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What do you get when you pair two style-obsessed women with a shared passion for sustainability?

You get a womenswear brand with bold colors, custom-designed prints and fashion-forward silhouettes.

Meet Left Edit, essentials that make an impression.

You may recognize Kestrel Jenkins as a longtime sustainable fashion advocate and the voice behind the Conscious Chatter podcast.

Teaming up with Holly Stavnes, formerly the founder of accessories brand Hera By Day, the duo has created a responsibly-manufactured and sustainably-sourced fashion brand for women.

At the end of last year, Holly and Kestrel successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell their first collection of five dresses.

In 30 days, they raised over $20,000 to fund their first production run.

Left Edit 1

The five dresses were designed, prototyped and tested to ensure ease of movement, versatility, longevity, quality and community — putting responsible manufacturing at the forefront.

The fabrics are lower-impact than conventional fabrics, including Tencel linen, 100% Tencel and Cupro, and they boast bold colors and bright prints in an industry that’s already thriving in the basics and neutrals department.

Over two years ago, I met Kestrel and Holly for drinks in San Diego where they first presented the idea of Left Edit to me.

Shortly after, they joined the Factory45 program and spent over a year establishing a brand presence on Instagram, growing a following, designing and redesigning their first collection, sourcing fabric, meeting with factories, and more.

Leading up to their Kickstarter campaign, Holly and Kestrel seamlessly “teased out” the brand reveal so that by the time they launched, there was an eager fan-base of customers waiting to pre-order.

As they gear up to ship their first batch of garments this spring, the five debut dresses are still available for pre-sale on the Left Edit website here. (I pre-ordered The Eve : )  

You can also follow along and connect with Left Edit on Instagram: @leftedit

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

For the past three nights, I haven’t been able to fall asleep.

(Sleeping is one of my best talents, so this is highly unusual.)

And as I’m laying there, I end up doing the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing when you can’t fall asleep:

I start scrolling through Instagram.

(I know, I know… I’m only human!)

But last night, as I was scrolling, I started to pay attention to which captions I clicked to read.

And I realized something…

There is one very crucial skill that I see many new fashion brands lacking.

And that’s the ability to write compelling sales copy.

If you’re not familiar with the term “copy” it refers to any text you write to represent your brand.

In other words, your emails to your list, subject lines, blog titles, any “call to action,” Instagram captions, blog posts, the “About” page of your website, the product descriptions on your shop pages, your social media bios, etc.

To be honest, if you asked me why some fashion brands are successful and others aren’t, I would boil it down to two main marketing components:

#1 Great product photography

#2 Great sales copy

And it’s #2 that I want to talk about today, because I think this skill is detrimentally overlooked by startup fashion brands.

To be able to sell *anything* online, you need to be a strong writer.

Before you throw your hands up in the air and tell me, “It’s just something you’ve never been good at!” hear me out:

I’m not talking about the type of writing you learned in high school English class.

The writing skills that are required for the internet are far more attainable than learning how to construct a 42-page essay analyzing Jane Eyre.

(Bleh, aren’t you glad those days are over?)

To write compelling sales copy, it simply requires you to write how you talk.

Back in high school, Mrs. Sullivan would have called this “the vernacular.”

That’s where I want you to start.

I want you to write in a way that’s conversational.

And as with anything you practice over and over, you’re going to get incrementally better at it.

Even if you think you “can’t write.”

But here’s what I would not recommend:

Hiring someone to write your copy for you.

(Unless you have endless amounts of money that you can pay this person for as long as your brand exists… and who really has that?)

Copywriting is a “teach a woman to fish” type of situation.

You really and truly do not want to rely on someone else to be the voice of your brand when you’re just starting out.

Sure, if you reach $1M in revenue, then go ahead and hire a marketing team — but in the beginning, your brand is relying on you to hone your chops at writing.

There are courses out there to teach you how to improve (CopyHour is run by my friend Derek and Marie Forleo has a program called The Copy Cure.)

There is also plenty of free content if you google, “How to become a better copywriter.”

But the bottom line is this:

You need to be able to effectively communicate what your brand has to offer.

That requires you to be clear, genuine, persuasive and most of all, compelling.

Because if you aren’t, then you’re going to train your followers (i.e. potential customers!) that your words aren’t worth reading.

And if your words aren’t worth reading, then how will they know that your products are worth wearing?

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


As we all know, the internet can be an amazing place for free resources and advice. But it can also be a place of extreme excess and anxiety.

With so many resources available to overwhelmed fashion entrepreneurs, which ones should you use and which ones aren’t worth the time?

Well, here’s a place to start. I’ve narrowed down my top five resources for startup and sustainable fashion brands below:


1.) TECHPACKER

Anyone who’s tried creating a tech pack from scratch knows how frustrating (and time-consuming) it can be. Enter Techpacker, a software that helps you create a professional tech pack in minutes.

The platform gives you (or a team) the ability to manage product development all in one place. You can see some of the main features that Techpacker has to offer here and get started with a free 7-day trial here.


2.) STARTUP FASHION

StartUp FASHION is an online community where independent designers are given a platform to receive and offer advice, form friendships, create business collaborations, let off steam, share victories and belong to a network of peers who are tackling similar challenges.

Run by Nicole Giordano, enrollment to StartUp FASHION only opens twice a year and is currently accepting new members until tonight. You can sign up for $39/month here. (Update: Enrollment is now closed until September 2019.)


3.) MAKER’S ROW

Maker’s Row is an online platform that connects product-based companies with factories in the U.S. In addition to a database of thousands of factories, suppliers, printers and other manufacturers, Maker’s Row offers resources, tips and free advice through their email workshops and YouTube channel.

Brands can join the platform for $35/month and browse the growing list of over 11,000 factories across dozens of industries. You can search by location, response rate and other capabilities by signing up here.


4.) COMMON OBJECTIVE

Common Objective is a U.K.-based platform that evolved from The Ethical Fashion Forum. With a focus on sustainable fashion, members of Common Objective can learn, connect and collaborate while being matched with the people and resources to succeed.

With a network in 141 countries, Common Objective is dedicated to supporting fashion people do better business. You can join for free here.


5.) FACTORY45

And then there’s my own program, Factory45… not biased ; ) A six-month online accelerator program that takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch, Factory45 will help you source fabric, find a manufacturer and raise money to fund production.

Applications only open once a year and enrollment for the 2020 program will open in May. Until then, you can get free advice for starting your fashion brand here and see some of the companies that have launched through Factory45 here.


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

 


designing working on computer in design studio

I talk a lot about your email list being the most valuable marketing asset you have as a fashion brand.

If you’re not building your list, then you are missing out in a big way.

In fact, I can’t name one successful, modern-day business that doesn’t have an engaged email list that is actively growing.

But growing your number of subscribers is only half the battle. It’s making sure that they’re engaged readers that really requires the hard work.

Here are five ways to get more engagement from your email list* so you can create customers for your brand:

*Note: When I’m talking about your email list I’m not referring to your list of contacts in Gmail. An email list for your business has likely been created on Mailchimp or another email marketing platform and your subscribers have “opted in” to receive marketing emails about your brand.

1. Subject lines, subject lines, subject lines.

It doesn’t matter if you have the most compelling, beautifully designed and articulately written email if your subscriber doesn’t open it.

Your “open rate” is largely dependent on the intrigue of your subject line. It has to elicit a curious response from your subscribers that entices them to read it.

As an example, what’s a more interesting subject line to you?

5 email marketing tips

OR

This is why your subscribers aren’t reading your emails

Of course this takes practice. For every email I send out to you, I write five subject lines before I narrow it down to the winner.

Your subject line should be a focal point of your entire email — not an afterthought.

2. Don’t underestimate the “readability” of your emails.

This is the simplest and most basic rule of email marketing, but I can’t tell you how many emails I receive from new brands that make me question if I need reading glasses.

When in doubt, use a 12 point sans serif font in black. If you make your readers squint at their screens, then they’re going to click delete.

Other “readability” factors: avoid large block paragraphs, bold phrases are your friend, create plenty of white space.

Take note of the emails that you’re subscribed to and notice the formatting – what stands out? What makes it an easy read for you?

3. Start with a story.

Research has shown that when a person starts reading a (compelling, well written) story, it’s very difficult for them to stop.

What does that tell us about email marketing?

Start with a personal anecdote.

Your subscriber is not only more likely to read to the end, but starting with a personal anecdote also builds trust and connection with your reader.

And it’s trust and connection that turns a reader into a customer.

4. Give one “call to action.”

Your call to action is what you want your reader to do after they open and read your email. Your CTA is essentially the whole point of sending out an email in the first place.

If you’re already selling, then your only goal is to move your reader from your email to the shop page of your website.

If you aren’t selling yet, then the goal of your CTA can be something else that helps you grow your following (forward this email to a friend, follow us on Instagram, read last week’s blog post, etc.)

The key thing to avoid here is giving multiple calls to action. I see a lot of emails that ask the reader to shop AND follow us on Instagram AND read our blog AND forward to a friend AND…

Asking for too much creates decision paralysis for your reader and instead of doing everything, they’ll do nothing.

Pick one CTA and test it one week. Choose a different CTA and test it another week. Use another CTA and test it the next week…

Which leads me to,

5. Track your analytics.

No matter which email marketing platform you’re using (Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, Klaviyo, etc.), there is a dashboard that gives you a series of very important stats. Do not overlook these!

For every email you send out, you need to be tracking your open rate and your click-through rate, with an additional glance at your unsubscribe rate.

I say “glance” because I don’t want you to obsess over how many people unsubscribe from your list. It’s normal for a healthy list to have unsubscribers so don’t dwell on it. However, if you notice a significant increase at any point, then you’ll want to be aware of what could have possibly triggered it.

Above all, tracking your analytics will provide insight into sending better emails. It will help you become better at writing subject lines, it will give you valuable data about what your readers want to see and it will help you increase traffic to your online store.


A final thought: So often new brands get caught up in the number of subscribers they have. And while yes, the goal is to grow your list as much as possible, I would much rather have a small highly-engaged list than a large list that isn’t engaged.

This goes back to what I wrote about how you only need 100 “True Followers” to launch a fashion brand. In this case, bigger isn’t always better.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


sustainable fashion advice

marketing

Last week I launched Market45 to start selling some of the brands that have graduated from the Factory45 program.

In the build up to launch day I was interviewed by a media outlet that asked me the following question:

What have you learned about yourself in launching this new business venture?

I know that I was probably supposed to say something heartwarming like, “I’m capable of more than I think” or “Hard work really does pay off”…

But instead I said,

“I love marketing even more than I thought I did.”

I know, not the most inspirational sentence I’ve ever said, but allow me to explain…

When you live in an industry of creatives, “marketing” and “selling” are often seen as dirty words.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this sentence from the designers I teach:

“I just feel so ‘sales-y’…”

And each and every time, I want to take them by the shoulders and say,

“Well, yeah, because you’re trying to make a sale…

In the Factory45 program we talk exhaustively about the “pre-launch phase.”

It’s those crucial months before you launch your business when you’re building up momentum, trying to attract an audience and getting ready to sell your product.

Having recently been in that pre-launch phase for Market45, I can confidently say:

I live for this phase.

To me, there is nothing better than building anticipation for your audience and getting them excited about what you’re creating.

But like many new entrepreneurs, I didn’t always feel that way.

There was a time when I worried about coming across as pushy or self important or annoying.

And here’s what I realized:

In order to run a successful business, you have to embrace the sale.”

The good news is,

When you believe in what you’re selling — that’s really easy to do.

My guess is that if you’re on my email list or reading my blog, then you have a product or idea or current business that is a better option than what the fast fashion retailers, or Wal-Mart or other big box stores offer.

And that’s something to immediately believe in.

Whether it’s a more ethical / sustainable / independent / conscious option compared to what else is on the market, you are providing an alternative that yes, the world needs.

So, the next time you question whether you should send one more email to your list or post one more Instagram about your Kickstarter or create one more Facebook ad, I want you to repeat after me:

>> The world needs to know that my product provides a better option.

>> My customer wants to hear from me because my product is solving a problem for them.

>> The industry needs independent brands like mine to succeed.

Because the future of fashion depends on it.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

 

 


Market45

If you’re running a fashion business, it should be no surprise that marketing is a huge part of your day to day.

If you want to sell, then you have to promote — right?

We know this. It’s on our to-do list. We have a strategy in place for it. But…

How often does promotion get overlooked?

Here’s a scenario that I see too often:

  1. You’ve spent several hours crafting the perfect blog post.
  2. You finally click “Publish” and the post goes live.
  3. You sit back and wait for people to come across your post and praise its brilliance.

When put that way it sounds a little ridiculous.

And yet there are so many of us who expect it to happen like this.

The internet has made us live by the adage of, “If you build it, they will come.”

But nobody arrives.

If you’re struggling with marketing and being seen by your ideal target customer, then I have one rule for you to implement right now:

“30% content creation / 70% content promotion

What does that mean exactly?

It means that 30% of your time should be spent on creating marketing content. We’re talking blog posts, emails to your list, guest posts, photography, etc.

But 70% of your time should be put towards promoting that content.

It’s not enough to share a blog post on Facebook one time. That same blog post should be sent out to your email list and shared on social media over… and over… and over again.

“But, Shannon, won’t my audience get sick of seeing the same stuff?”

No, because unless it’s your mom, they’re not paying attention that closely.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s an example:

For the past month I’ve been promoting the launch of Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace, that will go live on November 1st.

I’ve mentioned it upwards of six times on Instagram and it wasn’t until the sixth time that I got a text from my own sister saying, “Just saw you’re launching a marketplace! Great idea.”

And while yes, she’s busy with her own life going on — so is everyone else.

You can’t count on people to retain your message, read your blog post or engage with you on social media the very first time.

Or even the second time… or the third…

And I know what you may be thinking, “Man, this sounds exhausting. I can’t keep up with all of this marketing.”

But what I’m telling you is actually good news.

Because the content creation (i.e. the 30%) is the part that’s usually hardest for everyone.

I know how many of you worry that you’re not a good writer or that it takes forever to write a blog post or newsletter.

But with the 30/70 rule, once it’s done you get to focus the majority of your time on promoting it.

And while it still requires writing, crafting a promotional Facebook post or Instagram caption is a lot less work than writing full content.

To put it in perspective:

I spend at least 1.5 hours every Wednesday scheduling social media to promote that week’s blog post. My assistant spends another hour putting that blog post on WordPress and scheduling it to send to my email list.

That’s 2.5 to 3 hours dedicated to content that took me 30-45 minutes to write.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

So whether it’s an upcoming launch, a Kickstarter campaign or something small like a blog post, focus on doing more with less.

You can’t argue with that.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


true followers

To be a successful creator, designer or entrepreneur, you don’t need millions of dollars.

According to author Kevin Kelly, all you need is 1,000 true fans.

Are you familiar with this theory?

The idea is this:

If you have 1,000 true fans, and make $100 profit from each one every year, that’s enough money to sustain your creative work.

It’s not a fortune, but you get to spend your day doing what you love.

I recently recalled the “1,000 True Fans” theory that I read in 2012, and it got me thinking about how it applies to the fashion entrepreneurs that I talk to every day.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from them is not being able to grow an audience fast enough.

“I only got 10 new Instagram followers this week.”

“I only have 50 email subscribers.”

“My Facebook post only got five ‘Likes.’”

For many of you, when you’re starting from zero, it probably seems impossible to get to 1,000.

The good news is, I don’t think you need 1,000 true fans.

To launch a fashion brand, you only need 100.

That’s it, “100 True Followers.”

Totally doable, right?

Most of you probably already have over 100 followers on Instagram.

But here’s the thing:

A “follower” is different from a “True Follower.”

And when you’re trying to build an audience to launch your brand to, the “True Followers” are the only thing you should care about.

These are the people who “Like” 9 out of the 10 Instagram posts you publish, the ones who actually reply to your email newsletter and the ones who leave comments on your Facebook posts.

These “True Followers” are the people who are going to be your first 100 Kickstarter backers or your first 100 customers or the first 100 shoppers to show up at your pop-up store.

And then, after they buy from you…

They’re the ones who will tell their friends about you.

And that’s where the magic happens.

So, how do you find these “True Followers?”

1.) Provide value.

It’s not about you, it’s about them. And it’s about how your brand provides value to their everyday lives — whether it’s looking forward to an Instagram post, reading one of your blog posts or being able to tell their coworkers about your weekly newsletter.

2.) Don’t try to appeal to everyone.

I’ve written about this before here. The bottom line is this: The fastest way to sabotage your business is by trying to be everything to everyone.

3.) Say something different.

The easiest way to get ignored is to say the same thing every other brand is saying. Beyond the obvious of avoiding buzzwords and cliches, your brand needs to have a voice. If you don’t know what I mean by “voice,” check out the marketing messages of companies like Reformation, Thundress or Girlfriend Collective. I’ve also written about this here.

4.) Treat every new follower like gold.

This is the most important one of all and it’s often the most overlooked. Every new subscriber, follower, fan and customer should be shown value and appreciation. Instead of lamenting your small following of 10 people, focus on providing those 10 people with the absolute best experience your brand can offer.

Do you know what happens when 10 people have a memorable experience that makes them feel connected to your brand?

Each of those 10 people tells at least one more person.

Then you have 20 followers.

And in no time at all, 100 True Followers (or even 1,000 True Fans) doesn’t seem so impossible after all.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


I looked up from my computer and thought to myself,

“Man, I should really be working.”

I glanced at the clock. Two hours had passed since I last looked at it.

It took me a second to process that in that time, I had written copy for the Market45 website (coming soon), drafted the agenda for an upcoming webinar and written captions for several days worth of Instagrams.

“Oh, so I was working.”

Has that ever happened to you?

You get so caught up in your work that you look up and realize your work didn’t actually feel like work?

It doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes it doesn’t even happen every week. But when it does happen, there’s something so satisfying about it.

It’s what productivity experts call the “flow state.”

(You may also know it as “being in the zone.”)

Psychologists describe the flow state as the most productive and creative state of mind in which to work.

Some even say it’s the secret to happiness.

Our goal as entrepreneurs, then, is to enter that flow state as often as possible so that we can create, design and build our businesses in a way that is not only efficient but also brings us joy.

I know, no pressure.

There are tips all over the internet from work performance experts who will tell you how to enter a flow state.

But most of that advice assumes you’re a top performance athlete or a top-level executive.

What if you’re hustling to build your fashion brand as a side job with limited hours in the day?

What do you do then?

Here are the four steps to being “in flow” when you’re a new entrepreneur.

(And because I think acronyms are funny, I’ve put one together so you can remember it: PACE)

1. Prioritize

When you first sit down to work — whether it’s on your computer or in the studio — focus on one task, and one task only. As you practice, you’ll be able to jump to other tasks without leaving the flow state but in the beginning, it’s important to prioritize.

In choosing your task, it should be something “long form.” In other words, it feels like an investment to sit down and complete it. Tasks that are long form are things like: writing the campaign page for your Kickstarter, or mapping out financial projections or designing next season’s collection.

When you complete the task it should feel like a significant accomplishment and take between 1.5-3 hours.

2. Ambience

For me, ambience is everything. You can’t enter a flow state with the TV on in the background or sitting in the parking lot waiting for your kids. You need to know you’ll have two hours of uninterrupted time in a space that feels good to be in.

Turn on music if you like, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, light a candle, put on your “writing sweater” — pick some sort of cue that tells your brain it’s time to get down to business.

3. Challenge

Challenge + Skill Set = Flow State. I didn’t come up with this — researchers say that the optimal way to enter a flow state is to present yourself with a challenging task that matches a capable skill set.

In other words, if you’re not tech savvy you’re probably not going to find your flow while trying to set up a Mailchimp account. If you’re not math-minded, then you’re not going to enter a flow state figuring out your production costs.

When you’re first experimenting with this you’ll want to purposely choose tasks that are the appropriate level of challenging.

4. Energy

Do not try to reach a flow state when you’re exhausted, grumpy, having a bad day, etc. The essence of being in flow requires positive energy — they go hand in hand. Don’t underestimate how important it is to get your energy levels up before you sit down.


Hey, look at that — I just wrote 700 words! I didn’t even realize it until now.

I must have found the PACE to just… flow…

; )

Your turn.

factory45 owner shannon

 


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