After growing up the daughter of a cotton farmer, Anna Yeager Brakefield’s plans involved anything but returning to the family farm. Upon graduation from Auburn University with a degree in graphic design, she got a job with an advertising agency in New York City, where she put her love of art and design to work.
A few years later, in 2014, her soon-to-be-husband’s career path brought her back South. She began a new job, still as a designer, but she wasn’t particularly happy with it. When her dad approached her with a business idea, it seemed like a good time to change her own path.
“Let’s build a direct-to-consumer retail business using our cotton,” he told her. “So, I told him, ‘Sure!’”
Mark Yeager, Brakefield’s father, had been farming cotton on his farm in Moulton since the 1980s, but in recent years, he’d become frustrated.
“He was working so hard and selling his cotton for so little,” Brakefield said. “He knew there had to be another way.”
The father-daughter duo combined their talents and began brainstorming what they could produce with their cotton. They landed on bedding and spent the next few months building a supply chain.
“It was really important for us to have 100% American-made products. The South has a rich textile tradition, and we felt strongly about telling the story from the seed in the ground to the final product,” Brakefield explained.
By October 2016, they had their first set of sheets ready to sell, and they named their company after its roots in the rich, red soil of North Alabama – Red Land Cotton. Brakefield created an online store and they began selling, packing and shipping out of her dad’s cotton gin office.
Timing was right, with the holiday shopping season ramping up, and in their first three months of business, Red Land Cotton had more than $100,000 in sales.
“That was some great affirmation for us that we had something good, and that we should continue,” Brakefield said.
Growing and sewing a worldwide following
Today, Red Land Cotton sells its farm-to-home luxury linens to customers worldwide through its online store and locally in a retail shop in downtown Moulton. Since the family launched their first sheet set, they have expanded their offerings to include five different design styles. They also partner with a mill in Georgia to create bath towels and, last year, created a new line of quilts, made with batting from their cotton.
The whole family is involved in the business, not just Brakefield and Yeager. Brakefield’s two brothers farm with her father. Her sister-in-law works in the store and so does her mom, “when she’s not watching my daughter,” Brakefield laughed.
While Brakefield lives in Nashville, she spends several days a week in Moulton working on the retail side of the business, and she spends a large portion of her time telling the Red Land Cotton story.
“Almost every week, I am in a different city around Alabama sharing about our business and our products. We have shipped to every state in the United States, including Hawaii, and as far away as France, Norway and Canada, but I still find that there are people in Alabama who don’t know about us,” Brakefield said.
Even so, Red Land Cotton has made its mark. Southern Living came to Moulton to write about the family business and ABC’s World News Tonight featured Red Land Cotton in its “Made in America” series last Christmas.
The pinnacle of exposure, however, was an invitation from the White House. Last July, Red Land Cotton was asked to represent Alabama in the “Made in America” showcase.
“That was such an honor to set up in the White House and show our products to the president, members of the press and Congress,” Brakefield said.
While Brakefield, Yeager and the rest of the family have plans to continue growing, their heart remains in Moulton. What makes them most proud, they say, is bringing awareness to their hometown as well as the important work of farming.
“We love showing how agriculture can be made into something profitable and consumer-facing. That has been a really cool story to tell as well,” Brakefield said.