Her business is down. It’s always been down ─ and feathers! Cookie Vanous is the president of Czech Feather & Down Company. The company's roots go back to 1885, to the Czech community in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While the company has been handed down through the generations, the craft has remained the same: Each product is handcrafted by a single person, from the first cut to the last stitch.
Together with her daughter, Dawn Schrog, Vanous oversees the handcrafting of feather and down pillows, comforters, feather beds and furniture cushions. The company has expanded and moved from Cedar Rapids to Mount Vernon, Iowa, where the team also handles repairs and restoration of down goods.
Prior to September 11, 2001, Vanous' business was growing at a steady pace, but afterwards there was much less tourism and sales decreased. Vanous contacted SCORE to help get back on track.
To learn more about Czech Feather & Down Company, visit czechfeatherdownco.com.
Today, Czech Feather & Down is enjoying sales greater than before, and Vanous estimates they will increase at a faster rate.
In spring 2005, Cookie contacted Cedar Rapids SCORE for marketing advice and began meeting with John Ruth. Vanous worked with mentor Ruth to develop a comprehensive marketing plan to increase sales and satisfy staffing needs. Ruth advised Vanous on cross-marketing with local furniture makers and the nearby woolen mill.
She credits Ruth and SCORE with opening her eyes to other possibilities. She says that SCORE is the best business organization she has seen that provides business counseling and training. She looks forward to a long-term mentoring relationship and has become a strong ambassador for SCORE.