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How to Know If You’re Ready to Invest in Your Fashion Brand

So, here’s an unpopular (secretly popular) topic:

Money.

More specifically, how to start a business when you don’t have a lot of money.

If you scour the internet, you can find enough stories of multi-millionaires who started from zero, eating chickpeas out of the can while sleeping on their friend’s futon.

But there’s a less extreme version of this, and it’s far more common.

It’s the story of the woman craving a creative outlet. She’s managed to save a small “safety net” of cash and even has some disposable income at the end of the month.

She sees acquaintances on Facebook breaking out on their own.

And she wonders to herself, how did they do it?

What do they know that I don’t?

So she starts to research.

“How to start a clothing line,” she types into Google.

From Marie Claire to WikiHow to “Startup Bros,” she faces 938,000,000 search results.

Overwhelm begins to set in, but she makes one conscious choice:

To take the first step.


This was my reality in 2010.

I was just starting out, trying to launch a sustainable fashion brand, and I had no idea what was what or who was who.

The entire industry was a mystery to me with limited access.

Nevertheless, I committed to putting $5,000 into a business bank account as an investment in a company I didn’t yet have.

I’ll never forget transferring that hard-earned cash as one lump sum, knowing that it was all of my savings and probably money that I would never see again.

It was a calculated risk, and there were no guarantees.

When I look back on that first bank transfer I remember it as the first of many times I took a risk for my business without knowing how it would turn out.

Nine years later, I now know it’s the name of the entrepreneurial game.

Whether it was investing money into a Kickstarter campaign I wasn’t sure would be successful or hiring a business coach or buying the numerous online courses I’ve enrolled in, what I’ve learned is this:

You have to be willing to invest in your business before you know it’s a sure thing.

I don’t mean that you should take out a second mortgage or drain your 401K, but you have to be willing to spend money to start or grow a business.

There is no way around it.

So, how do you do this without succumbing to the fear of bankruptcy and homelessness?

Create a “worst case scenario” plan.

Over the years, I’ve always told myself that if I lost all of my savings I could jump behind a bar and start pouring drinks again. As much as I hoped my bartending days were over, I knew that I could make cash quickly if I had to.

For you, it might be nannying or waitressing or admin or cleaning houses or freelancing.

Depending on how dire your “worst case scenario” plan is, having one can do two things:

  1. Be an indication that you’re not ready to take action on your business.
  2. Or liberate you.

It’s the litmus test you need to make a big financial decision.

So, secret #4 is this: To start a successful business, you must be willing to invest in uncertainty.

Because there is not an entrepreneur I know who got their company off the ground for free.

 

 

If you’re ready to invest in your idea and start your dream business, let’s do it together. Applications to Factory45 open on May 15th…


This is a multi-part series, celebrating the five-year business anniversary of Factory45. If you missed “secret #1” you can read it here, if you missed “secret #2” it’s here and “secret #3” is here.

 

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business secrets

5 Secrets to 5 Years of Business

Five years ago, I had no idea what in the world I was doing.

I was saying goodbye to my first company and although I knew it was the right decision, I couldn’t help feeling lost.

For the first time in years, I didn’t have direction.

I tried freelance consulting, writing a book, wardrobe clean-outs, working for a self-help author, all the while bartending in between.

After a year of falling haphazardly from one thing to the other, I finally bit the bullet and hired a business coach (that I could just barely afford).

And I finally started to feel reinvigorated by entrepreneurship.

I realized that yes, I definitely wanted to start another business  — but it took several months to get clear on two major things:

  1. What I wanted that business to look like.
  2. What my “Why” was.

Once I could identify those, and get really specific, everything else seemed to crystallize.

Just five months later, I launched Factory45 for the first time — completely terrified.

Would anyone enroll?

Would the program work?

What if everyone asked for a refund?

In the worst of times, the fear was completely paralyzing. In the best of times, the fear sat in a pit at the bottom of my stomach waiting for something to set it off.

But somehow, I was able to push past the negative self-talk.

And it paid off.

This April I’ll celebrate my FIVE year business anniversary.

*cue solo dance party AND an oat milk latte*

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of celebrating your wins.

So, that’s what we’re going to do.

While I would prefer to have everyone over for a champagne toast, we’ll have to keep the party on the internet.

For the entire month of April, I’m going to share my five secrets to staying in business for five years.

They were definitely secrets to me when I was first starting out.

I promise, these won’t be “teamwork makes the dreamwork” cliches.

I’m talking about real, tactical advice with the personal stories and proof behind them.

I’m excited to share them with you.

Next week I’ll share the first one, so keep an eye out : )

 

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Oh, and here are the results from last week’s survey! I asked which “entrepreneur type” you are (as a reminder, here is the original post) and here are the results below:

business


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How to Be More Productive as a New Entrepreneur

I looked up from my computer and thought to myself,

“Man, I should really be working.”

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

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

“Oh, so I was working.”

Has that ever happened to you?

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

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

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

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

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

Some even say it’s the secret to happiness.

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

I know, no pressure.

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

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

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

What do you do then?

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

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

1. Prioritize

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

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

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

2. Ambience

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

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

3. Challenge

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

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

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

4. Energy

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


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

I must have found the PACE to just… flow…

; )

Your turn.

factory45 owner shannon

 


relationship to failure

What’s Your Relationship to Failure?

The other night I was watching an interview with comedian and screenwriter Tina Fey.

She was talking about the highs and lows of her career, the missteps and the slip-ups and then she said started telling a story about her early days in stand-up comedy.

She was recalling the multiple times that she performed a set, only to leave the stage in complete misery.

No laughs, no engagement from the crowd — hardly any giggles of pity.

And then she said this:

“Everyone should experience the feeling of bombing.”

I sat with that for a minute, and I started to think about my own experiences of failure.

Like the time I spoke at Eco Fashion Week in 2013 and could barely get the words out of my mouth.

Or the time I tried working for someone else and got fired three months in.

Or the myriad other times I didn’t land the internship or the fellowship or get into my dream school.

Everyone should experience the feeling of bombing.

Because the highs will never feel as high as the lows feel low.

Tina Fey is a New York Times bestselling author, she has a net worth of $45 million, she’s won 9 Emmy Awards, 3 Golden Globe Awards, 5 SAG Awards and the list goes on.

Do you know how she got there?

By failing time and time again… and not letting it stop her.

It’s a cliche story, right?

Everyone loves the hero’s journey and I’m sure you can recount a dozen other failure to success, rags to riches stories of celebrities and athletes.

But what about your own?

As an entrepreneur, regardless of whether you’re established or aspiring, what is your relationship to failure?

Because I can tell you this:

To thrive in this industry and for your business to survive, you have to be okay with mistakes, mishaps, discomfort, frustration and yes, failure.

The only other alternative is fear.

And do you know what fear of failure does?

  1. It stifles creativity.
  2. It promotes procrastination.
  3. It feeds into victim mentality.
  4. And it holds you back from your true potential.

And I don’t think that’s a world that any of us want to live in.

So, the next time you’re tempted to hit the panic button before you can experience the feeling of bombing, I want you to pick one of these Tina Fey originals and hold onto it:

“It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. Perfect is boring.”

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

Or, my personal favorite:

“Confidence is 10% hard work and 90% delusion.”

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


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

 



 

hard work

Does Hard Work Really Pay Off?

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.

 

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How to Define the “Why” Behind Your Business

Last week, I was having celebratory drinks with a friend right around the time applications to Factory45 were closing.

“So…” she asked. “How did it go?! Did you have a lot of awesome people apply?”

When I told her yes, that I doubled the applicant pool and grew by 156%, her next question was:

“What’s next then? Are you going to blow this thing up or what?”

I took a sip of my drink, giving me time to try and come up with an answer that wouldn’t disappoint her.

“I don’t think so…” I said. “I like keeping things relatively small and manageable. I like having work / life balance and not being overwhelmed by a ton of other commitments.”

As the words came out of my mouth, I knew how they sounded.

Unambitious, at best.

Lazy, at worst.

My friend, on the other hand, runs a women’s clothing brand and is gunning for an IPO.

Her and her business partner dream of ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, having hundreds of employees to manage, and working out of a big corporate headquarters.

Me? I just want to be able to go to yoga at noon on a Tuesday.

While there was once a time that I dreamed of running a 7-figure business, the “why” behind my work has changed over the years.

And having been on both sides of the spectrum, I can tell you there isn’t a right or a wrong motive for doing business.

What can get you in trouble is deciding to start a company and not having a “why” at all.

Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, the “Lean In” movement, feminism and the amazing work that female executives are doing to boost leadership, women business owners are being pushed to want it all.

Yes, we hear, you can be a CEO and be a really great mom.

And while I believe that’s absolutely true, it doesn’t mean that you have to want it.

Is it okay to start a business so your family has an extra $1,000/month in spending money? Yes.

Is it okay to start a business so you can quit your full-time job and be at home when your kids are done with school? Absolutely.

Is it okay to start a business so you can work remotely and travel the word? Of course.

And YES, it’s also okay to want to be the next Tory Burch.

At the very beginning of the Factory45 program, I ask all of my entrepreneurs to write down the “vision” for their company in a one-page business plan.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we should all be asking ourselves to write down the “vision” for our lives, as the owners and creators of our businesses.

As you take this big step and make the commitment to embark on entrepreneurship, ask yourself:

What is my “why?”

What are the personal reasons for wanting to start a business?

Is it for fame, for glamour, for wealth, for freedom, for security, for flexibility, for fun?

As time goes on, your answer can change. But it’s your “why” that’s going to keep you moving past the hurdles and the hard times.

It’s your “why” that’s going to define you as an entrepreneur.

And whether you’re the entrepreneur who comes home at 10pm every night, fulfilled by a hard day’s work, or the entrepreneur who works 30 hours a week and has afternoon dance parties in her home office, only you know what will move you and drive you forward.

Define your “why” and you’ll be that much closer to defining your business.

 

 

Photo credit: Bench Accounting


Factory45 Success Story

Factory45 Success Story: VETTA, the Ultimate Capsule Collection

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.

 

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Photos courtesy of VETTA and Sak’s Fifth Avenue


Market45

5 Tips for Building Brand Exposure

This is a post I wrote for the Ethical Fashion Forum. The original version can be read here.

How do you get your brand noticed? It’s an over analyzed topic. The Internet is oozing with headlines that claim to hold the golden ticket. While viral marketing videos and giveaway contests are obvious answers, they don’t always apply to the startup brand with 46 Twitter followers.

So how can you build your brand for the best chance of big exposure? It starts the moment you begin — when you’re just laying out the groundwork and building the foundation of your company.

I looked at four different companies building brand exposure the right way:

1.) Create a remarkable customer experience.

Walk into a Warby Parker store and you’re instantly hooked. Pristine, white shelves, bright lights, crystal clear mirrors, and eyewear with names like Baxter, Malcolm and Chamberlain calling your name. Try on a pair, any pair, the frames beckons from their shelves.

Once you’ve chosen your style, a spritely salesperson appears with an iPad to instantly take your order. One quick fitting, the exchange of your prescription and information — and voila, your glasses arrive at your address in seven business days.

For those who don’t live near a Warby Parker store? Well, they’ll ship you a box with five different choices and give you five days to pick your favorite. All for free. It doesn’t get much better than that.

warby-parker

2.) Know your target market. (Know them so well that you talk like them.)

If you’ve seen the social media accounts of The Reformation label you’ve remembered them. The company has taken on the role of the “cool girls” of sustainable fashion. Founded by designer Yael Aflalo initially as a side project, Reformation has garnered a cult-like following from some of the hottest names in fashion.

With edgy images, bold messaging, and a distinct voice that speaks directly to its ideal consumer, Reformation is more than a clothing company — it’s a brand that embodies everything its customer wants to be.

The bottom line is: know exactly who you want wearing your brand and speak directly to her — the clothing will sell itself.

reformation

3.) Have one clear, memorable message.

“Modern basics. Radical transparency.” That’s the tagline of luxury clothing brand, Everlane, a sustainable apparel label; that blew up in 2013. If you’ve explored the Everlane brand, then you know what it’s all about — high-quality basics at low price points by cutting out the middleman.

Everlane has found success not by parading itself around as another sustainable clothing company, but by being very clear about what it does and what it offers. It prides itself on being a collection of essentials without crazy designer markups. While most consumers won’t pay the premium that comes with the “ethical fashion” label, Everlane has flipped its messaging to make shoppers feel as though they’re actually getting a deal.

While utilizing a strong Facebook and Instagram following, the brand is clear, defined, and seemingly irresistible.

everlane

4.) Do one thing really well.

Flint & Tinder knows underwear. Founder Jake Bronstein proved it when he raised nearly $300K on Kickstarter for a line of American-made, Supima cotton men’s underwear.

From the beginning, Bronstein didn’t set out to make anything other than underwear. He found a hole in the market and figured out a way to fill that hole. Then he did everything he could to become an expert on the fit, comfort and quality of men’s underwear.

It wasn’t until he found success doing one thing really well with Flint & Tinder that he expanded to a more robust line of men’s clothing. F&T will most likely always be remembered for its underwear because of how it started.

flint-and-tinder-underwear

5.) Word-of-mouth is massively effective.

Each of these four brands has one thing in common. Their primary area of success has been found through word-of-mouth marketing. Brand exposure was built into the early foundations of each company, simply because their customers had something to talk about.

When you find something good you want to share it with the world. That’s what these companies were counting on — and by knowing that from the start, it’s exactly what they got.

Photos courtesy of  , , , , Brand Driven Digital

 

tips, challenges, opportunity

5 TIPS FOR TURNING CHALLENGES INTO OPPORTUNITIES: A CASE STUDY

A Story

Back in 2013, before Factory45 existed, I started working with an early-stage startup in California. We committed to a one-month sourcing project in which I would help them find organic cotton jersey to create a line of eco-friendly baby clothes. They were ideal clients — focused, organized, driven and ready to move fast.

The founder already owned a successful bowtie company, and she was looking to get into a new market with ample opportunity for growth. All of her research pointed to sustainable baby clothing. It’s resoundingly popular in Europe and she figured it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. catches on.

Because I was testing out the early stages of Factory45, our work together was intensive. In addition to sourcing, we had weekly Q+A calls for troubleshooting, brainstorming and problem solving, as well as 24/7 email support for any issues that came up.

During our calls, we dug deep. We asked hard questions about market demand, considered cost and target price points, and hashed out the feasibility of competing with the ‘big guys.’ We got real about the end goal, the values and mission behind the company, and what made the most sense for where they wanted to go.

By the time we reached week three of the project the entire vision had shifted. The business model had transformed from a line of eco-friendly baby clothing to an e-commerce marketplace of curated eco-friendly baby clothing. There was newfound clarity, purpose and drive to deliver what the market demanded and to do it differently.

1.) The early stages are the easiest time to reroute. Don’t miss the turnoff.

My clients could have looked at the hours of research they had already put into sourcing swatches and contacting suppliers as a time investment they couldn’t walk away from. But instead of lamenting about the hours lost, they focused on the hours gained. In the grand scheme of their business, they had saved a lot more time abandoning the original idea rather than holding on and letting go later.

2.) Reframe challenges as opportunities. It becomes your story.

They started to look at the situation critically when they realized how difficult it would be to manufacture a line of eco-friendly baby clothing at the affordable price point and initial order number they were targeting. They would be small players in the marketplace. There were already larger and more seasoned companies in the space. And they saw an opportunity to innovate.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, openings to opportunities are often disguised as bumps in the road. Don’t hold onto the dream so tightly that you can’t see the better option on the other side.

3.) You will lose money. You will waste money. It’s all a part of the process.

Whoever said, “You have to spend money to make money” was right. You also have to lose it, waste it, and spend it the wrong way. At first glance, my clients could have realized we were more than halfway through our work together and they had paid me for a service they didn’t need anymore. Not to mention, we still had another two weeks in our contract. Instead of dwelling on it, they asked if we could update the deliverables to fit the new business model. Of course we did, and by the time we wrapped up the project, we had made enough traction to make up for the time spent sourcing.

4.) The next idea is usually better than the one before it.

The evolution of ideas usually indicates growth and improvement. In most cases, your end product will differ from your initial vision. That’s how it should be. With experience, market response, product testing and additional research, your ideas will get better if you don’t succumb to tunnel vision. One of the greatest downfalls of entrepreneurship is being so “in love” with your idea that you can’t see room for improvement.

5.) Your customers will tell you what your USP is. So get your product out into the world.

Your unique selling proposition isn’t always obvious. Or you think it’s one thing and the market tells you it’s something completely different. If you listen to the response of your customers, they will happily tell you. Oftentimes, it’s more important to get your offering out into the world, so you can gather feedback, reevaluate, adapt and rework. Done is always better than perfect.

Have an idea for a business but aren’t sure how to get started? Download the free One-Page Business Plan exercise from Factory45 here.