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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

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


photo montage of factory45 alumni mentors

Every year that I launch Factory45, I spend a good portion of my energy thinking about this:

How can I make this year more impactful, more helpful, more supportive for the entrepreneurs that come through the program?

Because the truth is, if you’re not always striving to improve your business then you’ll start to lag behind.

So whether it’s filming new videos, updating the content, redesigning the Factory45 portal or providing more personal support, I’m constantly working throughout the year to make sure Factory45 maintains its uncompromising quality.

So, that begs the question,

What am I doing to enhance the Factory45 program this year?

…drumroll please… 

I’m so excited to announce that we’re adding:

Factory45 Alumni Mentors!

For the first time ever, participants of the 2020 program will be matched up with a Factory45 graduate who is currently running her own sustainable fashion brand.

These nine hand-picked women will provide text messaging support, virtual coworking sessions and additional guidance for small groups of Factory45’ers who will work together throughout the six-month program.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the nine Alumni Mentors for the 2020 program! Click the play button below.

If you want to start creating your own sustainable fashion brand, and you’re looking for the behind-the-scenes guidance of someone actually doing it, then applications to Factory45 open in one week!

In the meantime, I’ll be on Instagram Live today at 1pm ET / 10am PT to share more details about the Alumni Mentorship program. 

Simply go to @factory45co today, anytime after 1pm ET / 10am PT, and you can watch me live (or watch a recording) to hear more about what’s in store for you and our Mentors.

I can’t wait for you to meet them!

 

 

 

P.S. Thank you to EditMate for putting together this fun video for us — I told the Mentors, I can’t stop smiling when I watch it : )


fabric sourcing

 

designer sourcing fabric

When I was starting a sustainable fashion brand back in 2011 I spent close to a year reaching out to fabric suppliers.

After months of dead-ends, it felt like we would never find the perfect fabric we needed for our product.

Admittedly, our standards were high. 

My then co-founder and I were looking for a 100% recycled fabric that was spun and knitted in the United States. 

We didn’t even know if that fabric existed.

But by some miracle, we eventually connected with a knitter in North Carolina who could sell us the fabric we needed.

The only problem?

The supplier’s minimum order quantity (MOQ) was over 1,000 yards. As a startup brand, who hadn’t even sold anything yet, we couldn’t begin to place an order that large.

But we also knew we couldn’t let this fabric pass us by. 

So, what did we do?

We negotiated.

(In a rather unconventional way…)

And in today’s video, I’m going to tell you how we did it so that when you find your perfect fabric you’ll know how to do it, too.

Enjoy!

 

 


fabric sourcing

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

Here’s an all-too-common frustration I hear from new entrepreneurs who don’t have a fashion background:

“There are just too many fabric options — it gives me complete decision paralysis.”

One of the first obstacles to overcome as a new fashion brand is how to determine the fabric you need for your product(s).

It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of fabric options to choose from.

You may decide on the fiber you want to use, but you don’t know if it should be a knit or a woven.

You may know that you want an organic cotton jersey knit, but you don’t know which weight you need.

Then there’s the confusion of ounces versus grams, depending on which country you’re sourcing from.

No wonder fabric sourcing is the very first module of the Factory45 accelerator program — it’s usually the part of the process that takes the longest!

So in today’s video, I’m sharing a quick and easy hack to start determining the fabric you need — and you don’t even need to leave your house (unless you want to).

I want you to feel empowered to tackle fabric sourcing head-on and overcome the paralysis of “too many options.”

Just this little exercise can help create some clarity around fabric and prove that even a beginner can successfully source fabric for her fashion brand.

Click the play button below to watch this short video!

Enjoy,

 

 


fabric sourcing

Do you know the number one reason that new fashion brands lose money or go out of business in their first year?

Manufacturing mistakes.

From over-ordering inventory to garment construction errors, starting production is the most vulnerable time for new fashion brands.

I’ve heard the stories.

The brand blames the factory… the factory blames the brand… and when all is said and done, only a fraction of the production order is good enough to sell.

And both parties lose money.

In the case of the new brand, it’s enough of a loss to put them out of business — before they’ve even started.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Because the primary reason for manufacturing mistakes is a lack of communication.

The tech pack isn’t specific… the sew-by sample isn’t perfect… the brand and project manager haven’t had enough conversations about the end goal of the product.

The good news is: Communication is something that can be improved upon.

And while yes, the factory manager could probably be quicker about responding to your emails or returning your phone calls, effective communication is the responsibility of you — the founder and designer of your brand.

Can you control the skill set of the sewers? No.

Can you control the attention of the quality control manager? No.

But you can control the clarity of your expectations and needs up until production begins.

And that’s everything.

Between the free resources in books, blogs and YouTube, there’s really no excuse anymore to go into apparel manufacturing knowing nothing at all.

So, I’ve put together a little quiz for you, so you can better understand where your knowledge lies… 

Which of these questions can you answer?

  1. What is a “time study” sample?
  2. Name the three things you need to be able to start product development.
  3. What’s the most important question to ask a pattern/samplemaker before you hire them?
  4. What’s the number one way to save money in production?
  5. Should your production partner sign an NDA?

If you were able to confidently answer four out of these five questions, then you’re in good shape!

But if you know that you’re new to the manufacturing industry and you have plans to start an apparel or accessories brand, then it’s imperative that you arm yourself with the knowledge and know-how to get through production without losing money.

And that’s why I created The Manufacturing Kit for you.

It includes eight resources that will answer the questions above, as well as teach you other valuable information like:

  • The 14 things you need before starting product development. 
  • How to translate your sketch to a spec sheet template so you don't have to pay to have one made.
  • 9 questions to ask a pattern/samplemaker before you hire them.
  • 9 questions to ask a manufacturer before signing a contract.
  • And more…

You can check out The Manufacturing Kit in more detail here.

And if you have any questions about it, just reply to this email — I’ll personally get back to you.

As they say, “knowledge is power” and my goal with The Manufacturing Kit is for you to be able to confidently and calmly go into production without wasting time and losing money.

To your success,

 

 


If you’re like most of the entrepreneurs I work with, then you know this:

  • You want to start a fashion brand that’s socially-conscious
  • You want to do something to combat the “fast fashion problem” 
  • You don’t want to be just another fashion brand

In your heart, you are committed to building a sustainably-made and ethically-manufactured brand, but where do you even start?

While I run an entire six-month accelerator program to help with exactly that, I want to get you started with the first four things to consider right now.

In today’s episode of Factory45 TV, I’m sharing where to begin when you’re building a sustainable fashion brand from scratch.

These four things are not generic answers like, start a business plan or research your competition or trademark your business name.

Click the button above and in four minutes you’ll have four steps to building your sustainable fashion brand right now.

Enjoy!

 

 


manufacturing kit

How to Increase Your Fashion Brand’s Sales by 15%

In the lead up to becoming an entrepreneur, I was a waitress.

I’ll clarify:

I was a waitress at a rowdy Irish pub turned late-night bar in the tourist district of downtown Boston. 

I spent the summer of 2009 working six nine-hour shifts a week, serving up to 24 tables at a time — often by myself.

We were constantly understaffed, with myself and three other waitresses on rotation, and we spent the entire summer clamoring over each other for the chance to be promoted to bartender.

The best shift was Thursday night.

It was just one waitress and Ian, the Thursday night bartender, and the waitress had control of the entire floor which meant you got to keep 100 percent of your tips (there were no bussers in this place).

When it was my turn for this shift, I would mentally and physically prepare. 

I’d make sure I was stocked up on silverware roll-ups, that the menus were wiped down from yesterday’s beer sludge and that the outside chalkboard clearly promoted our daily special of 2 dollar Molsons.

And then from 4-11pm, I would work harder than I have ever worked before. 

At the peak of it all, I remember holding a menu and someone’s check in my mouth while pouring a draught beer with one hand and balancing two plates of food on the other hand.

After several shifts like this, I came in one Thursday night and Ian said something I haven’t forgotten in 10 years.

“Shannon, our food and bev sales are always up 15 percent every time you work. What are you doing differently from everyone else?”

At the time, I didn’t have a good answer for him.

But years later, I often think back to those days in the service industry and now know exactly what I did differently.

(And no, it’s not that I worked harder — I didn’t bring you through this entire story for that.)

It’s something that you, as a fashion entrepreneur, can duplicate and implement:

Make a Frequent, Specific Ask.

Instead of, “Can I get you anything else?”

I would say, “Another IPA?” before the pint glass was empty.

Instead of, “Are you ready for the check?”

I would say, “Our brownie sundae is amazing. The best in Faneuil Hall.”

I was on a constant loop around the restaurant, ensuring that no one was sitting around waiting for me when there was money to be made.

And that ties back to the mistake that I see so many startup fashion brands making.

You’re waiting for your customer to come to you. 

You’re not sending out emails every week, you’re not making it clear what your brand has to offer and you’re not enticing the sale.

It’s all well and good to say, “Well, I’m not salesy and I’m going to do it my way and Shannon, you were just promoting binge drinking and diabetes.” 

And while, okay, that may be true (a girl’s gotta make a living) — if you don’t make the sale, then you don’t have a business. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling beer, brownies, jackets or dresses.

Instead of sending out an email to your list once a month about your entire collection, send out an email once a week featuring one specific product in that collection.

Frequent & Specific.

Build a 2-3 part email series around each product that highlights certain defining features, such as fabric or fit or customer feedback or its insanely low return rate.

Frequent & Specific.

Create a two-week, daily social media campaign around the re-launch of your best-selling product.

Frequent & Specific.

Every time you get in front of your ideal target customer, whether it’s through email or social media, you’re asking for them to get behind your brand, support what you’re building and show that support by purchasing from you.

The way you make that Ask matters.

I should know — the next summer I came back as bartender.

 

 


crowdfunding factory cat

Do you know one of the most time-intensive parts of creating a fashion brand?

Fabric sourcing.

It can take months to find the perfect fabric for your product(s).

And that’s why fabric sourcing is the very first thing we tackle in the Factory45 accelerator program.

Because at the same time as you’re building your social media presence, growing your email list and creating an audience before you launch, you’re likely still looking for fabric.

And if you have no idea where to begin, where to look or how to start, then today’s video is for you.

I’m laying out the first five steps to effective fabric sourcing.

And I’m going to make sure you sound like a pro when you’re reaching out to fabric suppliers.

Enjoy,

 

 

 


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