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Meet the Inaugural Class of Factory45: Part I

tina-thumbnailTINA HOFER MEDICO | THE SPARK BOARD

Atlanta, GA

Tina and I were connected through a mutual friend (hey, Amber Rae!) and she was the first person to sign on to Factory45 before I had even launched. Tina is an interior designer who wants to create products for artists, designers and entrepreneurs that ignite a creative spark. We’ll be working together to source sustainable materials for her first product, The Spark Board, as well as building a Kickstarter campaign for her to go to market.

 

jesse-thumbnailJESSE SYSWERDA | EENVOUD

Brooklyn, NY

Jesse will be our resident fashion expert, having studied at Parsons The New School for Design. Jesse and I realized we date back to my {r}evolution apparel days, having had a few email exchanges in 2012, as well as a mutual friend. Jesse is passionate about aesthetics, sustainability and inspiring others. She also works as a “fit model” in NYC, so she will be a great resource during the samplemaking and prototyping stage of Factory45. We will be working together to source sustainable fabrics while moving her brand forward into production.

 

angela-thumbnailANGELA TSAI | TOO COOL FOR DROOL

Nationwide

Angela is a mother of two who travels the country with her husband as a performer in the Lion King tour. Knowing firsthand the challenges of having children, Angela has designed an innovative piece of apparel that helps women transition into motherhood while still feeling confident and fashionable. Through Factory45, Angela will build her brand and online presence while creating a company that supports women in their new roles as mothers.

 

mikaela-thumbnailMIKAELA CLIFFORD | RUTH & RAGNAR

Encinitas, CA

Mikaela was introduced to Factory45 by Johanna Bjork, editor of Goodlifer and a mutual connection. Mikaela almost fell through the cracks when her application didn’t submit due to a technical glitch. Luckily, she followed up with me on the last day of F45 interviews and I was able to Skype with her in Singapore. Mikaela is creating sustainable childrenswear, with organic and recycled materials, inspired by Swedish design. We’ll be working together to explore sourcing options, grow Ruth & Ragnar’s brand identity, and create a go-to-market strategy.

 

emily-rose-thumbnailEMILY ROSE GUTMAN | INTERWOVEN MOSAIC PRODUCTIONS

New York, NY

Emily is a bond trader on Wall Street who ultimately wants to work for herself and create products with a greater social good. Her goal is to create cause-driven, limited-run apparel with a full lifecycle from beginning to end. Emily will spend the next six months “as a test to really see if businesses can be beautiful while also creating/changing consciousness.”

 

You’ll be introduced to the second half of the group next week!

 

Gearing up for Factory45’s inaugural class

By now, some of you may be wondering who was chosen for the inaugural group of Factory45. It’s the faces and stories behind the accelerator program that will make the next six months the most interesting to watch.

In the last week of April, I interviewed over 30 applicants to finally narrow the pool down to 10. The final applicants were ultimately chosen based on how far along their projects were, how I saw them fitting together as a group, and most importantly — how much I felt I could help them.

I learned a lot in the last week of open applications and even more through the process of conducting so many interviews by myself. Most notably I realized:

  • Just because someone has taken the time to apply, doesn’t mean they’ve taken the time to read the information on the website : )
  • It’s easy to spot sincere enthusiasm.
  • It isn’t necessarily about the potential of the product idea as much as it is about the attitude of the person.

Before the program kicks off on June 2nd, I’m starting to get to know my group of 10, how they work, what skills they bring to the table, what weaknesses will need to be supported, and how excited I am to start building these relationships.

Next week, you’ll start to learn more about all of them, too. You’ll be introduced to:

  • The two brothers in Brooklyn who are trying to make science fun and cool for kids
  • The interior designer who has created an innovative piece of wall decor
  • A visionary designer planning the first fashionable clothing line for young women in wheelchairs
  • An already successful handbag entrepreneur who wants to show that leathergoods can be sustainable by repurposing, recycling and reusing existing leather
  • And six others who are pushing the limits on what’s possible.

These 10 participants have already found holes in the market. Now they’ll have the next six months of support, guidance and collaboration to execute and fill the need.

It’s going to be a hell of a journey — I hope you’ll stick around to cheer us on.

DESIGNERS, MAKERS, ENTREPRENEURS, THIS IS FOR YOU.

On one of the last nights of 2013, I sat down on my living room floor surrounded by journals, poster board, markers and post-it notes to do an “annual review.”

I started thinking about the past year. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What have I learned? What mistakes did I make? What do I know now that I didn’t know before?

What started as a personal audit, turned into a running list of 45 entrepreneurship principles that I felt have held true over the years.

For a while, those 45 concepts sat in my notebook untouched and unread. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them or how they would translate off paper.

It wasn’t until February that I started plotting out a new idea — a way to scale my business so that I wasn’t working from individual project to project and could help more designers and makers just starting out.

So, today I’m sharing the first five principles that I discovered on that night in December:

1.) Solve a problem for others, and you’ll never be expendable.

There’s a difference between products that sell and products that earn customer loyalty. In the world of fashion, your cotton tank top competes in a sea of cotton tank tops. It’s a disposable product.

On the other hand, do you sell a pair of hiking pants that can easily convert into business attire? Or give people an option for saving their t-shirts they don’t wear anymore? Or offer interchangeable straps so you only need one pair of sandals to match every outfit?

Solve a problem for your customer, and they’ll keep coming back.

2.) Sell a feeling, story, belief to sell your product.

What are you communicating? Are you building a connection between your offering and your customer? The marketing of the most successful products evoke an emotional reaction. Make them laugh, make them cry, make them nostalgic — just make them feel something.

With every sales page, social media platform, and blog post, you need to be selling something beyond your product.

3.) Social media marketing is only as strong as the community you build.

Since both Facebook and Twitter have gone public, there has been a lot of talk about whether social media marketing converts into sales. The answer has been a resounding “no.” The smartest companies focus less on pushing sales, and more on building community, creating brand recognition, and receiving feedback.

With word of mouth still being the number one way to gain new customers, a strong online community of followers and loyal supporters is more important than ever.

4.) Productivity comes in all different forms – even when you’re not working.

Sixteen hour work days, plowing through lunch, and abandoning your social life is old-school entrepreneurship. You don’t have to give up your life and ruin your relationships in order to build a successful business.

I believe that if you eat well, exercise, experience new things, and cultivate healthy relationships, then you will be far more productive and require less “work time.” Self-care is productivity in its most basic form.

5.) Working in pajamas is overrated. Being your own boss isn’t.

I remember in the early days of {r}evolution apparel, I would get home from my bartending job at 3am and wake up at 10am to get started on emails, blog posts, sourcing and design work. My computer slept on the other side of my bed, and I would pull it onto my lap with one eye open. By the time I was done with admin tasks for the day, it was noon and I still hadn’t eaten breakfast or changed out of my pajamas.

I look at that time in my life as “sacrificial.” My co-founder and I put in the long hours, leading double lives with side jobs, because we were so firmly committed to being our own bosses. I can tell you now that my workday is much more structured, healthy and energizing.

It takes time and dedication to get where you want to be, but it’s more important to feel the way you want to feel while you’re getting there.