Factory45: Slow Fashion Accelerator

I first connected with Shannon Whitehead when she was co-founding {r}evolution apparel in 2010. Since then, I’ve watched her transition from new entrepreneur to sustainable fashion writer to established consultant. At the beginning of April, Shannon launched her latest venture Factory45, an accelerator program for fashion designers. I caught up with her to hear more about the program before applications close on April 28, 2014:

What is Factory45 and why did you create it?

Factory45 is a six-month online accelerator program that gives independent designers and makers the resources to create sustainable businesses in the USA. Ten applicants will be given the tools and connections to set up U.S. supply chains and bring products to market through successful crowdfunding campaigns.

I created the program to give startups the resources to open doors. The U.S. manufacturing industry can be closed off. Suppliers and sew shops often don’t have websites or even email addresses, which makes it very difficult for outsiders to get a foot in the door. I believe that anyone can set up an ethical, transparent supply chain if given the right tools.

Factory 45 Main Image Factory45: Slow Fashion Accelerator
How did you get your start in the sustainable fashion industry?

In 2010 I co-founded {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable clothing brand for female travelers and minimalists. Through the process of building that company, I witnessed first-hand the difficulty of setting up a supply chain within the U.S., sourcing sustainable materials, and simply trying to do good business.

It took us a year and a half to find materials and a production partner that aligned with our values, and in 2011 we launched a Kickstarter campaign that became the highest-funded fashion project at that time. We were featured in The New York Times, Forbes.com, WSJ.com and Yahoo! News.

Since the beginning of 2013, I’ve been running my own consulting company for sustainable apparel brands. I’ve spent the past year and a half working with clients to build and grow their businesses and that’s what led me to create an accelerator program for early-stage startups.

Who should apply to Factory45?

An applicant could already have a product that has seen some success but is ready to scale production (for example, someone with an Etsy store), or an applicant could still be in the idea phase and not sure where to start. What matters most is that you are committed to manufacturing in the USA and sourcing sustainable materials.

Factory45 is all about being receptive to the resources, community, mentorship and guidance available no matter where you are in your business. If you’re ready to commit to fully showing up for the other participants and for your business, then I’d love to have you apply.

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What do you hope to achieve with Factory45?

This is my personal way of combating fast fashion. I truly believe that the local, independent designer has a place in this industry and can compete above and beyond the cheap and disposable goods churned out by big corporations.

If I can help small companies launch and succeed, then I believe fewer people will be shopping at fast fashion stores like H&M and Forever21. Ultimately, I want to support small and local designers and show consumers that they are worth supporting.

What can Factory45 participants expect to get from the program?

Factory45 is a six month program broken up into three two-month modules. The first module covers sourcing and manufacturing, so participants will get the connections and resources to set up supply chains within the U.S.

Module 2 covers branding and marketing, offering the tools to create a brand that appeals to a niche target market, build an effective web presence that creates “early adopters,” and an extensive marketing strategy.

Module 3 prepares participants to go to market through a crowdfunding campaign using a pre-sales model. The goal is for everyone to complete the program with money in the bank to go into production. Factory45 is all about starting lean, testing the product, and taking next steps based on how the market responds.

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How do you think a program like this will impact the fashion industry?

I hope that the resources, mentorship and connections available through Factory45 will show aspiring entrepreneurs that it is possible to create ethical supply chains and do good business.

I believe in the slow fashion industry model. I believe in slowing down the making, buying and disposing of fashion, and I believe that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of what that means. I hope that Factory45 will create more entrepreneurs who can change the industry with me.



About Factory45 –

Shannon BioImage Factory45: Slow Fashion Accelerator

Factory45 is a 6-month online accelerator program that gives independent designers and makers the resources to create sustainable businesses in the USA. Ten applicants will be given the tools and connections to set up U.S. supply chains and bring products to market through successful crowdfunding campaigns. Factory45 was founded by Shannon Whitehead, a sustainable apparel consultant, columnist for the Ethical Fashion Forum, and co-founder of {r}evolution apparel. Applications are open through April 28, 2014 at www.factory45.co.



Images courtesy of Factory45.




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One Comment

  1. Delight wrote:

    Many designers/makers source from thrift/vintage and do one of a kind pieces.I would really love to know how to grow that kind of business.