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Shannon Whitehead from Factory45.co, is a distinguished sustainable apparel designer, who now helps other aspiring designers learn how to take their design idea to launch. Can you imagine – having a fashion sketch and then finally knowing how to get it made? You can do that just that in her program (applications are open until March 2nd).

In this episode, Shannon talks about her accelerator program Factory 45. She walks us through two different launches with different approaches and what her best advice is, for people looking to create their own program.


  • How she ended up in fashion… the non-traditional route
  • What is sustainable and ethical apparel creation
  • Her approach to launches… with and without a detailed launch plan (guess which one worked better?)
  • Getting clear on who is buying your program
  • Being ok with targeting one, very specific, market and person
  • Her best advice to those of you thinking about launching something



  • Factory 45 – Shannon’s accelerator program (applications are open until March 2nd!)
  • Be sure to check-out the blog posts on the Factory 45 site if you’re looking for the best information around!




As the founder and CEO of Factory45, Shannon Whitehead works with idea-stage entrepreneurs to launch apparel companies that are ethically and sustainably made in the USA.

Shannon got her start in 2010 when she co-founded {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable clothing company for female travelers and minimalists that was featured in The New York Times, Forbes.com and Yahoo! News. She has appeared as a speaker at the World Education Congress, ECO Fashion Week, South by Southwest, and as a guest lecturer at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

Shannon’s work has appeared on Triple Pundit, The Huffington Post, Under30CEO and in 2014, she was nominated to The Wall Street Journal’s Women of Note. Named a thought leader for the future of fashion by Ecouterre, you can find more on Shannon’s work at www.factory45.co or on her blog at www.shannonwhitehead.com.

Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is a launch yourself podcast with Melissa Anzman episode number 25, featuring Shannon Whitehead.

Melissa Anzman (00:08): Hello, hello, and welcome to the launch yourself podcast, career, business, and brand advice to help you be seen, make an impact and deliver at your maximum potential. And now here's your host, Melissa. Anzman.

Melissa Anzman (00:26): Welcome to the launch yourself podcast. I'm your host, Melissa Anzman today. We're going to be chatting with Shannon Whitehead from factory45 as the founder and CEO of factory45. Shannon works with idea stage entrepreneurs to launch apparel companies that are ethically and sustainably made in the USA. Shannon got her start in 2010 when she co founded revolution apparel, a sustainable clothing company for female travelers and minimalist that was featured in the New York times. Forbes.Com and Yahoo news. She's appeared as a speaker at the world education Congress eco fashion week, South by Southwest, and as a guest lecture at the fashion Institute of design and merchandising Shannon's work has appeared on triple pundit, the Huffington post under 30 CEO, and in 2014, she was nominated to the wall street. Journal's women of note named for a thought leader for the future of fashion by Eve couture, you can find more at Shannon's work on her accelerator program. We'll we will talk about today@factoryfortyfive.co please welcome my friend Shannon to the show.

Melissa Anzman (01:38): I'm so excited to have Shannon with us today. Welcome to the show. Shannon, thank you so much for having me, Melissa. So one of the things that I love that Shannon does is she is so outside my own comfort zone, she is an knowledge expert in fashion and textile design and sustainable designing and sourcing and all that fun stuff, which as you all, if you know me know that is not my strong suit at all. So Shannon has taught me a lot about what she does and I think what she provides to the world is so great and awesome. So you wanted her to come onto the show and talk a little bit more about that and Shannon to get us started. Usually I like to talk about that launch and launch yourself is that moment of change that propels you forward to do more to, you know, to go after something bigger, to put your aha moment into action. And you have several of those that you've done throughout your career. Is there one in particular that you'd like to share with us today? Wow. I was just thinking how, which one do I pick?

Shannon Whitehead (02:44): I'm going on my third business right now. And yeah, I guess I can talk about my most recent one, which was just last June, June, 2014. And I was sorta, I was consulting on a per basis. I was working with sustainable fashion startups. So I started a clothing company in 2010 and then I transitioned out of that into consulting to help other designers set up their manufacturing in the U S and source sustainable fabrics and all of that good stuff, all the sort of business decisions and supply chain decisions that go into starting the company. So I was consulting on a per project basis and the sort of feeling like that feast and famine feeling where it's like, Oh, I don't know when my next client's going to come in. And then I would have a bunch of clients come in at once.

Shannon Whitehead (03:34): And so I realized I wanted to sort of scale it so that I could teach multiple startups at once and make it more affordable for them. And also more valuable in terms of the time I was spending. And so then I sort of came up with this idea of an accelerator program and I brought on 10 companies and I know we've talked about this, Melissa, but my launch strategy for that was absolutely absurd. I wrote 25 guest posts or interviews in 25 days. My launch period was so long. I made a lot of mistakes, but it ended up seeing being great. And I signed on my first 10 companies last year. That's fantastic. I really want to talk more about it. And the program itself, I believe it's called factory45. Right. but I would like to get to know you and your background a little bit that even got you to that point.

Shannon Whitehead (04:35): So could you share with us how you landed in fashion and fashion design and all that fun stuff? Sure. I was a journalism major in college. I had no fashion background. I, the most fashion background I had was like going to forever 21 on a Friday night dress, wearing it once and throwing it out. It was horrible. And that's like the exact opposite of my thoughts on fashion now, which is as I sort of, I went and traveled for two years after college. And in that time I met what would, who would become my business partner. And so for three years I was starting a sustainable fashion company with my co founder, Kristin, and it didn't start off as like, Oh, we're gonna be sustainable. We just started learning about the fashion industry and sort of, you know, it's one of the dirtiest industries in the world, very unethical, so much waste, et cetera, et cetera.

Shannon Whitehead (05:33): And so we started to learn about what that meant and what it meant to have a more sustainable fashion industry. And so we launched our company. It took us two years to find a manufacturer in the U S and fabric and materials that fit our sustainability guidelines. But we ended up launching a Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2011 and it became the highest funded fashion project in Kickstarter history at that time. Wow. And so through that experience, I started learning about all of, all the skills that I definitely didn't learn in college and sort of transitioned into helping other designers get off the ground and start their own companies. I love that. And it's so interesting to me when people sort of end up in a path that was really not relevant to them, you know, in college, right. Because I always say the college is sort of one point in time in your life, but what you do from that point could be very different than what you study and, and really your passion takes over and, and kind of guide you along the way from there.

Shannon Whitehead (06:42): Yeah. I could have never, ever expected that I would be in fashion and I still am very uncomfortable with that. I describe myself as an environmentalist more than a piece of fashion, these done, but yeah, it's interesting where life takes you. Definitely. Well, so all of that brings you with all of your experience into launching factory45 for the first time last year. And so with that launch, it sounds like it was absolutely crazy and I've talked about it. So I know the insanity behind all of those guests posts and interviews and your strategy was really content marketing and, you know, getting out there, getting guest posts to purchase. And I believe he did some outreach as well. Now that you're sort of one year post that had a very successful first launch, what, what sort of your plan with the current launch you're in the middle of right now?

Shannon Whitehead (07:37): So luckily now I have an email list. Back then I had zero. I was starting from zero and I had pretty much no social media following other than just my consulting following. So for this launch applications are now open. So I really focused on an email strategy, so really thoughtful posts or thoughtful emails that would really connect with my ideal target market and from doing it last year for the first time, I was able to hone in on what that target market is and got more comfortable speaking just to them instead of to everyone. Cause I think that was an issue probably before I was starting out, was like, who is my target market? You know, like this who I knew, I knew there was a need for it, but I wasn't sure who needed it and who I wanted to be working with.

Shannon Whitehead (08:32): And I think that's part of it knowing exactly who your ideal customer is. So yeah, so email strategy was a huge one. And then just the constant, it's funny, it brings me back to sort of my Kickstarter campaign days of feeling like there's an ongoing, like every day, you know, four, four Facebook posts, three Instagram all the Twitter, every, you know, every hour. So just really being diligent about getting all of that content out there has been really important as well. Okay. Absolutely. And I want to go back to something you said about target market, because I think that's really helpful to a lot of people who are listening here in that. And I found this for myself as well as my business grew and changed that first finding who your target market is, is important, but also that second piece of the people you want to work with could be different than what you originally thought.

Melissa Anzman (09:34): How did that impact sort of your overall idea in the launch? Like, did it have any influence into it the second time around? I think it just really helped me internally. Like when I went to sit down at my computer and I had a blank page in front of me and I had to write an email to my entire list, you know, that's really daunting. You're worried about people unsubscribing and saying the wrong thing or pissing someone off. And instead of letting that noise sort of affect what I was writing, I just really focused on, like, I have a name for the girl, her name's Jessie. And I just focused on like, what does Jesse wants to hear? What's going to connect with her, you know, and going line by line at times, if I felt like something was off, like, would she respond to this?

Shannon Whitehead (10:22): Would she, you know, think that's authentic. And just really tweaking things until now I'm on sort of like the sixth email in my series and I'm feeling like the, you know, it's just flowing, it's going so much quicker now. I think that's so great to remember it. No, I think you know, although we all sort of, when we start, we hear the same advice to create your market, your target market and make it that one person and get super niche and, you know, super small on that, who your buyer is. I think when you start, that's scary advice. I mean, because you're sort of staring at needing income, right. Needing to sustain this new career that you have wanting to be successful in that and earning the money that you need to make. And it's hard to say, you know, this person isn't right for what I'm trying to do or this, I need to speak to that, what to Jesse, instead of speaking to everybody out there.

Melissa Anzman (11:20): So I think that's really important as we grow as entrepreneurs and, you know, develop those products that we have and our launch plans and schedules and so on that they're very targeted to the right person, to that ideal buyer instead of being so open ended. Like we try when we start out. Yeah. And I think, you know, you have to go back to sort of how that you're serving them and if it's not a right fit, then it's just not good for anyone. It's not good for them. It's not good for you. It's going to be an energy. Yeah. I think it's just knowing who, who you want to serve. And then just speaking directly to them, I love that. Cause we've all had those clients that were like, Oh, I should not have taken them off. Oh my God. Yeah. You know, error and it never works out.

Melissa Anzman (12:11): Right. Awesome. So talk to me a little bit more about sort of your program itself and how it's structured and maybe sort of why you've structured it that way. That would be super helpful to see behind the scenes of that. Yeah. So the ideas that I want to take entrepreneurs from idea to launching an apparel product sustainably and ethically ethically made in the USA. So it's not, you know, yes, there's the e-commerce part, that's an online business, but there's like a physical product is something that is its own beast entirely. So we start off setting up a supply chain and broken up. The whole program is broken up into five modules. The first module is sourcing fabric that typically takes the longest. And that's for three weeks. And then the second module is branding. So again, going back to really like figuring out who your ideal customer is, and being able to effectively communicate with them module three is pre production.

Shannon Whitehead (13:10): So that means connecting the entrepreneurs with sample makers and pattern makers and really making sure they're ready for production. The fourth module is marketing for e-commerce. So how to get out your online store in front of your audience and then module five is preparing for a launch. So for me, that's typically involves crowdfunding or presales. It's really hard for clothing businesses in particular to get VC funding or outside funding. So from my experience and you know, having done a Kickstarter myself, I realized that really, you know, bootstrapping and presales and crowdfunding are the way to go. And so I will ensure that they have a successful launch. I love that. And just sort of what I heard when you said having your idea like into your hands, I can only imagine having the talent, which, you know, I lacked in sort of designing you know, a clothing item, you know, and having that sort of be so top of mind for you and so important.

Melissa Anzman (14:15): And then at the end of your factory45 program, having that in your hands, like that's such a transformation that I feel like a lot of fashion designers and again, I'm not one, but we all know my sister is having that transformation seems incredible for sure. And I think, you know, having that initial sketch is one thing and like, I sort of emphasize that you can just start with a sketch. You don't need to know how to make a sample or a pattern. I connect the entrepreneurs with the people who can help them do that. But then yeah, eventually getting to the end when you've had a sketch and then you're holding in your hands or wearing it or seeing it on the shelves, the booth of a boutique. Yeah. There's nothing, nothing like it. Yeah. It kinda sounds like something that I've been sort of pondering, I have this other, this idea I've been carrying around for a product.

Melissa Anzman (15:13): It sounds like quirky without having to sell your soul to do it, you know, like getting, getting the right people behind you, getting sort of what you need done and the funding and knowing how to do it all. So you can replicate it going forward, but having your vision really come to life, like that's amazing. Yeah. I, I'll never forget when I launched my first product, my first company just opening the shipment of the first samples and like putting it on and looking in the mirror, it was yeah. Crazy, crazy feeling. Totally crazy. So let's go back to the launch right now and sort of what's what's happening. So each launch and that's, how about this a lot with some of my other guests in the past, but each launch that we do, even if it's a rinse and repeat launch, something that we've done over and over is different.

Speaker 1 (16:03): It takes on its own sort of feel and look, and, you know, we learn lessons from previous launches and so on. So in addition to understanding who your customer is and exactly who you want to serve, what other changes have you made for this launch that have either worked well or are still out to determine, or maybe haven't worked as well as you expected? Oh, that's a good question. I'll know more on Monday when applications closed, but I think one thing I'm really happy about is the sales page of my website, the main one site, it's just, it's so much clear. And again, that comes just from last year, you know, making tweaks and changing things. But having everything really, again, I'm like a broken record, but speak to that one person and connect with them. Definitely not having to do 25 guest posts in 25 days.

Shannon Whitehead (17:05): That's a big relief. I'm definitely enjoying the launch more. And now having a list, you know, it's not, not a huge list by any means, but it's bigger than launching to no list. So that's been definitely an improvement and easier. And it just been overall a more enjoyable process than the first time, because I had a clear plan of attack and action steps to follow. Absolutely. All of those definitely makes it even smoother, even if, you know, every launch is a roller coaster, which, you know, I said to you a few times. Yeah. But you know, the more that you can step off that roller coaster train, obviously the easier it is in my, the more sales you get. Right. Because that energy definitely goes out into the world, keeping the energy up. That's something that like last week I had a dip in energy about and end of the week, mid week.

Shannon Whitehead (18:00): And it's sort of just reminding yourself that, you know, it's, it's only two weeks as a two week open application period, but that seems like, you know, two months all the sales, all the applications don't have to rush in right in the beginning, they probably won't. But knowing that, you know, it's a marathon, not a sprint, definitely every launch is a marathon, not a sprint. I love that. One thing that I know just from, you know, us talking Shannon, is that you actually had this go around and you just alluded to it a lot more of a plan. And I would say a really great runway as far as timeline goes. Can you share with us a little bit more about your approach to your launch from a timing and runway perspective? Oh yeah. I I'm pretty, like I start as soon as possible.

Shannon Whitehead (18:53): Like probably too, too far in advance. I was planning like back in October for a February mid February launch. And that's just me, but I think honestly, you know a calc, it, it has to be calculated. It has to be planned out otherwise. I mean, it's like a Kickstarter campaign. People expect to put their project out into the world and then for all these random strangers to just back it or to apply or to buy and just again, for most people, it doesn't work like that. So I think planning in advance is a huge benefit to to my launch strategy. Absolutely. And having a clear launch, I mean, you, you just alluded to this, but a lot of people that I work with at time FaceTime come to me and they're like, so I'm watching this product next week and I'm like, Oh, fantastic. How can I help?

Melissa Anzman (19:50): Yeah. Where are we at with it?

Melissa Anzman (19:52): And what's needed. And they're like, Oh, pretty much everything. You know, I'm not saying that that can't work. Cause I I've been known to, to launch with a short ramp as well, but it's definitely for this type of launch, such a big launch with so many moving parts and outcomes and deliverables and lots of partners and stuff you need that runway in order to be successful. You need to sort of, as you said, build your list and get people on board and start seeding the launch a lot sooner than just a week in advance. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And especially, you know, part, I didn't mention this before, but I was just thinking about how like get rallying the troops as well. Like this was my first experience that having sort of a referral program, but also just having other people who want to help you promote and are happy to spread the word.

Shannon Whitehead (20:43): Like you have to give them some time, not, not too much cause they'll forget about it, but just sort of not making that explicit ask, you know, like, Oh, and I need this tomorrow. So, so yeah, that's, that's another thing I'd like to add. I love that. So you mentioned getting some partners on board and can you share this a little bit? What that looks like? I mean, I, I know a little bit behind the scenes. I don't want to show the hand too much, but it's not quite a traditional affiliate program. And what I mean by that is, you know, when, when I talk affiliate program or GV programs, I sort of reflect too. We had Danny on the show who is quite frankly the best edit that I know. I mean he had a hundred partners working with him on his last launch, literally a hundred.

Melissa Anzman (21:29): I know. Can you imagine, I can't imagine no, a hundred people I just have to have him like, how do you know that many people, but anyway, he is fantastic at that. And so you know, when I say affiliate program, that's kind of that big undertaking that, that we usually think about of, you know, right now we've seen Marie Forleo with her B school and everybody under the moon promoting her staff as an affiliate, your program. Isn't quite like that. And I love your approach with that. So could you maybe share a little bit with us, your approach to affiliates and sort of what you're doing to your partners? Yeah, so I mean, not to sound exclusive, but it was sort of more of an invite referral partnership approach. So it wasn't like here anyone can sign up to be an affiliate.

Shannon Whitehead (22:21): I reached out to specific people and I only reached out to 11 people because it was my first time doing it and didn't really know how it would go and I just wanted to experiment. And it's been interesting. There are definitely things I would do differently. I think the important thing about affiliate programs is to remember that nobody is going to care about your business as much as you do. And so to just keep reminding people and make it easy for them as possible to share I've put together a whole promo page that had, you know, tweets who can copy and paste blog, swipe, copy images they could download. So that was, that was a big part of it. And then just, you know, sort of helping them like the enthusiasm of, you know, it's not that much work and there's really great reward.

Shannon Whitehead (23:16): Right. So, so yeah, it's been an interesting process. Yeah. I have found working with affiliates or partners in this case is definitely interesting. I have also found it doesn't always work as well as some of the other, like certain products and things work better and a bigger grabbed doesn't always work better than like you said, an invite only. So I'm excited to learn down the road when you do sort of a postmortem of this launch, what that like for you and, and how it benefited your sales and business. Yeah. And I think, you know, you look at like Marie Forleo's affiliate program and she's been doing this, you know, for a few years and it's gigantic and she, you know, she has past participants promoting. And so that, that I think comes with the resources she has, but also the longevity and she, she has it down to a science.

Shannon Whitehead (24:10): So by no means was I expecting that, but I think there's something to learn from it's from each, I guess I'm an extreme example on the opposite side of the spectrum and there are things to take from each. Yeah, absolutely. I love that. So with that, we're almost at our time here, I'd love for you to just sort of share any of the learnings that you've had, or maybe the best advice to someone who's looking to. I'm going to ask you two ways with one, create a sustainable product and to create an accelerator program like you've done. So for the sustainable product it's, it is not easy. I think, you know, I created this out of a direct need that I saw and it's a program that I would have wanted when I was starting out with my clothing company. So I think whether it's factory45 or at another accelerator program or an incubator, I think getting as many resources and the education and the people who've done it before.

Shannon Whitehead (25:15): And the mentorship, all of that stuff is, is more valuable than you could ever imagine. You don't know what you don't know until you start and starting an accelerator program. I, I've had an amazing experience. This is by far my favorite company I've started. And in terms of the longevity of the business, you know, it's, it's scalable. So I love that approach to it. And just being able to have more impact, being able to help more people at a time. It has been a really great experience. Absolutely. So what would be your best nugget of wisdom for someone who is looking to start a scalable business on their own?

Shannon Whitehead (26:05): I know this is cliche, but just start because that's really what, what whole people are held back by just not starting, because again, you don't know what, what to do differently or how to get going until you just put your feet on the ground and walk forward. And that is by far across any business that hesitation or the fear that sets in. I think if you can overcome that, then you truly can do anything. I love that. Just start cause that, I mean, I agree with you. That's the thing that keeps from moving forward is, you know, one I, one conversation that I think I'll always remember is I've having with one of my friend's husband, who's an artist and wanted to work from home and just sort of had this idea of like quitting his job and, and being an artist. And he said the only difference between this other artists that we both knew that wasn't so great, to be honest.

Melissa Anzman (27:08): And him was the other guy started, like he actually took, you know, that was the only difference. And that's true. That's, that's the first step in getting you moving forward. And that's what I say. Like, I wish I know you guys don't know me, but if you knew, like I am so far away from being an entrepreneur, like I, that's not in my personality. It's just everything about me is not entrepreneurial, but I was willing to start. That's all it took with that. And so I just figured it out as I went and now I've started like grown into being an entrepreneur and sometimes I'm not comfortable with it, but I keep it going and I think getting better. And I think that's true for, for anyone. If you can start, then you'll get there. Absolutely. So Shannon, please tell everybody where they can find you and your accelerator program online.

Shannon Whitehead (28:05): It's www.factory45.co. Fantastic. And I'll be sure to include all your contact details in the show notes. And it's really been a pleasure having you on I've. You know, I always geek out when we talk, because I have no idea how you do what you do and how you get from point a to B. So it's really exciting to learn that from you. And it's been a pleasure having you on the show so much, Melissa, I hope you enjoy today's episode with one of my favorites, Shannon Whitehead. She has so much knowledge in the fashion industry. And in addition to that, the sustainable fashion part, I know you learned a ton. I'm so excited to have her on the show. If you'd like to get the show notes for this episode, including enrolling in her accelerator program, you can go to launchyourself.co/session25. Again, that's launchyourself.co/session25. And if you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes and leave us a review until next time. Yeah.

Melissa Anzman (29:07): Thanks for listening to the launch yourself podcast. Join the conversation at www.launchyourself.co.