Carmarthenshire-based Tynewydd Alpacas is a family-run business, set up by husband and wife Steve and Emma Cooper. With a passion for the outdoors, the couple moved to Wales in 2015 and decided to start a new venture and grow their own alpaca herd.
Soon after, Steve and Emma started making products with the fleece, including scarfs, gloves, beanies and baby wear, which they displayed at various farmers’ markets, bigger shows and supplied to shops and retail outlets.
Tynewydd Alpacas are currently refurbishing an old barn and turning it into a breeding/welfare unit for the alpacas with a small woollen mill to increase productivity and to extend their range of blankets, all done by hand with hand looms. Once the renovation and building work is completed, Steve and Emma are hoping to hire their first employee to help them keep up with the increased demand.
What they did
"At first, we weren’t sure that our business concept would work so we didn’t approach anyone for help. Once our idea took off, we decided to take a step back and got in touch with Business Wales, who provided a lot of useful information and help to get our business going." – Steve Cooper
What would they do differently?
- have a business plan from the start, not a year into running your business
- work out the costs of everything as this has led to times when we were low on cashflow and missing payments, this has a knock-on effect if you want to get a business loan – having a comprehensive business plan in place with up-to-date cashflow will also help with this
Their proudest moment in business
Our proudest moment was getting into our first shop. This really made us feel that our product was great and was going places.
Do they use Welsh in their business? If so, how has this helped them
We do not use Welsh in the business yet, but as we brand our product as ‘Made in Wales’, we would like to learn the language ourselves or we would hire a Welsh-speaking member of staff. We believe that bringing this to the business would be a great help during some of the shows we attend and would allow us to expand our market and partners reach into the North Wales area.
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government
Tynewydd Alpacas have benefitted from Business Wales advisory and mentoring support. Lisa Williams, a Business Wales Growth Adviser, pointed the business in the right direction by encouraging Steve and Emma to sell online, through retail outlets and to explore third party websites. She helped them with market research and referred the business to further relevant industry contacts.
Tynewydd Alpacas were also matched with a business mentor, Marian Evans, who reviewed their business plan and discussed issues around finance, funding and accountancy. Marian is currently supporting the business with building their brand, target markets, costings, managing workload and identifying priorities such as planning for key events, among others.
Steve commented: "Our adviser Lisa helped us significantly by giving our business a direction. We were also matched with a business mentor, who has been a great help to Tynewydd Alpacas. Having someone who is willing to help without judging you and provide support, having been there themselves, someone who you could speak to and bunch your ideas at has been a great asset to the business.
Here are Tynewydd Alpacas’ top tips for anyone else looking to start or grow their own business:
- start by doing a business plan and cashflow projections before you get your business under way
- check out the area you are in – can you sell the product, is anyone else already selling it, if so – check your prices
- get planning as soon as the business is ready to go, so there aren’t any hold-ups to business growth
- keep a close eye on the cashflow and expenses coming in and out
- go out there, try markets, try shows; it’s not always about making money, it’s being out there, being seen with your product