WHAT THE FUNDRAISING

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42: Factory45’s Roadmap for Building A Sustainable Business and How it Relates to Your Nonprofit with Shannon Lohr

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“We need the brands, the for-profits, the people selling who care about the social impact or care about donating a portion to a non-profit – whatever it is. It’s coming to terms with the fact that you’re providing a solution for a problem. Not just another t-shirt brand.”

– Shannon Lohr
Episode #42

Overview

In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

My guest on this episode of What the Fundraising provides the steady hand that anyone undertaking a startup of any kind dreams of from time to time. Shannon Lohr, Founder, and CEO of Factory45 help her clients navigate the complexities involved in getting a sustainable clothing brand off the ground. She has pragmatic advice to offer as well as tips for keeping your mindset right and analysis paralysis out of the equation. 

We get into the nitty-gritty about things like content polishing, logo massaging, and font swapping that often keeps us stuck from being more visible. Getting stuck finding the perfect social media message? Doesn’t matter how good it is until people are reading and interacting with your company! Shannon also lends perspective on the competing desire sustainability folks often have between wanting to offer a good or service that can do good in the world and at the same time not wanting to stoke rampant consumerism. We also get into the nuances of partnering between non-profits and for-profits that want to dedicate some portion of their proceeds to support causes. In short: It’s a fantastic concept, but only if the business remains a business first, aka profitable and sustainable long-term.

To wrap things up Shannon and I share thoughts on the importance of knowing your own value. Whatever good or service you’re offering? You are bringing something to the table. Period. Knowing that deeply and backing it up with confidence can take time, says Shannon. But that’s okay. Be patient with yourself. Similarly, if you’re juggling your role as a mom and an entrepreneur, recognize that some things occasionally just need to drop. The offset? You’re undoubtedly more efficient than you’ve ever been, given that time is finite when you’re balancing family. 

Enjoy this lively conversation with a woman who has carved out a unique coaching niche and is here with concrete marketing, sales, and other elements to consider as you look at ways to partner with, support, or start up a brand.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please take a look at my signature course, a 60-minute webinar that will introduce the secrets of my Power Partners Formula and much more!

And check out this episode’s sponsor, Pledge, and their amazing e-commerce platform that will help you build amazing cross-sector partnerships.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business sustainable business

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Shannon Lohr

EPISODE RESOURCES

@Factory45 provides entrepreneurs all over the globe tools to launch sustainable and ethical fashion brands the right way, from the start. Over the past 8+ years, Shannon has mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs who have an idea for a clothing brand but aren’t sure where to start.

Factory45 partners to help source fabric, set up manufacturing, and raise money to launch a fledging brand — in the most time-efficient and cost-effective way possible.

To learn more about how to start a sustainable clothing business, visit www.factory45.co

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MALLORY ERICKSON

episode transcript

Mallory Erickson: Welcome everyone! I am so thrilled to be here today with Shannon Lohr. Shannon, I’d really just like to start with you giving a little intro to yourself, into your work, and then we’re going to dive right in because I know there is so much for us to talk about today. 

Shannon Lohr: Yeah, thank you so much for having me, Mallory. So I am the founder and CEO of Factory45, the online business school that takes sustainable fashion brands from idea to launch. I started the program back in 2014, and I’ve worked with entrepreneurs all over the globe to launch sustainable and ethical fashion.

Mallory Erickson: That is so amazing. And I’m curious I want to hear a little bit more about your story around, like, why this is particularly important to you and the focus of your life’s work right now.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah, it’s really funny that it is my life’s work, like 10 years, it’s crazy. So I started my own sustainable fashion brand back in 2010. At the time you did not even put the word sustainable and fashion together. No one knew what that meant and I really didn’t know what it meant.

I had set out to start a business with my, then co-founder. We weren’t really sure what it looked like. We did not have any interest in sustainability. We were not fashion majors or fashion designers. We really just saw a need in the market for something that we ourselves wanted, which was a versatile travel garment that you could just throw in a backpack. We were both backpackers. I had bartended my way around the world for two years. Like we were just two college grads who wanted to keep traveling. And so fast forward, we ended up launching the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history. At the time we were featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, it was like this whole whirlwind experience.

But what I realized from that was that it should be easier for people to start fashion brands that are sustainably and ethically made from the beginning. And that’s what led me to launch Factory45 to help other entrepreneurs start businesses with social entrepreneurship, social impact focus, and do it the right way.

Mallory Erickson: I love that. I’d love to hear a little bit about why is it so hard to create a brand or a product that’s rooted in sustainable and ethical practices? Why is that so hard for someone to break into.

Shannon Lohr: I think that for the most part, and this has changed since I set out to do this, but there are a lot of just closed doors in the manufacturing industry, especially when it comes to fashion. Like everyone’s so secretive and competitive and then you add in the sustainability aspect, you’re always going to pay more for sustainable fabrics. If you are looking at ethical manufacturing, you’re going to pay more because those workers are actually being paid a fair and living wage. So I think it’s a very nuanced and complicated conversation. But thankfully, since I set out to do this, a decade ago, we’ve come a long way, and thanks to different resources and different manufacturers, prioritizing ethical manufacturing, as well as fabric suppliers prioritizing more sustainable fabrics. And then the innovation has just made progress.

Mallory Erickson: So you’re leading me to this other question. So in the marketplace, if you’re not going to be providing something that is the race to the bottom from a cost perspective, and I’m sure at the time that you were building a reputation around sustainable and ethical clothing, there were probably questions about quality and durability and all of those pieces.

So my guess would be the brand piece, that likes really building the brand and the community and the reason why consumers want to be wearing a certain fashion and what that means about how they identify themselves. I can imagine that’s a big part of what you did and then what you’re teaching other entrepreneurs to do as well.

Can you talk a little bit about that?

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. The conversation and messaging is huge because again 2010 we’re talking, like no one knew what sustainable fashion was. How do you educate the consumer to at least start to grasp, yes, it’s complicated, but start to understand, okay, this is what I’m looking for.

This is how I can ask a brand these questions. But so much of the evolution of the consumer, at least to the point where we have a small group of people who understand sustainable fashion and want it, like seek it out. There’s a community that only buys sustainable fashion that has come from these smaller brands constantly messaging on Instagram, their email lists, writing blog posts, doing podcast interviews, YouTube videos, like all of that content marketing that helps not only themselves, of course, their products, but also communicate why it’s important. And so that education has been absolutely critical. 

And that’s why when people ask me, do we really need another sustainable fashion brand or like a fashion brand. Should we need another fashion startup? I’m like, what’s the alternative because it’s thanks to those brands that people even are starting to think about making more conscious shopping decisions.

Mallory Erickson: Gosh, I love that because I actually feel like there’s so many pieces that you’re talking about that are so relevant to fundraisers as they think about their non-profit and this piece around creating problem aware audiences. That if you are breaking into a market and the non-profit market, you may be sharing a message or sharing a certain amount of education, that’s meeting people at all different awareness levels. So the clients of these brands, there are folks who might read that content and be ready to purchase, but other people are going to be digesting that content maybe for a year and it’s just going to be starting to turn the knob and their head around this is a thing I could be more conscientious when I’m buying my clothing.

And so I know you do a lot inside your work around supporting these entrepreneurs to build this brand and build this content piece. How do you support them to meet a variety of people, where they’re at. 

Shannon Lohr: Yeah, it’s complicated. I think one thing is identifying their target customer niche, which we focus on a lot, like who is your ideal target customer and not trying to appeal to everyone, because if you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one.

So identifying who you’re talking to, and then figuring out what level you need to meet them at. And of course, it will be varying degrees, it could be as simple as there’s one Instagram grid post, that’s super simple and straightforward, and then you can dive deeper through an Instagram live or an Instagram story.

So I think so much of what I do, my brand’s marketing piece, of course, because we are selling a physical product. But through that, I also say sustainability can never be your number one marketing method. It can’t be the first thing. It can’t be the first reason someone buys from you, but there are ways there, little touchpoints, that you can incorporate through all of your other marketing that communicates that message. And like you said, it’s like these little touchpoints that happen, maybe it’s over a year, but eventually, it gets that.

Mallory Erickson: I love that. And I’m curious before we clicked record, you had said this thing that I thought was really interesting around how many people come into your network and are also wondering about partnering with non-profits.

And it’s striking me a little bit because I think about these entrepreneurs who are working with you to create sustainable and ethical fashion from the beginning. So they already have this sort of social conscious mindset and perhaps some people would believe that means they’re more likely to want to partner with non-profits, but it could also mean that they are less likely because they feel like that’s the core of their business model.

So talk to me a little bit about how your think about cross-sector partnerships. What have you seen go really well in that space? What has just been a dumpster fire? Like just tell us all the things.

Shannon Lohr: So in a general sense, yes, you’re right. I would say there’s two camps. One is, I want to partner with a non-profit from the beginning, a lot come in they’re only at idea stage and they already know the non-profit that they want to partner with and give to. And a lot of it is give a percentage of proceeds. And so what I say is, okay, that’s great, but we need to make sure you have a margin. You have costs, you have your cost of goods sold, and then you have your retail price. Somewhere in that margin, you need to be able to sustain your business. You need to be able to grow your business. And then let’s talk about donating a percentage of whatever’s leftover to a non-profit. But if that means dipping too far into your margin, that your business is going to go under after a year or two, then that’s not serving anyone. That doesn’t serve the non-profit, first of all, because what they got like a few hundred bucks in your first year, and then the partnership’s over and it doesn’t serve you because you don’t have a business anymore. 

So that’s a really important part of it. And I think that there are so many different, you can offset your carbon footprint, you can incorporate all these different things now, you can donate a percentage of proceeds. But my emphasis is on making sure it’s a healthy business first. And then to your point, some of the brands are like, all right I’m incorporating this sustainable packaging and this sustainable fabric, and my workers are already paid $2 more than the average sewers. Or they’re working with a factory, that’s a cooperative and all the workers get a revenue share. So that there’s that element. So I think it can come from a few different things.

Mallory Erickson: I’m curious, I want to dig a little bit deeper around this margin question because one of the things that I’ve been really exploring with corporate partnerships in particular is, there is, and particularly around some of the types of corporate engagements we’re talking about where there’s a give-back model or a percentage of sales and, things like that. And I’ve seen great success with checkout plugins with Shopify and things like that. And we have an awesome partner who supports a lot of our non-profits with that.

And so I’m curious, how could a non-profit help with that margin by creating a really intentional strategic partnership from the beginning. Where some of the other costs associated with business like marketing or audience acquisition or all of these different things, where the non-profits supports the business in certain ways so that it’s less about when you have this margin, that’s the time to incorporate a non-profit. As opposed to, how can we partner in a way where we’re like utilizing folks who believe the same things as us, who overlap in audience with us, and really build that into sort of strategic marketing.

What do you think about that?

Shannon Lohr: I think that is what you said, it’s the marketing and customer acquisition. That’s where they can help because there’s an economy of scale in manufacturing to where the higher your volume is your price, your cogs, your cost of goods sold, comes down. And so if we can get more customers and up that sales volume and thus the manufacturing volume, then that would help create a better margin for the product and for the brand. So I think that the exposure and the marketing piece, the customer acquisition piece is probably what would be most helpful.

Mallory Erickson: And do you feel like in your experience, if you’ve had any experiences like that, and whether they’ve been at the beginning or at a midpoint once that margin is defined.

Do you feel like there are some practices that you’ve seen non-profits utilize that have been really beneficial in building this sort of like mutually beneficial partnership and some things you’ve seen happen that have perhaps have damaged relationships in some way or made it so that they are these kind of one-time things, but don’t feel good in terms of being incorporated into the long-term strategy of the company?

Shannon Lohr: I don’t know if I have enough anecdotal data for that. I will say I do think when a non-profit can think in a business-minded way in terms of marketing, whether that is starting your own YouTube channel or your own podcast, and figuring out how to build your platform. Then it just, in general, is going to be a better experience for any partner, whether that is a for-profit or non-profit partner.

Mallory Erickson: Yes. We do something called asset mapping inside my course and that is definitely one of the types of assets that we talk about. And I think particularly you were talking about the education piece, where so much of the burden has fallen on companies to both be using their content strategy from a marketing perspective and sales perspective, but also the education around the problem in the first place.

And to me, that seems, and I’m sure this depends on the size of the company and all these other pieces, but to me, that seems also such an easy place for non-profits to support because they’re often are incredibly familiar with the problem and messaging the problem and bringing in new folks to care about the problem. So it does feel like there might be a natural opportunity there.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. And even when the nonprofit is constantly messaging that problem and then can say, and here’s a solution or here are some solutions and they happen to be one of our partners or whatever it is. Yeah, I think that’s always a great thing.

Mallory Erickson: I’m curious about the sort of journey that these entrepreneurs go on inside your program and you shared about your experience on Kickstarter and there are certain types of startup financing support that you provide inside your program. I’m really curious about the emotional components around sales. And like what happens when some of the folks inside your course go from this idea, this vision, especially perhaps those really rooted in the impact and the sustainable and ethical practices. How they feel, frankly, translating that mission and that goal into selling a product. Do you see resistance there? Talk to me about that.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. It’s funny you ask this because I did a live show and interviewed someone about this very thing. And we were talking about this in terms of just the yeah, that kind of like tension between I need to sell because that’s what makes it a business and not a hobby, but also, the consumer culture not feeding into that consumer feeding frenzy. And I think what we came up with, it’s like back to what I said, in the beginning, is we need the brands, the for-profits, the businesses, the people selling, who care about other things, who can have the social impact element or care about, donating a portion to a nonprofit, whatever it is.

And so really it’s coming to terms with the fact that you are providing a solution to a problem. And so that’s what I always say to my entrepreneurs. We’re not creating another t-shirt brand. We’re not creating another screen-printed t-shirt, we’re creating products that solve problems for our customers.

And that’s one of the first things we do, is we identify the ideal target customer, that niche, that person who we’re solving the problem for, and then the solution to the problem that we’ve identified. So it’s really separation from this idea of like trends and fast fashion and just buy it because it’s $5 and it’s going to make you feel good for one night, and then you’re going to throw it into your closet. It’s like looking at it from almost like a tech perspective. You have all these tech companies, where it’s okay, identify the problem first and then create the solution around that problem. That’s what we’re trying to reinvent with the sustainable fashion industry.

Mallory Erickson: Wow. Okay. I want to ask you a little bit of a loaded question, but I’m just going to say that I am not saying this from a place of my beliefs, but I’m just curious if your folks or you get this pushback. And then we can talk a little bit because I think there’s some overlap here with fundraisers. But I’m curious do you get folks who come and say, really from a sustainability perspective, what we need is less objects being created. And how do you and the folks that you work with manage that feedback when it comes in?

Shannon Lohr: Yeah, of course, we get this question and this feedback for sure. And I equate it to climate change. Like you look at the government tells us, okay, wait we have to have shorter showers. Everyone, you have to limit your own water use, when really it’s like the multi-billion dollar corporations, the animal agriculture, the oil, like all of that stuff is far worse for like that, that curbing that would do far more for the planet than us shortening our showers.

And so I look at that with sustainable fashion brands too. It’s fast fashion. It’s Amazon, it’s Walmart. It’s like that churn of, especially, the H & M’s of the world, the Forever 21’s of the world saying, buy, sell $5. That is what is going to have a bigger impact than saying, oh, okay we don’t need another sustainable fashion brand so let’s just get rid of all the fashion startups.

Mallory Erickson: That’s why I thought you were going to say and I really appreciate you saying it. Because there are these feelings about sales and fundraising and money just in general. And particularly, I think for women who have been told for generations that talking about money is inappropriate. And then they finally have the courage to talk about money and perhaps to sell something that’s super meaningful to them or to fundraise for a cause that’s super meaningful to them. And then they hear some naysayer messages.

It can really like shake you to your core. I’m sure you’ve had those days. I’ve had those days And so I think it’s important to normalize that for people who are just starting out that these are like this, these are loaded activities and words, and they’re oftentimes very emotional, especially if you’ve been staying up until 2 am trying to build your business, and then you get one of those comments. And so just to say that, like we’ve been there and that it’s okay. And I’m just curious if you have anything to add to that. And then I want to connect what you said in response to something I think is really relevant to fundraisers too.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. And I think that it’s about the value you’re bringing. It’s about the value, not just in the product or the foundation or the fundraiser. It’s about what your, if you’re employing people, I get pushback about this, about the cost of tuition for my program. And I am like, sorry, I’m not going to apologize for it because I know the value. I know it brings exponentially more value than what it costs.

And I have a team of people to support, families to help support, and to make sure that they stay employed. And, so there’s such a bigger picture to the whole money conversation that it’s not just about raising $10 or selling this garment for $90 or whatever it is like, you have to look at the value from a higher level than just what you’re seeing on a computer screen or in a retail store.

Mallory Erickson: Okay. I want to go deeper here on this, because I’m curious how you think about this, because I feel like I fall into sometimes this difficult space around this piece of the conversation, where I don’t want to over justify prices around something because I just want to be able to say, that’s the price. And do what you’re doing, which is to say, and I’m paying all of these people. And I feel like as women too, we have this constant poll around sit in my self-worth, but I also want to explain to you why I’m worth it. And I’m curious, like just what that’s been like for you as an entrepreneur and as a mom, even.

I know, I think about my daughters so much sometimes when I’m like navigating that space and I’m like, what would I want her to like, think or say right now? Or how would I want her embodied in her value? And so I know you’re also coaching and supporting all these other people to do this, but I’m just curious, like your own experience with it.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah, I think that I’ve come a long way. Like I certainly didn’t start out with this confidence of this mentality. And I think it comes with experience. Should I be charging what I’m charging back in 2014 when I was just starting out? No, probably not. But as you build your experience, and as you bring on team members with experience, we have a whole group of alumni mentors who have already launched their brands. They’re offering one-on-one mentorship to people who want to do what they’re doing. That’s a whole other value set that you really can’t put a price tag on. So I think as you start to get more self-assured in the value you’re providing and you start to hear feedback this was worth more than my MBA. This is the most value I’ve ever received, which we hear all the time. Then it builds up that confidence for you. And that I hate to say it, for someone just starting out, it’s going to be harder for you and that’s okay, just expect that. And then as you gain experience, and as you grow into your role, you’re going to accumulate this feeling of yeah, I’m worth what I’m worth.

Mallory Erickson: And I think that just applies to fundraising in so many different ways. One just around the practice, it’s a little bit different in terms of your hourly rate, isn’t necessarily going up, but just in that practice of saying big numbers. Or I remember when I was the managing director of an organization, we made a silly mistake and it costs us a $1,000. And the executive director was just like losing his marbles about it. And I was like, okay, I get it but you know what? It’s really good that we made this mistake right now and it was a $1,000 because actually if we had made this mistake when we grow, it could have been a $10,000 mistake or a $100,000 mistake. And so this was actually like a great investment of us learning this lesson. 

And I think just as non-profits are starting to raise more money, you’re going to start to say bigger and bigger numbers. You’re not a tiny little $100,000 nonprofit, is not going to go in and ask for $5 million probably tomorrow, but you’re going to say the number that feels like it’s pushing the boundary for you and that number is going to continue to grow. And then just like with sales, you’re going to say the numbers. You’re going to stop talking. You’re going to let the other person make a decision. And I know how uncomfortable those moments can be, right? Because for that $1,000 we’re going to do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we work with fundraisers so much around saying would you be interested in investing a $1,000 in that, and stopping and just like sitting with it and recognizing that the answer might be yes, the answer might be no. 

But I also think that your point that is so well-taken, and this is why meetings with donors are so critical, fundraisers is because to start to get some of that positive feedback around the investment in your organization was one of the most meaningful investments I’ve ever made. Going to see the program in action was one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. Those data points, those anecdotes, those stories, that really does help build your confidence the next time then you’re inviting someone new to invest in that way. So I love that you shared all of that.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. And I just want to echo your point, which is like a $1,000 to one person is different than a $1,000 to another person. And also remembering that you can’t predict the answer or the outcome, just like you said, you have to stop and just be like, this is what I charge, or this is what we’re asking for and just let it be, and be okay with it. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And I think creating space for people to talk about like, sales is not bad. Sure doing sales in a particular way might be really cringy. Doing fundraising in a particular way can be really creative. But doing fundraising from a place of alignment and values is not cringey. And same with sales. I even had an experience I’ve shared a little bit recently where on my birthday, for my course, I actually offered a scholarship that was related to how old I was turning and actually made it so that I was breaking even pretty much on the course but I really wanted to do it as just like this birthday thing, I don’t, know for myself.

And I got an email back from somebody that says, this is just another slimy sales tactic. And I ended up writing this guy a pretty long email, and I just said, look, first of all at this scholarship level, I’m not making any money on this, but I didn’t put that in my first email because I don’t believe that selling something is bad, just like I don’t believe that fundraising is bad.

I believe my course provides a solution to a problem and I’m really proud of it. And I’m really proud that people invest money in themselves and in their organizations because that buy-in, also moves, starts to move money for them. And so I just think there’s just this much bigger conversation as you’re talking about that I just really want to echo, which is we need to be able to like zoom out, be real with ourselves around our own money beliefs, not project that on to tons of other people, and to recognize that sometimes money needs to move in alignment with our values. Even when it is maybe selling something we don’t feel like we personally need because it’s solving a bigger problem that we might not even be able to see.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. I completely agree.

Mallory Erickson: What are some of the pieces of advice that you give to new entrepreneurs and that I’m sure would also just be so relevant to folks. There are so many similarities between starting a business and starting a non-profit or being in startup phase, and business startup phase, in non-profit, but some of the baseline advice you give folks,

Shannon Lohr: It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other, all the time I’ll get questions, What’s your favorite idea, that you know, which entrepreneur in your program has the best idea this year? Or what are some of the projects that are like really cool that people are working on? If I judge the ideas like I wouldn’t have predicted Crocs would be a billion-dollar business.

So I am not in the business of judging ideas. I am in the business of choosing entrepreneurs that I feel are going to take action because the single most important quality of an entrepreneur of a fundraiser of whoever, is the ability to take action. And so often we just talk ourselves into these procrastination spirals that we think we need everything to be perfect on these nitty-gritty little things that are not going to move the needle in any way.

And it’s really the people who see the bigger picture and are able to map that out. And of course, I help them map that out, but can take the next step and I think that applies literally to probably anything.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I’m so glad you said that because I totally agree. I read something the other day that said procrastination is not a time management issue, it’s an emotional management issue. And it’s just so much the chatter that we hear, and we do a lot of on this podcast, talking about what are the narratives we’re telling ourselves? How are they holding us back? How are they getting in the way of taking action? I’m really curious, I want to double click on what you just said around the perfectionist piece and some of them perhaps, like little details that people hyper analyze. What are some of the things that come up in your world that people just really focus on that you’re like, that’s not the point at all? 

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. The logo! Oh god, pick a font and that’s your logo. Of course, branding is a huge piece and I’m not trying to undermine that. But when you’re first starting out, it’s just so much more important to start building your audience and just have something up online so you can start collecting email addresses, start building a social media following. And the logo, font scheme, color scheme, those are all things that people just like love to get really nitty-gritty with. And yeah, it holds you back because you think it’s the illusion of productivity if you spend three hours on CANVA, but it’s not actual productivity.

Mallory Erickson: What you’re saying is obviously something that we deal with so much in this sector too. And I’m curious what you think about that when you were sharing that with me, I’m like, is the focus on brand and font that hyper-focused, is it really just folks avoiding visibility?

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. And I get it, it is scary. We worry so much, it’s not even the trolls of social media, which is obviously scary, the comments and all of that. But it’s our friends and family and oh, I just graduated with my master’s, people are gonna wonder why I’m now starting a business, or we create these stories in our heads, that fine, maybe your great Aunt Mildred would feel this way, but no one else does. We pick out these stories that most people are probably not thinking about and everyone does it. And I can still do this at times, being in this game for 10 years, there’s still times, it’s like the monkey mind.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, totally. How did you navigate that early on? Like when you had, because I feel that I experienced that a lot too. I can tell in my body and my mind when I’m hitting a new level of visibility because all the chatter gets real loud. I maybe can address my imposter syndrome, like where I currently sit but then I always know when I’m breaking, when I’m up-leveling, because it all comes flooding back. And I have my sort of set of tools that I’ve talked about a lot on here, but what are some of the things you do when you use get those sensations or those narratives in order to keep going.

 

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. I keep a Google doc of testimonials from past students, rave reviews, people that say this program changed my life, or whatever it is. And I’ll open that and I’ll read through all the positive stuff. But I will say in terms of visibility, really, the thing that helped me was hiring someone to manage all the content, all the social media so I’m just not on it. Like I just not looking at every single Instagram DM. I’m not looking at every single Instagram comment or YouTube comment. There’s a bit of a filter now and that’s only recent within the last year, but that’s been pretty life-changing. 

Mallory Erickson: That’s awesome. I have a few things in my business that now no longer come to me, to allow me to read those things when I’m in the right headspace to read them, and like enter in that from a place of choice and not just feeling like it’s hitting me throughout the day, all day, every day.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. And I’m talking about this and I’m I can’t even think of one negative thing, knock on wood. Of course tomorrow I’ll get a negative comment. But this is not like this happens a lot, but I think it’s just the separation of self, which is something that I have had to really process and overcome this past year is, I am not my business, I run my business. Or I am not my non-profit, I run the non-profit. Or I am not the funds that I raise, I am just running that. So I think separation from whether it is your business or whether it is a job or task you’re doing, like why that is not your identity.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I think that’s really important. And I can imagine that now probably, your business and your work has a bigger kind of following than 10 years ago. I ran an environmental literacy organization 10 years ago. Holy moly, like we try to talk about some of these topics and it was just like doors. And so I feel like you probably did historically deal with a lot more rejection or lack of interest and found ways to move through that. And I think for Changemakers in general, something I say to non-profit folks all the time is, look your work is inherently challenging, you are challenging the status quo. That is the whole purpose of this sector is to be righting wrongs existing around us. That there’s no way everyone’s going to be on board for that because there are certain people benefiting from the status quo that you’re trying to disrupt, that I’m trying to disrupt. 

And so that’s just for me, a big part of grounding in my why. I remember the first time on this podcast I got a three-star or something and someone sent it to me appalled. And I was like, yes, finally, that to me is a good sign. I am pushing the envelope. That is why I’m here. I’m not here just to make everyone happy. There’s enough of that if I wanted to just play into that status quo.

So I think I really appreciate you sharing about the ways that you navigate that as you’ve been growing. I want to ask you before we head off, I know you’re also a mom and probably balancing so many things behind the scenes that a lot of the people who are listening to this can relate to. And I’m just curious how that has played into your journey and how you think about that in relation to where you’re going and the folks you support. I know you support a lot of women who are probably in similar life stages too. So will you just talk to us a little bit about that?

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. Motherhood is obviously so challenging and like, being an entrepreneur and being a mom is challenging. I will say in terms of like time management, it is the best thing that’s ever happened because it’s really, my son is at school from 8:30 to 2:30. That’s the time I get everything I need to get done, it happens within that time. And then the computer goes away, the phone goes away and I’m with him until he goes to bed at seven. So I think that, whereas before I became a mom, there was like this tendency to drag things out or reopen the computer at night.

And of course, depending on what stage of entrepreneurship you’re in, you may still have to do that. If you’re in startup mode or I keep saying entrepreneur, but this relates to fundraisers too, then you know, it’s going to be varying degrees of this. But I do think that time management piece and like having that container has been really helpful But yeah, I don’t know I think it’s one of those things where you just let things slide a little bit easier. When challenges come up or the negative stuff, or like the self-doubt, it’s you don’t have as much time to dwell in it. You don’t have as much time to just like dwell in your shit, because you have to just move on and like compartmentalize that and then move on to something else. Yeah, the whole perspective, I think really changes when you become a mom, and just like things that used to bother you wouldn’t bother you anymore.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Do you deal with a lot of folks trying to get their businesses off the ground or to a certain place before they enter motherhood? Do you see that a lot?

Shannon Lohr: I get a lot of people who are pregnant or they’re in their maternity leave. I’m like you guys are the achievers, like enneagram 3’s for sure. Oh, my gosh, I was like, all right, maternity leave, three months, setting it up. But no, the moms are the best. To work with the moms are just efficient and they are action takers. Some have kids starting kindergarten and so now they have all this free time, or again they see maternity leave from their full-time job so that’s an opportunity to try something new. But it’s always fun to work with them.

Mallory Erickson: I love that. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about in my own sort of career progression, or like business progression and my daughter is two and a half and of course, everyone’s asking about where the next one is, and I’m just like, I had it and it’s called Power Partners and it’s a course.

It’s a funny thing to navigate all the moving pieces, but I totally agree with you I think it has also given me space and distance around what really matters. And doesn’t allow me to obsess about the small stuff and just ground in my why, really related to her.

Although I’ll tell you, I’m very nervous for losing daycare that’s all year round, I literally just said to my husband, so what do we do during the summer? Or what do we do when she’s in public school and it ends at two or three.

So yeah, just all the things that I think women and moms are navigating in and parents, in so many different ways and it’s awesome to have spaces and communities like yours. I know that’s a big thing that you offer your folks are these community components. So I don’t know if you want to say anything about that. And then just tell folks where they can find you, how they can learn more for those who are interested. And if you want to share about some of the community, as a part of that would be great too.

Shannon Lohr: Yeah. Of course, a community when you’re starting anything new or you’re not in that world from your day job or whatever it is. I think just the comradery and the constant echoes of yes, I’m going through that too, or oh yeah, that’s normal, that happened to me or whatever it is. The support and then the accountability piece too, to see oh, that person completed that milestone in getting closer to X outcome, for me, it’s starting up starting a fashion brand, but all of that I think is so important.

And making sure that if you are going to enroll, that you’re enrolling in something like a program, it’s more than just a self-study course so that you have that community accountability. And of course, with Factory 45, we have the alumni mentorship piece and the mentorship from me. So anyone who is interested in starting a sustainable fashion or accessories brand can learn more about Factory45 at Factory45.co.

Mallory Erickson: Awesome. And I invite everyone to share a nonprofit that’s near and dear to their heart as well. Do you have one in mind that you would like to have folks check out?

Shannon Lohr: Yeah, Together Rising is the one that I donate to every month, which I’m sure everyone probably knows.

Mallory Erickson: We’ll send information about Together Rising, the one started by Glennon Doyle and does a lot of urgent relief work funding initiatives that aren’t always getting the attention of other organizations. Is there anything else about them you’d love to share?

Shannon Lohr: I’m trying to remember when I first found them, it was after some disaster I think, or maybe actually it was the immigration crisis at the border and everything that was going on. But I just like that the people who run the organization are funded separately, their salaries are paid separately, so that all your donation is going towards the actual cause or the people who need it.

I know that’s probably something you get a lot of push back on in the nonprofit world is like the red tape and all of the registration fees and things that have to get paid for too. And like, where did your money actually go?

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, we could have a whole separate conversation about that.

Shannon Lohr: Exactly. Yeah and delete all of this if you’re like Together Rising is not a good organization, and then send me a separate email.

Mallory Erickson: No. I think it’s a great organization and I’ve actually wanted to have them come on to talk about this component because I think the hundred percent model is wildly successful on an organization by organization basis but can be really hard on a sector-wide basis. And so I think it is about just a growing consciousness around why are we asking those questions and what does it mean? And it probably relates in so many ways to your work, right? 

As the businesses are starting to separate out, okay, this is how much are going to these workers. And this is how much, it’s like at the end of the day, it’s all coming together to create the product that has been defined as being the most important product to solve a specific problem. And that’s the way I want people to think about the non-profit sector too, which is, it doesn’t really matter how much is going to the staff or going to this. If the product, the program is moving the needle the way that it’s intended, that’s the point. And so I think these are growing conversations inside and around the sector. So I’m actually really glad that you brought it up because I think it’s an awesome thing for us to constantly be talking about.

Shannon Lohr: Cool. I’ll keep an eye out for that episode.

Mallory Erickson: Thank you, thank you for coming on and having this conversation with me today and for all of the incredible work that you do. I am really so grateful to get to know you and have this conversation.

Shannon Lohr: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

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