In the mid-1990s, Larry Ripaldi, a Vietnam veteran and successful oil man, suffered a series of accidents playing his favorite sport, polo. Left with multiple concussions, he was unable to play, and then fate intervened – but not in the way you might expect. What happened next sent him into a seemingly downward spiral, one that forced the self-reliant businessman to rely solely on God.
When it seemed things couldn’t get worse, the car Larry was driving was rear-ended by a truck. “I went to the VA Hospital, and I was in a coma for a while,” says Larry. The polo accidents compounded by the car crash had left him temporarily paralyzed – unable to walk or talk. The final accident had also stripped him of his memory and his ability to make a living.
After years of rehab, the once wealthy businessman was down to his last dollar. In 2002, a long-time friend in Kentucky allowed Larry to buy into one of his wells to see if he could get back on the phone and sell oil. He couldn’t. “I got off the phone and cried and said, ‘Jesus I can’t do this. I can’t listen, remember what they’re saying and then try to talk – I can’t do it.’”
Then, something incredible happened. Within a week, Larry had his first client and it gave him enough money to make it through that month. That was 14 years ago; now, he’s doing better than he ever expected. “I couldn’t function, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even drive. But I asked Him, and He just did it,” says Larry.
With the recent downturn in oil prices, Larry figured it might be time to look for other investment opportunities. His neighbor, Gary Stokes, an Air Force veteran, had approached him roughly three years ago about a business idea. While sitting at a restaurant, Gary’s nephew was wearing a traditional retainer for his sunglasses and it kept getting in his way. His nephew wanted something that could be pulled off quickly without having to take his hat off, so he came up with the idea of a retainer with a magnetic snap.
Being an oil man, Larry initially thought he had nothing to contribute. “So they started the business and I kept watching what they were doing, and I would give them marketing ideas,” he says. Eventually, Larry bought half of the business, and Gary owns the other half. “I liked it because I thought it was unique – nobody has ever come out with a snap. It saves you from scratched lenses, broken sunglasses and from losing them,” he says. As a pilot and a boater, Larry recognized the opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts who wanted to enjoy their activities and hold on to their expensive sunglasses.
He believes the most important thing is to educate people about why Cotton Snaps sunglass straps are different – and ultimately better. The high-quality cotton comes in colors and patterns to fit every personality (chances are, you’ll want more than one). But it’s the patent-pending magnetic snap that makes them a must-have. It keeps your glasses right where you want them, and when you’re ready to take it off, there’s no hassle. Just gently tug the magnet apart, and it’s off.
There’s also a line of wraps – crazy cute cotton bracelets – that come in gingham, chevron and seersucker prints, just to name a few. They can be customized with charms like soccer balls or megaphones and starting around $10, they’re fun, colorful complements to the sunglass straps. The snaps and wraps are available at nearly 180 retail locations along the East Coast, a few spots in DFW and the online shop.
For Larry, Cotton Snaps is a family affair. Whenever an order is placed for a bracelet with charms, he and his wife, Susie, add them by hand in the company’s Plano headquarters. His daughter, Krysti, is a commercial photographer who takes photos for the website and manages creative aspects of the business. With the exception of the magnets for the snaps, which are sourced in China, everything is sourced and assembled locally.
Because he credits the VA Hospital with saving his life all those years ago, Larry wanted to find a way to give back that also honored his and Gary’s military service. So, every time a purchase is made from their Americana collection, a donation is made to the Lone Star Chapter of The Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Larry is a man who knows how quickly life’s circumstances can change. As his business grows, he continues to show his gratitude by giving back. “God gave me talents, He gave me a good mind, but everything I have is because of Christ,” he says.Cotton Snaps Website >