
She has placed an order for all of her fabric in five colorways and is currently in the middle of her first production run.
MIKAELA WALLINDER CLIFFORD, FOUNDER & CURATOR OF RUTH & RAGNAR
Mikaela was a self-subscribed “newbie” and says she had zero experience coming into Factory45. Before she had her daughter, she spent her career focused on humanitarian work in sub-Saharan Africa. Then in baby yoga class, she started hearing this over and over from other moms:
“You always dress Milou in the most adorable clothing! Where do you get those outfits?!”
She realized there was a need in the American market to bring the Scandinavian design of her roots to organic cotton kidswear. She launched Ruth & Ragnar, inspired by her grandparents’ namesake, as an e-commerce boutique for her favorite Scandinavian childrenswear.
Upon launching in February, she sold out of multiple styles in the first few hours, had the opportunity to create a professionally photographed lookbook, and was featured in the wildly-popular Babiekins magazine.
In the interim, Mikaela has secured partnerships with popular children’s brands such as Gardner and the Gang, Filemon Kid, Maxomorra and Shampoodle.
Next up for 2016: Mikaela will launch her own line of organic cotton kidswear, entirely made in the USA.
JESSE SYSWERDA, FOUNDER & DESIGNER OF EENVOUD
Jesse has an associates degree in fashion design from Parsons and was the only experienced designer to come through Factory45 last year.
She had been working on her collection of minimalist and sustainable womenswear for two years when she decided to apply for Factory45 just a few hours before applications closed.
Throughout the program, she worked with a professional patternmaker to finalize the patterns she had drafted herself, she sourced cupro, peace silk and hemp (all sustainable fabrics), and she completed samples of all five styles.
In April, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her first production run and hit her goal in 27 hours. She ended up doubling her campaign, which allowed her to add new colorways to her first collection.
She is currently shipping out her first Kickstarter rewards to her backers, has ordered all of her fabric and materials and is going into production in NYC to create 50-60 units of each style. With her extra Kickstarter funds, she was also able to move into a studio in Williamsburg (with my former co-founder, Kristin of Seamly.co!).
LARA NEECE, FOUNDER & DESIGNER OF FOREST & FIN
Lara was already in business on Etsy when she applied to Factory45 to help her boost her e-commerce sales. She also had an idea for a biking-friendly skirt that she wanted to produce sustainably in the USA.
A lot has happened for her since joining Factory45 — most notably, she raised twice her goal amount in a Kickstarter campaign for The Bicycle Wrap Skirt. She has also received her first two wholesale orders to get the skirt into stores and boutiques.
The e-commerce sales of her Forest and Fin t-shirts went up and she received five-figure wholesale orders from the well-known Internet browser Firefox (!), as well as a popular yoga studio in Savannah, GA.
Over the past year, Lara was also awarded the top prize at a fast pitch competition where she pitched the business plan for The Bicycle Wrap Skirt. And she was chosen to compete at One Spark in Jacksonville, FL with other small business owners.
Lara is currently producing 320 units with her production partner in North Carolina.
Over the past four months of the spring 2015 session, landing pages have been made, blogs have been created, patterns have been drafted, samples have been sewn and crowdfunding campaigns are in the works…
It’s amazing what kind of progress can be made when you’re surrounded by a community working towards similar goals and have the mentorship to support you.
I have good reason to believe there are many more success stories to come.