“Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush.”
— Doug Larson
Alpaca Farms are coming off their best Winter sales season ever, and with the help of some cold wind, ice, and snow, that growth has continued through the new year. Rumors of 50 degree days on the horizon, along with a little taste of sun and all the mud an alpaca farmer could want, mean that it's (almost) time to hang up that puffy winter coat for the morning barn chores.
Please take a minute to dive head first into the rest of this extensive NEAFP Note filled with new products and tools to continue your business's growth through the warmer months!
Over the past year or so, we’ve been trying to make it easier for you to sell alpaca-related goods all year-round. In 2018 we not only debuted our extremely versatile Backpaca Sock, but also our Alpaca Gifts & Accessories category which includes customizable keychains in addition to pins and totebags for the alpaca lover in all of us. Perhaps you’ve bought a button or two, or you’ve seen our canvas totes at a show. We’ve put together a few ways you can really capitalize on these products to make them stand out and grab attention without much extra effort!
Coloring books are all the rage, so perhaps we’re not the only ones who think the Mandala Alpaca design would be a perfect coloring candidate! Currently available on our Mandala Magnet and our Love Mandala Shoulder Tote Bag, this alpaca is a blank canvas for you or your customers to embellish as you wish. Before your next farmer’s market, get to your nearest craft store and grab some fabric markers and paint and have some fun! Turning these items into a customizable experience is a great way to grab customers.
Do you hold events on your farm? How awesome would a magnet decorating station be during an open house?
What you’ll need:
-1 Shoulder Tote Bag
-Fabric Markers or Fabric Paint (We used Stained by Sharpie Brush Tip Fabric Markers)
Sometimes adding a pom pom onto a hat can take it to new heights (literally!) A pom pom is a great way to bring additional colors and textures into your stock. Our popular BOLD Cable Knit Beanie is NEAFP's take on the classically stylish cable knit hat. We added a pom pom, made out of our Unicorn Yarn, to give it a totally different personality: from classically chic to youthful and trendy!
While they may look complicated, pom poms are not that difficult to make. There are ready-made tools designed to help you, but it’s easy enough to make one with some cardboard, scissors, and yarn! ...And you're not limited to putting them on hats. Pom poms have popped up lately on all kinds of clothing and accessories: even keychains!
Wondering how to use NEAFP’s buttons and pins? Their simplicity makes them extremely versatile! The LOVE Alpaca Hat / Lapel Pin uses a clutch back and is a great choice for bags, garments, and even homemade brooches! LOVE Alpaca Buttons can be sewn onto products for decoration, or as an actual closure of course! Alpaca buttons can also be used for all kinds of craft projects, including cute handmade bracelets. (Extra credit if you use felted Alpaca beads!)
What you’ll need:
-1 Alpaca Button (Customized, if you’d like!)
-Twine or yarn (We used DK Weight Unicorn Yarn)
What now? Think outside the box and get a little personal with your products! We hope that these Business Resource Blog Posts have been helpful. Is there a topic you'd like us to cover in a future post? Write to us at email@example.com
This new All Natural DK Weight Knitter's Yarn is made using U.S. Grown Alpaca blended with U.S. Merino Wool. It's soft, warm, and cozy and the DK weight is fast knitting and perfect for a wide range of patterns.
Skeins are 3.5 oz and approximately 185 yards each. This yarn is a 2 ply, giving it nice hand and improved strength for a wide variety of projects.
Soft, smooth, and bright - a truly beautiful yarn!
Contents: 70% US Alpaca, 30% US Merino
Needle Size: 9-10
Introducing our new BACKPACA Sock - A lightweight micro cushion hiker sock Made in the USA, using U.S. Grown Alpaca Fiber.
Made for US Alpaca Farms by the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool Inc. (NEAFP)
Let us know what adventure our socks take you on - Use hashtag #backpacajack !
Available at an alpaca farm near you : http://bit.ly/2018alpacafarmstores
Part 2 of 2: Capturing and Editing Better Product Photos for the Internet
As we discussed in Part 1, product photography begins before you even pick up the camera. Great compositions rely on dynamic product styling, which can only be successful with some understanding of your brand, products, and target market. Once you have the perfect composition, you can move on to the technical part: product photography.
Taking Great Photos
While a DSLR camera is ideal for photographing products (and taking great shots of your alpacas!) the best camera is the one you know and understand. Recent advances in mobile technology mean you can rely on your phone to take decent photos. Regardless of the camera you choose, you can create simple backdrops at home without needing dedicated studio space.
All you need to take good flatlay and seamless photography at home are a few pieces of posterboard, a box, and a some objects you likely have around the house!
1. Flatlay Photography
You may be asking, what is flatlay photography? It is an extremely popular style of photography and one of our favorite techniques at NEAFP. You simply shoot your subject directly from above, with the lens parallel to the object. We used flatlay photography for our Cozy Baby Blanket photo, as well as many of the photos in our 12 Days of Christmas campaign. So, how can you achieve similar results?
Flatlay Photography Tips:
Suprisingly Simple Flatlay Photography:
I took one our Mandala Magnets and put it to the test. Rather than shooting with the photo lights we typically use in the NEAFP photo room, I found a nearby window for some natural light. Using my cell phone (iPhone SE) and some cardstock and tape from my desk, I found I was able to take some decent photos!
Here is my setup, next to a window. You can see that I am looking straight down at the Mandala Magnet. Even unedited, the magnet jumps right off the white background, but we can make it even better!
2. Seamless Photography
Seamless photography is best for objects that stand upright, or can be propped up. At NEAFP, we often use lightboxes made specifically for photographers that provide a seamless background on which we can shoot our photographs. We commonly utilize seamless backgrounds for our sock product photos, using mannequins to ensure that they stand upright.
Seamless Photography Tips:
Suprisingly Simple Seamless Photography:
This time, we moved our cardstock to the wall to create a gentle "sweep" for our Alpaca Keychain to sit on. You can see that the paper makes a perfect background with nothing to distract the eye from your product!
If you’d like something a little more permanent, a cardboard box can be converted into a great seamless lightbox by putting in parchment paper light panels! Even without a cardboard box, you can still make a photography sweep to take product photos.
3. Don't Forget to Edit!
After you’ve taken your photos, it’s easy enough to post them on your website or social media. Taking a few minutes to edit your photos can make a world of difference!
I brightened up the original Mandala Magnet photo in Adobe Photoshop, the leading software for computer graphics editing. I could have also used my phone interface to make simple lighting adjustments, but since I wanted to add the mandalas to the photo background, I edited the brightness and contrast directly in Photoshop.
Although Photoshop is considered the standard in editing software, there are now some great (free!) alternatives available like Pixlr. This web editor is by far the most powerful free Photoshop alternative you'll find. Pixlr is easy to use and has many of the heavy-hitting editing tools that you can usually only find in paid programs.
What now? Take some photos, experiment, and have fun! Combine what you learned about your brand, and then style and shoot some awesome photographs without expensive equipment!
We hope that these Business Resource Blog Posts have been helpful. Is there a topic you'd like us to cover in a future post? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Part 1 of 2: Laying the Groundwork for Successful Visual Merchandising Online
As more and more farms make the leap to online shops and marketplaces to seek new customers and compete in an increasingly global marketplace, it is important to consider your online presence. At a farm event or open house, you may be able to rely on your alpacas to help “seal the deal” while visitors touch and try on products. How can you capture the same success in the digital world? That is where visual merchandising and photography come in!
Regardless of where you sell online, it is imperative that you consider the way you present products visually through product styling and photography to best reach your target audience.
1. Your Brand is the Foundation
Before you even think about photographing your products and posting them on your website or social media, stop and think: what story am I telling with my business and who do I want to tell it to? A simple way to begin establishing a brand is to think of three adjectives to describe your business and the way you want to be seen by online visitors. Perhaps you visualize your company as homegrown, sustainable, and heirloom. Another farm selling the same products might prefer to be viewed as elegant, high-end, and chic. These three simple words can serve as a framework for your visual marketing. If you translate these words into your marketing and product postings through product styling and photography, you will set the mood and attract shoppers who identify with your brand!
These two photographs are styled and shot quite differently. Which one would work better for your brand?
2. What Stories do your Products Tell?
As you establish a cohesive identity for your business and identify your target audience, think about the products you are selling. While you know the products are great, you need to find a way to help your online customers understand how the products might fit into their lives. This is even more important when they can’t see them in person! Before you begin posing and photographing products, think about how the products can grab your customer using imagery alone.
One of the easiest ways is to tap into the question: “what is it made of?” If you’re selling U.S. alpaca products, a photograph of the product next to processed alpaca fiber serves to connect the products to their origin: the alpacas themselves! Another method is to suggest where or how your potential customers might use their products. Perhaps you are hoping to target the hunting and fishing market with your BOLD Orange Watch Caps and Camo Hunting Masks. What better way to do so than by showing a hunter or fisherman outdoors wearing the product with his or her gear? Recently, we spotlighted our Fleck Beanie as a lightweight, versatile hat that was perfect for chilly fall mornings on the water.
3. Styling your Products
This takes us to styling the products for photographing. Always keep in mind that the product is what you are selling. While props certainly add interest to your product photos, they should never distract or take away from what is most important! When you add props to your photographs, experiment with different techniques to create interest and increase understanding:
Take a look at the photograph we recently took to spotlight our Cozy Baby Blanket:
When we styled this photo we wanted to show our potential customers (and yours too!) how you can utilize our product while also highlighting the Cozy Baby Blanket’s wonderfully soft alpaca fiber. What better way than to illustrate someone thoughtfully packing it as a gift for a baby shower?
The gentle hands suggest the delicate nature of the fiber, which, when pictured with the alpaca toy on the left, connect the viewer to the blanket’s animal origins. The stork illustrated on the card on the left confirms that this blanket is meant for a baby. The overall composition is suggestive of a pyramid, with the white box serving as the pinnacle of the pyramid and the other objects expanding diagonally, making the pyramid’s base. During placement, objects (such as the alpaca toy, tape, and scissors) were grouped and layered to create more depth and visual interest. While we took a number of photographs, the one we chose to highlight captures our Cozy Baby Blanket perfectly!
Start brainstorming about your brand, the stories you want to tell, and the styling you will use to help share it in order to grow your online business this year!
In Part 2 we will discuss the more technical aspects of product photography: the photography itself, and editing your photographs!
Believe it or not 2018 is winding down and the Holidays are just around the corner.
Here is all the most important info needed to plan ahead for those last minute orders!
NEAFP will be closed for our annual Holiday break Monday Dec. 24th through Wednesday December 26th.
We will be back to work Thursday December 27th.
Our last shipping day before our Holiday break is Friday December 21st!
Any order that needs to ship out that day needs to be placed by 8am Friday morning to ensure shipment.
Through the holiday season, we recommend choosing UPS Ground or better for all your time sensitive orders. USPS starts to slow down in certain parts of the country and timely delivery is not guaranteed.
We want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!
We hope you all have a relaxing holiday surrounded by friends and family.
NEAFP will be closed for Thanksgiving Thursday Nov. 22nd and Friday Nov. 23rd. All orders and support coming in during this time will begin shipping out on Monday Nov. 26th.
Our BACKPACA Sock is a lightweight hiker sock designed for you to forget it's even on while you march through the wilderness or dance the night away. Terry loop construction along the sole of the foot provides cushion, padding, and comfort where it's most needed. The ribbed knit along the top of the foot and up the calf allow for increased breathability and moisture wicking. Dense knit construction along with arch and ankle support bands keep the sock tightly in place throughout the day without bunching, slipping, or blisters on the trail.
NOTE: NEAFP will be closed for Thanksgiving Thursday Nov. 22nd and Friday Nov. 23rd. All orders placed during this time will begin shipping Monday in the order they were placed.
Our goal is to stay as close to our normal 1 business day turn around time (for in stock items that meet requirements) for the rest of the year.
Note: Customized Laser Engrave items enter into a 3-5 day queue
We get particularly backed up each Sunday/Monday as people restock from events over the weekend. For time sensitive orders, it's very important to get them in as early on Sunday as possible to get in the Monday ship queue!
Orders placed Friday afternoon through Sunday by 10pm ship on following Monday. Orders placed Sunday night after 10pm through Tuesday @ 10am EST are shipped on Tuesday/Wednesday the latest.
We will keep everyone updated on our shipping time tables in the Shopping Cart Notification box:
We are very excited to launch 2 new Gift & Accessory items right before the Holiday season gets into full swing. We've taken our MANDALA Love Alpaca design and our Mother Nature's Finest Fiber - USA Alpaca logo and created some wonderful large shoulder totes. These heavyweight, 10oz natural cotton canvas tote bags are generously sized to handle whatever you want to throw in them. They are a great quality product that will give your customer's years of utility while showcasing their love for all things U.S. alpaca to the world! These totes are cut, sewn, and screen printed right here in New England!
Purchase 1 as a gift to yourself or take advantage of our
quantity discounts and begin offering these at your next market!
Dimensions: 18”w x 14.5”h x 3”g
Material: 100% Natural Cotton, 10oz Heavy Weight Canvas
Designed by NEAFP
Cut, Sewn, and Printed in New England, USA
Over the last four years NEAFP has begun working with natural fiber cooperatives, regional breed organizations, and individual farms to create unique, locally grown finished products. Locally sourced products have been trending in the food movement for 15+ years and the buzz is moving towards natural fiber clothing and accessories. We are excited to share our two most recent projects!
Working with the New England Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (NEAOBA) for the 2nd year in a row, we’ve collaborated to produce the NEAOBA Alpaca Sock. This exclusive alpaca sock is made out of fiber grown on New England based farms and manufactured in the United States.
The breed organization facilitates the collection of fiber and we oversee taking that raw fiber out of the field and moving it together through our alpaca supply chain. By working together the regional breed organization is able to offer their members an exclusive product made using their fiber along side neighboring farms, making it a regionally based product.
Regional breed organizations are able to easily meet our custom production run minimums by working together with their member base but large farms (or small groups of farms) are also able to gain access to this program.
Morning Beckons Alpaca Farm wanted to create a sock exclusively made from fiber grown on their farm. By meeting our custom manufacturing run minimum of like grade (blended colors), we were able to produce a Morning Beckons Alpaca Sock made with fiber exclusively grown on their farm. Leveraging our supply chain, they are able to offer a truly locally grown alpaca product to their community.
In 2019 we plan on opening up a few more production slots for more regionally grown homegrown projects so if you or your regional breed organization is interested be sure to reach out.
Feel free to download this graphic and post it to your website, blog, or any social media platform to help promote your products and business.
We've also posted it to the NEAFP Facebook, feel free to share it to your page from there!
We are very excited to share with you the launch of our Customer Loyalty program. Over the years alpaca farms across the country have embraced the fiber side of their business and through hard work and a true grass roots effort have successfully made their farm that much more successful and sustainable.
It's truly been inspiring to watch over the last two decades farms continue to grow their business year after year.
Without leaders like you, the U.S. Alpaca Fiber industry wouldn't be where it is today and have so much potential moving forward.
We appreciate your continued support. This program is our way of rewarding your hardwork and commitment to success.
Reward tiers are calculated every few weeks and are based on sales history over the previous 365 days from calculation date.
The Showtacular Alpaca Show in Syracuse, NY is just 2 short weeks away.
November 8th - 11th, 2018
We are looking forward to showcasing all of our products released over the last year. If the stars align, we will also have some brand new product debuts at the show!
Our Cozy Baby Blanket was first introduced at the end of 2017 and has become a big hit in short order. This blanket showcases some of the softest alpaca fiber grown across the country and is utilized in an heirloom quality cable knit pattern. Soft, warm, and as cozy as the alpaca themselves - perfect to wrap a precious little one up in as they fall asleep dreaming of pronking crias.
Alpaca fiber’s natural thermal characteristics, breathability, and moisture wicking properties all lend a helping hand in keeping your snoozing little one safe and sound in dream land. Perfectly sized for baby and available in three stunning natural colors: Dark Fawn, Brown, & White.
In a world filled with imported, low quality gifts this Cozy Baby Blanket is sure to stand out in a crowd and be truly appreciated for years to come. If your customers are looking for unique, one of a kind, quality items that have a backstory that feels as good as the item itself, then this is a must have in your farm store!
The leaves are falling and days growing shorter, now is the time to start promoting your U.S. Alpaca wares to jump off the busy season!
Feel free to download this graphic and post it to your website, blog, or any social media platform to help promote your products and business for Halloween.
We've also posted it to the NEAFP Facebook, feel free to share it to your page from there!
As Fall begins to set in across the country we couldn’t think of a more fitting item to showcase in this month’s product spotlight, our Alpaca Fleck Beanie.
Our Alpaca Fleck Beanie was first released in 2017 and is knit using our SURI Alpaca blend yarn with stylish colored accents made with bamboo. This unlined beanie showcases Suri Alpaca’s silky smooth feel next to skin while possessing some great natural qualities, perfect for when the seasons start to grow colder.
Alpaca Fiber is naturally moisture wicking. It helps regulate your comfort by absorbing moisture from your skin and moving it away from your body to evaporate on the outer layer of the hat. Alpaca is also naturally anti-microbial, resistant to microbes and bacteria that cause odor from body sweat. The Fleck Beanie also regulates your body temperature the same whether it’s dry or wet, keeping you comfortable no matter what adventure you are on in the great outdoors.
If you are looking for a lightweight alpaca beanie that will keep you as comfy as it is stylish, then this is the hat for you!