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Diversifying Your Product Line

Lesson 22 of 32

Communication and Information Flow


Diversifying Your Product Line

Lesson 22 of 32

Communication and Information Flow


Lesson Info

Communication and Information Flow

So shannon is founder of factory forty five factory forty five's, an accelerator program that takes apparel and accessories companies from idea to launch on she has a great background because she she was an entrepreneur, she started her own product line from from scratch that she's really gone to the whole process herself. She knows exactly what the pitfalls are she's she has some great experience, she writes fantastic blogged posts so helpful, so informative for crafters, fashion people, accessory people, anything to do with the process. S o I'm really excited to spend a little time chatting with her, and we're going to have, like a q and a afterwards, I believe as well, absolutely. I get your questions ready so I might perch for this is all right? Yes, get comfortable. We'll do our virtual cry interview interface here. Twenty to do anything to me to click anything with those right there. Shannon hi. Hi. How are you? Good. How are you? Good. Thanks. Thanks for joining. Absolutely so h...

appy to be here. Yeah. So, how's your day going so far, it's? Going good. I've been gearing up for this. I've been excited to talk teo and answer any questions great, so I gave you a little bit of background about what we covered in in session one we talked with you all really about kind of developing a plan and concert in time and action and all these different elements eso for session to was starting off with manufacturing and I have spent a little bit of time talking about the process and really understanding what on individuals product is in order to define the manufacturer on also the supplies that they need on in order to really give the information in a detailed way so you start from a very solid base level and build some strong partnerships, so I wanted to really start off it when it came to your product development process with your with your company did you have a specific material and geographic location in mind when you designed your product or did it evolve organically? We did not. We didn't know anything we were complete newbies did not know the first thing about bringing in a product to market. I thought we were going what we did go down to central america and visit the on ly organic cotton farm down there I thought we were going to use manufacturing and central america fair trade artisans all that good stuff and we ended up coming back to the states doing a year and a half of research and really not finding our materials or the social we ended up working with and care in the north carolina until a year and a half after start figuring out what this process looked like okay, so you almost had like a reverse engineer of going down somewhere figuring it out and then coming back and starting your research yes which you know every entrepreneurial journey is different I don't know that I would recommend like hopping on a plane and going to another country I think we were sort of looking for the adventure and you I have to follow the journey that's right for you but yes way didn't have anything in our mind or any preconceived notion and when you when you go back to the u s how did you find your manufacturers and your supplies? Like I said, it took a long time we this was back in two thousand ten and I think transparency has opened up quite a bit in terms of manufacturing in the u s and there are resource is now and classes like yours and programs like mine but we started by just emailing anyone and everyone we could find we were talking to supermodels, eco friendly supermodels in brooklyn and professors in environmental studies in missouri and organic cotton farmers anyone who would talk to us we were reaching out to and his networking and it was eventually eventually through a contact that someone said hey, you know what? You should talk to these people and they ended up connecting us with both our fabric and are so shop we ended up working with okay and did you how was the how was the learning curve with that? When when you when you first got your supplies and your manufacturers down and you've got these kind of great connections, how how was that experience? Talk us through kind of like the first few meetings in the first few interactions? Um, well, it can be intimidating when someone knows so much more than you do about what you actually want to create, so I think that was part of it realizing these people are the expert, it is so important to cultivate the relationship with them, make it easy for them tow want to work with you to be really good clients, and we learned that pretty quickly and I think I don't know I think just continue I can't really honing in on the relationship building enough that was the main thing we learned right away, andi just sort of realizing that this isn't a straightforward process. There are ways to do it differently and to be open to suggestions and feedback and were they were they open tio almost educating you in the process of how the government was made or how how the material was put together? A was it a kind of like a closed close shop? We were lucky and that the people we worked with were so great and they were very patient I know now going through this on the other side that it's really not up to the so shop in the fabric spires educate you, they really they don't have the time for it and not their job. So going in with some sort of education and not to say we didn't know anything but going in with an idea of, you know, terminology and how things work and sort of the timeline of the process, I think is really, really important did the how was the process between product development and production for you? It was was it kind of like a different because the scene is very different asked fact of the business, what was your experience of that? So our product development was very different from when we ended up working with the social we did. First, we just hired a freelance pattern and sample maker off fred craigslist on dh she was great, she was just working out of her home basement in denver, colorado, and we told her what we wanted we were for contact for context. We were making one garment that could be worn thirty different ways called reversal it, and we worked with her, and she she was so great in terms of like neither of us, my co founder and I came from a fashion background at all so she was great with just the construction prototyping and all that so once that was done and we really got a good grasp on what it is this product would look like off of paper that's when we ended up you know working with are so shop and they sort of that's when they streamlined it to make it easier on the production line streamlining things to make it go quicker on dh things that just you know we would have never thought of and how many prototypes that you go through we went through I think only two or three prototypes which is I think it's pretty standard you may be on the lower end right um so fast forward five years you're on you're on the other side of the fence yeah on dh is an incubator that reworks with small brands and small businesses and designers what is the single most important nugget of information that you that you pass on tio these new businesses when they join you well not to sound like a broken record but relationship building everything this is an industry I every industry you know thrives on relationship building and networking but I think this one especially it can be a little bit old school and having that face to face contact going to visit your manufacture after talking to them in person you know, sending cookies to your workers all that type of relationship building you know, extra stuff that you can do to really make yourself an ideal client a pleasure to work with is the number one thing and again, the education, and that goes again into you know, being an ideal client is is knowing the questions asked, knowing that what you should have prepared to be able to go into production? Yes, relationships and education. Nice on dh when you were I'm kind of way spent in the end of session, war on quite a lot of time talking about time, inaction and planning. Yeah, how integral was that when you were putting your line together, which is something that you, um, embraced? Or did you did you struggle with it or to do, how did it how did that work for you? Well, so for us, we started off with the idea of having ten pieces that could be mixed a match to create over one hundred different looks, that is a big difference from having we ended up with just one product that could be worn over thirty different ways, so we streamlined quite a bit once we figured out, ok, we are new to this industry, we have no idea what we're doing, we don't have any capital, we're learning this as we go, like let's, pare this down and start simply as we can and just really focus on doing one thing really well and then you know if we want to grow from there we can so the planning I would say was an evolution it was completely different than what we started off with and that was okay and so I think part of it was being okay with that you know, knowing that ok well your original vision can change it's not end of the world it doesn't make you a failure it just means that you're having a different sort of business evolution and when it came to understanding timelines of all the different processes involved in putting a line together was that kind of enlightening as well when you when you were working through the development of production process I tend I call it a list of assumptions just like how long does it take to order fabric you know oh yeah, that kind of thing totally that is complete shock and I think we'll was and I think that's part of it tio is you know, I tell my entrepreneurs everything is going to take longer than you think it's going to take especially when you're doing this for the first time I remember we were we had gotten on our production calendar we had just raised a ton of money on kickstarter we have quadrupled our production run and we had ordered one piece of our government which was organic cotton drawstrings and they got back order they were on back order for three months I pushed off of our production calendar again way didn't know we're going into this completely ignorant but yeah we got pushed off the calendar had to wait three months that pushed back our delivery timeline we get back on the production calendar so luckily our customers were totally understanding and you know knew we were going through this for the first time but you just never know what's going to come up it's definitely one of those things that happens once and it never happens again because it's such a strong lesson to learn oh my gosh we would never make that mistake and what kind of companies brands do you work with now? Because because you take a large and small all different areas as well don't you? Yes it's mainly idea stage cos I work with some early stage companies everyone is a sona peril good I have one actually bumpers and doing shoes sustainable hiking boots but mainly accessories home good goods apparel, women's apparel children's andi started sewn consumer good and you do you feel the process is different between the product types they do and they don't I think the details differ for sure and there are different you know, sort of steps that can happen for one and not the other but I think the general timeline of you know product from conception and then getting so your business ducks in a row and then figuring out what your marketing strategy is going to be your launch strategy that's all pretty similar for any new product that's going going to market great great I'd love to get some some questions from from the team here and we have a whole host of fence actually let's start out question about you mentioned kickstarter campaign I'm just wondering what and that you started with no capital do you have any suggestions besides kickstarter for getting capital essentially yeah so I'm actually a really big fan of any sort of crowd funding and it doesn't have to be kickstarter I know it seems like everyone in their mother is watching its extraordinary campaign they're very popular but there is the idea idea of presales that I think it's hugely valuable for someone starting out with a product based company because it can be very hard to, you know, raise the sea money angel investors that's not as available to us as you know the tech seen maybe eso whether that's presales on your own website or pre sales through a crowd funding platform there are small business loans, but again it can be kind of harder t get those grants are a great opportunity you know you're competing against other people but for the right product that those that cannot be good options many questions from chattering chris yeah let's see, we had one that came in that you know, we have people who have all different backgrounds who are just some people just getting started we have a general question here about how to get educated in the world of manufacturing they say you know, I know it's important to get educated about what manufacturers will need but where do you suggest we start with getting that education and finding information about the subject? Well, I guess this is my opportunity for a shameless plug yeah, so I run a program that is was designed for that very reason because I knew how hard it was to get that education I don't you know you can go to fashion school but it doesn't necessarily teach the manufacturing side of things. Andi I created the program I wanted when I was starting out in this war in this industry s o factory forty five and then there are other, you know, incubators and accelerators programs out there their classes like susie's books like susie's there's there's a hole I could I could list off a bunch of books but yeah, I think the programs and online learning on dh then just, you know, talking to people in the industry that's another really big one getting, you know, taking someone out to coffee who has been through this before could be really, really valuable I was I was find that I'm really open to be bought coffee and for like an hour it's great. I love sharing information like that and coffee always works kind of americano one sugar you have like twelve ounce rather than eight always works always works with may I think you're the same thing you could be bought by coffee. Oh, yeah like maybe a pastry okay, trying out a pastry that ladies and gentlemen so I'd like tio I'd like to understand um when you when you were thinking about your product on their five years or so ago what was the what steps did you when you are identifying the product? What was your process? Did you think that there was did you establish a need or a cow of niche market? Was it something like this could be good for me as an individual or what was what was the thought process when we touched on it yesterday in session you wantto love to get your background on that? Yeah. So this is what I hear a lot is like this is the product I want or this product I would have needed which is definitely what happened with us michael founder and I had spent two years backpacking our way around the world separately and together we met in australia is just two american girls after college wanting to see the world and when we reconnected we really we wanted to keep traveling which is the reason for wanting to go down central america but we also have thought wouldn't it be great to have you know, just a line of minimalist peace is just ten pieces that be mixed to match create over one hundred different looks and we designed all of those and it was awesome and you know I still think somebody should come out with that idea if they haven't already but then as we again we did pare back to the one piece you know I can't tell you how many people would write to us once once we have sold our products saying oh I took my bursa let and here I am and we're a lot or here I am in kenya or here I am wearing it was so great I wore it this you know this many ways on dh that was the goal was that we would have people who are like us who just wanted tio you know not worry about what they were wearing not have a huge suitcase just ableto throw a backpack over your shoulder and go see the world nice nice did you do a competitor analysis I'm really digging and now I'm getting like kind of like I'm curious how this works I know and I mean you should have seen our first business plan way did me I mean as much as we I could have, you know, we sort of have one together, but really we had such a long runway before we launched our product on this is another thing for anyone, you know, who is in, you know, wondering about marketing we loved about our entire process for a year and a half before me that launched our kickstarter campaign, so we had this a very small audience. It was only about eight hundred people by the time we launched our campaign, but that got us to be the highest funded fashion project on kickstarter history at that time, just because people were so invested in our journey, they were so interested in, you know, we blogged about our our first fight and watching one of our samples and, you know, all the craze, the things we're doing to try to make this dream a reality. I think people really connects to trick transparency and authenticity. Yeah, I think that's great that's a that's, a great tip of really being open with the things what you're going well, but also that the the challenging aspects as well, every because it's real life it's, you know, connecting with a real person, all right? Do we have any of the any of the questions at all? I have another one that came in from our online audience, so shannon, you had mentioned that manufacturers hadn't issue and pushed out your timeline. Is that something that happens often in these situations, having to adjust timelines when you're working with the manufacturers? So that was our fault? Sorry, I should have made that more clear. It was our fault because we way we're sourcing the drawstring spot from is a completely separate entity from the manufacturer, so we so those the drawstring from back quarter that's what delayed things? It wasn't so shops fault. If social puts you on their production calendar and most in most cases, it will, it will stay that way, they that's not common to get just pushed off for no reason. I think what one of the key points toe to mention there is that if you with all the different elements that goes in to go into a product, if you don't have everything lined up in front of you, yeah, social won't start, so if you're making if you're making a pair of trousers, for instance, and it has a wash like a care label in it, this is smallest little label, which has the wash instructions on it. Everything else is there the fabric, the inter lining, the buttons, everything else is there? If the wash care label isn't there, they won't start because it is all of us saying that yeah it's one of the first things that goes in and so you can it's it's the smallest most kind of forgettable item that most people cut out of a garment but ifit's not physically there on the shop floor no one will start so it's so crucial to kind of line or line on the ducks up right yes but it was a very good clarification thing and you only do it once you don't do it again it's it's definitely a lesson learned yeah so I want to I want to pick your brains and getsem I gave a list of my delved into my little black book and got all my trade secrets out about where I go for sourcing manufacturers and suppliers I'd love tio I'd love to get some from you just so I can kind of still all your manufacturers and suppliers shannon because I think you probably got some good ones so where would you go if you if you were starting from scratch in an accessory line or kind of a craft line where's your first port of call so like should I tell you like specific places no I mean do you look industry sources or d'oh I look at yes they're they're good industry sources like seems dot org's is good what's that seems see scenes s e a m yeah I think they're more like carolina textile based but I so I have, like my little spreadsheet database of all my contacts and suppliers and manufacturers that everyone in factory forty five receives, so I have my favorite so shops, you know, I like working with and I'll go to them first, I actually have some sample a sample maker in new york, it was like, just this awesome woman who just freelancing in the bronx and she's so talented and so awesome to work with, like, people like that, I love sort of like the off the beaten path not I mean, I think some of these the design houses in studios are great, but a lot of times you khun find some awesome people who are really knowledgeable and what's what's your best route to finding these is it kind of word of mouth is a recommendation, yeah, word of mouth referral because, you know, they don't have websites that's a lot of the challenge of manufacturing is a lot of the you know, even so, shops and fabric suppliers don't have a web presence so that email though the work so yeah, you really have to dig and to network and, you know, again back to the education joining programs, taking people out to coffee because I was going to say I was going to follow it with that's, a lot of coffee drinking you can ride by the end of the average wait yeah, yeah, ok any any more questions or told anything from from the studio crew online? Yeah, one more here from shmee who posted this and they say, well, a manufacturer ever turn you away because you are too much of an amateur or you don't know enough about the business or whatever, just not a good fit where they turn you away. Yes, yeah, that will happen either like they just won't respond to your email or they'll say, you know you're not quite ready yet you need to have x y and z and really what I do recommend before you even reach out from manufacturer as tohave a spec sheet industrial production ready pattern and a sample that's not necessarily crucial, but that's just what I recommend as setting yourself itself up for success you know no sort of if you're if you have cash flow if you have capital to start production know how many units you want to produce? Those all sort of having the details in the information on hand before you know as you make the inquiry is really a good way to sort of set yourself up for success, I think that's that's, that's ah great called one of the things that that shannon mentioned is a spec sheet on a technical pattern we're going to be talking about that in a in a couple of segments about how to document your process really in a very simple style sheet and documenting it so that you can hand it over to someone else who physically knows every aspect of your product so we're going to be touching on that a little bit later thank you so much for your time on thanks for kind of sharing your experience and your knowledge you have it's such a it's such a great story from someone who's really kind of gone through the challenges to then end up really educating and mentoring kind of a new uh a new realm of designers and entrepreneur so I was plugging your your your block posts earlier she has the most fantastic and so informative block postings that they're just they make me laugh every single time because they're so well written so so yeah that's it thank you thank you so much yes so where can they read the block posts? Shannon so if you go in a factory forty five dot ceo flash blog's and if you often to my email and just send it out once every thursday so or the other thing is if you follow my twitter I always retweet you're great about that yeah, thank you so much this is really a no thanks a lot thanks shannon all right, thanks guys I

Class Description

Once you’ve established your business with a single, successful product, imagining what else to sell can be daunting. You don’t want to end up with a disjointed collection of products, but you do want it to be fresh and exciting for existing customers. In Diversifying Your Product Line, you’ll learn the art and science of expanding your offerings and growing your business.

Susie Breuer is the author of Blue is the New Black: The 10 Step Guide to Developing and Producing a Fashion Collection and in this class she’ll help you generate ideas and make smart decisions about expanding your apparel and/or accessories business. You’ll learn how to:

  • Research the market to understand both price and your customers.
  • Build a concept and action plan for starting out
  • Manage multiple product lines
  • Source raw materials and manufacturers

You’ll learn how to accurately assess a product's viability before you waste time and money developing it. Susie will also teach you how to develop a consistent, logical pricing strategy you can use again and again.

Susie makes the complex process of developing a financially solvent product and production plan easy. You’ll get expert-level insights into all aspects of developing a new product and walk away confident that you know everything you need to know to expand your business.



Thank you for an excellent class on a key pivot point no matter what industry you are in. One stellar quality of this course is how collaborative, friend focused peer culture and (rather than hostile competition or dysfunction competition environment and psychological atmosphere). The structure suggestions enable creativity and acknowledges different mindsets required in different phases. Susie honors the joy that comes from making and creating. She celebrates the interdependence between all stakeholders and the fun and flow as well as learnings and choices from being a 'business'. She is pragmatic but high on the inclusiveness of fun and satisfaction. She is interested and interesting: safe, enjoys being a customer as much as teacher and expressions of creative generation for herself. You can be caught up in the delight of her view of the world if you have become jaded or burnout. This brings perspective and empowerment to your desire and goals.


Susie has this most amazing experience in business - she is fashion royalty - but has an amazing ability to put all her knowledge across in a way that you can learn so easily. I was so pleased that she could show you how to learn from her experience and it would make sense for your business. Pretty much whatever you are doing. I came away from these sessions with so many ideas. But of course ideas are cheap. She has made me understand how once you have an idea, how to make it real. So many great learnings about avoiding pitfalls, practical check lists and honest to goodness 'know how'. I am already putting her advice into practice and can see I am going to transform my business just because of these classes. I am going to come back to those videos again and again. Thank you so much for making this great resource available.


I LOVED THIS COURSE. After being a small business owner for 10 years it is easy to focus on what's right on your desk at that very moment instead of evaluating the bigger picture, to forget how to look at what is working as well as what isn't and how to improve upon your process. Courses like this make me want to jump up out of my seat and get back to work. Susie kept me engaged and focused. It can be a long day but time seemed to fly by. I am really glad I got the opportunity to take the course, not only would I take it again but would highly recommend future Creative Live courses and Susie's latest book. Thank you again for the opportunity and now I gotta get back to work!