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negotiate

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,

 

 


supplier email cta

Twice a year my pal Nicole and I offer a free online class for fashion entrepreneurs.

We each have our separate companies — she’s the founder of StartUp Fashion and I run Factory45 — but we like to combine efforts every once in a while to help as many new designers as we can.

So for the last time this year, we’re going to host one more free class for all of you. 

And this one will focus on how to make a lasting impact on your brand that you can implement immediately.

On Tuesday, 9/17 join us for:

4 Steps for Making Massive Progress in Your Fashion Business

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • Mindset – confidence, fear, perfectionism and how to manage the mental game of running your own business
  • Business Operations – how to avoid over-planning & over-analyzing, how to create systems, how to implement scheduling tools and how to cut down on procrastination
  • Goal Setting – we’re talking actionable tasks vs. big picture ideas
  •  Finding Community – accountability, emotional support, collaboration, referrals & feedback

Again, this conversation is happening on Tuesday, September 17th at 8pm ET / 5pm PT.

Spots are limited to just 100 attendees so claim your spot here.

We’ll also open the conversation to Q+A at the end so bring your questions!

Nicole and I are all about “walking the walk” instead of just “talking the talk.”

So if you truly want to improve your business (no matter what stage you’re in), then you have to take action to do it.

Free classes like this are one of the best ways to spend your time, so don’t miss this opportunity. 

(Anyone who has joined us before knows we make it worth your while.) 

Click here to RSVP to join us.

Hope to see you on Tuesday!

 

 

P.S. Know someone who would love to join us? Share this link with them!

 

 

The fashion industry is competitive — there’s no doubt about it.

And yet, it’s not hard to find new, successful brands popping up across the industry.

No one knew about Everlane until it became Everlane.

No one knew about Reformation until it became Reformation.

And no one knew about Summersalt until… well, you get the idea.

There is room for you and the brand you want to create.

The key is to position yourself in a way that sets you apart from everyone else.

In today’s video, I’m going to share three ways to market your brand so that it attracts customers.

What’s your brand’s “X factor?” I’ve provided three different ways to think about.

Now it’s up to you to define that X factor for yourself.

Need some help? Leave a comment below the video and we’ll talk it out : )

 

 


sustainable fashion advice

Last week I *hopefully* convinced you that it’s not only worth the time and effort to blog about your fashion brand, but it’s imperative. If you missed that post you can read it here.

Today I want to talk about the not-so-sexy side of creating content for your brand and why your blog strategy depends on these three letters:

S
E
O

SEO stands for “search engine optimization” — Wait! Before your eyes glaze over and you click away… let’s take a pause for a puppy break.

Okay, still with me?

In layman’s terms, SEO is the language that the internet speaks and is the reason that some articles rank on the first page of Google and why a very similar article could be buried in the depths of the cloud.

Why is this important to you? Because you want to rank on the first page of Google.

Why should you care? Because it’s one more way that your target customers can find your business.

It looks like this:

Cara has a sustainable fashion brand that sells five-piece capsule collections through her Shopify store. 

Cara also has a blog that features articles about minimalism, sustainability, ethical fashion, travel, clean beauty and other topics that appeal to her ideal target customer. 

Now, here’s where SEO comes in.

Because her blog titles are “optimized” for the “search engines” with “keywords,” her blog posts come up when her ideal target customer searches for a topic she’s written about.

So, let’s say a potential customer is searching on Google, looking for bloggers to follow who have sustainable wardrobes. 

The very first article that appears on Google’s front page is Cara’s article: 10 Bloggers Who Will Inspire Your Sustainable Wardrobe

SEO

The potential customer clicks on Cara’s blog post, finds herself reading valuable and engaging content and knows she’s found exactly what she was looking for.

What happens next?

Maybe the potential customer clicks away, but it’s far more likely that one of three things happens:

  1. She clicks over to another related blog post and stays on Cara’s blog longer.
  2. She is invited to subscribe to Cara’s email list through an email opt-in.
  3. She clicks over to Cara’s Shopify site where she realizes that not only does Cara blog about sustainable fashion, she has an entire line of sustainable fashion to purchase!

Do you see how powerful this machine of SEO and blogging works?

The task of creating blog content is something that can benefit your brand for months and years to come. 

Okay, so now that I’ve *hopefully* convinced you that SEO is important to your blog strategy, it begs the question — how do you get started optimizing and finding keywords to write about?

First, I would encourage you to install an SEO plug-in to whichever blog platform you’re using (I use Yoast for WordPress.) 

This will help you find keywords and optimize your blog posts — there’s an easy red light, yellow light, green light system that Yoast uses to tell you if you’re good to go.

Beyond that, there are people much smarter than me who have written all about SEO, so I’m going to link to them below:

  • If you prefer reading, HubSpot has a very thorough guide here
  • If you prefer listening, Jenna Kutcher has an SEO podcast here.
  • If you prefer outsourcing, current Factory45'er Gabbby Covay runs an agency that provides SEO services here.

And if you want to take a closer look at Cara as my guinea pig, her blog is here and her brand is here

She’s also a Factory45 alum, so I’ve been able to witness from the beginning how she’s built each block of her business strategy (it’s impressive).

These technical things are what we, as creatives, tend to avoid but I’m here to tell you, there’s no point in blogging for the sake of blogging.

There needs to be a consistent strategy around what you write about, and SEO is a big part of that.

Phew. I know. It’s a lot of work… More puppies?

You can do this.

 

 


Sustainable Fashion Advice