Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • May 2017
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Sabamba Alpaca Ranch and Bed & Breakfast celebrates 10 years

Sabamba Alpaca Ranch is about to celebrate 10 years in business. Our business has been made up of three key components over those years. Each of these parts plays a vital role in the total overall business plan: a fiber producing livestock farm, which works on product development/sorting and grading and shearing during the springtime; a bed and breakfast, which is most active during the summer months; and a retail alpaca store, which is most active during the fall and winter months.

Our business started with the purchase of a 12.5-acre farm, six pregnant female alpaca and one breeding male alpaca. Lucky boy! After purchasing the farm in the fall of 2006 we spent one year remodeling the 1890 farm house, which had been twice remodeled before us. We gutted it and refinished the house with the intent to open a bed and breakfast.

In the fall of 2007 we welcomed our first alpacas to the ranch, just as the last gate was installed. Our herd consisted of five pregnant females with cria (baby alpaca) at side and one open female with cria at side. Our first cria delivered at the ranch arrived in the summer of 2008. There was a stiff learning curve for the first twelve months in the business, which included alpaca birthing, handling and training, shearing, weaning, health care, showing, and the question, “What do we do with all this fiber?”

When we purchased our animals we invested a great deal of money into our business. Alpaca prices were at a premium in 2006. Then came the recession of 2008. Like so many other businesses ours was adversely affected by the recession. Prices of the animals plummeted by approximately 2/3 of our initial investment. Yikes! That was the bad news. The good news was that by 2008 I had discovered that the fiber produced by this animal is spectacular. So as we say in business, “shift happens!” We shifted our focus toward establishing a retail business where we could sell alpaca items. In 2009 we launched our bed and breakfast and our retail store.

Our first and favorite alpaca product is a heavyweight, super warm alpaca sock. The sock was produced through a national cooperative. As a member of this cooperative we could contribute our fiber and purchase finished socks at a wholesale price to sell in our store. It was a big hit, which was no surprise to us as we happily wear them every day. So life was good. Business was growing nicely and then the next shoe fell. Due to unforeseen manufacturing difficulties, the co-op ran out of sock to sell — just as our demand was growing! Who said owning your own business is easy? We went in search of a new manufacturer. One was found, but when we presented the product to our existing customers they were unhappy that we changed the sock. We believe the customer is always right and the co-op started producing socks again, so we went back to our original sock the following year.

The wholesale price of the sock had increased quite a bit so our profit margin was shrinking and the price of feed for the alpacas was not going down. Oh yes, and that breeding boy was busy! The herd was now up to almost 50. Then the next shoe fell. Our beloved co-op announced that it was going out of business due to financial issues. Now it was time to really step it up. Keep the change coming — we love change!

The co-op auctioned off their remaining assets and we were the successful bidder for the balance of their sock inventory. Those socks will be arriving at the ranch soon. Our own production recently launched last week with our first shipment of sorted fiber. We are going to a 4-day training seminar to sharpen our skills as graders so we can continue to produce a quality product. Hopefully we can produce enough socks to supply our store and other farmers in the area who also have farm store.

Challenges and changes occur often when you are an entrepreneur so you have to be willing to embrace them and rise above. Sabamba Alpaca Ranch and Bed & Breakfast has and has never been better! 

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