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what to expect

What to Expect from Factory45 in 2018

Every year, June feels like January. It’s the month that truly feels like the “new year” for me.

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was first starting out was to create a schedule and plan for my business that I wanted to follow.

Schools start in September. Corporations end their fiscal year in December. Well, Factory45 starts in June.

Because, hey, I’m the boss and I get to decide.

(Also, good advice: You don’t have to follow other people’s rules.)

With that said, I’ve been looking towards the coming months and planning for the year with a refreshed spring in my step — it’s a wonder what warm weather will do…

So, here’s what’s going on and what you can expect:

FACTORY45

Last week I onboarded this year’s entrepreneurs for the 2018 program of Factory45! This is my fifth year and sixth cohort to come through the accelerator program and every year the caliber of applicants gets more and more impressive.

The majority of my time and focus for the remainder of 2018 will be focused on helping them build their businesses. And I’ll be sharing more about what they’re all working on in the coming months.

PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT

For the next six months, I’m teaming up with Joyelle West, one of Boston’s most talented photographers for a project that I’ve been thinking about for over a year now. Through our collaboration, I’ll be sharing, promoting and showcasing Factory45 products, as well as other sustainable and ethical brands, on Instagram.

You’ll be able to follow along here.

THE MARKETPLACE

The photography project will lead up to the launch of the first-ever… drum roll… Factory45 Marketplace! (Name to be determined.) I am SO excited about this and it’s been long overdue to have an online store to sell some of the Factory45 brands that have launched through the program.

I’ll be sharing more about the process of creating the marketplace with my web designer, Emily Belyea Creative, and you can expect it to be live for holiday season 2018.

TEXWORLD

Thanks to my pal Nicole of StartUp Fashion, I was invited back to TexWorld USA this year to speak on a panel about funding your fashion startup.

I’ll be in New York City for the independent designer meetup, as well as the panel, on July 23-24.

Designers and startups can register to attend for FREE here.

THE CROWDFUNDING FACTORY

Speaking of funding your fashion startup, this topic is my bread and butter. I love teaching low-barrier-to-entry ways of raising money so that you don’t have to go into debt to start your own company.

Throughout the year, I’ll spontaneously open enrollment to my other course, The Crowdfunding Factory, that teaches you how to fund your fashion brand through pre-sales and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

If you don’t have money in the bank to pay for your first production run, I created this course for you.


Between all of that, I’ll be over here doing my mom thing! Baby Lohr turned five months this week, and I’m trying to soak in these early days (as sleep deprived as they may be!)

Wishing all of you a wonderful start to the summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you’re in!)

I’ll be back next week with more free startup advice, entrepreneurial musings and the like : )

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

Where to Start

What To Do When You “Don’t Know Where to Start”

“I don’t even know where to start,” I thought to myself.

It was three weeks before my maternity leave was ending, and I was looking at a calendar next to my to-do list.

Pack for Cape Town, finish the baby’s daycare applications, schedule a photoshoot, hire someone to run digital ads, get a haircut for the first time in six months…

I had a million things to do with half the time to do them and everything felt like a priority.

Sound familiar?

Whether we’re really busy or starting something new or feeling pulled in a bunch of different directions, it’s normal to feel a sense of paralysis.

And the statement that most often comes up is:

I don’t even know where to start.

I know you know what I’m talking about because one of the most common questions I’m asked is:

Where do I start?

I get email after email from people who have an idea for a clothing line or product but they don’t know how to make it happen.

How do I know what fabric I need?
How do I create sketches if I can’t draw?
How do I organize all of my ideas? And which one should I choose?

Instead of zooming in on one thing to tackle first, they find themselves paralyzed by the overwhelm of everything else.

And they end up doing nothing.

The thing is, starting a clothing company is a lot more straightforward than people think. And so much of the process can be tackled by…

Simplifying.

That means when you think you should be doing more you should actually be doing less.

And over the next three weeks, I’m going to prove that to you.

If you have dreams of launching a fashion business I’m going to show you how you can simplify and start.

I’m going to walk you through the first THREE steps you need to take to start your company.

And the best part is, each of these three steps will take no longer than an hour to do. (Actually, each one will probably take less than 30 minutes!)

My goal here, and the goal of the Factory45 program, is to make “I don’t know where to start” obsolete.

My goal is to show you that “knowing where to start” is a lot easier than you think.

Next week I’m going to send the very first step to my subscribers. You can sign up here to get it in your inbox.

(It will be especially helpful if you’re one of those people who “can’t draw.”)

Talk soon,

 

factory45 owner shannon

 



 

How to Make Next Year Better than the Last: Your Business in Review

I’ve mentioned before that I’m in a “mastermind group” with Nicole Giordano of StartUp FASHION and Lorraine Sanders of Spirit of 608.

We meet once a month via video conference to discuss our businesses, bounce ideas off of each other, ask questions and problem solve.

Most of the time it ends up being half business strategy and half mental cleansing – I always hang up the calls feeling reinspired and refreshed.

Yesterday we had our last meeting of 2017 and the focus was centered around a “yearly review” of our businesses.

This one hour together ended up being especially clarifying — I think sometimes you just need to hear yourself say your goals out loud — so I thought I would pass along our outline to you.

Even if you’re not in a formal mastermind group, you can grab a couple of other small business owners (they don’t have to be in your industry) or you can go through the questions on your own.

Here’s how you can follow what we did:

FIRST 25 MINUTES: HIGHLIGHTS OF 2017

We each spent several minutes processing through the last year, sharing what went well and what didn’t go so well. For example:

What went well for me:

  • I re-launched The Crowdfunding Factory in February and transitioned the course to rolling enrollment.
  • I spent the spring rebranding the Factory45 website with Emily Belyea Creative. I hired a graphic designer to create content for the 2017 launch, and I worked with Falcon Related to reshoot the on-camera videos for the Factory45 program.
  • I opened applications for the the Factory45 2017 program, exceeded the number of applications from the previous year and started working with a new group of awesome entrepreneurs.
  • I spent the summer building Factory45 Global and launched the program for international entrepreneurs in September.
  • I co-hosted two live events and spoke at another one.
  • Factory45 wrapped up on December 1st which brought me to the end of the year and a much needed break!

What didn’t go well for me:

  • I had plans to launch a “Factory45 Marketplace” last spring but it didn’t happen. I realized I was trying to do too much in too little time, so it got pushed off as a non-priority.
  • I tried to outsource my Instagram content strategy and it was a total bust. The agency I hired was a huge disappointment and we parted ways shortly after.

As each of us went through our highs and lows of the year, we also allotted time to interject and ask questions, but for the most part it was stream-of-consciousness talking with little interruption.

LAST 25 MINUTES: GOALS OF 2018

We spent the second half of the call focused on goals and plans for 2018 — the big picture items, if you will.

One thing I find really helpful in this part of the call is to make affirmative statements about your plans. So, instead of staying “I want to…” or “I’m going to…” say “I will… “ For example:

  • I will open applications for both Factory45 and Factory45 Global in May and they’ll run together as one six month program in 2018.
  • I will spend the summer working with my designer to build the online store for the Factory45 marketplace, launching holiday season 2018.
  • I will spend the fall creating Factory45 2.0 (actual name TBD), which will be a new online program for product-based startups that are past the “launch phase.”

During this part of the call, we spent a lot more time asking each other questions, offering suggestions and giving constructive feedback. I highly recommend finding people to do this with who will be honest and upfront with their thoughts.


So, here are some prompts to ask yourself (and your peers) in your own yearly review:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go as planned?
  • What do you want to accomplish next year?
  • What steps do you need to take to make those accomplishments happen?
  • Which goals take priority?
  • What are your deadlines / launch dates?

Again, honesty (and realistic goals) is the best policy.

Happy year-end planning… no spreadsheets, budgets or accountants required!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

5 Tools to Help You Run a Smoother, Easier Fashion Business

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 owner shannon

 

 

Raising Money For Your Fashion Startup with Fashion Brain Academy

A few weeks ago I got an email from Jane Hamill of Fashion Brain Academy:

“I’m wondering if you’d like to be a guest on my podcast to discuss raising money for a product-based business.

Walk us through the way to do it RIGHT including what to do and what NOT to do.”

I could talk about raising money for your brand all day, so of course, I jumped at the chance to be on the podcast.

If you don’t know Jane, she’s a veteran of the fashion education world. She’s a former clothing designer, has had her work featured on CNN, WWD, Entrepreneur and InStyle, is a regular speaker at DG Expo and has 14+ years of running a successful boutique and wholesale business.

One thing she admittedly doesn’t know as much about is crowdfunding, which is why this interview was so fun to record. Jane was learning as we went and asked the questions that many of you are probably wondering, too.

Some of the topics we cover in the interview are:

>> What to do in the first 7 seconds of your crowdfunding video
>> How to tell your story to get people to back you
>> The 3V’s of a successful crowdfunding campaign
>> How to set your crowdfunding rewards for backers
>> Price points that work best for a fully-funded Kickstarter
>> How often to email people about your crowdfunding campaign
>> And much more.

You can watch the whole interview for free here or listen to it as a podcast.

Here’s some of the feedback we’ve been getting:

“Phenomenal information – so much to think about!”

“Really great! So much to think about, but this was so straight to the point!”

“All of this is so helpful.”

If you’re thinking about launching your brand or raising money for your brand through pre-sales, crowdfunding or Kickstarter, then this is a must-see… if I do say so myself ; )

Watch or listen here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

branding lesson

The Minivan vs. The SUV: A Fashion Branding Lesson from Interstate 95

“You know what I just realized?” I say to my husband as we’re cruising down I-95.

“What’s that?”

“A minivan and an SUV are, like, the same thing… they’re just different shapes.”

“Uh huh…” he replies in his best ‘where are you going with this?’ voice.

“They’re pretty much the same size, they provide the same functions, they’re available in virtually the same colors, and yet one of them is considered ‘uncool’ and designated to ‘soccer moms’ while the other is the vehicle of choice by rich athletes, Hollywood stars and rappers.”

“Okay…” (Clearly over this conversation.)

“So, how did it get this way? I mean, why don’t we see Jay-Z driving his kids down Rodeo Drive in a Dodge Caravan?”

“Uh, I don’t know…? Because Beyonce likes Escalades?”


And so it started — another internal dialogue from yours truly about branding and marketing.

When I started writing about this I googled ‘SUV and minivan branding’ to see what would come up.

It was no surprise that both versions of vehicles were intermixed in various lists of “Top 10 vehicles for families” and “Best cars for hauling your kids in 2017.”

I’ve never purchased a minivan or an SUV myself so I don’t personally know what makes buyers choose one over the other.

I’m sure that gas mileage, backseat DVD sets and trunk space all play a role in the decision making — but this post isn’t actually about cars.

It’s about perception.

branding lesson

In any purchase we make, we as consumers are consciously or subconsciously making a decision based on the “aspirational.”

[X product] will make my life easier.

[X product] will make my life more beautiful.

[X product] will make me appear a certain way to my friends / family / co-workers.

Whether you’re purchasing a car for tens of thousands of dollars or a piece of clothing for much less than that, the company selling it to you has the pressure of making you feel a certain way about that purchase.

As small business owners, the pressure on you is no different.

In every marketing decision you make you should be asking yourself, “How is my product being perceived by potential customers?”

And more importantly, “Who is my target market, truly?”

Because if you’re trying to be the SUV when you’re really the minivan, then you’re doing yourself, your product and your company a disservice.

And if it’s the other way around, then you’re also missing the mark.

As the past several decades have shown, there’s a market for both — and the apparel industry is no different.

Your job is to get clear on who you are, who you want to be and to find your place.

Because, let’s face it, the last thing you want is to end up as the PT Cruiser.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


factory45

Here’s What’s Happening in September

I’ve got three bits of news for you and because I know this is a busy time with summer winding down, kids going back to school, college classes starting, I’ll make it quick.

Here’s what’s happening this month: 


FACTORY45 IS FEATURED IN HEMISPHERE MAGAZINE BY UNITED AIRLINES!

september

That’s right, Factory45 is in PRINT and circulating at cruising altitude across the world.

If you happen to be on a United flight this month, check out the September issue featuring a five-page spread on sustainable fashion.

It’s a big, big deal to have this conversation go mainstream, and the article covers common problems in the industry and what different sectors are doing to create solutions.


JOIN STARTUP FASHION & FACTORY45 FOR A LIVE EVENT IN NYC

factory45 startup fashion September

New Yorkers, I’ll be back in the city on September 14th for another collaboration with Nicole Giordano of StartUp Fashion.

We co-hosted a similar event in May for emerging designers at Flying Solo, and we’ll be offering another one this month.

We’ll feature three startup fashion brands (including current Factory45’ers Deklan & Active Joy!) and address current challenges and solutions as a new company.

It’s free to attend but space is limited, so RSVP here – refreshments will be provided by Harmless Harvest Coconut Water : )


GOING BACK TO MY BARTENDING DAYS…

factory45 bartending september

While in NYC, I’m teaming up with my web designer and original partner-in-crime Emily Belyea to guest bartend at Coup NYC.

Coup is a “politically-motivated bar” that donates 100% of its profits to organizations that are either being defunded by the current administration or need money to fight the current administration.

In light of the recent events in Charlottesville and the ongoing demonstrations of white supremacy and hate-speech across the country, Emily and I will be donating all of our proceeds and bartending wages to Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that advocates for civil rights, justice and equality while fighting hate and bigotry.

If you’re in NYC or have friends in the city, join us on 9/13 for a night out that’s worth your time, money and attention.


Have a great week, everyone!

 

factory45 owner shannon

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

Should You Tell Your Boss You’re Starting Your 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.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Factory45

Contemporary swimwear

Introducing Gala Maar: Contemporary Swimwear for the Modern Muse

This is an interview with Factory45’er Blakely Wickstrom about the launch of her brand Gala Maar, contemporary swimwear for the modern muse. Blakely took a pre-sales strategy to launch her first collection through her online store. Read on to learn more about her company and hear her advice for new brands.

Tell us about your products and company. What do you make?

Right now, I’m producing women’s swimwear and being as sustainable as possible throughout the entire process — from my fabric, made of discarded fishing nets, to sourcing the only made-in-the-USA pad inserts and everything else in between.

The construction is very high quality and the design is more timeless than trend driven, with the intent being that the swimsuits should last my customer an especially long time. Swimwear is the beginning — I’m hoping to expand the product range with every season to grow into an ethical resort lifestyle brand.

Contemporary swimwear

From the beginning, you had a very strong vision for your branding and aesthetic (hello, Instagram). Can you tell us a little bit about how you got so clear on the brand direction you wanted to take and the inspiration behind it?

Coming up with the aesthetic direction was probably the most fun and organic part of the process. For my Instagram, it started with just opening myself up to all the things that inspire me and saving the images to my Pinterest without giving it too much thought.

From there I was able to organize and hone in the branding and be more strategic about what I posted. In the swimwear market, there is not a lot of diversity in the type of imagery brands choose to use. Typically it involves a “perfect” woman on a tropical beach, which is fine but I wanted to do things differently and to portray the qualities of a contemporary woman beyond shallow attributes.

When creating my own campaign images I think the most important part was hiring a photographer who was a natural fit. I loved the way Amanda Bjorn captures her subjects and how comfortable and intimate her photographs are. When casting the models I picked three girls I found super inspiring, from a dancer/ choreographer to an artist. They were all unique beauties and gave their own je ne sais quoi to the project.

And then there was the stunning location of Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson and apprentice, Eric Lloyd Wright, a compound high above Malibu which was a perfect mix of nature and architecture, my biggest inspirations aside from the female form.

contemporary swimwear

You’re one of my Factory45’ers who was really conscious about being patient and taking your time with the process. You didn’t rush your launch – can you tell us more about your journey with the pre-production process?

In all honesty, it was more the process than my patience that didn’t rush the launch. Finding my fabric was the first step and what really set the course for my business. I did some googling and discovered that they had an office in NY so I made an appointment and met with the US sales rep. Swimwear is super technical and when your goal is quality and fit, finding the right manufacturing partner is essential.

I did encounter multiple situations where the quality or communication wasn’t working out and I had to move on. Going to trade shows was key, talking to as many people as possible and making the connections so there were options and a point of reference. Although frustrating at the time, I am thankful for the way things played out as it allowed me to really hone my product, message, and branding.

Throughout this time, did self-doubt ever creep up? How did you get past it?

Quite often! Something I remember very well from the Factory45 program was your advice to celebrate the small victories, which I think is key. That and being able to reflect and see how far you have come.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed and get caught up in all the things you have to figure out and the laundry list that only seems to grow so it really helps me to reflect on all the obstacles that I have overcome. Entrepreneurship is undoubtedly a rollercoaster of emotion so you just have to welcome it, roll with it and keep checking things off the list.

What has been the best thing about launching and seeing your idea come to fruition?

After working for others for so long it’s really great to be able to see an idea through from start to finish and the crazy amount of learning that goes into the process is very fulfilling. I feel like I am finally being able to live my truth and practice my ethics in a proactive way. Something unexpected which I have really loved is all the amazing and inspiring women that I have gotten to meet and work with as a result.

Contemporary swimwear

What is your best piece advice for a new designer or entrepreneur that’s just starting out down this road?

I would say be open to the course things take. The path won’t always go how you planned and it might be the best thing for you in the end. Also, check the mundane things off the list as soon as possible. Once your launch is on the horizon you will be happy to have things like your shipping and return policies, website copy and sales forms already in place.


To shop contemporary swimwear for the modern muse, visit Gala Maar here. To read more about Blakely’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

NPR How I Built This SproutFit

How Factory45’er SproutFit Landed an Interview on NPR’s “How I Built This”

As many of you have already heard, Factory45’er Whitney Sokol, founder of SproutFit, was featured on NPR’s “How I Built This” last week!

The wildly-popular podcast has featured guests like Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Sara Blakely of Spanx and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS and at the end of each episode, host Guy Raz highlights one of his listeners working on his or her own startup.

I was so excited when Whitney emailed me to say NPR was interested in her story and of course, I wanted to know all of the details.

If you’re wondering how to successfully pitch big-time media opportunities, Whitney has shared all of the nitty-gritty details with us. Read our interview below:

NPR’s “How I Built This” is a big deal! How did you go about making that happen?

Thank you! One of my good friends suggested I check out “How I Built This” last year, and I quickly became obsessed with listening to these inspiring entrepreneurs. Every episode either motivated me or encouraged me to keep pushing, and I needed to hear those affirming messages.

A few months ago, that same friend urged me to pitch my story launching SproutFit to the host, Guy Raz. Just a few days after an email pitch, I got a call from NPR saying they wanted to set up an interview.

Can you share the exact email you used to pitch your segment for the show?

It was through Guy Raz’ website, and here is the exact message I sent him (quite long… I know):

Hello, Guy!

Obsessed with the How I Built This podcast – it’s more addicting than potato chips. And, as a problem-solving mompreneur using my corporate career to fund my passion for challenging the conventional, ultra-wasteful approach to clothing babies, I’d love to share my story with your listeners.

Plus, as a dad, you might appreciate that my inspiration came from sitting inside my infant son’s closet, cursing at onesies through bleary eyed delirium.

SproutFit is an adjustable, sustainable baby clothing company thoughtfully designed with growth spurts in mind. We were recently 142% funded on Kickstarter and #BackedByAxe (Showtime Billions’s fictitious Axe Capital VC – meant to bring to life the core values of Axe Capital by supporting real-life innovative companies on Kickstarter).

Before my son Beckham was 12 months old, we had accumulated totes upon totes of clothes he grew out of, or never got to wear. When something finally fit him comfortably, a month later he needed the next size. It became time-consuming and frustrating to weed through clothing that wasn’t solving any of our problems – in fact, they just created more.

Babies triple in weight by their first birthday and will outgrow at least 7 traditional sizes between 0 and 24 months. Parents know and anticipate this when creating a baby registry and prepare for baby’s arrival.  In essence, childrenswear companies have gotten away with creating the fastest revolving door in fashion (even in comparison to brands churning out new styles every week!).

For the worst offenders of fast fashion consumption, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who replaces their entire wardrobe 7 or more times in 2 years. But, blindly, that’s what we parents expect to endure with our babies. I felt duped and wanted to change the paradigm.

Modern, minimalist and sustainable in both design and materials, SproutFit saves parents time, money and hassle. The first collection includes short and long-sleeve bodysuits, reversible leggings for double the outfits, bandana bibs and essential blankets.

Let me know if you have availability to discuss further should you have an interest in speaking with me.

All the best to you,

Whitney Sokol


A Note from Shannon: I want to highlight a few reasons why this pitch works really well – even though it’s longer than a typical pitch. First, it’s very obviously personalized – in the second paragraph, Whitney says “Plus, as a dad, you might appreciate…” Generic pitches rarely work and the sooner you can show you’ve done your research the better.

Second, in the third paragraph, Whitney uses the social capital she has already earned to set herself apart from some of the other pitches NPR receives. She shows proof of concept by mentioning how much she surpassed her goal on Kickstarter and uses a well-known name like Axe Capital to keep the reader’s attention.

Third, and most importantly, Whitney pitched a compelling *story* that NPR’s target audience would resonate with – she’s not trying to sell her product. There’s a huge difference between writing an engaging pitch and writing a commercial. Whitney nailed it.

NPR, Sprout Fit, interview

How did you feel before the interview? Were you nervous? Any imposter syndrome? If so, what did you tell yourself to overcome it?

After a fact-finding call, they scheduled the actual interview to take place the morning after I was supposed to arrive at a conference across the country. Because the interview required me to have one phone to speak into and one phone to record on (and I only had a cell phone), I sucked it up and held the call in my hotel room, knowing I’d be incurring hundreds of dollars in long-distance phone charges!

That part didn’t exactly ease my nervousness. You should have seen me pacing around the room – making sure the air conditioner was off, drinking tea so my voice wouldn’t crack, arranging my notes like I had OCD… yes, I was just a little nervous!

A quote that I repeat when I’m feeling the imposter syndrome sneak up is from H. Jackson Brown:

“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.”

It helps level my outlook and speak to the person instead of getting caught up in being intimidated by their success. So, after a couple minutes into the call, I hit a stride and the nervousness melted away.

That is until the call was over and I realized I hadn’t been recording on my iPhone. I felt my chest and face get hot and actually cried in the shower. I was SO mad the entire day of meetings!

After letting the HIBT team know about my mistake, they said they’d circle back with me soon and that it happens all the time. The whole day I felt like an idiot. Like I blew it.

Not thinking they’d be calling me back, I got back to my hotel room late that night and recorded some of the answers to the questions I remember them asking. I wanted them to know that I respected their time, and at that point, I didn’t have anything to lose!

The next afternoon, they emailed me and we reschedule. I was so relieved! The second time around went much smoother. Maybe it was a blessing the first one didn’t get recorded.

How has the reaction been? Did the episode drive traffic to your site?

The reaction has been very positive. I’ve had multiple orders, 36x more traffic to my site and engagement on social media. It’s amazing how far social proof goes for a small business, especially if it’s in the form of a mainstream outlet like NPR.


To listen to Whitney’s segment, fast forward to the 40:00 minute mark of the “TRX: Randy Hetrick” episode here (or just listen to the full episode – it’s excellent). And to check out Whitney’s startup, SproutFit, go here.

 

factory45 owner shannon