President’s Letter

President’s Update

Dear Members

As you will recall, back in June we called to your attention our cash flow crisis resulting from the fact that all of our cash was tied up in inventory that was not selling as quickly as we had projected.  Because our production pipeline now flows smoothly and reliably, we receive product on a regular and consistent basis, which means the bills from production vendors also arrive on a regular and consistent basis. This means we need to establish a more consistent and reliable source of income to meet expenses. Many of you stepped up at that time and purchased inventory for your farm stores, and I want to express how deeply the Board and staff appreciated your response! And some of you have stepped up more than once since that date, bless your hearts!

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Group 8

Dear Owners,
Here is the 8th batch of answers to your questions from the Survey Monkey and Webinar meeting in June.  Just one more after this; I’ll include my response to your follow up questions in the final lot.
So how are we doing?  Its been 9 weeks since the webinar meeting on June 22 when the Board of Directors shared with the members that AFCNA faced an urgent cash flow crisis.  I want to reiterate that neither then nor now is the co-op “going broke”.  We have $346,000 worth of cash tied up Finished Goods Inventory and Work In Process – mainly Extreme Alpaca socks  – that we manufactured throughout the year in preparation for the 2016 Fall, Holiday and Winter sales season.  That is cash that we’ve spent to pay for vendor manufacturing services so it isn’t in our checking account at the moment but will become cash again as orders are filled.

CLIP CARE REMINDERS

CLIP CARE REMINDERS 

We hope that by now you have finished shearing and that you are beginning to work on preparing your fleeces to send to AFCNA.  As you know, we don’t ask that you spend much time on preparation – no need to skirt thoroughly. We’ll save you the time and effort.  But there are a few things that you can do that will help your cooperative be more profitable – profits that can be returned to you, the fiber supplier.

First of all, please make sure to send us the right fiber.  Every year in March we send you a “Clip Call” request that lets you know what grades and lengths of fiber we need.  It will help if you only send us what we need.  Although we will do our best to make use of coarser fiber, we do not make a profit from it, and you will not receive credit for it.

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Group 7

Sell Extreme Alpaca socks to the US Military, Police, Firefighters etc

I agree with those of you who have happy military customers wearing Extreme Alpaca socks!  They do love them.  A previous board did extensive research into what it takes to qualify to become an authorized vendor to supply apparel to the US Gov.  There is a lot more to it than just having an excellent product in the right color.  At this time it is beyond our reach but maybe we can at a later date.

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Focus On Farm Days

FOCUS ON FARM DAYS
Many farms use National Alpaca Farm Days to invite the community to their farms to educate their neighbors about alpacas and the alpaca industry.  This can be a fun, celebratory experience and is a great way to develop relationships within the community.  But sometimes those types of events become little more than free petting zoos.  So is that the best use of your time and resources?  Unless you regularly experience post-event sales of livestock or products as a result of the event, you could be missing an opportunity to generate more sales by taking a different tack.

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Complaints about fiber income and minimum fiber for maximum discount

“I can get it cheaper elsewhere”

One of the most frustrating complaints to address is when a member says they can buy from “another vendor” because they get a better deal than they get from AFCNA.  Of course, that possibly is true.  But your farmer’s cooperative IS NOT LIKE those other vendors!  Do you own a share of stock in the company and participate in the profits?  Do you have a say in how the company is run by choosing their Board of Directors?  Does the other vendor make their products with your fiber?  Are they making a market for all of the fiber your farm produces or only some of it?  Are they making a market for your fiber just as it comes on shearing day with no further expense or effort required on your part?  Are they marketing your fiber in multiple distribution channels – Consumer, Commercial and Commodity?  Unless the answer is yes to all of those questions, it simply isn’t an Apples to Apples comparison.  Sure, another vendor may do some of the things AFCNA does better or cheaper but there is literally no one else who is doing all of the things AFCNA does for American alpaca farms.

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Promoting Your Farm Store

Promoting Your Farm Store
            You’ve spent hundreds of hours and perhaps thousands of dollars developing your farm store.  You may have constructed a special building, or renovated a room in your home to offer convenient access to the public. You’ve carefully, even lovingly, arranged and rearranged the interior and selected display layouts and supplies that present your merchandise in an appealing manner.  You ordered and received your merchandise from America’s Alpaca, and your store is ready to open.  Now what?

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Group 5 Suggestions for New or Improved Products and Prices

Here is the 5th batch of answers to your questions from the Survey Monkey and Webinar meeting in June.   This was the best batch of Product Suggestions we have ever gotten from members so let me start by thanking you all very much!

Felt Sheets – No, but… we have thought about offering felt sheets but so far haven’t found sufficient interest to make producing them a viable product in commercial volume.  IF you were the one who offered this idea, please call me and let’s talk about your idea in more specific detail.

Additional yarn types – YES, we are extending our line of yarns.  We have several projects in development with our mill right now expect to be announcing them to our members later this year.  We are working on a Sock yarn, a fingering weight Suri blend.  Down the road, we are also working on a lopi rug yarn.

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Fair Newsletter

In case you’ve ever wondered whether exhibiting and vending at a large-scale week-long event like a county or state fair is worth the time and effort, let me tell you that it is!! I’m writing this from my tent at the Cattaraugus County Fair. I have a 20×12 space, enough for two 10×10 tents. One is my sales space, and the adjoining tent is sheltering two of my herd sires who are great PR for my farm. I arrive around 7:30 in the morning, when the night dew and fog condensate is still bathing my tents. After opening up, I shake all the water off so I can roll up the sides to give us good air circulation once the sun pushes the temp up to peak for the day. Then it’s time to feed and refresh water buckets for the boys, and clean up their night’s leavings. The next chore is to set out all my products, which I repack and remove at night for safekeeping. By now, I’ve been interrupted by at least a couple of 4Hers from the cow barn or the sheep/goat barn wanting to know about alpacas, or their parents who secretly sneak over to pet the alpacas while their kids are busy washing cows or shaving hogs. I get a lot of questions about raising alpacas and even more about their fiber – especially from the sheep folks. We talk a bit about fleece characteristics and qualities, and then I show them our AFCNA products. They take away a lot of information and quite often also a pair or two of socks.

The rest of the day is spent talking. Once the Midway opens in the afternoon, the foot traffic is nonstop. Between grassroots education about the alpaca industry, sales, and snapping photos of visitors loving on the boys, I have little to no voice left by the time I pack it in around 9-10 at night. Then it’s race home to clean-up the day’s mess in the barn and feed and water the rest of the herd (and chase in the geese who have taken the opportunity to try to bed down for the night on my porch). Catch a few hours sleep and back to the fairground. County fairs (and the larger State fairs) are one of my favorite ways to market alpacas and alpaca products, educate consumers, and develop a targeted farm-based market. I often have follow-up sales from fairgoers who take my card, and I always gain a few farm visits and alpaca sales, even if they are of some of those fiber or companion boys who take up space and resources on the farm. By setting out a sign-up sheet, I also build my list of people interested in alpacas as livestock or in alpaca products to whom I can send quarterly newsletters. The 7-day event can be stressful and exhausting, but it’s fun and extremely worthwhile.

Group 4 – Suggestions for immediate Cash Flow, long term strategy & and goals

The only way that AFCNA gets income – cash to run the business – is by marketing your fiber which means by manufacturing and selling products.  When shareholders join the co-op by purchasing their share of stock, they become an owner/co-operator of the business.  We depend on each other to supply fiber and to purchase the products made with the fiber.

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