Four years after starting Factory45, a program that helps entrepreneurs start sustainable and ethically made clothing companies, Shannon Lohr will launch the online platform Market45 to help them sell their designs.
To date, about 200 companies have cycled through Factory45, which is run from Somerville, Mass. One of the better-known ones is Vetta, a brand that started in 2016 offering a five-piece capsule collection that can make up 30 different outfits. Lohr said she has been hearing from friends, colleagues and online followers that they want to shop Factory45 brands and were looking for a one-stop site for sustainable and ethical labels. As of Nov. 1, 20 brands of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel as well as accessories will be offered on the Market45 site when it goes live.
The platform will route visitors to each brand’s respective sites, with Lohr gleaning 5 percent of sales. Sotela, Dallas Daws, Vesta and Thom Kelly are some of the women’s apparel brands that will be on the site when it launches.
Factory45 initially had 10 companies that each paid $500 for six months of guidance. Lohr said that was immediately invested back into the program. She drew from her own start-up experience. Wanting to experience entrepreneurship, she and a business partner started Revolution Apparel in 2011. The pair achieved what was then the largest Kickstarter-funded fashion project, thanks to the garment that could be worn 30 ways, she said. That undertaking provided a crash course in creating a supply chain, e-commerce, direct-to-consumer sales, managing production, building an audience and following and other business skills. The real point of differentiation is being able to teach start-ups to launch with a pre-sales campaign — whether that’s through crowdfunding or Kickstarter — to avoid creating inventory upfront before you know if you can sell anything, Lohr said.
Despite being profitable, Lohr opted to sell her share of the company, and started a new career chapter as a consultant. Factory45 sprang from that. Her aim was to offer affordable consulting to start-ups and create a profitable business from the start. This year, 120 companies participated in Factory45 programs and next year’s projection should be about the same. “Market45 is not necessarily a moneymaker for me. It’s more to help the brands to grow and to give them exposure. My main revenue stream is through Factory45, so this is really for the brands,” she said.
“What I saw was that people who were going through fashion school knew how to design, but they didn’t have any business experience. They were mostly clothing designers, who didn’t know how to take a product to launch,” Lohr said. “I connect, vet and help them work with sample makers, patternmakers, factories and other experts in the industry. I’ve built this network up for them.”