Tag Archive for: sustainable fashion

Instagram Growth

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You already know that you need an Instagram account for your fashion brand. But with algorithms always changing, the growth, reach and engagement can feel pretty slow and disappointing… in this episode, I’m sharing three key strategies to grow your following as a fashion startup on Instagram.


You already know that you need an Instagram account for your fashion brand. But with algorithms always changing, the growth, reach and engagement can feel pretty slow and disappointing… in this episode, I’m sharing three key strategies to grow your following as a fashion startup on Instagram.

Okay, so your Instagram account is up and running for your brand. You know you need great photography, to post to your grid and Stories consistently, as well as a bio section that engages your ideal target customer and gives them a call to action. 

Oh, you didn’t know that?

Okay, let’s quickly review:

First, great photography. Whereas high-quality photography has become less important across Instagram as a whole (hashtag authenticity). It’s still pretty important for a fashion brand. Fashion is so much about aesthetics, image and feeling that you really can’t get away with posting a dark, grainy photo to your Instagram grid. General rule of thumb, keep your grid polished and consistent and save the grittier, more raw photos for Instagram Stories where they’ll disappear after 24 hours. You can think of it this way: your Instagram grid is your magazine and your IG Stories is your journal.

The second thing I mentioned is consistency. If you’re really serious about growing your Instagram following and not just using Instagram as a place to showcase, then you have to be consistent about your posting schedule. Otherwise, the algorithm will kill you. Instagram is specifically designed to reward the accounts that post frequently and predictably and to penalize the accounts that post inconsistently and infrequently. They do this through post reach. So the more regularly you post, the more your content will be seen by your followers. The opposite is true, as well, if you’re not posting regularly that your reach will drop and your content will be seen by a miniscule fraction of your audience.

I know, cue anxiety attack. I’m not telling you this so that you’re pushed to be further addicted to your phone and the platform, but more so that you know how important it is to have a posting schedule and plan in place which I’ll talk more about in a minute.

The third thing (and we haven’t even gotten into the three strategies I’m going to teach on this episode yet) is your bio section. When you go to your profile this is the little area under your profile picture and follower count where you can add text and one link. Use that text area to give a very clear and compelling one-sentence description of your brand and then make sure you include a CTA or call to action directing people to the link. If you haven’t launched yet then you’ll want to direct people to your landing page where they can sign up to your email list. If you’re currently selling then this link will go to your online store to shop.

Okay, so with all of that said, let’s get into three main strategies that I want to tell you about today. Let’s say you have a few hundred followers already but you’re having a hard time figuring out how to actually grow your following…


You may have heard this one before, and I’ve already hinted at it, but it truly can’t be emphasized enough. You *need* to create a content calendar. 

Why? Because as I’ve already said, Instagram growth is all about consistency. 

And what’s the #1 way to make sure you’re consistent in posting? Creating a plan in advance and scheduling your content.

Your content calendar does not need to be a complicated spreadsheet with 17 different tabs. Simply come up with 5 content pillars to start. Write them down and then break up those 5 content pillars into smaller topics.

So, one content pillar could be Your Ideal Customer — one topic under that pillar could be the rave reviews you get through your ecommerce store, in your Instagram DMs or in Facebook comments. Turn those short testimonial quotes into graphics that can be posted in your Instagram feed. Another topic under the same pillar could be photos of your customers wearing your products.

When it comes to your Instagram posts on your grid, it’s about quality over quantity. So you don’t need to post to your feed every day. Make a plan to post on Mondays and Fridays or Wednesdays and Sundays and put it into your content pillar with your 5 Pillars.

Once you have the content and are ready to write the captions you can simply use Planoly or Later (both are scheduling apps for Instagram) to schedule your posts. You’ll want to find out when your followers are most active and engaged so that you can schedule your posts around those times.

For Instagram Stories, you can keep those same 5 pillars and sub topics but again, you don’t have to worry as much about quality. Make a point to try to post to Stories every day, or as consistently as you can. The point here is to create a plan and stick to it.


One of the most likely reasons that your Instagram account isn’t growing is because you’re not creating shareable content. Instagram in itself is not a discovery platform anymore — it’s really hard to be exposed to new followers organically.

That means that new followers will most likely find you through other people who also follow you. You can elevate this discovery mechanism by creating shareable content.

There are two types of shareable content that are more likely to be reposted by other accounts. And those are Quotes and Infographics. These are easily digestible pieces of content that your ideal target customer would connect with and repost or share.

Another great way to create shareable content is through cross promotion, partnerships and giveaways with like-minded brands and/or influencers that aren’t direct competitors. You can create content that you encourage other people to share or repost and get discovered by new followers.

And this last strategy is my favorite one — it’s


What does that mean? It means that your customers create content for you. They post photos or videos wearing or using your products and tag you so you can repost or reshare.

A really good example of this is one of my Factory45 entrepreneurs, Fair Seas Supply Co. As soon as the founder, Tiffany, had samples of her organic cotton beach blankets she sent them out to women who were her ideal target customer. She asked them to take photos using the blanket and mention Fair Seas Supply Co. in their Instagram caption. This also generated dozens of beautiful images that she could then repost the photos to her own Instagram account.

Here’s the thing, your audience will likely make more compelling content than you can. Professional photoshoots are important but they’re not necessarily what potential customers want to see on Instagram anymore. People are craving authenticity and realness online, and they want to see real people like them, using or wearing your product.

You can take this strategy up a notch, once you’re continuously selling, by offering incentives to customers to share pictures of your product through contests or giveaways with the chance to win a gift card or something else. Challenges are another great way to give your customer something to do, post the photo and use a special hashtag you give them so you can find it.

When it comes to audience generated content the options are virtually endless.

Okay, so there are three strategies: Content Calendar, Shareable Content and Audience-Generated Content that you can tweak and apply to your own stage of business — even if you haven’t launched your brand yet. The goal here is to ask yourself “What does my customer want to see, hear, watch or connect with on Instagram? What provides value, inspiration or entertainment to them that my brand can provide?

This takes experimentation and persistence. You have to look at the data — what types of posts / Stories / videos etc. get the most engagement? How can you double down and do more of what’s working and scrap what isn’t working?

Remember that this will be an always evolving work in progress so enjoy the journey while you’re in, appreciate every new follower that comes your way and keep going.

Are you working behind the scenes to start a sustainable fashion brand? Maybe you’re working a full-time job and pursuing your brand as a “side hustle” — that’s our favorite type of entrepreneur to work with. If you’re interested in learning more about not only starting, but actually launching, your fashion brand with Factory45, book a call to learn more about working with us. Click the image below to book a call. We’d love to chat and hear more about your business goals.

Podcast Round-Up

To celebrate the launch of our podcast, I’m starting a new monthly email series to round-up all of the episodes of the past month.

This will make it really easy for you to binge the episodes all at once (every episode is less than 20 minutes!)

So, without further ado, here’s what we released in January:

Ep. 01 How to Start a Sustainable Fashion Brand (9 minutes)

You want to start a sustainable fashion brand that’s ethically manufactured and eco-friendly, that’s why you’re here. The question is: Where do you start? What does it mean to be “sustainable” and what are some of the most important things you should keep in mind as you build your brand? That’s what I’m going to share with you in today’s episode.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Ep. 02 This is a Required Trait of a Fashion Entrepreneur (4 minutes)

If you truly want to be an entrepreneur, then it virtually guarantees you will run into problems — in the beginning, it will probably be on a daily basis. But to reach any level of success, problems require problem solvers. There’s no way around it. In this episode, I’m talking about the main trait required of an entrepreneur.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Ep. 03 Write a Business Plan for Your Fashion Brand in 5 Easy Steps (20 minutes)

Back in 2010, I was starting a fashion brand that was sustainably and ethically made in the USA but at the time, I didn’t have any experience in fashion or manufacturing. I was a journalism major in college, my then-cofounder was a business major so when we were first starting out we followed the traditional business advice… And in this episode, I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Ep. 04 Coming Out as a Fashion Entrepreneur & How to Deal with Critics (8 minutes)

In last week’s episode, I talked about entrepreneurship, resilience and the importance of getting comfortable with failure. I argued that resilience is a skill that can be practiced. I also argued that, for most of us, it’s a necessary reprogramming if we learned to avoid failure growing up. And in today’s episode, I want to take this a step further…

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Ep. 05 How to Build a Following Before You Launch Your Fashion Brand (14 minutes)

Today we are talking about a topic that is near and dear to my heart — and it’s something that most new fashion founders generally avoid doing. In this episode, I’m sharing four ways to build an audience before you launch your fashion brand.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Ep. 06 6 Eco-Friendly Fabrics for Your Sustainable Fashion Brand (6 minutes)

If you’re looking for eco-friendly fabrics for your sustainable fashion brand, then this is the episode for you. I’m going to share the pros and cons of six of my favorite eco-friendly fabrics.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Remember, there are additional resources linked below every episode for you to get started and take action : )

“See” you on the Live Show next week!


Eco-Friendly Fabrics

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

If you’re looking for eco-friendly fabrics for your sustainable fashion brand, then this is the episode for you. I’m going to share the pros and cons of six of my favorite eco-friendly fabrics.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Free Supplier Email Templates

Fabric Sourcing Kit


If you’re looking for eco-friendly fabrics for your sustainable fashion brand, then this is the episode for you. I’m going to share the pros and cons of six of my favorite eco-friendly fabrics.

First, I will say, it’s important to know that when it comes to fashion there’s no such thing as “perfectly sustainable.” Our goal as sustainable fashion designers is to do the best we can, always striving to improve our supply chain. On that note, I’m going to go through six of my favorite eco-friendly fabrics:


The first one is LYOCELL (TENCEL)


    • A very fast-growing renewable resource from wood pulp (usually eucalyptus trees) that doesn’t require replanting, pesticides, fertilizer, etc.
    • The fabric processing involves dissolving wood pulp with a non-toxic solvent. Once the process is completed, the solution is evaporated thereby removing the water, and the remainder is reused in the next cycle.
    • Considered a “closed-loop” processing method, which is ideal.


    • Doesn’t always hold dye well.
    • Fabric pills (little balls that fray away from the rest of the fiber).

The second one is HEMP


    • Said to be the most durable of all natural fibers.
    • Grows plentifully in many different parts of the world.
    • Renewable resources, doesn’t require much water to grow, doesn’t require pesticides/insecticides.
    • Long roots, so it doesn’t contribute to soil erosion.
    • Highly absorbent, lightweight, and yet three times stronger than cotton.
    • Very little waste in the production of hemp fabric. 
    • Less harm to farmers.


    • If it doesn’t have anti-wrinkle chemicals applied the wrinkles tend to wear and the fibers will start to break at the collar and hem.
    • Can be labeled organic even if there is a chemical cocktail applied to the fabric in the post-processing.

The third is CUPRO


    • Vegan alternative to silk.
    • Created from a part of the cotton plant that is usually discarded.
    • Low shrinkage.
    • Good moisture absorbency.
    • Naturally wrinkle resistant.


    • Takes up stains easily.
    • Goes through a salt manufacturing process that requires water.

The fourth one is LINEN


  • Natural, lightweight, durable, highly absorbent.
  • Made from long flax fibers — stronger than cotton.


  • Wrinkles very easily.
  • Bleached to prepare for dyeing.
  • Can be GMO.

The fifth one is ORGANIC COTTON


  • GMO-free.
  • Pesticides/insecticides aren’t used in the harvesting process.
  • A field must be pesticide-free for at least three years before it can be certified organic.
  • Typically a better experience for the cotton farmers (there are thousands of suicides linked to conventional cotton and farmers in India).


  • Although there are less chemicals used in the process, “certified-organic” doesn’t necessarily mean the cotton is 100% chemical-free. The cotton can be labeled organic but still go through a chemical treatment in the post-processing. 

And the last one is MODAL, which is very similar to tencel but modal has a slightly more delicate touch and feel. It feels softer and it is often made into lighter and thinner fabrics compared to Tencel.


  • Cellulose fiber made from beech trees, 100% biodegradable, 50% more water absorbent than cotton, holds color and is resistant to fading.
  • Resistant to shrinking.
  • Extremely light and soft.


  • Prone to stretching and pilling.
  • Considered bio-based over natural because of the chemical process to turn it into fabric.

If you’re looking for sustainable fabrics for your own fashion brand, then make sure to download my free email templates that will make you sound like a pro when reaching out to fabric suppliers. The link is in the description of this episode. I’m also going to link to my Fabric Sourcing Kit which provides a list of my top 10 sustainable fabric suppliers that sell sustainable fabrics at low MOQs.


This week I’m featuring one of our most veteran Factory45 alumni, who has a seasoned record of successfully growing a handmade leather goods company.

From tote bags, to billfold wallets to eyeglass cases, LIZ RIDEN pieces are handcrafted in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from American-sourced genuine cowhide as a byproduct of the meat industry.

Founder Liz Frandsen graduated from Factory45 in 2018 and was already running her brand, LIZ RIDEN, when she joined the program. She brings a unique perspective on what it means to value community, continued education and opportunity in the sustainable fashion space.

So, join us on Thursday, Jan. 27th at 12:30pm ET for this week’s episode of Factory45 LIVE! 

There are two ways to watch:

  • Stream on YouTube here
  • Watch in our private Facebook group here.

liz riden

Here are some of the questions I’ll be asking Liz, but be sure to bring your own:

  • How do you market your brand and what are some marketing strategies that have been most effective for you?
  • You source leather material as a byproduct of the meat industry – what does that mean and why is it important?
  • Can you share two mistakes made over the years of running your brand that you’ve learned from?

See you on Thursday!



Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Build a Following

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Today we are talking about a topic that is near and dear to my heart — and it’s something that most new fashion founders generally avoid doing. In this episode, I’m sharing four ways to build an audience before you launch your fashion brand.


Today we are talking about a topic that is near and dear to my heart — and it’s something that most new fashion founders generally avoid doing. In this episode, I’m sharing four ways to build an audience before you launch your fashion brand.

If you know me at all you know I love talking about marketing. I also know that, as a creative, most of you would rather be focusing on the product development and design side of building your brand. Too often, I’ve seen the importance of marketing fall to the wayside and I’m here to tell you why it needs to be a priority for a successful brand launch. So before we get started… 

I first need you to come to terms with the fact that you have to start talking about your product before you’re ready to sell anything. I know this can be really hard for a lot of people because we’re all worried that other people are going to steal our idea. But unless you have tens of thousands of dollars to invest in a PR team, a marketing agency or influencer endorsements, there’s no other alternative. You have to start talking about your brand and your idea to build an audience before you launch.

Okay, so is everyone on board with that? Hopefully you’re nodding your head. If you don’t focus on marketing as much as you’re focusing on your product, then you won’t have a business — you’ll have a hobby because you won’t be able to sell anything.

The next thing you need to know in building an audience before you launch is who your ideal target customer is. Your ideal target customer is your primary target market and this is the person who you want to be thinking about every time you make a branding or marketing decision.

Before you launch, you need to be able to establish an engaged audience of your target customer. What does that mean? An engaged audience is a group of your ideal target customers who are interested and excited about what your brand has to say and offer.

There are four main ways to build an engaged audience and they can be done at any point in starting or growing your business — and again, not to sound like a broken record, but that means you should be implementing these four things before you even have a product to sell.

The first way to build an engaged audience is by getting in front of existing audiences of your ideal target customer.

What is an existing audience? It’s a brand, influencer, platform or person who has the same or similar ideal target customer as you do and already has an engaged audience that they’ve built up. When you identify those existing audiences, there are a few different ways to get in front of them:

  • It could be through strategic partnerships / cross promotion – so let’s say there’s another complementary brand that isn’t a direct competitor, you could co-host a giveaway or contest with them to build your email list and social media followings. So for example, you’re a women’s apparel brand with a target customer between the ages of 45 and 65 and you partner with a jewelry brand with a similar aesthetic that complements your garments and appeals to the same demographic. 
  • Another way to get in front of existing audiences is through content marketing which I’ll talk about in more detail in a bit.
  • It could be podcast interviews (people love hearing the behind the scenes, origin story, etc.).
  • It could be doing a sample run with Instagram influencers that help you promote to their audiences.

There are all kinds of different options – only limited by your own creativity – but the point here is creating partnerships and relationships that provide visibility for your brand in front of existing audiences that aren’t your own. This is a great strategy because you’re not wasting marketing time and resources on your small audience of let’s say 25 people in the beginning. Your focus is on getting in front of an existing audience and bringing them back to be part of your own audience.

The second way to build an audience before you launch is to set up a Landing page + opt-in offer.

The goal here is to: BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST!

You can do this by promoting freebies, called lead magnets, and driving people to your landing page to opt-in for the free gift (it can be a free checklist, short ebook, a guide or something else that provides value to your ideal target customer).

You can use quizzes, challenges and surveys to drive people back to your landing page to opt-into your list.

The bottom line is when you’re thinking about these free offers to entice subscribers, ask yourself: how can you provide value, and how can you build a relationship before you have anything to sell?

The third way to build your following is through word of mouth.  

Through this entire process of building an audience online, you want to create a relationship with your audience so they tell their friends about you.

You can do this by nurturing your email list (sending an email at least once a week) and then making a direct ask to tell their friends and doing the same thing on social media.

And the fourth strategy to build your audience that I’m going to talk about today is through content marketing.

When you create content (whether that’s a blog post, a YouTube video, a podcast episode, a TikTok video, a quiz or something else) and circulate it via social media, the goal is to then drive people back to your landing page so they sign up to your email list.

Content marketing is the primary way that brands build audiences of raving fans, so I’m going to talk about it in more detail than the other strategies I mentioned before.

First, there are a few goals of content marketing, in addition to driving people back to your landing page and email opt-in. Those goals are to:

  1. Build your “Know, Like & Trust” factor
  2. Listen to your customer and have human-to-human conversations (if you’re a good listener, they’ll tell you what they want to hear and see in your content marketing!)
  3. Be memorable! That means saying something different or saying something in a different way.
  4. Show emotion. This goes back to being human and connecting as a human.
  5. Be persistent and consistent. Keep showing up.
  6. Look at the content your competitors are creating and do it better or differently.
  7. Experiment. Double down on what’s working, scrap what isn’t working and always test new types of content.

When we talk about content marketing, there are typically 3 CATEGORIES that we refer to:

  1. Owned Media
  2. Earned Media
  3. Paid Media

For our purposes, we’re going to focus on Owned and Earned Media. Paid media would be content like Facebook ads or Google ads, which I don’t recommend when you’re first starting out, before you have anything to sell and can’t see a direct ROI.

Okay, so what’s Owned Media? Owned media is the type of content marketing that you create and control. Examples are

  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Your email list
  • Your podcast
  • Your YouTube channel
  • Your social media content (even though you don’t technically own it)
  • Your retail display (if selling in person)

What’s Earned Media? 

  • Press
  • Social sharing
  • Word of mouth
  • Product reviews
  • Guest posts
  • Guest podcast interviews

To grow an audience online, you must focus on both Owned & Earned Media but you definitely don’t have to do every single strategy under each category.

My advice is to start with either a blog, a podcast or YouTube channel for your Owned Media. Choose whichever platform comes easiest and most naturally to you – if you prefer writing, then start a blog, if you prefer audio then start a podcast, if you prefer video then start a YouTube channel.

And then focus on social sharing, guest posts and guest podcast interviews for your Earned Media. Then, as you start to establish those areas of content marketing, you can experiment with others. Now, just a quick reminder about the questions everyone loves to ask… Can you do this before you have anything to sell?

Yes! Remember, you are giving away free content that entertains, inspires or informs your ideal target customer.

If you do this effectively, then by the time you do have something to sell, your potential customers are already going to love you, want to support you and most importantly, want what you’re selling. And just as a final note and disclaimer… When people get frustrated because their audience isn’t growing fast enough it’s usually because they expect it to happen quickly. This is not an overnight process! 

Sure, you can buy email lists and followers and it will look like you have a big audience, but I can guarantee a “bought audience” will not result in customers. Both content marketing and audience building require patience, consistency and persistence above all else. Every single new, organic follower or subscriber is something to be celebrated.

Since 2014, I’ve worked with entrepreneurs all over the globe to build audiences before they launched their sustainable fashion brands. This has resulted in our alumni collectively raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in pre-orders by launching their brands to an audience of customers. If you’re interested in learning more about our process, what we teach and how we’ve become the #1 fashion school for fashion brand launches, you can book a call to learn more. Just go to factory45.co/apply – the link is in the description of this episode.


The oven was preheating…   

The ingredients were on the counter…

The recipe was in front of me…

As I stood face-to-face with the mini muffin tin.

It was January 10th – the eve of my son’s birthday – and that could only mean one thing:

The 4th annual Great Muffin Fiasco.

That’s right, since 2019, I have attempted to bake muffins to bring into school for my kid’s birthday.

A simple task, right?

But somehow, every year, January 10th ends with me scraping crumbly remnants out of the tin in an attempt to salvage just enough for each classmate to get one.

This year, I knew to make 24 muffins in an effort to get 12. 

This year, I knew to use eggs instead of chia seeds and water.

This year, I forgot the muffin tins.

(Oh, and the baking powder.)

You would think that a seasoned entrepreneur, a CEO, and an all-around capable human could learn from and handle this task year after year, but as my husband so lovingly put it:

“You’re great at a lot of things, Shan… baking doesn’t have to be one of them.”

And this is what I may have finally accepted after four years… I’m just never going to be that mom.

There are the moms that create train-shaped pancakes on the morning of their four year old’s birthday.

And there are the moms that stick a candle in a piece of peanut butter toast and call it a day.

I am, quite certainly, the latter.

My mistake was not realizing this sooner.

And it’s the same mistake I see new entrepreneurs making every day:

Stop trying to be all the things, do all the things, and force all the things to be perfect.

Can you outsource a few social media tasks to an intern?

Can you stop making Tiktok videos if you really hate being on video?

Can you hire a patternmaker instead of trying to learn a new software?

What can you outsource or stop doing so that you can focus on the things you’re great at?

Because here’s the thing:

You can’t be great at everything – and that’s okay.

It’s also okay to not be great at something and still do it anyway.

You just have to be willing to accept the imperfect version. 

So that when you drop off a container of bottomless minimuffins that resemble a pile of, well… you know… 

You can simply smile at the teacher and say,

“I hope it’s enough.”




  • Ep. 04: Coming Out as a Fashion Entrepreneur & How to Deal with Critics 

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

  • GIVEAWAY! I’m giving away a free 1:1 Strategy Session with me to help launch or grow your brand this year!

Here’s how to enter: 

      1. Listen to Start Your Sustainable Fashion Brand: The Podcast
      2. Leave a review on Apple Podcasts
      3. Screenshot your review and reply back to this email!

*The winner will be chosen on Monday, Jan. 24!*

THIS WEEK’S LIVE SHOW: Fashion Startup Q+A | Ask Shannon 

  • Stream on YouTube here.
  • Watch in our private Facebook group here.
  • Have a question to submit for the Q+A? Leave a comment on YouTube or on FB!

Virtual Pop-Up

If you’ve ever felt like “Kickstarter isn’t right for my brand” or “I don’t get enough traffic to my website…” 

Then you are in for a treat this week.

Candice Munro, the founder of Buttercream Clothing, is going to share how she launches new products on Instagram and other “virtual pop-up” platforms.

If you’ve heard of the “Virtual Pop-Up Method” before and you want to know how it works as a launch strategy in action, then don’t miss this week’s Live Show!

Here are just a few of the questions I’m going to ask Candice:

  • How is this launch method different from others you’ve tried and why do you like it as a selling strategy?
  • Can you walk us through your A-Z process in creating a Virtual Pop-Up? 
  • What have you learned over the years of launching in this way?

As always, there are two ways to watch:

  • Stream on YouTube here
  • Watch in our private Facebook group here.

Bring your questions and I’ll see you tomorrow (Thursday) at 12:30pm ET / 9:30am PT!



P.S. Did you know two new podcast episodes dropped this week? Listen to the latest from Start Your Sustainable Fashion Brand: The Podcast on Apple Podcasts here or Spotify here.

business plan

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

Back in 2010, I was starting a fashion brand that was sustainably and ethically made in the USA but at the time, I didn’t have any experience in fashion or manufacturing. I was a journalism major in college, my then-cofounder was a business major so when we were first starting out we followed the traditional business advice…. And in this episode, I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Free One Page Business Plan Template


Back in 2010, I was starting a fashion brand that was sustainably and ethically made in the USA but at the time, I didn’t have any experience in fashion or manufacturing. I was a journalism major in college, my then-cofounder was a business major so when we were first starting out we followed the traditional business advice…. And in this episode, I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

So when I was first starting out, the business advice we followed mainly came from my co-founder’s business degree and what our dads said we should do. The advice was that, before we did anything, we needed to write a business plan. I remember being in Nicaragua, visiting an organic cotton farm, before we even really had any sketches or designs on paper and sitting in the room of our hostel, opening a blank Word document and starting to write our business plan. I’m pretty sure we just followed a template or outline we found on Legal Zoom and then I remember going back to the United States a month later and still working on that same Word document.

By the time the business plan was done, it was 40 pages long and had taken us three months to write. And do you know what we did with it? We each sent copies of it to our parents. Not to investors or potential partners, not even to win a grant or get a business loan, the farthest that 40-page document ever got was to the email inboxes of our parents, — who maybe were proud of us but definitely did not read all 40 pages.

Here’s the truth that you probably won’t learn if you went to business school or took any traditional business courses, unless you’re pitching your brand to investors or applying for a bank loan, you 100% do not need a traditional long-form business plan.

We never used the business plan we wrote and instead, a few months later, we rewrote the original document into a simple one-page business plan that we could actually use. And that’s what I want to teach you in this episode. My goal is for you to have a one-page business plan for your fashion brand that you can continue to edit, tweak and adjust as you move forward and make progress. So for now, let’s start building the foundation.

If you have not already texted me to receive my free business plan template, then go ahead and do that now. Just text “business plan” to +1 (760) 274-8577 and we’ll get it sent over to you right now so you can follow along and fill it out on your own as I go. I really want you to go through this with me in real time, if you can, so that by the time this episode is over you will have the basics of your business plan written down in front of you. Think about how good that will feel, okay? So go ahead and click pause right now so you can wait for the template and then continue listening once you have it – it will only take a couple of minutes to send it over.

Alright, so the one-page business plan is broken up into 5 sections that are divided up in the template — it starts with “Your Vision,” then “Your Target Market,” then “Your Competitive Advantage,” then “Your Business Model” and finally “Your Financial Summary.” This gives us 5 easy steps to work from as we start to get your ideas on paper. And yes, the template is three pages but when you put all of your answers together it will condense down to one page.

Let’s start with your vision. And for the purposes of going through the template, I’m going to use an imaginary company as an example. So let’s say my business is a lifestyle brand that sells fanny packs for minimalist travelers. The first prompt under “Your Vision” is to describe the mission, ethics and values behind your company in one sentence. So here’s what I would write for my fanny pack brand:

Fabulous fanny packs is a lifestyle brand for minimalist travelers who want to lighten their luggage and lighten their environmental footprint by purchasing our sustainably and ethically made fanny packs from recycled materials.

So you’re essentially stating the immediate goal and mission of your brand. What are you creating for your customer right now? Click pause and write down your one sentence description of your own company’s mission, ethics and values. Remember, this does not need to be perfect, it does not need to be set in stone, it can even be written in paraphrases and then you can refine it later. The point here is to simply take action and get something down on paper in front of you.

The second prompt for Your Vision is more aspirational and focuses on what you want your brand to become. The prompt says “​​What do you see for the future of your company?” So I would type in here: 

Fabulous fanny packs aims to create products that are made from 100% recycled materials while offering a buy-back program to close the loop on our fanny packs’ end life.

So you can see from my example how the buy-back program may not be an immediate option because of logistics and the time it will take to set it up but it’s a visionary statement for where the brand aims to go. Maybe for you, it’s donating a portion of profits to a cause that matters to your customer, or creating your own factory that’s a cooperative so profits are shared among employees or maybe it’s partnering with one of the bigger fashion brands to make use of their textile waste. Whatever bigger ideas and vision you have for your brand — that’s what you want to put here, knowing that it all doesn’t have to happen from the beginning and the vision is always subject to change. Hit pause and write down your vision statement for the future.

Okay, so that’s step #1 – Your Vision. Step #2 of your one-page business plan is Your Target Market. And the first prompt is: Write a one-sentence description of your ideal target customer. You’ve probably already done this before if you’re not just starting out, but whereas most business coaches will prompt you to write out demographics like age, gender, location, marital status, etc. I’m much more interested in positioning this description based on what your ideal target customer cares about.

Yes, age, gender, location, etc. are important to get a baseline of your audience as a whole but I think it’s far more powerful to think of your customer in a deeper way — and not to get too hung up on these superficial demographics. People are complex, there’s a good chance your ideal target customer is complex and the way you describe your target audience should reflect that. So I really encourage you to dig deep on this — for Fabulous Fannypacks, here’s how I would describe my ideal customer: 

The Fabulous Fannypacks customer cares deeply about the world around them and makes choices based on the good of the collective — they are progressive, open-minded, nature-loving, aspiring minimalists who live in coastal cities and love to travel off the beaten path.

I had to add a dash in there to get to one sentence (which is totally fine) and you can even do two sentences — the goal with keeping this brief is just to make sure you’re getting to the point, cutting down on excess words and being succinct in your description. But hopefully, as you can see from my example, you have a very clear picture and idea in your head of who this person is. More than anything you want your one-sentence description to paint a picture of your quote-unquote person. Press pause so you can go ahead and write your own one-sentence description of your ideal target customer.

Okay, so the next question, to define your ideal customer even more, is: Where is this person hanging out online? 

Especially if you plan to sell direct to consumer or ecommerce, it’s so important to be able to connect and communicate with your target audience online. So for my customer, my list of platforms would be something like:

They scroll Instagram (but feel guilty about it), avoid Facebook, subscribe to travel blogs like Expert Vagabond, read other online blogs like Mr. Money Mustache, listen to NPR, subscribe to the New York Times daily briefing and listen to Podcasts like Reply All and 1619.

I made this example up in about 30 seconds, but for you, this part is super important and worth spending quite a bit of time diving into. So for now, just jot down a few of the outlets or platforms that immediately come to mind (for example, your target market is millennial moms and you know they’re definitely reading theSkimm every morning) but then come back to this to go deeper.

The next question under your Target Audience is: What is your customer’s main problem (that relates to your product)? When it comes to the fashion industry, every product, garment or accessory that you make needs to have a bigger problem at the root of it. And if you look hard enough, every product will have one. It can be as basic as, your clothing helps stay at home moms feel more beautiful when they get dressed in the morning. So, go ahead and state the problem that your customer has here. 

For the example of Fabulous Fannypacks, I’m going to write down that my customer’s problem is not having easy access to important travel documents, their phone and money when traveling. Click pause and write down the problem that your product or brand aims to solve.

This question about the problem that your customer has, then leads us into the next section, step #3 of your business plan, which is Your Competitive Advantage.

What is your solution to your customer’s problem? And this is the first question that asks for a two-sentence answer because it’s truly that important. Here’s my answer for the hypothetical Fabulous Fannypacks:

The problem that my product solves for my ideal customer is the ease of packing light. My customer can wear a backpack on their back and a fannypack on their front and be set for weeks of adventure never worrying about their passport being stolen out of their backpack zipper or the key to their hostel getting lost in the bottom of their backpack. 

Press pause now so you can write down your competitive advantage — what solution does your product or brand provide to the problem you wrote down above it?

Next you’ll name 3-5 brands that are trying to sell a similar problem. You could call these brands competitors but you could also call them collaborators, which is the mindset I prefer to take. But you’ll research these 3-5 brands to see what they’re doing in terms of branding, messaging, price point and product and then either a.) figure out how you can solve the problem in a better, more efficient or more profitable way or b.) figure out how to eventually cross promote each other and get in front of each other’s audiences in a collaborative way.

This is another area of your business plan that you’ll really want to take time with — especially if you know you’re entering a saturated market. But for now, jot down 3 brands that immediately come to mind as solving a similar problem as your brand or product.

The next prompt under your Competitive Advantage is: How are you different from similar products out there? (which also allows for two sentences.) So once you identify the 3-5 other brands on the market that are also trying to solve the problem you want to solve for your customer, you’ll want to identify how your product or brand is different. Here’s my example:

Fabulous Fannypacks is different from competitors in design as it offers hidden pouches, pockets and a unique design that isn’t seen in traditional fannypacks. It’s also made from 100% recycled materials which sets it apart for its ideal target customer who is looking to reduce their environmental footprint and make mindful purchases.

You know the drill by now, hit pause and write down how your product or brand is different from similar products on the market right now.

Step #4 of your business plan is Your Business Model which thankfully, is pretty straightforward for most brands (since I know the first three sections are a bit of doozy) but the first question is: Where do you sell your product? Don’t overthink this — it could be as simple of an answer as “your website” but it also dependent on the next question in this section which is: 

How do you sell your product? For most people, it will be either direct-to-consumer via ecommerce, wholesale to stores, online marketplaces or boutiques or a combination of both. There are also quite a wide array of wholesale options nowadays with so many variations of third-party sellers so you can explore taking an omni-channel approach but you’ll want to outline that plan for selling here.

So, for Fabulous Fannypacks, I’m going to say that we sell only direct to consumer via our Shopify site.

This section is also where you can expand upon your business model if you want to and talk more about your supply chain and manufacturing plan in terms of how you’re going to create your product.

And then the very last section of your one-page business plan is your Financial Summary. I’m not going to dive into this too much right now because it’s so dependent on whether you have your costs and total cost of goods sold sorted out yet. But as you get a better idea of materials costs, labor costs and packaging costs, you’ll want to update this section to have a better understanding of how much per unit it costs to produce your products and how much you need to sell to break even and then of course, make a profit.

Alright, so by the time you’re done filling out the template, you can pull all of your answers into one Google doc that will most likely be less than a page long. This is your one-page business plan. The key here is to make sure that it’s always accessible, editable and being updated as your vision, target market, competitive advantage, business model and financial projections change. But for now these are the things to guide each business decision you make moving forward.

I hope this was helpful — the section that most people struggle with is your competitive advantage. So if you start working on that and are feeling stumped or that your product doesn’t actually solve a problem, then make sure to subscribe to the podcast so you know when future episodes drop. I’m going to talk a lot more about how to identify your unique selling position which will be really helpful in fleshing out your business plan.  

Thank you so much for listening and don’t forget, there are two ways to get your free one-page business plan template — just text +1 (760) 274-8577 or you can go to the link in the description of this episode and download it to your computer.

Push Past Fear

To kick off the year, I’m dedicating this week’s Live Show to pushing past fear.

More specifically, how do you push past fear to launch your fashion brand this year?

Fear is an emotion that every. single. entrepreneur on the planet deals with. 

But when we’re first starting out, it’s so much more complicated because we feel like we haven’t proven anything yet.

We have to put ourselves out there, experience the vulnerability of being seen and then, essentially jump without a parachute.

And that is scary.

What you need to figure out, then, is how to push past that scary feeling and do it anyway.

And this is what we’ll be talking about tomorrow, Jan. 6th at 12:30pm ET / 9:30am PT during Factory45 LIVE, the Live Show for Fashion Entrepreneurs.

As always, there are two ways to watch:

  • Stream on YouTube here
  • Watch in our private Facebook group here.

If you’re looking for a boost of encouragement and some inspiration to take action on your business dreams this year, then make sure to join me. I promise to make it worth your time.

See you tomorrow!


sustainable fashion

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify

You want to start a sustainable fashion brand that’s ethically manufactured and eco-friendly, that’s why you’re here. The question is: Where do you start? What does it mean to be “sustainable” and what are some of the most important things you should keep in mind as you build your brand? That’s what I’m going to share with you in today’s episode.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

The Fabric Sourcing Kit


So, you want to start a sustainable fashion brand that’s ethically manufactured and eco-friendly, that’s why you’re here. The question is: Where do you start? What does it mean to be “sustainable” and what are some of the most important things you should keep in mind as you build your brand? That’s what I’m going to share with you in today’s episode.

Okay, so you know you don’t want to start a traditional fashion brand — you want to create a business that is socially conscious and helps to provide a solution to the “fast fashion problem.” But how do you do that? In today’s episode I’m going to go over the four main factors to consider when building your sustainable fashion brand from the ground up. These are the foundational pillars, so to speak, to incorporate into your business model.

First, we have your Fabrics & Materials. From a supply chain perspective, this is the first thing you want to consider when conceptualizing your brand. You want to look for natural fibers, recycled or upcycled materials and stay away from petroleum-based synthetics like polyester, spandex and nylon. These synthetic fabrics can take up to 200 years to decompose in a landfill and the fast fashion industry is churning out polyester clothing faster than you can say “climate change contributor” so it’s really important to stay away from further contribution to this problem.

So where do you start on this step? First, identify what type of fabric will be the best fit for your product(s) and then find out if there’s a more sustainable version of that fabric.

For example: If you know you want to use 100% cotton, then start researching organic cotton. If you know you need a soft drapey fabric like rayon, then start exploring tencel or lyocell plant-based options. Basically, you want to find out what the “sustainable match” is to your fabric needs.

Where do you find sustainable fabrics? Thankfully, there are fabric suppliers all around the world that are now specializing in natural and environmentally-friendly fabrics. Finding them can sometimes take a simple google search, but for a more comprehensive list consider some of the sustainable fabric databases available to you like Common Objective, CFDA and of course, my company Factory45.

If you need a little more direction on what types of sustainable fabrics exist and the pros and cons of each, check out The Fabric Sourcing Kit, one of our digital resources that helps you source your fabric in 30 days – it also has a list of my top 10 fabric suppliers that sell sustainable fabrics.

The second thing you need to consider in creating a sustainable fashion brand, and just as important as your fabric and materials, is the integrity of your Design.

One of the main ethos of sustainable fashion is working to not only eliminate waste but also, not make more waste that will just end up in landfills. So, you have to think of the end life of your product. Where will it end up when your customer is done with it? Can the fabric be composted? Can it be recycled? Do you have a buy back or repairs program?

You’ll also want to consider making your designs seasonless, trendless and timeless. Sustainable fashion is all about creating garments that can be worn for years and years to come. They won’t go “out of style,” they’re made to last and they don’t try to keep up with the fast fashion cycle of constant trends.

Because the truth is, the design of your product has to come first. It needs to fit well, be well-made and make your customer feel good wearing it. You can’t depend on sustainability as a marketing method or a way of getting someone to buy your product. The design and quality of the garment has to sell itself first.

The third component to creating a sustainable fashion brand is your Manufacturing

One of my favorite methods of approaching manufacturing is by pre-selling your product before you go into production. Instead of creating a bunch of inventory upfront and not knowing if you’ll sell anything or if it will just sit in a warehouse, you can pre-sell your products on sites like Shopify, Kickstarter or iFundWomen to test your product at market and see if it’s something people actually want to buy.

Not only does this help to eliminate possible waste, but it also gives you a chance to generate revenue upfront that you can then re-invest into your production run. Your first customers are essentially financing your production run for you.

This is the main launch strategy that we teach in Factory45 and since 2014 we’ve seen fashion brands across all niches and target markets successfully launch their brands by pre-selling. If you’re interested in learning more about launching your brand with us in this low-risk, cash-forward way, book a call with us to learn more at factory45.co.

When it comes to the actual factory you’re going to work with, start by looking for manufacturing partners within driving distance (or a short flight) of where you live. When researching production partners, pay special attention to pages outlining fair labor policies, minimum wage and any certifications they have available.

And the fourth thing to consider in creating a sustainable fashion brand is your packaging. 

Whenever possible you want to keep your packaging as minimal as you can, while still protecting the product from shipping and weather. That means avoiding plastic wrap, bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts and other artificial, synthetic and non-recyclable materials.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re using recycled or compostable materials in the boxes and mailers you use. We provide an entire database of eco-friendly packaging options in the Factory45 program, so I know there are plenty out there.

Here’s the thing to remember when you’re first starting out in the sustainable fashion space: there are ways to test the market, raise money upfront and get customers before you even produce any inventory. That’s right, customers first, money second and production third. This is truly the most sustainable way to start a product-based business because you’re not creating anything before you know you have customers to sell to. This is the strategy we’ve been teaching since 2014 and it’s only becoming more and more popular from the startup brands all the way up to the big established brands.

So, as a summary and recap: you now have the four pillars of a sustainable fashion brand: sustainable fabric & materials, design integrity, ethical manufacturing and sustainable packaging. Of course there is so much more that goes into launching a successful brand, but these are the first four things I want you to start thinking about as you begin to build out your business model. In next week’s episode we’ll start getting things on paper by writing your business plan.

I hope this was a helpful baseline to start with and I’m excited to dive into it more in coming episodes. Make sure to hit subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and check out the resources I’ve linked in the description below. See you back here for episode 2!