How the Founder of SproutFit Raised Over $14K to Start a Childrenswear Brand

How do you start a business when you’re a busy parent and working full-time in corporate America?

Whitney Sokol, the founder of SproutFit, is going to tell us.

I’ve introduced you to Whitney through a blog post she wrote about her experience in Factory45.

But tomorrow, she’s going to share the exact steps she took to launch her brand while working on it part time.

Join me and Whitney tomorrow, 5/24 for a live, on-camera interview about how SproutFit came to life in just nine months.

In this episode of Factory45 LIVE, Whitney will tell us:

  • How she came up with the idea and what she did to get started.
  • The steps she took to set up her supply chain and find a manufacturer.
  • How she raised over $14K for her first production run.
  • What she did to find her first customers even before she launched.
  • And she’ll answer your questions…

Whitney is a straight shooter and a goldmine of insight into what it takes to launch a startup clothing brand.

Bring your own questions and we’ll open it up to live Q+A at the end of the call.

It’s all going down tomorrow, Wednesday, 5/24 at 3pm ET / 12pm PT and space is limited to just 100 spots!

Register to join us here.

“See” you soon,

factory45 owner shannon



5 Myths About Starting a Fashion Brand

What to Believe? 5 Myths About Starting a Fashion Brand

If you’ve been in the fashion industry for a while or if you’re thinking about launching your own brand, you’ve likely heard advice, or maybe even rumors, that have stopped you in your tracks.

What’s true, what’s outdated and what’s simply false? Today I’m going to touch on five of the big myths that I hear most often:

1.) I can’t talk about my idea because someone will steal it.

It always makes me a little sad when I hear this because it’s fear-based thinking. And this type of mindset has no place in entrepreneurship.

The truth is, 99% of ideas never see the light of day. The chances of someone hearing about what you’re working on, stealing the idea and then actually launching and selling it, are slim.

That’s not to say it doesn’t happen on occasion, but your energy is so much better spent focusing on executing your vision and doing it your way. After all, your unique way of doing things is what is going to set it apart from the competition.

If you’re still not convinced, I’ve written about copycats and competition extensively here and here.

2.)  If you build it, they will come.

As nostalgic as this expression may be for baseball fans, it simply doesn’t hold up when it comes to starting an apparel brand.

That’s all to say, just because you complete a sample run, finalize your patterns and find a production partner, doesn’t mean that you’re set up to sell.

It’s estimated that about 75% of your pre-launch work should be dedicated to building an audience before you launch. That’s right, pre-production only makes up a quarter of your overall business strategy.

One of my most overused expressions is, “Don’t launch to crickets.” In other words, if you haven’t been building up buzz around your launch for months – yes, months – then it’s likely your sales will reflect that.

Within the Factory45 program, we dedicate 11 weeks to pre-launch marketing alone. In fact, Factory45’er Morgan Wagstaff says:

“The greatest gain for me was Shannon’s insight into marketing and launch strategy. I was able to connect with and get my brand in front of like-minded people because of the concepts and tools laid out in the course and that made a world of difference.”

There are lots of other “myths” I’ve heard over the years and one of the things I love most about my work is being able to bust those myths

3.) Suppliers will tell you what type of fabric you need.

Not true, and to be honest, they shouldn’t have to. Despite what you may think, it is not a supplier’s or manufacturer’s job to educate you. And you’ll start off on the wrong foot if you’re expecting that.

If you don’t know how the manufacturing industry works, how to place a fabric order, what you need for production, etc., then you should go back to the drawing board, do some research, read some blogs, books or hire someone to help you.

There are some surefire ways to shoot yourself in the foot before you’ve even really started and you need to learn what those are before you expect suppliers to give you their time. The sourcing network within the U.S. is relatively small, too, so you want to do whatever you can to avoid getting a reputation as *that* person.

4.) If you want to be taken seriously, then you have to go to fashion school.

I wrote about this last week and was happy to hear so many positive reactions. If you missed it, you can read it here.

5.) You need at least $500,000 or a celebrity endorsement to get started.

That may have been true years ago, before the internet and crowdfunding, but nowadays the average Factory45’er has been able to launch their first collection with just $20,000.

If that sounds like a lot, remember that this isn’t $20,000 you’re expected to have lying around in your bank account.

Through the work we do in Factory45, I teach all of my entrepreneurs how to raise money in a way that allows you to test the market and get your early customers to finance your first production run for you.

Too good to be true?

See for yourself here, here and here. (There are many other examples on our Alumni Stories page here.)

There are lots of other “myths” I’ve heard over the years and one of the things I love most about my work is being able to bust those myths.

The Factory45 philosophy proudly goes against fashion convention, and I’m excited to work with a new group of entrepreneurs this year who aren’t afraid to think outside the box, too.


factory45 owner shannon


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


3 Podcasts for Sustainable Fashion & Startup Inspiration

Has anyone else jumped on the podcast train? I can’t seem to get enough of them.

I’ve shared before that podcasts have been apart of my morning routine since 2014. It’s usually the first thing I do when my alarm goes off.

Recently, though, I’ve had the opportunity to get in front of the microphone myself. So today, I wanted to share three different interviews I’ve done (about three different topics) in case you’re like me, and are constantly looking for more content to tune into:

The Creative Giant Show: How to Sew Business Success in the Fashion Industry with Sustainable Apparel Strategist Shannon Whitehead.

I connected with host Charlie Gilkey back in 2010 when I was just starting to explore the world of entrepreneurship. And I was recently invited on his podcast to talk about:

  • Why I decided to start a sustainable apparel company, despite the risks involved.
  • Which challenges to consider if you’re thinking about starting a clothing company.
  • Which business trends are disrupting the fashion industry.

>> Listen here 

Conscious Chatter: Made in the USA

I mentioned this new podcast in my blog post from last week — it was started by my friend Kestrel Jenkins who has been in the sustainable fashion industry for years. Our interview focuses on “Made in the USA” and Kestrel and I discuss:

  • How outsourcing affected the U.S. economy after NAFTA was signed.
  • Why localized manufacturing is important for every country.
  • How the movement is growing because of small, independent brands.

>> Listen here

Bootstrapping It: Creating an Online Accelerator Program for Apparel Startups with Shannon Whitehead, Founder of Factory45

Host Vince Carter interviews entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping their companies rather than trying to raise VC funding. So, of course, we had a lot to talk about. In the interview, we cover:

  • Why you should be honest with yourself about your business ambitions.
  • How to use Kickstarter and pre-sales to fund your business startup.
  • How to strategize so that you spend your startup funds on the right resources.

>> Listen here







Introducing the Entrepreneurs of Factory45 Fall 2015: Part IV

It’s hard to believe six months have passed since Factory45 started and my third cohort embarked on this program. We will wrap up the Fall 2015 program on April 1st.

Before then, I want to introduce you to another batch of entrepreneurs I worked with this year (in no particular order). If you missed introductions to the other Factory45’ers I’ve highlighted, you can read those here, here and here.

And if you’re feeling inspired or motivated to start your own sustainable apparel company, make sure you’re on my list here.

gillian-nashGillian Nash is a bridal designer in the East Village of New York City. In addition to headpieces and hair adornment, Gillian creates gowns with three silhouettes: strapless, spaghetti and sleeved. She then overlays each gown with draped tulle and handmade silk flowers to make custom bridalwear. Each headpiece is handmade using traditional flower-making techniques that Gillians says are a lost art in the present day. Gillian Nash Bridal is “sustainably handmade with love” and will launch in Autumn 2016.


amy-rubinAmy Rubin is based in Indianapolis and is launching an active vintage-wear line called Polymath Apparel. Her first line, MODified, is a collection of contemporary, sustainable fabrics, as well as patterned vintage fabrics. The intention for the collection is to create looks with a “mod” touch inspired by bold colors and graphic lines of the 1960’s and 70’s. The Polymath mood board is live on Instagram and you can sign up for launch updates here.



Ginamarie Georgees & Chauntea Foster came together as business partners in Southern California to launch Mharbana, a sustainable athletic apparel line that uses superior fabrics and embodies an empowered lifestyle. With fitness being a main focus of their daily routines, Ginamarie and Chauntea are appealing to the cross-fit and bodybuilding community that they’ve grown to know. You can sign up for launch updates here and learn more about the mission behind Mharbana on their blog.


heather-cucciaHeather Cuccia is the founder of Fairly Fauna, a cruelty-free and vegan boutique that promotes healthy living. As Heather was curating other lines to sell through her online store, she realized there weren’t many animal-free clothing companies to choose from. She’s now creating her own line to fill the hole in the market. Fairly Fauna works with animal rescue groups and is a partner of Being Pawsitive, an online magazine dedicated to pets. You can shop vegan and cruelty-free fashion on Fairly Fauna here.


Jason Ozenkoski

Jason Ozenkoski started his entrepreneurial journey one serendipitous evening when he was bartending at a community lake house. He saw a couple sitting by the lake and the man was to trying to keep his wife warm by draping a beach towel over but it kept falling down. Envisioning a better solution, Jason came up with a prototype for a convertible blanket / jacket that he later named The Thracket (throw jacket). From 2001 until now, Jason received both wholesale and direct orders, but wanted to avoid moving manufacturing overseas. He’s held out to set up manufacturing in the U.S. and rebrand the product. He’s aiming to start production in the Carolinas in 2016.

In case you missed it last week, Factory45’er VETTA is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for their five-piece capsule collection that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits. You can check out their campaign and order pieces for pre-sale here.



factory45 owner shannon




Introducing the Entrepreneurs of Factory45 Fall 2015: Part III

This is the third part in a series introducing you to the current cohort of entrepreneurs coming through Factory45 this year. You can read about the other entrepreneurs in the group in Part I here and Part II here.

Bien Ha and I connected through Kathryn Hilderbrand, the owner of Good Clothing Company. Benji had reached out to Kathryn for help and she knew that he was the perfect person to get a little extra mentorship. I’ll never forget the first email I got from Ben — so enthusiastic and motivated. Ben is starting a line of swim and activewear called Asuna. He plans to build up his YouTube presence to attract potential customers and is targeting his marketing at the young festival crowd. In his “spare” time he works at a restaurant in Boston and as an Uber driver. He’s a hustler and a dreamer — the perfect combination for an entrepreneur.

sabria-mcelroySabria McElroy is launching BornToBe, a clothing line for girls that breaks gender stereotypes and reflects young girls’ vast potential and bright futures. Each design is centered on a specific “born to” theme. For example, a “Born to Discover” product will feature a science-themed design. Sabria came up with the idea for BornToBe after feeling frustrated with the clothing options for her own baby girl. Many of the options endorsed gender stereotypes, but she didn’t want to buy “gender-neutral” clothing or clothing for boys either. Her goal is to show consumers that you can associate being a girl with intelligence, boldness and power.

alesya-opeltWhen Alesya Opelt and I sat down for coffee a few months ago one of the first things she said to me was, “If I had found you a few years ago, I would have saved thousands of dollars.” After an impressive career in the corporate world, Alesya set out to create the perfect high-end laptop bag for women. Manufacturing her first run of bags in China, Alesya was incredibly disappointed with the quality and decided to move her next production run stateside. Broadening her product offering, her next run was a line of upscale leather products for the “real-life Olivia Pope.” Since launching this winter, her customers rave about about the quality of the craftsmanship (she’s now producing at a family-owned factory in Massachusetts). Based in Charleston, Alesya also runs an amazing podcast and blog called the Power Lunch that coincides with Alesya Bags.

JennaLenoreWellsJenna Lenore Wells started J Lenore Designs while completing her masters in Northern Ireland. She designs and creates original textiles using hand drawn / hand painted imagery mixed with digital techniques and photo-realistic design. She has also been making her own patterns and cutting and sewing everything herself in her bedroom studio in Boston. Through Factory45, Jenna is focusing on creating a more specific line of swimwear with impeccable quality and brand identity. In her “spare” time, Jenna is a freelance graphic designer and waitress. Her work has already been written about on the First2Print blog here.

maureen-boothMaureen Booth is creating a 5-7 piece capsule wardrobe, available in four different color palettes (winter, summer, spring and autumn). Metta will be a direct-to-consumer clothing company with four core concepts: (1) To fulfill the meaning of universal friendliness, loving kindness and happiness for all beings; (2) To provide customers with sustainable clothing specifically for them; (3) To be made in the USA; (4) To educate, and to provide opportunity and a balanced living in mind, body and spirit. Maureen and I originally connected through my old business partner who now runs and she has been a blog reader since Factory45 launched in 2014. She is from Carlsbad, California.

As an update, here is some feedback I’ve been getting from this year’s entrepreneurs regarding their involvement in Factory45:

“Factory45 has been amazing!” — Cara Bartlett, co-founder of Vetta

“This process has been so exciting and you have made it simple to navigate through. Thank you for the work you put into helping us birth our vision.” — Chauntea Foster, co-founder of Mharbana

“Factory45 is brilliant!” — Peg Steley, founder of Margo Polo

“Oh my god! I’m kind of freaking out over here, Shannon! It’s totally working! Thanks for helping me bring my dream to life!” — Rachel Fernbach, founder of PonyBabe



factory45 owner shannon


Why Competition is a Good Thing (even when it gives you a panic attack)

“That’s, like, pretty much what I’m doing.”

“She’s selling the same thing I am.”

“I just found out X person is also making X product, so what’s the point in me even trying?”

As someone who works with and mentors new entrepreneurs on a regular basis, I’m no stranger to panicked emails popping up in my inbox about the discovery of a competitor.

“And she’s so much farther along!”

“And they already have 3,000 followers on Instagram!”

“They’re using organic cotton and making it in the USA, too!”

As soon as we discover potential competition, our cortisol levels shoot through the roof and we imagine the worst case scenario.

EVERYONE is going to buy from HER instead of ME.

So I might as well quit.

And while yes, quitting is the easiest route to take (in any situation) there are many more reasons to keep going:

  • An idea is just an idea. Everyone has them. What sets you apart is your ability to execute. 99% of ideas never see the light of day, so if you’re able to get your product to market, then you’re already that much farther ahead than everyone else. So much of entrepreneurship is simply a matter of keeping your head down and doing the work. It’s not glamorous, but there’s really no alternative.
  • The “me versus them” mentality is the fastest way to sabotage yourself. As soon as you start thinking the world is against you and the universe is set up for you to fail, then it’s over. I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who didn’t operate with an “abundance mentality.” Repeat after me: there are enough customers for me and there are enough customers for them.
  • Competition breeds creativity. Having competitors in the market forces you to innovate, think outside the box and pushes you to do better than you would have done if you had a monopoly. While it may give you anxiety at first, you have the ability to reframe how it makes you feel. It can either deflate you or empower you — and you have the power to choose.
  • Competition shows you there is a need in the marketplace. Having other players in the game means there is a big enough pool of people who want what you’re selling. The market share is there and it’s your job to find a way to take a piece of the pie.
  • The great news about being in the clothing business is that, unless you’re selling to nudists, everyone needs it. Fashion is a $1.5 trillion dollar industry. That’s a lot of people buying clothing. And the average American buys 62 pieces of clothing a year. As fast fashion continues to gross more people out, you’re there to provide an alternative ethical option. How cool is that?
  • And this. This is the best reason of all: Despite how many people are selling (or plan to sell) something similar to you, no one is ever going to do it the same way you are. That’s just fact. There is no one else on this planet that is even remotely close to the same person as you and thus, the way you create is going to be different from everyone else. 

No matter how many new kids lines or womenswear lines or outwear lines debut, they’re all going to be unique to their creator. And that’s why it’s so important to know who your target customer is. It relieves you from having to sell to “everyone” so you can focus on selling to the special group of people it’s made for. There is so much freedom in that.

I know I’ve written about competition before, but it’s the topic that continues to come up because it’s so much scarier when you’re just starting out.

Working with mostly women entrepreneurs has taught me how sensitive most of us are. We want perfection, we want everything to go the right way the first time, and we want to show everyone around us that we can do it.

As soon as we hit a bump in the road, we tend to question our intentions.

Who was I to think I could pull this off?

When really, who are you not to?







Introducing the Entrepreneurs of Factory45 Fall 2015: Part II

These are always my favorite posts to write. I love introducing you to the entrepreneurs who are coming through the Factory45 program right now. If you missed the last introduction to the Fall 2015 crew it’s here.

We are three modules into the program, having already focused on fabric/materials sourcing, branding and pre-production and there is already so much progress being made. From landing page launches to samples being sewn to production partners being visited.

In no particular order, here are the next six entrepreneurs I’d love for you to get to know, follow and support.

Christine Concepcion and I connected in 2014 right after I launched the pilot program of Factory45. We followed each other on Instagram and then this past September, I was so excited to see her application come through. Christine already launched her brand Tsoia with a small run of sustainably-made tees, but she’s diving into the even bigger feat of launching an outerwear brand. Based in Los Angeles, Christine is exploring the world of custom wool knits to create sustainable options for unisex outerwear that is made in the USA.

colleen-monroeColleen Monroe first reached out to interview me for her design podcast Cloth&Cube. When applications opened to Factory45 in September I was surprised to learn that she was looking to launch her own brand. With a background in costume design and experience working in film and TV, Colleen is starting out by creating the perfect pants for working women. Her plan is to design a new kind of professional wardrobe that can take women through all facets of her day.


peg steleyPeg Steley is a jewelry-maker-now-clothing-designer creating the perfect travel dress for women. Launching Margo Polo, Peg is creating the new go-to destination for women who want to read travel advice and browse through travel products curated specifically for them. Deeming this a travel product rather than a fashion product, Peg says the dress fits into a 6×6 pouch and minimizes packing. After spending her early career producing large scale events and then another 20 years raising her children, Peg is taking entrepreneurship by the horns inspired by her travels around the world.

katie-hallKatie Hall is the founder and curator of Wynn Ruby, an e-commerce boutique for children’s clothing. Based in Austin, TX, Katie is now designing her own line of infant clothing to add to her shop. She is the mother of two little girls and still finds time to get involved with the local small businesses in Austin through pop-up shops and markets.



ashley-lovellAshley Lovell graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and is now an actress in New York City. An inherent creative, Ashley plans to shake up the fashion industry by repurposing and upcycling old garments into new ones. Having as close to a zero footprint on the environment as possible, Ashley is looking to take the waste from other ethical design companies to create one-of-a-kind pieces.


sarah-valinSarah-Valin Bloom is an artist based out of New York and New Jersey who is a former trauma therapist specialized in PTSD. She graduated from Columbia University and is looking to pivot her career path by creating a line of womenswear. Through her line, Sarah-Valin wants to bring about an increased consciousness, joy and peace to the women who wear her clothes.




factory45 owner shannon


Factory45 is one online program, lasting four months, that takes aspiring entrepreneurs from idea stage to launching an apparel product.

Introducing the Entrepreneurs of Factory45 Fall 2015

It’s that time again… I can finally start introducing you to the new products, companies and entrepreneurs who are coming through Factory45 this year.

The Fall 2015 cohort is made up of 35 companies from all over the continent and we’re working together to source fabric, set up manufacturing, create a launch strategy and raise money to fund production.

Today, I want to introduce you to a few Factory45’ers who are working on very different products and serving a variety of markets. If you see entrepreneurship in your future, inspiration is the first step in taking action. Read on and enjoy : )

cara-bartlettCara Bartlett committed to buying only ethically-made clothing over three years ago and she hasn’t looked back. She’s the brains and beauty behind the blog Bien Faire where she curates a meticulous selection of ethical fashion. As an associate buyer for Rue La La, she saw firsthand the environmental disaster that comes with fast fashion so she decided to quit her job and set out on her own. Cara is in the process of launching VETTA, an everyday capsule wardrobe for women.

brooke-and-tara-johnsonBrooke & Tara Johnson are the sister duo behind TAB Custom and are working from Boston and San Diego to launch a line of sustainable swimwear and wetsuits. They’ve already gotten their feet wet with a show during Boston Fashion Week and have worked on other projects together as third-generation, self-taught seamstresses. They also happen to be the two designers I’m working with to create a custom sustainable wedding dress for my May wedding!

Amanda-Koker-Face-shotAmanda Koker and I were connected through our mutual friend, Kathryn Hilderbrand, who is the owner of Good Clothing Company, a cut and sew shop on Cape Cod. Amanda runs Rose Riot, a line of ready-to-wear dresses and jackets for plus-size women. She hand-sewed her first small run of products but is looking to expand production with a local sew shop. Amanda will be working on a rebrand throughout our time together and will relaunch with a Kickstarter.

2016_01_20_Ponybabe_Botanical_Garden_390Rachel Fernbach is an artist and creative based in Brooklyn with a background in yoga, meditation and expressive arts therapy. Through Factory45, she’s launching PonyBabe, a line of versatile womenswear that transitions from workwear to yoga class to dinner. Filling a need for the clothes she wants to wear, Rachel’s line will be ideal for travelers, minimalists and stylish bohemians.

Michelle-Pare-Liz-Field1Michelle Pare & Elizabeth Fields are business partners based in North Carolina, the textile belt of America. Their product, JackWrapIt, originated as something for Liz to wear over an evening gown and as the idea evolved, became the fleece version that it is today. Having launched over four years ago, Michelle and Liz are ready to take their “side project” full time and develop a solid marketing campaign and sales strategy.

I’ll continue to introduce the rest of my entrepreneurs over the coming months. In the meantime, here’s what they’re saying about Factory45:

“I am loving the program — it is everything and more than you promised.” — Sarah-Valin B.

“I’m loving the course so far, and can’t wait to get into the next modules! You are so organized and have such a clear message…” — Cara B.

“Fan mail: I wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying the modules and the way you have packaged the information. It’s feeling super accessible, and very aligned with what I was looking for!” — Rachel F.

“If I had found you a few years ago, I would have saved tens of thousands of dollars.” – Alesya M.


factory45 owner shannon



What Happens When You “Graduate” from Factory45?

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 copy

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

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-clifford copy

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 copy

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!).


lara-neece copy

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.


factory45 owner shannon