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Required Trait

The other day I was watching my three-year-old play with his train set. 

One piece of track… connected to another piece of track… connected to another… 

And then, uh oh.

The last piece wouldn’t fit.

I watched as he struggled to fit the piece, as it kept hitting up against the wall of the table, as he got more and more frustrated.

“I CAN’T DO IT!” he yelled out, red in the face. “IT DOESN’T WORK!”

How many times as an entrepreneur have you felt this?

The web domain won’t connect to the host!

The file size won’t upload!

The email form won’t populate!

The difference being, you can’t throw your computer across the room like you can a wooden train track.

One of the main messages you hear as a parent is the importance of building resilience in your kids.

It’s why you should resist doing things for them or providing the easy way out.

And honestly, entrepreneurship is very much the same.

“Are you calling me a toddler, Shannon?”

No : ) I would like to think the way we respond is more developmentally appropriate.

This message is about resilience.

How can you build more resilience into the day to day building of your business?

When something isn’t working the way we want it to, how can we be more resourceful in finding a solution?

Because honestly, that’s what it takes.

If you truly want to be an entrepreneur, then it virtually guarantees you will run into problems — in the beginning, it will probably be on a daily basis.

But to reach any level of success, problems require problem solvers.

There’s no way around it.

That’s all to say, be the toddler who picks up the train track even after he throws it… 

And tries again.

 


CTA-Factory45 SHOP

“That’s huge!” I say in my most celebratory voice.

“Yeah… but I still have to print my hangtags and my button supplier isn’t calling me back,” she tells me with a tone of defeat.

I pause for a second.

“Okay, sure, but you’ve finalized a CUSTOM sustainable fabric that you’ve been working on for MONTHS. That is a HUGE win!”

“Yeah… I guess you’re right…” she says, only slightly waning to my enthusiasm.

Why do we do this?

As entrepreneurs, why are we the last people to celebrate our own wins?

Even worse, why do we focus on all of the things that aren’t working rather than taking a moment to recognize how far we’ve come?

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to celebrating my own progress.

I’ll remember to send my web designer a bottle of champagne on launch day, but I won’t pour a glass for myself.

What gives?

The most obvious excuse is that there’s just too much to do.

As small business owners, we don’t have time to focus on the things that are going well because there’s always something else to be working on.

But I’m not suggesting you go on a Carnival Cruise every time your fabric order arrives on time.

What I am suggesting is that you take a beat to reflect.

To appreciate.

To sigh a breath of relief.

To recognize that in at least one way, you are doing great.

So, here’s your call to action for this week:

Come up with one small thing you can do to celebrate your wins.

Maybe it’s a five-minute office dance party to your all-time favorite song.

Maybe you take 10 minutes at night to luxuriate with a bubble bath and face mask.

Or maybe you splurge for the $5 oat milk latte instead of the $2 drip coffee.

Whatever you decide, it’s not so much the act of treating yourself as it is taking the time to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.

And most of us need a physical trigger to remind us to do that.

Why is this important? Why do we need to celebrate our wins, you ask?

Studies have shown that when we take time to celebrate small victories, we become better at goal setting and more importantly, reaching those goals.

And I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to set a goal then I’m willing to do whatever it takes to increase the odds of accomplishing it.

So, the next time you’re busting moves to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” know that you aren’t just indulging in a dance break…

What you’re really doing is increasing your odds of long term success.

And that’s something to celebrate.

 


 
 
 


female fashion entrepreneur on her computer

December is one of my favorite months of the year as a business owner.

And it’s not because of the holiday shopping or smells of pine and cinnamon or waking up to the first snowfall.

We’re getting to that time of year when many of us stop to reflect on how we’re running our businesses, our goals for the new year, and what we can do to make operations more efficient.

While I’ll definitely spend December doing that, this month is also an opportunity to appreciate what’s already working well — including the tools that made things run smoother than years past.

Those top 5 tools are what I want to share with you today:

asana

1.) ASANA

There is no better friend to an entrepreneur than a to-do list. Nope, not even your accountant. I’ve been using Asana since 2013 and it is the peanut butter to my jelly – I really don’t know what I would do without it.

If you don’t have some sort of organized checklist of top priority tasks assigned to due dates, then please get Asana in your life. It’s accessible from both your desktop and phone and it’s super intuitive and easy to use.

planoly

2.) PLANOLY

I’ve written about Planoly before when I shared my best Instagram hacks — this is definitely one of them.

For $9/month, Planoly is an app that allows you to create an editorial calendar for your Instagram posts. You can move images around to see how they’ll appear in grid format, write your captions ahead of time, and set a reminder on your phone that notifies you when to post.

If you’re starting or running a fashion brand in this day and age, then you must have a thoughtful visual representation on Instagram. And Planoly makes it easier to do that.

edgar

3.) EDGAR

Edgar is a bit on the pricey side but honestly, it’s worth every penny.

If you already use a social media scheduler like Hootsuite or Buffer, you know how it works. You schedule your social media posts for Facebook or Twitter and then it posts for you.

The problem is, once that blog post, guest post or media feature is published, you have to schedule it again. And if there’s anything we know about social media these days, it’s that it’s not enough to simply publish something once.

Edgar is the social media scheduling tool that manages itself. Instead of publishing your post once, it saves it and recycles it at a later date. It is the social media gift that keeps on giving and makes those frustrating Facebook algorithms that much easier to deal with.

I’ve been using it since it launched in 2014 and will never go back.

Shopify

4.) SHOPIFY

If you sell anything online, Shopify is the e-commerce platform that I recommend above all others.

Comparing it to anything else is like comparing brass to gold — nothing against brass, but other e-commerce sites lack the lustre and shine that Shopify can offer an online store.

Beyond the benefit of how easy it is to build your site, my favorite thing about Shopify is the app library that you can use for free or at a very low cost. If there’s anything you need to customize or implement that your template doesn’t already offer, then they probably have an app for it.

I also love the personal support you can get from the “Shopify Experts” if you’re really not tech savvy. And then there’s the ease of managing the back-end of your shipping and fulfillment…

I could clearly go on, but I won’t… Shopify. Use it.

VAology5.) UPWORK / A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I *really* don’t know what I would do without my assistant, Erika of VAology, and I hired her through Upwork.

It took me a while (like two years) to hire someone that I could trust with the tasks I needed to outsource and she was worth the wait. If there’s something Erika doesn’t know how to do, then she figures it out — and that’s exactly what you want out of someone you hire.

When you get to the point of having some disposable business income, make a list of all of the tasks that take time out of your day but someone else could easily do. For me, that meant first hiring Erika to put my blog posts up on WordPress and format and schedule my email campaigns.

As our working relationship grew, I gave her new tasks that freed up my time to create, plan and spend more time focused on my entrepreneurs in Factory45.

A jack-of-all-trades assistant is the first hire I recommend making and you can easily research, vet and interview prospective candidates through Upwork.

(Also, Erika’s team is currently taking on new clients. They’re based in the U.S. and speak English as a first language. You can fill out their intake form here.)


And last but not least, here are the runners up to my top five: Google Drive and LastPass.

Happy planning, scheduling and outsourcing,

 


 
 


factory45 brand sixchel capsule collection photoshoot

This is a guest post by Factory45’er Dina Chavez who launched a Kickstarter campaign this spring for her womenswear line SixChel. Dina raised over $17,000, exceeding her goal amount, and learned a lot along the way. Today she’s sharing her “do’s and don’ts” for launching a sustainable fashion brand through crowdfunding. Here’s Dina:

It’s been about a month and a half since the launch of my fashion brand’s first sustainable capsule collection via Kickstarter.

The campaign was definitely a whirlwind, but now that the dust has settled and we are at the beginning stages of production, we have been able to clear the air and evaluate the process.

I realized that there were definitely a few things we should have done differently before and during the campaign and definitely a few things we should not have done at all.

It is a lot easier to look back and say, “I should have…” and because this information is no longer beneficial to us as far as Kickstarter campaigns are concerned, I decided to share my experiences with you in hopes you do not make the same mistakes I made.

DO:

DO think about public relations: If you have the budget to hire a public relations team, I definitely encourage you to do so. I was fortunate to work with Lorraine Sanders of PressDope, a DIY PR company “increasing earned media mentions” for FEST brands.

Months before the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, we were able to create public awareness of our brand, our story, our products and our launch which helped us increase our audience.

>> TIP: Start planning your PR strategy and media outreach now; you can never start preparing early enough.

kickstarter

DO review the Factory45 “Preparing to Launch” module: If you are a current member of Factory45 or are thinking about becoming one, this has been one of the biggest benefits for me.

The information provided by Shannon during the “Launch” module is very beneficial and should guide you to a successful campaign. I reviewed everything about Kickstarter through the module about a few weeks before I launched.

>> TIP: Review the “Launch” module about a month or sooner before you launch.

DO plan an announcement launch strategy: In order to have a big boom at the beginning of your launch, it is important to have a strategy to announce your launch.

Your audience needs to not only get excited about your brand and product, they also need to get excited about the actual launch. This will help them spread the word out to their friends and family, increasing your audience.

> TIP: Find a creative and exciting way to get your audience excited about your launch and eager to make a pledge on the first day.

DO host a trunk show or two: Selling products online can be tough, especially if you are a new fashion brand because people want to see and feel the product. We hosted four trunk shows throughout the campaign (unfortunately, we came up with this idea a bit too late into our campaign) and because of these trunk shows, we were able to show the brand in action on social media which did bring added attention to our campaign.

Trunk shows also helped keep up the momentum and eventually, turning interest into pre-orders, email sign-ups, followers, etc. Most importantly, because of the trunk shows, we were able to share images of our products on “normal” or “non-model-esque” women.

> >TIP: Find a location to host a trunk show where you can get good foot traffic. Also, think about asking friends to host private, more personal trunk shows amongst their friends.

DO be creative and have giveaways: People love the word “free”; anything anyone can get for free, whether an item or knowledge, will peak their interest. Offer an item, a selection of items, or a donation on their behalf in exchange for emails, follows, and/or pledges. Sometimes we need a bit of encouragement to find a reason to give a part of ourselves.  

>> TIP: Consider having small items to giveaway at your trunk shows in exchange of email addresses.

kickstarter

DON’T:

DON’T forget to have your products related to “real women”:

It helps to have “real” women/men (depending on your product) wear the clothes and/or use the product. When I say, “real,” I don’t mean fashion influencers or professional brand ambassadors; I mean people like you and me. Ask “real” people to wear the garments, take pictures and talk about how great the product is on their social media accounts.

>> TIP: Create a list of friends and/or acquaintances who would love to wear your products for a day. Create a hashtag that will help increase awareness about your brand.  

DON’T let people procrastinate: People truly do procrastinate and it is up to you to find a way to get them motivated to make a pledge and to pledge right now. It will be vital to find different ways to motivate people to act “now.” This is a hurdle throughout the entire campaign.

>>TIP: Be creative in your incentives; they truly need to give the audience something in return.

DON’T feel bad about approaching people: This was difficult for me because I am not much of an aggressive person in this way, but you will have to personally message people individually and ask them to consider pre-ordering and/or making a pledge.

Most of our pre-orders came from personally messaging people about our mission and campaign. The response you get will surprise you. Most people were gracious and extremely honest and the best part about the messages was the words of encouragement that were sent back.

>> TIP: Don’t get upset or frustrated with the rude people; there are always the people with no compassion for your honest hard work. Just ignore them.

kickstarter

DON’T get caught up with bloggers/brand influencers: During this process, I have definitely made great connections with wonderful bloggers and/or brand influencers. It is important to know that not all bloggers and/or brand influencers are created equal.

You will find some who are just interested in making money and not truly interested in sustainability and or properly promoting your brand. Find those who are genuine to your cause.

>> TIP: Pay bloggers/brand influencers who you know do honest work and who create write-ups that excite their readers about your brand.

DON’T give up: I think you can prepare, over prepare and then over prepare the wrong way. No matter what happens when you launch your Kickstarter campaign, remember you have 30 or so days to reach your goal.

I have to admit, I completely freaked out the entire first week of the campaign, ask Shannon. Plans A, B and C completely fell through for us and for a few days I was having no luck creating new ideas to promote the campaign. Luckily, I found a great group of women to network and brainstorm with and together they helped us reach our goal.

>> TIP: Gather a list of your network and resources, you will never know who will be able to help you when you find yourself in a bind.

Launching our collection via Kickstarter was a great way to get our brand out into the community and to move forward with production. We now know, that as a first time user of Kickstarter, you are definitely in for an experience. Good luck and much success on your launch!


Dina Chavez SixChelDina Chavez is the founder and designer of SixChel, an Austin, TX based sustainable fashion brand for the modern woman. She studied Costume Design at The University of Texas-Austin and Fashion Design at The Academy of Art University. Ms. Chavez’s looks have been shown at New York Fashion Week, Fashion X Austin, Fashion X Houston, Fashion X Dallas, The Pin Show (Dallas, TX), The Gotham City Films Studio (Los Angeles, CA) and have been created for Austin based rockstar, Kimberly Freeman for the Grammy Awards.


crowdfunding cta

own business

A couple of weeks ago, this question came up in our private Factory45 Facebook group:

“Does anyone have tips for communicating your ‘side hustle’ to your current employer? I want to start talking about my business online, but my bosses follow me and I am worried about their perception…”

If you’ve started a business or plan to start a business, while also working a “real job” to pay the bills, then you’ve probably pondered this same question.

While everyone’s situation is unique, I thought it would be helpful to hear from three past Factory45’ers who launched their companies while also working for someone else.

We’ll start with one Factory45'er (who wishes to remain anonymous) and launched a line of womenswear in 2016. She has not told her employer about her business.

How long did you work at your day job while you were starting your company?

Anonymous: I currently still work at a “day job” while also running my company on the side.

How did you feel about your employer potentially finding out about your business? Why did you decide not to tell them?

Anonymous: I decided not to tell my employer because I didn’t want to risk losing my means of salary that was crucial to funding my own venture. I also thought it would create unnecessary tension that I wanted to avoid.

Did you do anything to keep your business secret?

Anonymous: A couple of my coworkers who are close friends know about my business. For everyone else, I mostly refrain from connecting on social media where they may see postings about my clothing line.

What was the ultimate outcome?

Anonymous: It honestly hasn’t been difficult for me to keep my business a secret from my employer. For over a year I’ve been able to continue gaining professional experience from another company while also developing my own clothing line.

Should You Tell Your Boss You’re Starting Your Own Business

On the other side of the spectrum, Tiffany and Colleen who launched in 2015 and 2017 respectively, both told their employers about their “side hustles.”

How far along were you in starting your company when you told your employer about it?

Tiffany: I didn't have an intentional conversation with my employer about starting my own business, but I didn't make any great efforts to hide it either. I'm friends with so many colleagues, including supervisors, on social media (and in person) and it would have been pretty impossible to keep it a secret from them. That said, they found out when the rest of my social media network did and I launched my website online.

Colleen: I was about three months into Factory45 before I told my boss. I eventually had to because I often had to stop at my pattern maker in the AM or had to leave early to pick up fabrics, etc.

How did you feel about it before you told them and why did you end up deciding to tell them?

Tiffany: I was pretty nervous about the idea of them finding out, but I also knew that as long as I was doing my job well, it shouldn't be a problem and I always made my “real” job the priority. I'm a pretty open person and it would have ultimately been harder for me to keep it from them in the long run.

Colleen: I felt a little nervous because I didn't want them to think I was slacking at my current job as a project manager.

How did your employer react?

Tiffany: There was a point that one supervisor expressed that, while she didn't mind that I had my own business, others in the company could take issue with it. She cautioned that I should be as discreet as possible about it. Another supervisor, while I know he knew about it, never spoke to me about it. Another supervisor willingly gave me tips on how to pitch media and was super supportive. The reactions were all pretty predictable and mostly encouraging.

Colleen: They were understanding, but made it a point that my project management position came first. I always felt a little on pins and needles, juggling both jobs and feeling a little timid about asking to leave early.

What was the ultimate outcome?

Tiffany: Several of my co-workers, including one of my supervisors, ended up buying beach towels. A couple of them (myself included) even kept them handy at our desks and used them as a light blanket in our freezing office. I'd take off days here and there for trade shows and pop ups and really liked that I didn't feel like I had to be sneaky about what I was doing. A year after I launched my business, I was a part of a series of layoffs. There had been a lot of movement in the company, so I wasn't surprised, and truly don't think it had anything to do with me having my own business. While money has been tight, it's also been the most freeing thing to happen to me.

Colleen: I ended up quitting the full-time project management job and moved on to be a consultant. Now, I occasionally go into the office and work from home. Definitely not always a consistent paycheck, but I have much more time and a flexible schedule. It just got to be too challenging to stay on top of my project management position and start a clothing company.

 


 

So, there you have it — three different scenarios and outcomes.

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” decision to be made about whether or not to tell your employer, you probably already know in your gut what’s best for you.

 

 

 


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woman running during seaside sunset

“I’ve decided to run a marathon,” my friend told me last week.

“Oh, uh, you are? I didn’t realize you were, like, a runner now,” I not-so-subtly replied.

“I’m not, but I bought this book,” she says as she hands me a paperback copy of The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer.

I open it up to Chapter One and read the first sentence:

We human beings have a unique capacity to make our own reality.

Now, to be clear, I’m not a runner either. You could call me more of the “yoga / leisurely walk” type…

But this overly simple perspective on what it takes to complete a rather complex physical feat had me intrigued.

The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer is based on a “Marathon 101” class taught by the University of Northern Iowa, which has been taken by over 200 students.

The theory behind both the book and the class is simple:

To run a marathon is less about what physical shape you’re in before you begin training, and more about your mental ability to decide to do it, and then simply — do it.

The strategy is based on a four-month, four-day-a-week workout plan for non-athletes who have no running background.

The goal is to realize that you are capable of more than you ever thought possible.

Months of training?

No previous background?

Capable of more than you thought possible?

Training for a marathon was starting to sound a lot like the experience of Factory45.  

In this age of instant gratification — when we can have food delivered in 20 minutes, get 50 “likes” on an Instagram in an hour, and find a date with a swipe to the right — it’s easy to get impatient with long-term goals.

It’s just not that glamorous to put in the hard work —

Especially with social media constantly reminding us of how perfect everyone else’s business and life is.

But the truth is, if I set out to run a marathon tomorrow — without training for months — I wouldn’t make it anywhere near the finish line.

The same goes for starting a company.

If you’re not expecting to put in the time, dedication and right attitude, then it’s probably not for you.

The process of building a business is no different than the process of building endurance for distance running:

You take one step at a time.

And you take those steps knowing that it’s not always going to feel good, but it’s going to be worth it.

Just as one runner says in the book, “By staying relaxed, centered, and positive you can handle just about anything that comes your way.”

Because the truth is, if you don’t keep putting one foot in front of the other, then you’ll never find out how far you really could have gone.

 


 
 
 


entrepreneur workspace with laptop iphone and planner

When I was growing up my parents always said,

“Work hard and it will pay off.”

When I knew I really shouldn’t sign up for that AP Biology class I did it anyway because, you know,

“I’ll just work harder.”

When I made an audition tape for an internship with Nike, I scripted out the entire four-minute video, storyboarded each shot and had multiple costume and set changes, because well,

“They’ll see how hard I worked.”

When I applied for a fellowship with NPR, competing against thousands of top-tier journalism grads, I told myself, I’ll get it because…

“I work really hard.”

Turns out, I got a “C” in AP Biology, didn’t get the internship with Nike and wasn’t even asked for an interview with NPR.

(My parents also have many words of wisdom for dealing with disappointment.)

Of course you need a hearty dose of hard work to accomplish your goals.

But the disclaimer of “hard work pays off” should be, “it’s also no guarantee.”

This was never more apparent than when I became an entrepreneur.

I quickly learned that hard work isn’t going to get you that much farther than the entrepreneur next you. 

Because working hard is simply a given.

I’ve spent the past 2.5 years working with and observing other entrepreneurs who have set out to start businesses of their own.

A lot of them work hard. And some of them don’t.

But there are other qualities that make far more of an impact:

>> They’re resourceful. I don’t mean they can forage for wild berries and make a bonfire with two twigs, I mean they have an attitude of, “I’ll figure this out.” Successful entrepreneurs know that every problem has a solution and they aren’t afraid to take action to find it.

>> They’re willing to take risks. Deciding to start your own business feels like a huge risk in itself, but it’s just the first one. Your entire entrepreneurial career will be made up of opportunities to take more risks.

Unfortunately, the word ‘risk’ typically comes with a negative connotation. Most of us were taught to follow the straight and narrow path that has road signs with the word “Conventional” along it.

One of the best things I ever did for my own business, and peace of mind, was start trading out the word ‘risk’ for ‘experiment.’

I’m experimenting with this marketing strategy… I’m experimenting with this type of business model… I’m experimenting with hiring this person…

>> They’re not easily derailed. The true test of an entrepreneur is when things go wrong. How will you handle it? Will it be the end of the world and cause you to curl up in the fetal position? Or will you look at it as an opportunity to try something new and come up with a new solution?

Real success is a series of baby steps and the entrepreneurs who break apart from the pack are the ones who keep their energy up.

They don’t let a tech glitch destroy their mood. They don’t let a confusing email from a supplier derail their focus. They don’t let a botched sample force them under the covers.

I once had an entrepreneur friend tell me that she starts working at 10am and is done by 5pm because, “She gets more work done during that time than the average person gets done in a 12-hour day.”

Needless to say, I appreciated her honesty.

Hard work is not the same as productivity, or attitude, or impact.

Successful entrepreneurs know that “working hard” is just another day at the office.

 


 
 
 


Ever since I graduated in 2008, I have been some sort of entrepreneur. Ironically, my worst grade in four years of college was in my “Entrepreneurship 101” class (heyo, Professor Rossi).

What I realized later on — that they don’t teach you in an academic setting — is that entrepreneurship has very little to do with getting good grades and is so much more about being able to take a risk.

My first experience with big risk-taking was during my senior year of college when I bailed on the law school entrance exam and booked a one-way ticket to Australia instead.

That one decision completely changed the trajectory of my life, and I spent two post-grad years bartending and traveling around the world, from Australia to Southeast Asia to South Africa.

When my parents thought I was coming home to get a “real job,” I would only stay for a few months, bartend every night, save up more money, and leave to travel again.

fashion entrepreneur

When I eventually returned to the States in 2010 I brought my wanderlust and relentless craving for adventure with me.

I had once been the girl who envisioned herself in the corner office — but after two years abroad, I knew that I would never get a “real job.”

I wanted to create something bigger than myself. I wanted to start a business that would allow me to wake up every morning and go after my dreams. Maybe you can relate… I didn’t want to help build someone else’s dream.

It was a divine twist of fate when I got a Facebook message from a friend shortly after I got home. She said she was going through a “quarter-life crisis,” dreading the possibility of sitting in a cubicle all day, and suggested we start something together.

That “something” turned out to be a sustainable clothing company.

Of course, it didn’t happen immediately. Little did we know, we were about to embark on a three-year journey into self-discovery, entrepreneurial freedom and the pursuit of living life on our own terms.

Our plan was to create a company that would be 100% made in the USA, using fabrics and materials that did the least amount of harm to the environment as possible.

It was called {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable clothing company for female travelers and minimalists, and it prompted my early exploration of conscious consumerism and the practice of living with less.

fashion entrepreneur

I learned about the downsides of fast fashion: the environmental damage, the humanitarian violations, and the psychological effects of modern-day consumer culture.

These realizations completely changed me, and I decided to dedicate my career to creating a more conscious world where people see the power of voting with their dollars.

That’s all to say, we quickly found out that having a “vision” wasn’t enough. We were naive, unversed in industry lingo, and had zero connections in the fashion industry. It became obvious very early on that what we were trying to accomplish wouldn’t be easy.

We spent money on the wrong things, made every mistake possible, wasted time pursuing leads that ended in dead ends and continuously took two steps back with every one step forward.

Looking back at the emails I sent to fabric suppliers, I now know that my inquiries surely got a swift click of the delete button. I didn’t know how to talk to industry veterans, I had no idea how to walk “the walk,” and it showed.

But after a year and a half, having nearly depleted both of our savings accounts, the stars aligned.

fashion entrepreneur

We received a response about a private label inquiry we had sent on a whim to a general contact form. After a few meetings, we made the decision to source and manufacture our first production run under the guidance of a company who had done it before.

The company was a startup itself but was farther along and had the production infrastructure that we lacked. They also had the knowledge, connections and reputation that we needed on our side.

After pushing forward solo for so long, we had found someone to take us by the hand and walk us through the process.

We had finally found the mentorship we needed.

More doors opened at the end of 2011 when we launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first production run of our signature piece, the Versalette, one garment that can be worn over 30 different ways.

fashion entrepreneur

What happened over our 30-day campaign far surpassed our wildest dreams. Not only did we acquire nearly 800 new customers, quadruple our first production order and attract the attention of The New York Times, but we finally saw a year and a half of hard work pay off.

Having gone through a unique entrepreneurial journey, I had developed a set of skills that were totally unexpected. I knew from my experience with the Versalette that breaking into the fashion industry was very difficult, and I wanted to make it easier for other aspiring entrepreneurs to do the same.

It’s my hope that I can continue to foster a space for creativity and collaboration while helping others start down their own path towards creating a business.

In the last few years, I’ve helped entrepreneurs all over the country set up supply chains in the U.S., source sustainable materials and bring their products to market.

fashion entrepreneur

Factory45 is the program I created for entrepreneurs, like me, who have a vision and a plan but need the mentorship, framework and resources to get started.

If you have your own plans to launch an apparel brand, I hope you’ll consider joining me through your journey. Mentorship is the very thing that pushed my first company forward and I would love to do the same for you.

 


 
 
 


Factory45 Success Story

Over the past two months, a certain Factory45 entrepreneur has taken our community by storm.

“How did they move so fast?!”

“Their campaign was incredible!”

“I can’t believe how gorgeous their photography was!”

This community has blown me away with their support and kind words for the latest success story to come out of Factory45.

Yes, I’m talking about VETTA, the five-piece capsule collection that can make up a month’s worth of outfits. All sustainably sourced and ethically made in New York City.

So… how did they do it?

That’s what I want to share today with the hope that you’ll see inspiration and motivation in what VETTA created and take away some wisdom to apply to your own startup.

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I first met Cara Bartlett, one of VETTA’s co-founders, at a coffee shop in South Boston over a year ago.

At the time, I was in the middle of my second Factory45 cohort and Cara had recently left RueLaLa to go full time with her ethical fashion blog, Bien Faire.

We chatted about the fashion scene in Boston, she gave me some recommendations for ethically-made wedding dresses, and we parted ways with plans to host some sort of future event together.

Several months later, when I opened applications for the Factory45 Fall program, I was so surprised to see that Cara had applied for her company, “TBD.”

While she and her co-founder, Vanessa, had been brewing up dreams of starting their own line together, they needed help finding sustainable fabrics, choosing a manufacturer and coming up with creative ways to market the brand for a Kickstarter launch.

I guess you can say the rest is history. I accepted Cara into Factory45 and from day one, she hit the ground running at full speed ahead.

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Here’s what I’ve observed, after working with Cara for the past six months, that can be attributed to VETTA’s success:

>> Cara was working on VETTA full time. My philosophy and the mantra that my Factory45’ers hear over and over is: You have to take the entrepreneurial journey that’s right for you. Is it possible to launch a brand in six months? Yes. Is it possible for everyone? No.

Many of us have obligations, work, children, partner’s and other life “requirements” that take priority over our businesses. If you’re serious about launching a brand on the timeline you’ve laid out, though, then something has to give.

You either have to accept the fact that your brand will take 1-2 years to launch or you have to commit to dedicating everything you’ve got to the 6-8 month timeline you’ve laid out for yourself.

In the past, Cara has driven from Boston to New York City five weekends in a row. She’s flown to South Africa to meet with her co-founder in person. She’s traveled to Los Angeles for a whirlwind few days to shoot her lookbook and video.

When planning your launch timeline you have to figure out what’s right for you. Cara and Vanessa knew they wanted to launch a March 1st Kickstarter from the day they submitted their Factory45 application on September 21st. They kept their eye on the prize and didn’t miss their mark.

>> They built an audience before they launched. VETTA is unapologetically not for everyone. Cara and Vanessa identified a niche and an ideal target customer and invested six months into building a very specific and dedicated audience.

They grew their email list, Instagram following and Facebook page and with the help of beautiful photography, they strategically “teased” out their upcoming launch. They were able to get their target market excited about what they had to offer so that “early adopters” were ready and excited to purchase the VETTA collection as soon as it was available for pre-sale.

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>> They leveraged their network. During and after their campaign, VETTA caught the attention of some impressive press. While some of that was organic, for example The Boston Globe, Cara has told me they unabashedly called upon friends of friends of friends for help.

They networked their way into a meeting with VOGUE to start developing a relationship with the magazine. They tapped into the Factory45 network of suppliers and manufacturers to set up their supply chain. And as a result, they’re working with the same factory in NYC who creates many of Rag & Bone’s garments.

If you are creating something beautiful, intentional and good for the world, people will want to be apart of it. Don’t let fear get in the way of making the “ask.”

>> They had a “share-worthy” story. VETTA could have gone one of two ways. 1.) A collection of sustainably-and-ethically-made womenswear, 2.) 5 versatile pieces that mix + match to create a month’s worth of outfits.

Which version is more compelling? The difference in those two soundbites drastically affects your chance of becoming a “share-worthy” story. When it’s interesting, different and easy to communicate you’re much more likely to tell a friend about it.

I’ve written before about launching a Kickstarter campaign for my first company, {r}evolution apparel, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to leverage a concise message and story to represent your brand.

VETTA did just that and gained the attention of WHO WHAT WEAR, Brit + Co., Darling Magazine, BostInno, VentureFizz, The Wall Street Journal and other well-known press.

More than that, though, they gained the attention of 527 new customers.

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This is all to say that VETTA reached its $30,000 goal in five days and was featured by the Kickstarter Staff as a “Project We Love.”

By the end of their 30-day campaign, they had nearly tripled their goal to raise $88,954. Shortly after, Cara and Vanessa competed in the Sak’s Emerging Designer Showcase and won. Their second capsule collection will be available in Sak’s Fifth Avenue stores in the near future.

It goes without saying that I’m so proud of what VETTA has been able to accomplish and I want to emphasize that this kind of success is not out of reach for the aspiring entrepreneurs who may be reading.

It’s not going to be easy — but as Cara and Vanessa can attest, it will be worth it.

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of VETTA and Sak’s Fifth Avenue


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How do you ensure success? Who stands out from the crowd? What separates the pros from the amateurs?

There aren’t any definitive answers. And I’m not even going to begin to try and analyze them. What I will say, is that over the years, I’ve been observing. Working with startups and new entrepreneurs on a regular basis has provided rare insight into what makes one person get ahead of the rest.

Here are five way to set yourself up for success that go beyond conventional wisdom:

1.) Make it easy to help you.

Most people are excited and willing to help out new entrepreneurs. But the likelihood of connecting with someone who is more seasoned in the industry is largely dependent on how you make the “ask.”

The first and most obvious way to sabotage yourself is by writing an inquiry email that scrolls on for block paragraph after endless block paragraph. In most cases if you’re looking for advice, the person you’re seeking out is busy.

I implore you, keep your email to no more than two to three short paragraphs. Your chances of getting a response are incrementally higher and I promise you’ll come across as more professional — and more effective.

Bonus tip: ask a specific question. Avoid using phrases like, “Can I pick your brain?” Instead, ask the exact questions you want to know the answers to. Once you have your foot in the door and get a response, you can follow up from there.

2.) Write thank you notes.

They don’t have to be handwritten and shipped via snail mail, but if someone takes the time to jump on a call on your behalf, follow up with them. I’m always surprised when I block out a free 30 minute call to answer someone’s questions and I never hear from them again.

Regardless if the advice was good or not, it’s common courtesy to express gratitude to someone who gave their time to you.

This is especially applicable when a contact goes out on a limb to introduce you to someone. It makes that person and yourself look bad if you don’t take the time to follow up afterwards.

Good things come from gratitude. And the most successful entrepreneurs show how much they value the people who helped them along the way.

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3.) Start before you’re ready.

Should I launch now? Should I get more real world experience first? Should I go back to school? Only you know the answer that’s right for you, but my recommendation to most aspiring entrepreneurs is to start before you’re ready.

Building a business requires a long runway. It’s not only about the amount of hours in the day that you spend on your business, but the months and years that you take building up to it. As I tell my entrepreneurs (on repeat), launching a successful company is a marathon not a sprint.

The sooner you can start fleshing out your ideas, seeking out mentorship, connecting with industry peers and educating yourself, the better off you are in the long run. The old cliche usually holds true: Tomorrow you’ll wish you had started today.

>> Tess, that one was for you : )

4.) Be consistent.

The entrepreneurs who get ahead are calm and collected. They’re methodical, they’re strategic and they don’t get easily frazzled.

Can’t figure out how to link up your domain to your server? “No problem, I’m sure tech support can help me.”

First sample came in two sizes too big? “No worries, I’ll speak with my factory and have them fix it.”

Kickstarter video is low quality? “No big deal, we’ll reshoot.”

When you’re first starting out, your attitude and the way you handle challenges are going to dictate how you respond in the months or years of your business to come. The entrepreneurs that get ahead know there is a solution for everything. And sometimes the solution falls under the guise of a better option.

Building a business is not an overnight endeavor. It requires consistency of action, which means not giving up if something doesn’t work the first time.

5.) Ask for help.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Nobody builds a successful business by doing it on their own. That’s right, nobody.

The entrepreneurs and mentors you see online or in fashion magazines are all getting help, seeking out mentors of their own, building advisory boards and seeking out further education.

In the past six months, I’ve taken three online courses, countless webinars, hired a consultant and sought out a mentor myself. This is in addition to the five part-time employees that help me build my business.

Solopreneurship is a farce. If you want to get ahead, then you have to seek out help from others and continue to invest in yourself.

That’s what separates the amateurs from the pros.