This letter was written to encourage some new breeders who were worried about the poor economy.
I wanted to point out that, that in any economy, running a business is hard work. Marketing is work. It takes a lot of time, and a bit of money as well.
When folks blame marketing failures on the economy, which is something we have no control over, they have a tendency to give up working their business completely.
Then failure is a certainty.
You can make your business work, and work well, if you run it with intent.
Alpacas are not a huggable investment - sorry about that overused tag line!
An investment is something that implies a quick easy sale when the price is right.
They are a wonderful amazing animal (that usually prefers not to be hugged, thank you)
that make an excellent business, that I would recommend to anyone ready and willing to fall in love and do the hard work that every successful business requires.
We are thankful every day, that we are able to be raising alpacas for a living.
What could be better?!
How much is that alpaca worth?
Ever get that question? Ever ask that question?
My answer makes folks a little crazy.
Because the price is probably 25% alpaca quality / 75% selling situation.
If you are selling, you need to have both the quality (something to work with)
plus you need to create that positive selling situation.
And that creation takes a ton of work.
First - you have to have the quality, or A quality, that your buyer is looking for. Maybe it's a color. Maybe it's fineness, show quality, pedigree, crimp, etc.
Second - you have to have independent validation of the quality -
If you don't attend shows, then you need some awesome fleece pictures, stats, pedigrees, etc.
Don't have anything special to show on your alpaca for sale? How about their kids? Their parents? The guy she's bred to?
Third - It Has to be Easy for folks to see these qualities at first glance -
you won't get a second chance, not a next click to the next page - or a phone call to find out more.
That might be show records - fleece pictures - histograms - pedigree - price - But Something must catch your shopper at first glance.
Sound like a lot of work? Yup. There's learning about what you got, and making sure you have what folks are looking for. Selection and continued fine tuning of your herd. Maybe that means letting go of the idea that Fluffy is the core of your production herd because you spent $40K for her - if she isn't throwing it. There's the shows to attend - the pictures to take (repeatedly, until you get that perfect shot!) - the time spent writing ad copy - the time answering emails - updating pictures and web sites. Networking with alpaca folks - you'd be surprised what opportunities come up - if you Just Show Up. Have an open mind - to prices - to trades - to anything that will offer your herd exposure. Be positive. Nothing makes folks (including buyers) want distance from you more than a 'woe is me' attitude.
The person who thinks they can, and the person who thinks they can't, are both right.
Don't let a set back turn you into someone who no longer thinks they can. Then you stop trying.
I have heard folks worrying about auction prices, and commenting that before the economic slowdown, the big auctions were always high dollar events. That isn't really the case.
In 2001 at Celebrity's Futurity Sale (one of the most respected and prominent yearly auctions): The lowest female selling price was $3900 (and yes she sold). Ten other female alpacas sold for between $3900 & $7800.
And that's just one auction example. Remember - it's 75% the selling situation. Every Auction is different. There are alpaca liquidations at pennies on the dollar every year - since the mid 1990's. It's not a new thing. And today we can point to Snowmass and Magical auctions as those high dollar events, still going on. They create the selling situation, and then some!
The Glory Days of easy money with alpacas were not pastures paved with gold, filled with winged crias. Ten years ago - if folks got into the business thinking it was a way to make money fast and easy - they might blame the sellers for misleading them, and use terms like Pyramid scheme, as they took their herds to sell for next to nothing at livestock auctions. Today we hear - it's the economy.
Like any other reason - it has some validity.
OK - it has a lot of validity. But I'm afraid it has become self perpetuating for many folks - and paralyzing for others. Alpacas are not and never have been easy money. For that you are better off getting a Lotto ticket. Alpacas are a good business - and, like every business, it requires hard work. But, I believe more than most businesses, for most folks raising alpacas is a labor of love.
Regardless of what your business is,
Please don't be waiting for an improved economy to start marketing. You need to work your business every day.
Our first sale (back in those glory days you may hear about) took endless marketing attempts, in endless different ways. Snail mail, show sales lists, more snail mail with lower prices, better pictures, more snail mail to a more focused target group, magazine ads, magazine classifieds, internet classified ads, (which back then were Brand spanking new), more shows, more networking. Quite honestly, if I didn't HAVE to sell in order to make my house payment, I'd have given up. But I had to learn, so I did, and finally - success.
That was in 1998. (which explains all of the snail mails ;^)
It's never been Easy. But our alpacas always sell. If I keep at it - and I do. Your efforts are cumulative. You may sell today from something you did 5 years ago. None of your marketing efforts are wasted.
Are you in it because you love it?
Then it's win win. Are you in it to be the best fiber producer? The best fiber mill? Produce the finest alpacas? The blackest? The sweetest?
Then someday you will get there, and folks will know who you are. It's not easy - but if you're in it for love, somehow easy isn't what you are looking for.
Hope this didn't sound like a lecture -
Hope it gives hope. Cause life is darned good with alpacas.