Project description

Business Owners: Elizabeth & John Rappa
Business: Forgotten Cotton
Location: Powell, Wyoming

Hand Crafted Companionship
In 2011 right after Hurricane Irene, John and Elizabeth were tight on money and working hard to seek new ways to generate supplemental income. With combined creativity and vision, determination, and only $40 to invest in supplies, this power couple launched Forgotten Cotton. Forgotten Cotton was the Rappa’s first online business of homemade goods. From elastic hair ties and fabric scarves, to exclusive handmade accessories, Forgotten Cotton has taken off and established a solid customer base.

“Things were tight and we were looking for new ways to generate supplemental income, so we considered ideas that would be possible in our tiny NYC location. We sourced $40 worth of supplies and took a chance. Soon our shop took over our tiny kitchen and spare bedroom (and later every room and closet available.) It really is awesome to be able to stay home with your significant other and work on something like this together.”

Since the ongoing success from starting Forgotten Cotton, both Elizabeth and John have gained not just a new set of business skills, but they are actively making their impact in the home goods industry.  Every handmade piece of product they create is personalized to each customer, “Our mission is very simple. We aim to create high quality American made products with materials purchased from small American businesses.  All customers deserve high quality customer service and American homemade goods. The idea of American made goods and products is something we very much believe in and practice in our daily lives.”

Art vs. Money
Elizabeth and John have established that they are completely dedicated and invested in their small business and their customers.They made the choice early on to listen to what the customer wants. Projects that Forgotten Cotton has had successful sales in are not projects that they have been completely passionate about. “At the risk of sounding overly commercial, you have to decide early on if you want to create art or make money. They seldom can coexist. Many of the projects which we would consider ‘passion’ driven performed rather poorly. You truly have to find a balance between projects that inspire you and products which are desirable to customers and the current market. Also, as with most things, there is no ‘easy button.’ No one gets to wake up one day and have a business. It is countless hours of discussion, planning, decision making, etc. We spend more time working on our business than we did at more traditional jobs. There is no turning it off. We often are answering emails, making orders, or planning new ideas at all hours of the day. Needless to say we hold very unconventional work hours.”

Every Challenge Brings New Opportunity
The Rappa’s explain their success has not come easy but it is possible, “We face the same roadblocks as any small business owner does. One of the biggest challenges has been running into situations that are new or different.  Making decisions based on things you don’t know about and learning the hard way. It makes any small business stronger to come across these challenges and survive them.  One of the biggest challenges is the online marketplace. Learning how to stay ahead of the curve in an ever changing world of e-commerce is essential to making it.”

Though faced with obstacles that come from owning a small business, the Rappa’s did what needed to be done to overcome their roadblocks and have greatly benefited from it, “With each new challenge or opportunity we are able to learn more about who we are and what we want as a business. Utilizing our gained knowledge helps both of us to individually focus our path.” Being able to reach the point to relocate was a huge win for them and gave them the opportunity to wholeheartedly invest in their homemade creations, “Our biggest personal win would be having the freedom to leave our jobs and move anywhere in the country. That was a very liberating experience to say- where do you want to move? We were not limited by location or job opportunities because we work from home.”