April 23, 2020
In today's episode, Irina sits with Shannon Lohr, founder of Factory45, an online accelerator program that takes sustainable fashion companies from idea to launch.
Factory45 is a 6 month, online, accelerator program that runs once a year from June-November, and is targeted towards people who have an idea to launch a clothing or accessories brand and want to do so in a sustainable and ethical way.
The program starts with how to source fabric and covers topics like building an audience, setting up manufacturing, creating an e-commerce presence. The program ends with strategies to raise money to help fund the first production run so you're not risking your own savings.
Although this is online, there is a structure to the program and new content is released each week so that it's not overwhelming upfront. Shannon hosts daily office hours for one on one and more personalized support. There is a community forum to help you connect with your peers going through the program. This year they are launching an alumni mentor program so you're matched up with someone who has graduated from the program and is already running their own sustainable fashion brand.
Shannon had launched her own sustainable fashion brand in 2010 with a partner. Neither had fashion backgrounds but they knew they wanted to start a business. They launched 1 garment for women that can be worn 30 different ways for minimalists and travelers. It took them a year and a half to launch and when they did, they were the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history at the time. It was a great learning experience on how to go from idea to a fully created product. They ran the business for a little over 2 years and decided they wanted to try other things. Shannon believed it should be easier for new designers to manufacture in the USA. Through this experience, Factory45 was born.
Shannon advises that one of the biggest challenges with brands starting out is making sure that they build their audience early on. Startups can get bogged down in product development, website and branding. But if you don't have an audience to launch to, none of that matters. So when you are ready to launch and presell your product, you'll have immediate potential buyers.
Shannon's advice to new brands is making sure you're offering something that people want. Make sure you are talking to your customers very early on to really understand their needs. Do not rush your product development either. You need to make sure that you've put your samples through the rigorous process of making sure they're ready for the public and you've working out a production plan and schedule to ensure that nothing breaks down when you're live and selling. Be prepared for rounds of edits. The first sample is never perfect. Take the time to develop a relationship with your factory, production partner, or pattern maker so that you're educated along the whole process. It is not your production partner's job to educate you, so you need to know what questions to ask and the things to expect in order to make you an ideal client.
Factory45 is opening up applications and enrollment for their 6th year on May 6th. Make sure to check it out at www.factory45.co
If you're looking for solutions in your supply chain, whether it be developing and producing new products or implementing technology into your process for greater visibility and smarter decision-making, you can find out more information below:
Stay safe out there and thanks again for tuning in!