by Brianna Paon
After six momentous months of working for the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool, and after the bustling surge of the fall and winter seasons, I was given the opportunity to attend my first alpaca show - the Carolina Alpaca Celebration in Concord, North Carolina. I went along for the 13 hour trek halfway down the east coast with Mike Gula, the primary fiber sorter here at NEAFP. We had some beautiful sunshine for the entirety of the weekend which was a nice escape from our brisk and wavering weather patterns here on the Southcoast, Massachusetts. Upon arrival at the Cabarrus Arena Friday morning, we steadily began building our booth among the alpaca that were trickling in from their time on the road. Even though the show didn’t technically begin until the following day, people were already coming to the booth to drop off their fiber while chatting it up with us amicably. We had encountered plenty of folks who were happy to see us and provided us with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and praise. This had immediately struck me - it was so interesting to hear this type of feedback in person from the other side, so to speak, rather than from behind an email signature on a laptop. It was at this point, before the show began, that I had known how much I would thoroughly enjoy the following two days ahead.
We finished hanging up all of our products, labels and decor at around 5pm, leaving plenty of time for us to grab some dinner and do some exploring in the area. Not only have I not been to an alpaca show before, but it was also my first time visiting North Carolina - I wanted to make the most of my experience there. We stopped at Chef Thai & Sushi Bar and indulged in some excellent spicy rolls - our waitress nearly had us in tears from how hilariously entertaining she was. Afterward we stumbled upon the historic Gibson Mill, which housed not one but two breweries - High Branch Brewing Company and Cabarrus Brewing Company. The beers and the atmosphere at each of the two breweries were exceptional - so much so that we visited both two nights in a row!
On Saturday morning, the Carolina Alpaca Celebration had officially commenced. I was eager to begin meeting people in person that I had only heard about, or had only spoken on the phone briefly with in the past. Before the day got into full swing, I took some time to walk around, get a closer look at the animals as well as all the vendors. I was still very new to this - my only real exposure to a lot of alpaca at once has been during my handful of visits to Golden Touch Farm in Westport MA, the farm in which my bosses, Chris and Shelley Riley own and operate. I tried hard to contain my excitement around all of the regular alpaca folks but really I was struggling to keep my cool as I internally gushed at every adorable alpaca I laid my eyes on. These animals look back at you in such a way that it’s almost as if they are staring right into your heart and soul.
I feasted my eyes on an array of beautifully handcrafted products, lavish sweaters and shawls and just about every stuffed animal under the sun made from soft, plush alpaca fiber. I was first drawn to an assortment of accessories made by Courtney Tomchik out of Clemmons, North Carolina - her products are mostly accessories varying from buttons to pendants, all handmade from clay. Each individual product has its own original design etched into it. Courtney told me about the type of glaze she uses for her products, and how they afterward need to be fired in a kiln reaching as high as 2,000 degrees to be finished. I was happy to take home a gorgeous pair of abstractly designed earrings and an alpaca-shaped magnet for my fridge. Courtney was only the first vendor I had stopped to speak with and I already wanted to start giving all my money away - I was in trouble!
As the day went on, more and more people continued to drop bags of fiber off at our booth, browse through products that they may have already been familiar with, as well as take a gander at some of our newly featured products that are yet to be released: Classic Cable Alpaca Sweater, Convertible Shawl, and Glittens. It was an enriching experience getting to talk to everyone who either works with or is interested in working with our fiber pool, and to feel that my words were making an impact. It was wonderful to see the joy on people’s faces after having purchased a beanie or new pair of socks for themselves or a loved one. While I had intended to take part in some of the education classes that day, I was too busy soaking in all of the face-to-face interaction, and before I knew it day one was over! That night, Mike and I made some plans with Brianne Harris from Apple Hill Farm to get some dinner, shoot the breeze and have some laughs. It was wonderful to receive insight from her and hear about how she operates the farm. We stopped at Crispy’s Bar and Grill for dinner, which had bacon in just about every single dish on the menu - I certainly wasn’t complaining about that.
Sunday quickly rolled around, day two of the Carolina Alpaca Celebration, and I finally was given the time to further expand my knowledge on the wonderful world of alpaca - especially the areas in which I am not well-versed in (which were most areas). With this being said, I’d like to give a huge thank you to Patty Fuller from Poplar Hill Alpacas for taking the time out of her day to show me around and thoroughly explain the objectives of these shows. She showed me the Walking Fleece judging area which had contained up to 70 individual fleeces. Patty also shed light on what the spin off competition is all about, and elaborated on the differences between fiber samples. Lastly, she brought me over to the halter judging, which was my personal favorite part of the show. I was walking around acting as a “sponge”, as she called me, absorbing as much information as I possibly could with my time remaining.
I imagine that for alpaca farmers, especially for the ones that have been in this industry for quite some time now, it may be easy to forget how this lifestyle is perceived coming from fresh eyes. I can truly say that my first alpaca show went as smoothly and perfectly as it possibly could have - not only did it change my entire perspective of my position, but it also made me even more appreciative and proud to work for a company like NEAFP. I’ve gained so much respect for an industry that I was entirely unfamiliar with less than a year ago. As I had mentioned to Sean, Shelley and Chris upon returning home, “send me anywhere you want!” and boy did I mean it. I genuinely and wholeheartedly look forward to my next alpaca show experience, and many more in the future to come. If you’re in the area for our next alpaca show in Springfield MA, the North American Alpaca Expo, make sure to stop by and say hello - I’ll be the one staring off at a nearby cria with big, googly eyes. See you then!
Hundreds of alpaca farms across the country are setting up booths at pop up markets each week and we want to share setup experience with all farmers who are out there beating the streets!
We are looking for alpaca farms to share pictures of their craft and market booths! We will be compiling a gallery to share with everyone in order to get people thinking of their own setups and how they can improve them for future events.
Along with pictures of your setup, we are also looking for any tips and tricks you’d be willing to pass on to fellow farmers.
As a little thank you for participating, and your willingness to share with the group, we will be giving away a Suri Lap Blanket to one lucky submitter! Each submission that has both a booth setup picture and a tip or trick will be entered in the give away.
NEAFP will be accepting submissions for the next few weeks - once we have enough we will be posting the gallery to our blog and social media pages for all alpaca farms to see and share.
The winner of the Suri Lap Blanket will be chosen at random and announced when we publish the gallery and article!
We very appreciate you showing us your booths and by sharing them with the alpaca farming community, everyone will take a little something back to make their own events that much more successful!
As the title says we have started our Spring cleaning here at the mill a bit early this year and have begun listing some new closeouts, check them out!
NEAFP is closed today due to extreme blizzard like conditions. We expect to be back open this Friday, 2/10. All orders will start shipping out then, Thank you and hope you all affected by the snow storm stay safe and warm!
We have started to map out our vending / fiber collection for the upcoming Spring alpaca show season. Coming by and seeing us at an alpaca show is a great way to get your eyes and hands on our products as well as drop your fiber off to us and get back to NEAFP for free!
Here is a list of our upcoming shows:
*AOA National Alpaca Show and Auction* - March 17-19th, 2017
*no fiber collection @ this show
North American Alpaca Show + NorthEast Alpaca Expo
+ Bay State Small Breeders Blast - March 30 - April 2nd, 2017
West Springfield, MA
MAPACA Jubilee Show - April 21st - 23rd, 2017
For the most up to date list of upcoming events, head to our Fiber Collection Section
Last Fall we had several large regional fiber collection points and big Fall Show collections land on our doorstep at the exact same time and our sorters have been playing catch up ever since. After fiber arrives, it normally takes about 8 to 10 weeks to complete but we are trailing about 4 to 6 weeks behind this schedule. We apologize for the delay, the good news is that we are starting to get back on schedule and expect to have the Fall and Winter's fiber sorted and checked into everyone's accounts around the end of February.
Note: Dropped off fiber at a collection point or show and want to place an order? Not a problem - just let us know in the Order Notes box that the required fiber is in queue (specify collection / event) and we will release the order at the fiber price point knowing it's here!
FIBER COLLECTION SORT STATUS - Updated 5/3/2017
EMPIRE 2016: Sorting Complete, Reports going out this week!
PAOBA 2016: - Being Sorted Now
VA Collections - Delivered, On Deck
2017 Carolina Alpaca Celebration - Delivered
2017 North American Alpaca Show - Delivered
2017 MAPACA Jubilee - Delivered
WI (Hesprich) Collection - Completed, All Reports sent out
OH Collection - Completed - All Reports sent out
Fiber U - Complete
NY Collection - Complete
KY Collection - Complete
WI (Gease) - Complete
NEAOBA Fiber Crawl - Complete
WA State Collection - Complete
MAPACA 2016 - Complete
CABO / Southern Select 2016 Show - Complete
by Brianna Paon
First and foremost we’d like to thank everybody who read our Square Mobile Payment Article as well as participated in our Alpaca Store Mobile Payment survey! Your feedback is extremely important to us and we of course wouldn’t be able to be here without the help and support of our customers and their flourishing businesses.
We created this survey partly to help us to gauge how our products are being carried forward into the world of retail, and what is offered in terms of payment methods. As we’ve concluded in that article, one of the most if not the most important favor you can do for your small business is offer the use of credit/debit cards. If you are not offering this payment alternative, you are running the risk of losing business to competitors, even if you have the best product and best overall brand message.
We are living in a time where quickness and convenience coincide with one another―nobody wants to feel like they are wasting their time simply by trying to buy your products and give you money. Judging by the results of the survey, we can conclude that an average of 87% of our customers (you guys!) accept payments through credit and debit cards, and out of that 87% a solid 65% use Square as their POS (Point of Sale) system.
For those who may be a bit skeptical, or think it isn’t necessary or of interest to explore the opportunity of mobile payment usage, I candidly ask you to think again. A loyal customer of ours had said it best, “anyone who doesn’t take credit is leaving money on the table.”
Some other notable survey result quotes:
"Taking credit/debit cards has increased my sales exponentially. I am
also able to offer incentives and discounts to customers online AND as a
thank you to those who have already purchased. I couldn't do the
business I have without using Square. Love it!"
"We find the data collection of the Square system to be a real asset to
our business. Sales tax reporting is a breeze; setup is easy for a non
techie person; information on exactly what sold over any time frame is
invaluable; refund processing is easy. wouldn't be without it."
By Brianna Paon
When browsing online to buy a product - a new vest let’s say - you are more than likely going to stop at one that catches your eye. It could be the vest itself that you are attracted to of course, but what we may not think about is how the product is presented and why it caught your eye in the way that it did. It could’ve been how well lit the product looked in comparison to others. It could be the crisp, white background contrasting against the vest. It could also be the crystal clear quality of the photo in comparison to photos that might appear grainy or dull. Whether we are aware of it or not, product photography has a big role in our decision to buy something, and the same thing applies to how people view your products on your online store.
While many of us may not be very well-versed in the world of photography, (I certainly am not) there are methods to achieving beautiful photography of your products that is seemingly professional, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Many may assume that you need to own a multi-thousand-dollar camera in order to capture professional shots, but that is not the case - there are a multitude of digital cameras, including ones under $100 that would be perfectly suitable for capturing your products (see Amazon links below). If you’re looking to purchase a camera, or already have one, familiarize yourself with the camera settings and what each setting is meant to capture. Alternatively, many of you may already own a Smartphone that will take comparable product photos to entry level digital cameras. They also offer different camera settings, similarly to regular digital cameras, and are made to be user friendly. Toying around with these camera settings is not a bad idea either, as it will help you determine which setting to use in order to get the best quality of what you’re capturing ---- this will be dependent on the product itself, the color(s) shown, the background and most especially, the lighting.
Besides the camera you use to capture your photo, the lighting may be equally as important in getting a quality product shot. Familiarizing yourself with ISO, shutter speed and aperture are especially important, as they are all focused around controlling the amount of light that enters the camera. Even the perfect angle would have a tough match against the light reflecting on and off the product you’re capturing - even our bare skin can reflect light onto an object enough for it to look drowned out! The best part, however, is that there are a number of Do-It-Yourself projects that help you to achieve the best lighting, requiring very little cost.
A product photography box is one of the essential tools necessary to seclude your product and surround it with the best lighting possible so that you can capture that perfect money shot. Even if you are only using your smartphone to capture your photos, using a light box may fool people into thinking you used a professional camera! Creating one of these boxes could make a world of a difference for how your products are perceived, as well as your amount of sales, and you only need to spend about $10 for the materials to do so. (Yes! Really!)
As previously mentioned, the clearer and better lit the photo of your product is, the more attracted people will become. Now that people are increasingly utilizing online avenues for their businesses, it should be in your best interest to do the same! We now live in a time where people are constantly on their phones, tablets or other mobile devices, and this is where people often will do their shopping. If you’d like to know a fun fact, it is proven that 80 percent of people remember what they see and only 20 percent of people remember what they read. This goes to show how critical it is to market your products through the use of imagery. Multiple studies suggest that social media audiences react best to visual content, which explains why the userbase on sites like Pinterest have been booming - not only is imagery much more attractive than wordy content, but social media sites such as Facebook prioritize ads based on lack of text; your image is more likely to show up in people’s feeds than a paragraph explaining what your newly released products - and the better the photo, the more likely it will bring you a new customer. These days, there is more pressure than ever to attract your audience within just a few seconds - while you may have an incredible product, people may scroll right past it if it isn’t eye-catching material that truly POPS!
Fortunately, there are a number of articles and videos online, that further explain the importance of product photography, as well as offer pointers on creating DIY projects. Check out the video below to learn how to build the miraculously cheap product photography box - your bank account will thank you.
Video: How to Build a Photo Light Box for Less Than $10
Video: Easy Product Photography with your iPhone / Smartphone
Video: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, & Light Explained - Understanding Exposure & Camera Settings
Video: Photography Tips for Beginners
Links to other Resources / Articles:
We are excited to share a new video showcasing the features of our best selling Survival Sock! Feel free to share and embed this video on your website, blog, or social media pages as a way to help educate your current and potential customers of the great features this sock has to offer!
By Brianna Paon
Figuring out ways to increase business during a slow season doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the busy Holiday sales season officially behind us and the increase in downtime that comes with it, now is a great time to test out new marketing tactics to keep your sales momentum moving. In the world of retail, immediately after the busiest season of the year typically follows the slowest, where everyone is exhausted from all of the celebrating and gift giving. Despite this, there are still numerous ways that you can help drive sales during this slower time, as well as use the concept of the New Year to your advantage. Whether it be a free shipping promotion, releasing new products, or a new social media campaign, the New Year opens up many possibilities that can prove fruitful.
The new year is a wonderful excuse to refresh yourself and reevaluate your life goals. It’s the only time of year one can designate New Year’s resolutions for themselves, whether they aim to improve health and wellness or take on new projects. This is a perfect time to have your business jump on the resolution bandwagon and market to the New Year attitude. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant - a simple “new year, new socks” could be enough to resonate with people in your customer base. Giving your business some personality that is quirky yet relatable can go a long way.
What’s nice about this time of year is that people have just finished dropping loads of cash on gifts for other people - this means that it’s a perfect time to push the idea of getting a gift for yourself. The concept of “treating yourself” and planting the idea that people are deserving of your products can certainly make people more inclined to buy. People like when the focus is on them - it’s human nature! Rather than trying to market the advantages of your products and why they’re awesome, focus on the customer and why they’re awesome. Depending on how you would like people to perceive your business and its message, you could definitely have some fun with this. “The Survival Sock: for awesome people only” is a silly and playful example of how to target market to your audience. It presents exclusivity, which people like, and focuses on the buyer rather than just the sock/product itself.While marketing to the new year attitude as well as motivating people to gift themselves are both effective, these are only two of the many approaches you can take to drive sales. There are plenty more ways to boost business this winter without the stress. Below is a list of suggestions on tactics that are worth giving a try - please feel free to provide us with any feedback on what has worked for you and your business!
By: Brianna Paon
Now that we are two weeks into January we can officially say that the holiday sales rush has come to a close. After countless events, pop up markets, open houses, and a steady flow of farm store visits our natural instinct is to kick our feet up and put last year officially in the rear view. This time of year, however, is actually the best time to reflect back on the tools and strategies you used to drive business, what worked, what didn’t, what’s worth repeating in 2017 and what needs some tweaking.
We’ve all been to a new event or pop up market that didn’t pan out. Maybe it was the weather (85 and sunny!), or the lack of foot traffic, or even too many similar vendors competing for too few potential buyers. Besides events, we all use various forms of getting the word out about our farms, animals, fiber, and products. Various forms of marketing and advertising work well in different situations, so it’s important to measure each type you implemented last year and rate its overall success. Along with reflecting back on what didn’t quite pan out, it's very important to recognize your achievements and what you did this past year that shined. No accomplishment is too small to celebrate and bring forward into the new year. Ask yourself what went well for you this past year, and what contributing factors made it work.
Now is the time, while 2016 is still fresh in your mind, to reflect back on all the various things that you did to help grow your business. By taking a moment to write down the things you did, and how they worked out (one way or the other), you can help jump start your 2017 marketing plan of attack. With a rough plan in place, you can start mapping out your following year in the hopes of making it your best year yet!
Here are some sample questions to help jump start your reflection and planning processes:
The Year Behind:
The Year Ahead?
Included below are some worksheets that can help you sum up your marketing of 2016 and help you start drawing up a plan for 2017.
Uncaged Life: End of Year Marketing Worksheet
SmallBiz Trends: One Page Sample Marketing Plan
NEAFP's mill and office are closed and re-opening Tuesday December 27th.
We also will be closed
Monday January 2nd, 2017
for New Years Break.
Please plan accordingly for any time sensitive orders! Everything that comes in over this time will be processed and shipped in the order it came in.
Thank you for a fantastic 2016, Happy Holidays!
Gentle Touch Socks - Medium and Large - White
BOLD Survival - Large - Forest Green
Boucle Mittens - Medium - Grey (limited quantity)
All Terrain Gloves - SM, MED, LRG, XL - Grey (limited quantity)
Fingerless Gloves - MED and LRG - Grey
The Holiday Season has officially started and crunch time is upon us. We are receiving a very high volume of orders each day and have also begun to see a slow down in some of the shipping services. For the time being we are going to keep USPS Priority as a shipping option but we HIGHLY recommend that anyone with a time sensitive order to select UPS Ground or better.
If we get to a point where USPS Priority becomes completely unreliable (as it has in years past during the Holiday Season) we will remove it as a shipping option all together.
Below are the shipping maps from both USPS Priority and UPS Ground. Use these to plan your shipping choices - also keep in mind that over weekends and the beginning of each week, it may take us an extra 1 to 2 business days to process and ship all orders as we work through the queue.
Note: Add 2-3 business days to these estimates
Our new Kid's Alpaca Mittens are a great option for someone looking to share the gift of alpaca with a young one! Made from our Suri Blend Alpaca Yarn, these Kid's Mitts are as soft as they are warm, all without the excess bulk. This is a limited run to test demand for Kid's sized alpaca products. Made in our Suri Light Fawn and Suri Rose Grey colors.
Available in Infant, Toddler, and Children's Small.