Anna Brakefield never wanted to go back to her family’s north Alabama cotton farm—far from it actually. She ran to Auburn University where she gained a degree in graphic design and later worked in marketing for mainstream companies including BMW and American Express.
But something was off, something was calling her home.
Nestled at the foot of the Bankhead National Forest, the farm Brakefield grew up on has been in her family for three generations. He father, Mark Yeager, reached out in 2016 with a dream: let’s not just grow cotton, let’s make and market a product.
“The motivation behind that was a typical frustration with the low price of cotton, frustrated by the lack of textile manufacturing here in the United Stated,” she says. “I think you know, every farmer is looking to diversify and make their farm unique and different and grow. This was just a really unique way to do that.”
She was intrigued and agreed to help. It would be an American grown and totally American-made product. Yeager provided the cotton and agronomic expertise and Brakefield has expertise in selling, but neither understood the manufacturing process.
“We hired a textile consultant very quickly that allowed us to put together those [manufacturing] pieces in the U.S.,” she says. “[They helped us] find a spinner, a weaver, a finishing and a cut and sewer to help us get our first round of production done.”
Find something different
Now that they knew how to create a product from their family’s cotton farm, they had to figure out what they actually wanted to make.
“My dad started becoming really nostalgic about his grandmother’s sheets,” Brakefield said to a crowd at the 2020 Top Producer Summit. “We all know how those sheets felt when they came off the line and they have been sun dried with a little bit of starch and that really hit home with me.”
It hit the nostalgic part of her brain, the sustainability-focused part and the branding aspect—if a sheet survived being passed down generation after generation since the 1920s they were doing something right. So, they decided to recreate something that worked and pay homage to the generations before.
With that Red Land Linens was born. Like infants, the first year wasn’t without challenges and you have to start small to make it big.
“Our first round of production was 48 bales of cotton that yielded 20,000 yards of fabric,” she says. “There’s about seven yards of fabric in every set of sheets.”
Even today they’re grateful to all of the millers, weavers and other stakeholders who took a chance on them. When those companies are used to working in big, big numbers and take a risk with a family who sold just a few hundred sets of sheets first round of production, it showed a lot of faith.
“They’re still our partners today,” Brakefield adds.
They started selling online and had a store of their own. Today their customers are inundated with choice: Walmart, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target sell their products in addition to many online retail sites.
Make it personal
Brakefield and Yeager aren’t just selling sheets, they’re selling their family’s story.
“I knew it was important to get our personal story out there to get people to buy in not only to the quality of the product, but the quality of us and of our farm and processes,” she says. Her family uses photo, videos and host on-farm tours frequently.
Customers and anyone interested can find their story on their website and blog, in addition to social media platforms. Brakefield tries to connect with people as much as possible, including videos of planter prep, sewing sheets and even recipes.
The company is still growing. They introduced bedsheets in 2016, in 2017 they added towels, next they added duvet covers, quilts, pillow shams and loungewear—all products their customers were asking for. And even with numerous additions to their lineup, it’s still American grown and American made products from Red Land Cotton.
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