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A beginning – how it started with 3 alpacas and turned into a business!

 You might have heard us talk about how Purl Alpaca Designs started, but whilst pondering this weeks ‘Love Your Blog’ theme ‘beginnings’ we realised it is not something we often share in writing!
So here it is, the story of how 3 alpacas, some hand knitting skills and a whole lot of patience turned into a business!

A Playful Day

In 2007 Tracy was resurfacing from going through a tough time in her life. One morning she woke up with the word ‘alpaca’ in her head and saw it as a sign. Not knowing a lot about alpacas she researched a little online before heading to a nearby alpaca farm, Dry Drayton. At the end of the visit she walked away owning 3! To this day she is not quite sure how that happened! Tracy lives in a small flat in Cambridge city centre without much of a garden, and owning alpacas was definitely going to be a challenge. The alpacas stayed on the farm for a while and have since on a few different farms in Cambridgeshire. At the moment they are living at Burwash Manor.

Duchess with her first cria, Fantasia

Tracy continued to research the alpaca industry and quickly came to realise that not many alpaca owners utilized their fleeces. Being an entrepreneur at hart, Tracy saw this as a business opportunity. She googled ‘alpaca knitwear designer’ and one of the first hits was Kari-Helene’s entry to the Knitted Textile Student Awards in 2005. Tracy thought the dress looked fantastic and decided to send Kari-Helene an email.

Hand knitted alpaca dress by Kari-Helene Rane

At the other end, Kari-Helene graduated from university in 2005 and for nearly 2 years she had been working with London based design house Modernist. She had gained good knowledge in knitwear design through her degree and learning from knitwear designer Andrew Jones. She learned to knit as a little girl from her mother and grandmother in Norway, but her passion for knitwear design started at university. When she received the email from Tracy, she was open for new adventures and although she had never thought she’d ever be a business owner, this seemed like an exciting opportunity.

Tracy traveled to London one morning in the autumn of 2007 and met Kari-Helene in a pub in King’s Cross. They ended up staying there, chatting, exchanging ideas and getting very inspired! After several hours they both walked away owning half a company each! The following year was full of learning. Tracy had to learn about alpacas, fleece procuring and yarn manufacturing whilst Kari-Helene researched knitting patterns and how to best utilize their product. They decided to go down the knitting kit route and in October 2008 they launched the business at the Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching Show.

You’ve got to get stuck in!

The company was launched with 5 different patterns and 5 yarn colours. The stand was 2×3 meters and the display was basic. There was no blog, no social media, no newsletter, no online community, and we also did not take many photos. It is incredible to look back at how this little business, run alongside two full time jobs have turned into a business now supporting both Kari-Helene and Tracy full time. Our advice to anyone thinking of going down this route is to stay calm, don’t attempt to do too much too soon. Focus on what you know how to do and try be the best at it!
Small beginnings can lead to great adventures!

Every day is a new beginning and who knows where it will take us!
We’re excited about the future!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

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