Friday, March 4, 2016

New Product Release! Alpaca Felted Dryer Balls - Hypo-Allergenic, No Chemicals, Decreases Drying Time

All-natural, hypoallergenic alpaca dryer balls are an excellent alternative to the chemicals of fabric softeners or dryer sheets for softening clothes, reducing static, eliminating wrinkles. You also save electricity by reducing drying time up to 25%. Minimums of two balls are required and a set of 4 is recommended to generate maximum effectiveness, absorbing moisture from wet clothes while maintaining the humidity inside the dryer. 
   Save time and money – decreases drying time up to 25% - The more dryer balls you have in your load, the quicker the clothes will dry (4 balls are recommended per load).
   Softens clothes - reduces static, eliminates wrinkles (they will not shed on your clothing)
   Hypo-allergenic – 100% Alpaca Fiber - Commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets are filled with harmful chemicals and perfumes that coat your clothing, eventually ending up on your skin and inside your clothes dryer.
   Environmentally friendly -No dyes added…All natural Alpaca colors – Go green and save at the same time
   Durable - The balls may last anywhere from several months to well over a year(s) depending on use. Dryer balls may continue to shrink slightly with continued use, which is normal.  They remain just as effective.
 *As these are handmade, colors and sizes may vary. Approximately tennis ball size.

How Alpaca Dryer Balls Work
Simply place dryer balls in your dryer with your wet clothes. That’s it – they do the rest! Felted dryer balls bounce around with your laundry to shorten drying time and reduce wrinkles without exposing your clothes to any of the chemicals used in dryer sheets or plastic dryer balls.  We recommend using at least three dryer balls to help keep laundry items from tangling around each other and increasing the airflow around the clothes, sheets or towels.
Dryer balls help reduce drying time by absorbing moisture and assisting the tumbling process. The balls may also help reduce static, although mixing natural fabrics with synthetics within the same load can cause some static.

For your first use, run the dryer balls through a dryer cycle with wet towels. The balls may initially become “hairy.” (They will not shed on your clothes). Carefully trim off the fuzzy hair with a pair of scissors, and they are all set. Over time, the balls may “pill,” which is normal. You can shave the pills off or leave them alone. If cleaning the dryer ball becomes necessary, run under hot water, add a drop of dish soap and rotate ball between palms until lathered, rinse in warm, then cold water. Air or machine dry.

Miss the scent of dryer sheets? Apply several drops of essential oils to scent your dryer balls (lavender and lilac are very popular). When using essential oils, we recommend sending the dryer balls through alone on a short cycle, or place them in a closed pillowcase in the dryer after you first put essential oils on them. Otherwise, you may get oil spots on your clothing. 

See other great gift ideas:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Alpaca Market Then and Now

When we first “discovered” alpacas 12 years ago, we were highly skeptical of the business model.  Too easy – just have a baby alpaca, sell it and pay your mortgage.  It was a tough sell, especially to our banker in order to take out a business loan.  But, we penciled out how we could make it and stuck to it.

After nearly a thousand cold calls, marketing, advertising and showing around the country, we were a profitable business in 9 months.  We had the money to pay back our loan, but the bank suggested we keep it and continue to reinvest in our company.  And that is what we did.  We purchased better males, higher quality females, bought and sold. 

We were afraid that this type of market was a house of cards.  With so much transition in our economy, I questioned many times if the alpaca industry was still valid, or is it a fleeting fad like many other markets seemed to be- llamas, ostriches, buffalo and all of the others.  The problem with the meat-based products (buffalo, ostrich) is that there is only so much room on Safeway's shelf for meat.  The cattle lobbyists are one of the strongest lobby groups in the world.  If Ted Turner with his 10K buffalo and $7 Billion dollars cannot bust through into the meat market and get shelf space, no one will.  Emus can be used for meat and/ or their oil, but they are extremely difficult to raise and you have to kill them, not giving you a lot of product for the cost and risk involved.  I spoke with one guy who said they had to kill 30 ostriches a day to break even, so he could not make money.  Llamas are meant to be a beast of burden for packing or guarding.  (We have 3 llamas that we use for protecting our alpacas.)  They were extremely high priced in the 80s and a lot of people got burned, but this was always a house of cards.  There are only so many people that need a packing or guarding animal. 

The difference with alpaca is that it is hard to argue against extremely soft, warm, high performance clothing.  Who doesn't need warm socks or a hat when the weather gets cold?  The function of the alpaca is for its fiber.  It’s a textile animal that has a viable, in demand product for a large majority of the population.  Buying and selling unique livestock looses its novelty in the market after a while, although it seemed strong the first few years of business.  After two years of raising alpacas, we were at a country market show where someone asked for yarn.  Wow- what a great idea!  Utilize the alpaca what is was made for…

So we sent 10 pounds of fleece to a local mill, contacted a local knitter and had two hats made for our niece and nephew. 

The more we experienced alpaca products, having some made and trying items from other companies, the more we realized how great this product really was.  No wonder it has been used for over 6,000 years.  We began to explore and research the fiber itself – biological structure, potential uses, and availability locally and worldwide. 

We knew that this was the future for the business – the actual function of the animal.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love our alpacas, but this is where we needed to spend our time and money to develop our textile business.  And selling our alpacas would finance the research.

Then, 2007 happened.  Tough times for everyone, including non-essential markets.  Breeders stopped almost all major purchases.  Families who wanted alpacas for pets and 4-H suddenly didn’t have the discretionary money that most of us did the year before.

But, our alpaca product sales continued to grow.  The consumer market had begun shifting back towards home grown, natural products.  During Christmas (our largest sales time of the year), instead of buying many inexpensive gifts for people, we found our buyers were purchasing one or two high quality items – like $30 socks or a great hat that will last for years and years.

To some extent, the alpaca market as a hobby has returned.  They are excellent for kids – alpacas are gentle and intuitive, demanding respect in order to cooperate.  But, unless you are in the high-end breeding program, which we are not, it is extremely difficult to make your entire living off of breeding, buying and selling alpacas. 

I love alpacas.  I think everyone should have them. But to make a living off of them you need to have an additional “day job” with outside income or really treat alpacas as a business or some combination of the two.  Alpacas themselves are the easy part of my work schedule.  They are shorn once a year.  We have herd health checks every few months, trimming toes, checking teeth and their weight.  I look forward to going out every evening and seeing them contently lying around the pastures.

The work is going to the shows, sitting on the computer, sending fleece to mills, developing and packaging products.  It’s a fulltime business.  It’s definitely not the same selling a $12,000 animal in a day as selling a couple of pairs of socks. But that market, like many other markets (like real estate at the time) could not hold up.  They were a house of cards.  But there is still high function and demand for the animal – as a fiber and textile source.  Don’t get me wrong – I love each and every one of our 150+ alpacas.  I know their names, lineage, family members, when they are not feeling well.  I spent a week sleeping in the barn next to a premature pet-quality male cria that couldn’t stand or feed, milking the mom every couple of hours until he was strong enough to drink on his own.

I enjoy every aspect of this unique animal, but be sure that you thoroughly research the market and profitability before trying to make them your sole income.  We were fortunate to get into the alpacas when we did, dedicated our business to best utilizing them and giving them a great home.  But mortgages and living life is very expensive.  Make sure you have a plan before you put all of this on the backs of your alpacas.