The Ground Floor: Three women build Cedar Rapids clothing, jewelry businesses together

Clothing, textiles and jewelry entrepreneurs open in Czech Village

Abigail Rawson checks out customers at an event celebrating the opening of Found+Formed in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The new store in Czech Village is a collaboration between co-owners Abigail Rawson, Rachel Maker and Carissa Starleaf. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Abigail Rawson checks out customers at an event celebrating the opening of Found+Formed in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The new store in Czech Village is a collaboration between co-owners Abigail Rawson, Rachel Maker and Carissa Starleaf. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

When Abigail Rawson opened her first vintage shop in Czech Village, she was thrilled to be her own boss.

“It was an act of rebellion,” she said of opening Rawson’s Daughter in February 2016. “I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do.”

But with her new business, Rawson sees the value of collaboration. She and partners Rachel Maker and Carissa Starleaf opened Found + Formed on Aug. 8, just down the street from Rawson’s original storefront.

“It’s great to have other people’s influence and work,” Rawson said. “We are equal partners. They want my success as much as they want their own.”

The idea for Found + Formed, which sells vintage and handmade clothing, jewelry, accessories and housewares, came after the flood of September 2016. After having to evacuate her shop, Rawson terminated her lease. In November, she reopened in a new space that had housed another vintage clothing store that didn’t return after the flood.

“I wanted to stay in Czech Village because it’s funky and eclectic,” Rawson said. “But I missed having other influences from like-minded women.”

So she recruited some like-minded women to join her in a new venture.

Maker, who had been working at Rawson’s Daughter, had studied textiles and apparel. She makes clothing and accessories using vintage fabrics and thrift T-shirts in an effort to be environmentally friendly.

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“The apparel industry is one of the worst industries for the planet,” Maker said. “It takes 700 gallons of water to make one new T-shirt. I give new life and new energy to something already existing.”

Starleaf has her own line of handmade jewelry called Luxe Debris. She and Rawson met at a flea market, where Rawson “put a bug in (her) ear” about going into business together.

“She said we have the potential to build something here in Cedar Rapids,” Starleaf said. “It feels really right and really good.”

After the three women decided to move forward with their new business, Starleaf came up with the name Found + Formed to reflect the store’s focus on vintage and locally handmade items. Rawson closed Rawson’s Daughter, and the partners spent a week cleaning and revamping the shop before reopening under the new name.

Their effort, which included knocking out a wall, doubling the dressing rooms and painting, was a good exercise in team building, Starleaf recalled.

“We were all so tired but we were all in it together,” she said.

Their future plans for the business include bringing in the work of other artists, hosting workshops — starting with a scrunchie-making workshop on Sept. 28 — and launching a website for internet sales.

“We’re also going to collectively work to build our house brand,” Maker said. “We want people to come here and find their new favorite item.”

AT A GLANCE

Owners: Abigail Rawson, Rachel Maker and Carissa Starleaf

Business: Found + Formed

Address: 65 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

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Email: foundandformedcr@gmail.com

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Know a new business in operation for less than a year that would make a good “Ground Floor” feature? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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