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launching your brand

“We don’t work with new designers,” he said to me matter-of-factly.

This was back in 2014 when I was just starting Factory45 and networking with potential manufacturers for my entrepreneurs. 

He went on to tell me that startups aren’t “worth their time,” newbies don’t have any money and there’s too much hand-holding that’s required.

I politely thanked him and hung up the phone. But I remember thinking: 

I’m going to change that.

So for the past 6+ years, I’ve made it my mission to educate aspiring entrepreneurs who want to create a clothing or accessories brand but don’t know where to start.

In this video, I’m sharing five tips to save you time, money and frustration when it comes to working with factory partners. Click the play button below!

Have you reached out to a production partner before? How did it go? What questions do you have? Leave a comment for me over on this video.

 

 

 


Manufacturing Kit

pen and paper

“So, what are we looking at timeline-wise?” I asked my creative director as we mapped out a new project.

“Well, it will be about two months for the first launch and around five months for the second one,” she replied.

Five months?! That puts us into 2021!

I thought back nostalgically to launching Factory45 in 2014. I came up with the idea around March and it was live the next month.

That “lean startup model,” that had worked so well for me in the past, was feeling very far away.

In the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, you’re told to get a minimum viable product out into the world. You’re told to stay lean, fight perfection, and test the market.

These are still my favorite ways to launch a business.

But when you’ve been running the same company for 6+ years and you’ve built a brand and a track record, you simply can’t come out with a half-assed idea.

Because everyone is expecting a certain caliber.

And a “certain caliber” takes time. 

You’re dependent on other people, other schedules, and it’s just more… complicated.

I know what you’re thinking:

“What I wouldn’t give for a team! You’re so lucky to have resources around you, you’re so lucky to have experience and credibility!”

And those things are all absolutely true. 

My point is, entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily get easier. 

It just gets complicated in different ways. 

You go from struggling to connect your email provider with your landing page in year one — to struggling with pressure and expectations in year seven.

That’s all to say, if you’re planning on an entrepreneurial career for the long-haul, it really is the best.

But I would also say, appreciate where you are right now.

If you’re still in the early stages of launching your first business (it probably won’t be your last), then there’s a unique opportunity in that.

You’re learning more than you ever could in school just by doing and taking action.

And you have freedom — freedom to try new strategies, experiment with different marketing tactics, to explore your voice and your brand.

So, have fun with it. Try to relax. Know that you will make mistakes. 

Remember that every obstacle or “catastrophe” is a turning point in your story.

Because in reality, just by starting a business, you’re doing what 99 percent of people wouldn’t ever do.

And that’s something to celebrate.

 

 

 


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A banner that reads "We who believe in freedom cannot rest"

As I’ve been listening and learning over the past months, BIPOC leaders have been asking brands to come forward with a public anti-racism statement.

This is something that can be viewed on your website, as one way to stand in alliance with Black people and People of Color. 

It’s a commitment to building and maintaining an anti-racist business.

One of the most important parts of this request is for the statement to be made thoughtfully, knowing that the words are nothing without action. 

How will you reallocate funds to Black-owned businesses?

How will you diversify your team and ensure Black representation?

How will you represent Black Folx in your marketing and branding, without perpetuating tokenism?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a more equitable brand.

In July, I added my anti-racism statement to the Factory45 website after working with a DEI coach to ensure I could uphold my commitment.

And the intentions behind my words have been a primary focus this summer, as they will continue to be.

So, I have two calls to action for my fellow business owners and Factory45’ers today:

1.) Create your own statement and publish it publicly on your website (if you haven’t already). My statement is above the footer of my website if you scroll down. Feel free to use the words to make it your own, as mine is an adaptation from Rachel Rodger’s Anti-racist Small Business Pledge found here.

*It goes without saying, but the actions are more important than the words. This is not a marketing tactic or a branding opportunity, rather it’s a way to hold your business accountable to the commitment you’re making.

2.) If you haven’t made it a priority to reevaluate your business and how it can be more inclusive and diverse, then I have a free exercise for you here. It was inspired and guided by another DEI consultant Erica Courdae.

This public declaration is one step.

It’s one small thing we can do to ignite change.

And there’s no question that the world needs it.

 

 

 

 

do hard things

The other night I was listening to a podcast with a neurologist who specializes in psychology.

She was talking about neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself with new neural pathways.

(Stick with me.)

She said that by the age of 25, your brain relies on so many existing connections that it’s hard to break free of them.

Which is why, for example, it’s so much harder to learn a new language after the age of 26.

But the neurologist explained that in some cases, the medical field is starting to see people in their sixties who have more neuroplasticity than people in their late twenties.

Why?

Because they’re willing to do hard things.

A wordsmith who practices Sudoku puzzles, a mathematician who writes a novel, a Japanese person who learns Danish, a person with dyslexia who practices crosswords.

She said that the level of challenge should leave you exhausted and completely spent. 

As I was listening to her speak, I started thinking about the Factory45 entrepreneurs I’m currently working with to launch their clothing brands.

Right now, they’re in the thick of it.

We are about halfway through the program and most of them are tackling new skills and challenges that they’ve never encountered before.

Tech issues, design challenges, writing, negotiating, creating and organizing… 

I hear from many of them about how much this process is pushing their comfort zone.

But as entrepreneurs, that is what we want.

Because we can do hard things.

We should do hard things.

And there’s the science to back it up.

So, here’s my message to you:

Whether you’re pulling your hair out on the first day of virtual learning with your kids —

Or building a website with no clue how to design or code  —

Or spending hours on your business idea so you can create another income for your family —

I’m here to tell you, you can do hard things.

We can all do hard things.

And our brains will be better for it.

 

 

 


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strategy

“Huh, I’ve never put it like that before…” 

I was reading a book by an internet marketer that described a strategy to grow any online business.

As the author described the strategy that he’s used again and again to scale his software company to $100MM (without investors), I realized something.

What he was describing was the same process I had used to launch my clothing brand back in 2011, it was the same process I had used to launch Factory45 for the first time in 2014 and it’s the same strategy I teach today in the Factory45 program.

He had just put a name to it:

“Your Dream 100.”

As I continued reading, it dawned on me that the reason I love this strategy so much (and have used it for nearly a decade) is because it’s timeless.

We live in an age when marketing trends literally change by the month. One platform is hot, the next year it’s not. One strategy sells like hotcakes for a few weeks and then it flatlines.

While so many online businesses — particularly fashion brands — are dependent on the whims of Facebook and Google advertising, this strategy doesn’t require a cent.

And it will never go out of style.

Here’s how it works:

Your “Dream 100” is a list of 100 brands, influencers, media, podcast hosts, bloggers and business owners who have one particular thing in common —

Their existing audiences are made up of your ideal target customer.

In other words, the people following them on social media, reading their blogs, subscribing to their email lists, and listening to their podcasts are the same people who would love your brand and the products you’re selling.

In the Factory45 program, we make this a list of 20 but 100 is even better if you can do it.

Once you’ve made that list, the next step is to “dig the well” with your Dream 100 — i.e. build relationships.

So before you ask to write a guest post for their blog, or be a guest on their podcast or review your products, you have to put in the time commenting on their Instagram posts, replying to their email newsletter, leaving a review on their podcast, etc.

Like any business relationship, you give before you take.

The question you’re asking yourself is, How can you serve this person who has an audience you want to get in front of?

Once you’ve taken a few months to build these relationships, then you can make the ask.

The best part is that after you’ve been on their podcast, or done an IG Live together or written a guest post, then it’s a million times easier to ask them to promote your products and brand.

And here’s how the numbers pain out:

If just 30 people out of your Dream 100 agree to promote your brand, and each of those people has a minimum of 10,000 followers, that’s 300,000 new people who could potentially be introduced to your brand.

There’s no way to get that kind of free reach on your own.

And even better, this isn’t a strategy that will ever go away — the platforms and methods may change, but relationship building is timeless.

When I started my sustainable and minimalist fashion brand nearly a decade ago, my then co-founder and I used the year leading up to our launch to build online relationships with all of the minimalism influencers, travel bloggers and fashion writers that we possibly could. 

It resulted in us raising enough money to quadruple our first production run.

When I launched Factory45 in 2014 I reached out to 50 eco-fashion bloggers, media outlets and sustainable fashion influencers and wrote 25 guest posts and interviews in two weeks. 

It resulted in me selling out every spot in the six-month program, having never run an accelerator before.

The Dream 100 is truly the strategy, that if you commit to it, that will serve your business for years to come.

And it’s this same strategy that I’ll continue to use this Fall as I build my newest project.

Stay tuned for more on that : )

 

 

 

P.S. The book is called Traffic Secrets by Russell Brunson and it just hit the New York Times bestseller list this week. He gives the book away for free on his website — you just have to pay for shipping.


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white fashion business

This is not another templated blog post telling you that Black Lives Matter.

This is a call to action.

Over the past week or so, I have absorbed more education about one subject than I have about anything else in my life.

From articles to books to conversations to webinars, I have been processing what it truly means to be a white ally to BIPOC, what it means to do anti-racist work — and more importantly, acknowledging my unearned privilege in a system that was rigged to my benefit. 

Brands across all industries are being called out for their implicit (and yes, explicit) biases, and we’re realizing that we can all do better. 

Most of us have heard the expression, “We are not born with ‘isms.’ Racism is taught.”

And just as people aren’t born racist, most businesses aren’t born racist either.

The vast majority of entrepreneurs don’t start companies to deliberately suppress people of color.

But here’s the thing:

Most of us don’t go into business with plans to amplify and support people of color either.

Our passive decision making is directly harming anti-racist work. By not putting diversity and equity at the forefront of our core business values, we are not only contributing to the problem… 

We are the problem.

We simply cannot continue business as normal, without addressing the fundamental flaws of the sustainable and ethical fashion industry and it’s white-washed behavior.

As a leader in this space, someone who encourages people to start sustainable fashion brands for the good of planet and people, it is my responsibility to ensure that we’re starting brands that are good for all people.

I also recognize that there are professionals in diversity and inclusion training that will do a far better job teaching anti-racist business principles than I can.

So today, I want to introduce you to one of those people.

Erica Courdae is the CEO of a hair and makeup business that disrupted industry standards to consider the beauty of those not regularly featured. 

After decades of experience in creating a space for dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion, she is now a consultant and coach for businesses that are committed to being imperfect allies of BIPOC.

On Thursday, June 18th, sponsored by The Garment, Erica is teaching a webinar exclusively for fashion brands about how we can be better allies.

“Step into a reality that isn’t the one you inhabit every single day. This is where the growth happens.” — Erica Courdae

Erica is being compensated for her time, knowledge and skills, but the webinar is free for you to attend. You can register here.

I will be there with an open mind, listening, learning and challenging myself to dig deeper in how I can commit to doing the long-term work.

Because believe me, there isn’t an overnight solution in showing up

The point is to continue showing up — within yourself, within your family and within your business.

If we truly want to live in an equal and just world, then there’s no other option.

See you next Thursday here,

 

 

 

 

Want to take action right now? Rachel Rodgers is hosting a Town Hall for small businesses TONIGHT at 6pm ET / 3pm PT. You can register here.


I know we’ve all been inundated with resources, but here are two links that have particularly stood out to me. 

*Note: If you’re sensitive to explicit language, then you may want to skip.

White Apathy & The Bullshit Argument that “They Could Help Themselves If They Really Wanted To” by Ash Ambirge

Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (If you can’t commit to 30 minutes, then just watch the last two minutes.)

 

fashion entrepreneur

Do you want to make the leap from the traditional fashion industry to the sustainable fashion industry?

Or maybe you want to start off as a sustainable brand from the get go.

Sustainable and ethical fashion is a constantly growing industry, especially as more consumers are becoming aware of how important it is to planet and people.

So, where do you start?

Today, I’m sharing the three most important aspects of a sustainable fashion brand and what you need to make sure you know how to do.

 

 

If these three things are already top of mind for you and you’re ready to get started, then applications to Factory45 are now open HERE!

To changing the fashion industry,

 

 

fabric sourcing template


designer woman walking in california

The other day I was on a podcast interview, and the host asked me how I reach big goals.

I’ve shared with you before that I’m not a goal-setter in the traditional sense. Instead, I focus on the small “action steps” needed to achieve big goals.

And that’s where I started in January of this year.

The “goal” was to create a new brand video for Factory45 that would portray the experience of being an entrepreneur in the program.

I had a vision of what the final video would look like, but I really didn’t know how to bring it to life.

I’m not a filmmaker, I’m not a script writer and I’m certainly not an actress.

So, I got out a notebook and I made a list of all of the things that would need to come together to make this big goal happen within the budget that I set.

Hire experts who do this professionally… write a script… edit, edit and re-edit the script… approve a storyboard… find an “actress” for the video… hire a voiceover… lay out a timeline… create a shooting schedule, etc…

Thankfully — and this is always applicable advice — we started working on the video so far in advance that we finished filming two weeks before we got stay-at-home orders.

Advanced planning paid off more than ever this year.

So, how did it all come together?

I hired Drew and Kestrel of Falcon Related, who have worked with me before to create the Factory45 portal videos.

Jen Long, who is the founder of Noble Carriage, happens to live in San Diego (where I’m based right now) and she was willing to be our actress. 

She also happens to be the consulting client I worked with in 2014 who inspired the idea for the Factory45 program — how’s that for a full-circle moment?

Holly Stavnes, the co-founder of Left Edit, provided the voiceover for us — and she also went through the Factory45 program in 2017.

That’s all to say, the new brand video came together in such an authentic and genuine way that I couldn’t have planned it better in January if I tried.

It’s a lesson in trusting the process, setting up a plan of action and following through on the little steps to make it happen.

Anyway, you can see for yourself — just click the play button below : )

 

 

 


Factory45 Mentors

photo montage of factory45 alumni mentors

Every year that I launch Factory45, I spend a good portion of my energy thinking about this:

How can I make this year more impactful, more helpful, more supportive for the entrepreneurs that come through the program?

Because the truth is, if you’re not always striving to improve your business then you’ll start to lag behind.

So whether it’s filming new videos, updating the content, redesigning the Factory45 portal or providing more personal support, I’m constantly working throughout the year to make sure Factory45 maintains its uncompromising quality.

So, that begs the question,

What am I doing to enhance the Factory45 program this year?

…drumroll please… 

I’m so excited to announce that we’re adding:

Factory45 Alumni Mentors!

For the first time ever, participants of the 2020 program will be matched up with a Factory45 graduate who is currently running her own sustainable fashion brand.

These nine hand-picked women will provide text messaging support, virtual coworking sessions and additional guidance for small groups of Factory45’ers who will work together throughout the six-month program.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the nine Alumni Mentors for the 2020 program! Click the play button below.

If you want to start creating your own sustainable fashion brand, and you’re looking for the behind-the-scenes guidance of someone actually doing it, then applications to Factory45 open in one week!

In the meantime, I’ll be on Instagram Live today at 1pm ET / 10am PT to share more details about the Alumni Mentorship program. 

Simply go to @factory45co today, anytime after 1pm ET / 10am PT, and you can watch me live (or watch a recording) to hear more about what’s in store for you and our Mentors.

I can’t wait for you to meet them!

 

 

 

P.S. Thank you to EditMate for putting together this fun video for us — I told the Mentors, I can’t stop smiling when I watch it : )


fabric sourcing

 

designer sourcing fabric

When I was starting a sustainable fashion brand back in 2011 I spent close to a year reaching out to fabric suppliers.

After months of dead-ends, it felt like we would never find the perfect fabric we needed for our product.

Admittedly, our standards were high. 

My then co-founder and I were looking for a 100% recycled fabric that was spun and knitted in the United States. 

We didn’t even know if that fabric existed.

But by some miracle, we eventually connected with a knitter in North Carolina who could sell us the fabric we needed.

The only problem?

The supplier’s minimum order quantity (MOQ) was over 1,000 yards. As a startup brand, who hadn’t even sold anything yet, we couldn’t begin to place an order that large.

But we also knew we couldn’t let this fabric pass us by. 

So, what did we do?

We negotiated.

(In a rather unconventional way…)

And in today’s video, I’m going to tell you how we did it so that when you find your perfect fabric you’ll know how to do it, too.

Enjoy!

 

 


fabric sourcing