Insider Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs from a Brand You Need to Know

So here it is, the second edition of the RC&D mini blog series: Meet the Boss Behind the Brand. And I’m thrilled to have the bosses behind Forgotten Cotton with us to share their story and their savvy business know-how. Okay y’all, take it away!

 

1. Please introduce yourself and your business.

We are Elizabeth and John, the married team behind Forgotten Cotton. We are a handmade business who design and create irresistible fashion accessories for women. We focus on having a variety of fun colors and interesting textures. Our recent love affair has been with lace. It is such a pleasure to make stylish accessories that add something special to any look. One of the biggest perks to buying from a handmade business such as ours is we can customize anything.  When you receive an item from us we want it to be a perfect fit and created for your needs and style.

We were both born and raised in small town Pennsylvania (in the home of the Doodle- the Cheese Doodle, as in right by Wise Company. Extra points if you know them since they are a Northeast regional brand we miss very much).  Life works in mysterious ways and we didn’t find each other until I (Elizabeth who will be writing this interview) moved to NYC to complete my Master’s Degree. From that point forward there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish as a team. We started our business when we lived in  a small apartment in NYC and as our business grew we were ready to take the next step and go full time. This was a unique opportunity to say- Ok, where do you want to live?  We had been in NYC for over 8 years so it seemed a good time to make the jump and live somewhere else. We considered many places around the country and finally decided Wyoming was going to be the next leg of our adventure. The first time we saw Wyoming and our new home was after a 5 day trip across the country to move. This decision has been regarded as one of our finest after the one where we decided to spend our lives together.

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2. Where are you physically located and where can we find you online?

Our current home is in Northwestern Wyoming along with the pronghorn, wolves and coyotes. We are right next to the Rocky Mountains and have the most amazing view of the Bear Tooth Mountain Range.  We will admit it can be difficult at times to be so far away from everyone we know. We hope they know we miss them a ton and appreciate every phone call and skype date.

We sell online at a number of locations:

Aftcra: www.aftcra.com/forgottencotton

Etsy: www.forgottencotton.com

Amazon Handmade: www.amazon.com/handmade/forgottencotton

Email List: http://eepurl.com/bquxCT

 

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3. How important has social media been for growing your business?

We use all the different types of social media to relate and keep in touch with different types of customers. Instagram is an obvious favorite choice due to it being a visual media. Instagram allows us to share new ideas in a way that is curated to match our visual style. We also love facebook since that was our first social media platform and have been working to adjust with the ever changing platform that is has become. A few months ago we started our own email list  which has been a really awesome for us to keep our fans and customers updated with new items, sales, and news. (The Gold is in the List by Dave Conrey is a great book to checkout on the topic of starting an email list).  We find that different platforms engage different types of customers so it is important for us to continually grow and remain active on each platform.

4.  How did you get started making your products?

The beauty of having your own business is the possibility of continued growth and invention. We had always discussed the idea of having a business. ForgottenCotton started out with $40 worth of supplies and an idea. We really didn’t know that it would turn into the everything that is has in terms of scale and viability. We believe in making high quality products that are made in America and the response we received when starting our business let us know that this was something people wanted.

5. What was one of the challenges of starting your company?

One of the biggest challenges we faced feels like a common thread for a lot of small businesses. I was working full time as an art teacher at a private elementary school. So while we were very lucky to be able to have John stay home and run the business all my nights and weekends were filled with trying to balance having a full time job and helping with the growth of our business.  Another common thread we hear often and can relate to is the struggle with a lack of room. We were living in a tiny space in NYC and the business ended up taking up every spare inch we had available.  We feel very fortunate to have built our business to the point where we could both work full time on the business and have space to expand in a meaningful way.

6. How many employees do you have? Do you outsource any aspects of your business? (i.e. accounting, legal)

We are a start to finish a two person team. It is really great to be able to say that we each have our strengths of different business acumen which allows for a balance of tasks. We really do everything all the way from designing graphics to photography to managing social media. Obviously, we design and make all of our items which sometimes feels like the smallest part of running our business. Our methodology of having a business comes down to the principal that it is better to learn the skills as needed than to outsource them. For example our photography skills have grown dramatically over the past four years from constant learning. We talked with photography friends, researched information, and tried new ideas until we started to feel we were getting the type of photos we wanted.  I think one of the biggest assets we have as a team is our ability to self evaluate and make decisions on how best to move forward.  If you have someone else telling you what to do or how to do it we feel that limits the ability to self examine different aspects of your business and can ultimately stunt growth. By knowing how each moving part works we are able to better examine, evaluate, change, and grow.  We are in a constant state of motion and discussion of where we can improve while educating ourselves with the information needed  to make those improvements.

7.  Can you walk us through a typical day running your business?

I would love to run you through a typical day however I don’t know if you can have such a thing when working from home. Our schedule tends to fluctuate dramatically depending on what time of the year it is and what current projects are brewing. During November and December we will spend 20 hours a day on processing orders, making, and shipping (rinse, wash, and repeat). When you come to a month like March the schedule of our activities is very different. We are planning new ideas, ordering supplies, working on photoshoots and introducing new products to our customers. Some days we spend working on custom orders while others it will be testing out new ideas. Since we make all our own designs and patterns we have a lot of trial and evaluation for each new item. I think the best part of having a home business is being able to have that flexibility and set up our days to best suit our needs.

8. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting their own business?

I could sit down with a pot of coffee and talk for hours on this one! The short answer I would tell someone is to  just get started. Don’t be afraid to start small. To expand that idea into broader terms I would tell someone that you do not need to take expensive classes and have thousands of dollars to start a business. Do not be afraid of what you don’t know because you can always learn. Spend time researching. The internet is a magical place with tons of free resources. Don’t get sucked into listening to what everyone else has to say or what everyone else is doing. Fear of failure can be a stumbling block for beginning businesses as people who are not confident in their own ability to make decisions look for answers from other people. You don’t have to do that. Our friend Sharon from Academy of Handmade recently wrote an amazing and on point article talking about how you should never crowd source the ideas and running of your business. Trust your instincts. (Go check out her article for more).

Looking back at where we started we can see how little we knew. I am not afraid to say that we didn’t know anything. Don’t shy away from researching the type of business you are getting into and examining the potential market for your ideas. The key to getting started is understanding  that you can always improve. The truth is running a business isn’t easy and is a ton of work but that should never stop you. If you are committed to what you are doing and open to examining ways to make yourself better it is possible. Focus on having smart business growth and being authentic to who you are and what you want your business to be. People will take your business as seriously as you do. You will get frustrated. You will have wins and losses. If you take it as it comes it can be an amazing ride.

Also, and this is a highly debated topic our opinion is to get a real camera. Product photos should never be taken and edited on cell phones.

9. Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

Fun fact about us: We love reading and video games. Our favorite book series is A Song of Ice and Fire (let us get specific in saying not the show, the books- go read them because they are amazing).  Our favorite video game series are: Fallout, Witcher, Dragon Age, GTA, and Red Dead Redemption. There are so many others but that is our top of the top.

Bonus fun fact: We do not own cell phones. We live in an area that does not get cell phone reception so we got rid of them when we moved.  We are not sad about that at all.

10. Sending snail mail can be a great way to personalize a message or stand out from your competition. When do you use snail mail in your business?

Our entire business is based around sending snail mail! Since we are an online business all of our items are sent through the mail. It is a great feeling knowing that every day someone is opening a package from us. Everyone loves getting mail and having a business where we get to send it is really a great experience when the mail runs smoothly.

11. How do you decide what materials to use?

We always look for materials that are best suited to the vision we have for the project. For example when making our faux leather cuffs we researched  many (many!) different kinds of faux leather until we found the one that we felt was perfect for our needs. We have very high standards for making our products and want to find materials that match our expectations. We also are very particular about where we purchase our materials in that we aim to buy from small American Businesses. While the process of finding suppliers who fit our needs and expectations does take a long time it also allows us to build a business relationship with our suppliers who are all amazing in helping us source the types of materials we need.

12. What is one thing you would want a first time customer to know?

We want all of our customers to know that we are here to help. If someone has a question or a specific need we always want them to feel free to contact us. If someone wants something custom that we don’t offer please send us a message. If you need something customized we are happy to be of assistance. We have been involved with custom items for everything from weddings to kids to cosplay. Often times custom requests will lead to adding a whole new product line based on the inspiration we receive from our customers.

13. What type of camera/ photoediting software do you use?

We use a Nikon D90 for our product photos and edit with Photoshop. For online photos such as Instagram and Facebook I have a delightfully useful Samsung Galaxy Camera with Wifi Integration. My favorite app for quick photo editing is SnapSeed.

14. Where do you take your product photos?

All of our product photos are taken right here either in our house or on our property. Those mountains you see? Those are the Rocky Mountains in their full beautiful glory. We love having the ability to integrate where we live into our product line as it gives our photos a feeling that is unique to our brand.

15. What is the most common non product question you receive?

Where did you get those boots? No kidding. I know, they are amazing boots in our photos which is why I chose to wear them. The boots I am wearing in many of our product photos were given to me as a gift several years ago and are Frye Brand. They are no longer in production (and have not been for years) but you may be able to find a used pair on Ebay.

16. Tell us about your Cats.

We are a petfree shop however we do have two cats who live with us in our home. They are  two black rescue cats from Brooklyn that are named Coheed and Cambria (named after the band.) They traveled all the way here with us from NYC. They love boxes, sunny windows, and sitting by the fire. Their favorite food is Tuna. They also love when we give them fabric scraps to play with.

For deals, sales, behind the scenes, and more follow us!
Get 10% off your next order. Sign up for our mailing list!: http://eepurl.com/bquxCT

 

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A big Thank You to Elizabeth and John for letting us step inside their incredible business adventure. To keep up with these two, you can follow them on Instagram and Twitter and like them on Facebook. Be sure to also subscribe to their mailing list for 10% off your next order.

Anyone else bubbling with inspiration? Before you ask, it’s really early here so we promise it’s not from champagne. {smile} I’d love for you to share you’re thoughts about this interview in the comments below. And if you have suggestions for future brand interviews or would like your business featured, click here for more details.

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Tiffany Anne

4 comments

  1. Great Article! I’ve recently become friends with Lizzie (we met on a Facebook business group) She’s got such an awesome sense of humor, she’s a joy to talk to, and always has the best advice. I too have a family owned handmade business, and Lizzie has been such a great confidante…a lot of people dont understand all that entails..so its great to have her to talk to! I enjoyed reading about her business, and watching it grow!

  2. Hi Alicia! She’s a real doll isn’t she? Love finding inspiration from other entrepreneur! I think we each have so much we could learn and teach each other. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!

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