The Red Land Cotton journey has been an interesting one. In the Fall of 2015, my dad, Mark Yeager, sent a video of cotton going into our cotton gin to his sister who lives in Dallas. Her response was "I'd love to have some sheets made out of that North Alabama cotton!" Two months later, over Christmas lunch, Dad approached me about leaving my job in advertising/branding to join him in his new business idea of vertical integration. The big idea behind Red Land Cotton is that we take the cotton that we grow on our family farm and make it into bed linens made entirely in the United States. We knew absolutely nothing about the textile business. All we had was an idea and the desire to make something happen.
We had many hurdles along the way. Our first hurdle was deciding exactly what sort of bed linens we wanted to create. We researched online for days trying to see what was already on the market. Obviously we didn't want to create a linen that was already on the market. We decided we wanted to reach back in history and recreate an heirloom fabric. My parents have a friend who had keepsake linens passed down from the 1920s, who was so kind to lend us those bed linens. My parents slept on them. Upon awaking, my parents declared it the best night of sleep they'd possibly ever had in their life. This was the sheet we wanted to recreate!
Having no clue where to go next, we called on the good folks at Cotton Incorporated in Raleigh, North Carolina. They were so helpful! With their labs, they literally tore the fibers apart in that heirloom fabric and developed the formula to recreate a piece of history. Cotton Incorporated also helped us connect with people in the American textile industry who gave us advice and worked with us.
My dad and I, as co-owners of Red Land Cotton have butted heads a few times because no two people can see eye to eye on everything. I try to respect his leadership in business because that's his area of expertise and he tries to give me a free hand when it comes to design, advertising and marketing because that's my wheel-house. Respect and playing to each other's strengths are very important for us.
I think one of the biggest factors in our business success has been the rare combination of a father/daughter team where each have a strong background in necessary areas for success. My father has been growing and ginning cotton since he was in his early twenties. The agriculture business in America is a large complex monstrosity and dad has years of experience in growing a fiscally healthy agriculture business. I graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Graphic Design. After graduation, I worked in New York for a while in advertising. I learned a lot in New York. So dad grows it, gins it, and gives business advice. I design it, brand it and market our products. We're a rare combination of talents. We're both learning something new everyday, sometimes from each other!
If I could offer advice to anyone out there considering starting a new business, I'd advise them to do their homework. What makes your product different from a million other products on the market? How are you going to get enough money behind your idea to launch this business? I'd also encourage people to ask questions. Seek help. Don't be shy about getting on the phone and seeking advice from people who've made things happen. Most successful business people are happy to talk to you and point you in the right direction. Successful entrepreneurs remember what it's like to have nothing more than an idea and a dream. Ask for help. The dream is still possible. Do your homework, ask for help and go for it.