The premium upland cotton used to make Covered in Cotton’s line of handsome throws—the Overall Winner of the 2019 Made in the South Awards—gets ginned, spun, plied, and woven all within 150 miles of the four-thousand-acre family farm in Darlington, South Carolina, where it’s grown and harvested by owners Tracy and Ty Woodard. A celebration of the South’s agriculture and textile industries, the Woodards’ blankets are a tangible testament to people and place—they’re also really, really soft. And because community is so important to their family operation, giving back is too.
“We call it Cotton with a Cause,” Tracy says of the company’s philanthropic mission. For every ten throws sold, they donate one to a South Carolina children’s hospital, a small gesture of comfort for families in crisis. When coronavirus hit, they knew they wanted to help. “This cause is a huge part of who we are,” she says. “There are people out there hurting who need things, and so we asked ourselves: ‘What do we have to give?’”
Loosely woven, the Woodards’ fabric wasn’t suitable for gowns or masks. Instead they partnered with other local businesses and farmers to create their Snack & Snuggle boxes, which include a Covered in Cotton throw, South Carolina peanuts, and Lowcountry Kettle Corn. “People are still having babies,” she says. “People are still having birthdays and anniversaries and, unfortunately, deaths in their families. The boxes are something you can send that just says, ‘Hey, I love you.’” And for every ten boxes sold, one is sent to a healthcare worker tagged by friends and family on the Covered in Cotton Instagram page. “It’s the next best thing to a hug,” Tracy says.
As small businesses, farmers, and makers like the Woodards continue to navigate these uncertain times, the G&G team is especially honored to highlight the passion, hard work, and creativity of artisans with our annual Made in the South Awards, which can be entered here until July 1. The awards can have a tremendous impact on a business, as Tracy shares below.
How did you hear about the Made in the South Awards?
That’s actually a funny story. We went to the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition [SEWE] in Charleston for the first time last year, and we got to meet some really great companies that are based here in South Carolina. We met the girls with Porzio’s Sauces and one of them said, “Hey, have you ever heard of the Made in the South Awards? Y’all should definitely apply.” Well, that was the first I’d ever heard about them, so I made a note and did some research, and then I signed up to get updates. After having won, it was really cool this year at SEWE when I got to tell them thank you. Winning changed our entire business—our lives.
What happened once the Made in the South Awards issue hit newsstands and mailboxes?
Oh man. Things just went crazy in the best kind of way. The response was almost immediate after y’all announced the winners by email and social media. That was on a Friday, and by Monday, we were calling everybody in our supply chain telling them, “We’ve got to get more products. We’re going to run out.” And we did. In ten days, we sold out of all of our inventory that we had put away for the rest of the year.
That sounds like a whirlwind.
Well, it was a great problem to have. But even more than that, the awards opened up so many doors. They brought recognition in other channels; opportunities we never could have dreamed of.
In addition to the signature throws, you also carry lines of baby blankets and hand towels, right?
Yes, in November, when we found out we had won, we were almost ready to launch the hand towels and baby blankets. At that point, we just had our throws. We sold out of all of our throws the Monday before Thanksgiving. Thankfully, we were able to launch our baby blankets and hand towels that Friday after Thanksgiving, so we weren’t completely bare of product.
Other than sales, what surprised you most about winning the Made in the South Awards?
One of the biggest things that I tell people when they mention the awards to us is that Garden & Gun is not just a magazine. It’s an entire brand. It has this tremendous following of people who just love everything you guys do. And I knew that to some extent beforehand, but you have no idea until you’re in the magazine and embraced by this community. It’s been heartwarming to experience.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking of entering the Made in the South Awards this year?
Don’t hesitate. Just do it.
Entries are accepted until July 1, 2021. Receive a discounted entry fee until May 31. For more details and to enter, go to madeinthesouthawards.com.