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10 Companies Prepare for Launch: A Factory45 Update

It’s strange to say, but when Factory45 started in June I couldn’t envision getting to early October. It seemed so far away, to be two-thirds of the way through the program, and I had no idea what to expect from the months leading up to it. The worst-case-scenario questions going through my mind were silenced just enough to not paralyze me into inaction, but they were there all the same:

“What if all 10 companies drop out before the program is done?”

“What if I realize it was a terrible idea?”

“What if this doesn’t work?”

With both Modules 1 and 2 now complete, I can (gratefully) say the past four months have exceeded all expectations. Four months in, all 10 companies are still pushing through and making measurable progress with their products.

Looking at some of the numbers: 8 out of 10 are currently in the pattern-and-sample-making phase, 7 out of 10 have finalized their fabric sourcing, and 9 out of 10 have or are close to having finished websites.

Isamplemaking-2n their own words (from the mid-program feedback survey I sent out):

“I have made more progress since I started F45, than I have in 2 years trying to do this on my own.”

“I’ve accomplished so much more than I would have on my own and feel very accountable to the program, which has caused me to pull the trigger on decisions that I would have otherwise dilly dallied on. The biggest benefit for me is the weekly structure; it keeps me super focused and organized. Although I do often feel overwhelmed working on all of the different aspects of my business simultaneously, F45 has made the process so much clearer and more manageable.”

“I remain so impressed. Your organization and presentation are that of someone who has been doing this for years. I have loved this and am a bit afraid of it ending.”

That’s not to say everything has been rainbows and butterflies or that I wouldn’t change anything. The group has collectively had to overcome a lot of “imposter syndrome,” fear, and self doubt. For many of them, it has taken time to trust themselves and to navigate their way through the high’s and low’s of the entrepreneurial rollercoaster.

There have been tears on 1-on-1 calls, “freak out moments” via email, and high-pressure moments of angst. Very little is happening on the timeline I had planned for, which has simply meant I’ve had to adapt and adjust my expectations of how things “should” be progressing.

samplemakingWhen I think back on the past four months, though, I am incredibly proud of what has been accomplished. It’s those moments that are celebrated together, whether it’s on a Wednesday night group call or when I get a text at 8:30 on a Friday night asking for a “quick chat,” that I hold in my memory with immense gratitude. To have a small part in creating 10 new businesses, that could effectively make real, marked change, is not something I’ve taken for granted.

As we enter into Module 3 next week, I’ll prepare my Factory45’ers for launch and for the next phase of their journey without me. To have an accelerated start, the support of peer mentorship and the tools and resources to keep forging ahead is something that I wish everyone could have when they’re first starting out.

The challenge in the next two months will be preparing everyone to leave the proverbial “nest” that has become as much a routine as it has a safe haven. The challenge will be in ensuring 10 new entrepreneurs that they have what it takes to finish what most people only dream of starting.

Photo credit: Jesse Syswerda and Angela Tsai

 

4 Things You Can Do Before You’re Ready to Start Your Business

Not everyone can take the dive on the first impulse to start a business. There are responsibilities: bills to take care of, student loans to pay off, and commitments to keep.

If you’re one of those people, though, who knows that you were meant to be an entrepreneur — and it’s only a matter of time before you’re ready — then there are a few things you can be doing in the months (or years) leading up to taking the plunge:

1.) Make sure there is a market need for your idea

Do you have a few ideas brewing for a future business? Recognize the ones that keep you up at night — the ideas that you just can’t stop thinking about. Once you’ve narrowed down what you think are your best ideas, get laser focused. The best ideas are the ones that have a distinct market need. This means that you’re filling a void, solving a problem, or relieving a painpoint for people.

One of my favorite entrepreneurial quotes is something along the lines of: Startups must sell painkillers. Not vitamins.

2.) Write a one-page business plan

Once you’ve determined your best idea with a distinct market need, write a one-page business plan. This is something you can do on your lunch break or after work with a glass of wine. The one-page business plan should include:

– Your vision (2 sentences)

– Your target market (2 sentences)

– Your competitive advantage (3-4 sentences)

– Your business model (2-3 sentences)

– A financial summary (3-4 sentences)

A good business plan should always be changing, so the best thing to do is get your first draft on paper. Remember that you aren’t bound to anything. The goal is to start thinking about your idea as a financially-viable product.

3.) Use social media to connect with others in the industry

Set up a personal Twitter account with a professional photo of yourself and write a brief bio that describes the things you’re interested in that relate to your future business. Follow people within your niche (for example: sustainable fashion, fashion entrepreneurship, American makers, etc.) by searching similar hashtags. Start a conversation with those people by sending out friendly, personalized tweets and try to start an ongoing dialogue.

Don’t get discouraged if they don’t respond at first. Sometimes it takes a few retweets of something that person has written for them to notice that you’re awesome and someone worth getting to know.

When my co-founder and I were first starting {r}evolution apparel we built almost all of our early following through Twitter. Some of those people are still friends today. Twitter is a great way to surround yourself with like-minded people in the entrepreneurial world without spending a huge amount of time sending out individual emails.

4.) Cultivate the “entrepreneurial mindset”

Because traditional education (and the corporate world) don’t do much to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking, you will have to unlearn a lot of the beliefs that have been embedded in your mind through conventional thinking.

There are books, blogs and podcasts available to show you that you are not limited by your preconceived notions of what is possible. Some of my favorites are:

Books

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Blogs

The Blog of Tim Ferriss

The Middle Finger Project

The Art of Non-Conformity

Podcasts

The Unmistakable Creative

The Lively Show

No one wants to feel like they’re not living their purpose. By focusing on these preliminary business-building steps, you can know that you’re moving forward in the direction of eventually creating your dream business.

And then I’ll be here waiting when you’re ready to take the plunge.

 

 

Photo credit: Athena Gracee 


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