IN THE PRESS
Where Women Create Work
I have forever been a learning-by-doing kind of person. Efficiency and multi-tasking have always been at the top of my list, and I do not have the patience for reading or listening to long instructions or any complicated explanations. I’d rather get the facts and get on with it and not waste too much time. Those traits have formed me to be the person who I am today. When my husband and I first moved from Germany to the Hudson Valley we had three toddlers; this was a trying time in itself. On top of learning the ropes of parenting, we decided to take up alpaca breeding. At this point in time, I had no idea what an alpaca was like, nor did I have any interest in alpaca fiber. After the first year of helping breed, birth, nurse, vaccinate, and shear the alpacas I realized that I had to do something with the fiber; otherwise, what a waste this would be. I had the vision to replicate the itchy Austrian Cardigan (the one made out of boiled wool that I used to wear as a child) for my own children but in a much better and finer quality. It was at this point that I decided to research some local mills and pay them a visit with one bag of alpaca fiber. I had no clue of any fiber terms—I just knew one thing—the yarn In 2006 ALICIA ADAMS and her husband moved from Germany to New York’s Hudson Valley where they reside with their four children and almost 200 Suri alpacas. Alicia started her alpaca endeavor in 2009 and has been growing her sustainable luxury empire ever since. Alicia adores both home and personal style and works diligently to create new and interesting pieces for the modern woman and her residence. With Alicia’s background in fashion PR, fabulous familial support system and passion for Suri alpacas, she is an unstoppable force and an inspiration to women everywhere. that will come out of our alpacas will be very soft. The mill owners were wonderful teachers, and I intently listened to them. The mill owners explained that in order to achieve super soft fibers I would lose a great deal of fiber in the process, which would not be economically savvy. I didn’t shy away from my vision and remained determined; I still wanted the yarn to be the softest possible and to be the best quality available, thinking quality over quantity. I had bought books about fiber, spinning, weaving, knitting and so on. Of course, I only skimmed these books, soaking in the important facts that I needed to know and also to feel more confident when I visited the next fiber mill or weaver. I thought to myself how great it would be to have an all-American product, where the animal is bred, born, and shorn, with the fiber then processed into a product, while working with local artisans. Until my yarn was ready, I researched what other alpaca brands there were and what chances there would be to sell these products. The day came, and I was very excited to pick up the yarn. I immediately sent some to a local weaver and kept the rest to take to a sheep and wool festival in hopes of finding a knitter that I could commission with a project,and I did. I gave her a few skeins of yarn and gave her a very simple sketch of what the baby booties and the baby blanket that I had in mind were supposed to look like. Although it needed some fine-tuning, I was quite pleased with the results of the knitted product; however, I was not happy with the woven sample. I tried a few more weavers but found that I was wasting a lot of material, money and time. At this point, I felt as though we were experiencing too much trial and error without any solid results. I decided that I had to do something about this waste of resources, as I was becoming frustrated and impatient. I decided to go to the source and visit Peru. I was nervous that I wouldn’t find a manufacturer that would even receive me. As I boldly requested meetings with large manufacturers, it was clear that I was being given the cold shoulder and that I was not welcomed. After realizing this, I tried my luck with smaller mills and artisans and came to the conclusion that these manufacturers were much more willing to hear what I had to say and to get a glimpse of my vision. I had to adapt to this work environment pretty quickly, and that was brand new to me. I discussed production minimums, negotiated prototype pricing, and needed to pressure them with time because I couldn’t wait eight to twelve weeks for a sample. Upon returning from Peru, I followed up with the small mill that I selected to create the samples I had requested. Prior to returning, it was frustrating for me because many people I had been dealing with were not very responsive to emails or calls. Even my speaking Spanish did not help as much as I had hoped. Long story short, I received the first woven throws, and I was so surprised with the hand-feel; it was not itchy and was just as I had wished for. It actually ended up working out that the large mills did not want to work with a small client such as myself. Working with the smaller family-owned manufacturers was definitely the right choice; this choice benefitted not only the brand and myself but also helped Peruvian small business owners stay in business. I proceeded to send more fiber to Peru and have it processed. I always felt a little guilty not sticking to my original plan of having an all U.S. made product, so I kept the knitting lady busy with the baby blankets and booties. I adjusted my philosophy to Made in the Americas. This was still within my intention to not deliver mass-produced products from the Far East. My friends were encouraging me to make more products, but first I had to make some money, and I didn’t know how to approach the next step. I lived close to New York City, but I was intimidated to just go and knock on doors, as I have never had experience with this in the past. I am not a hard-sell type of person and have never been pushy. I am also very sensitive to people’s responses; I was thinking, what if they don’t like my products? It’s one thing if my family and friends give me the necessary confidence, but what if a person from the industry doesn’t like what I’m showing? This feeling was terrifying to me, and I lacked every inch of confidence. So, my husband Daniel, who at the time was only focused on breeding and showing and selling the alpacas, signed me up to attend The New York International Gift Show in Manhattan. I thought I was going to faint. I didn’t know where to start. I remember saying to him, “But I only have two colors in each of the three products we have done!” He gave me the necessary confidence and support I needed, which helped to prepare me for the challenge. I needed a label, business cards, brochures and some photos in order to be prepared for the show. With the help of friends, I somehow got all that done, and we established Alicia Adams Alpaca, Inc. in December 2009. I remember feeling overwhelmed and very anxious in the days leading up to the trade show; alas, the show was a success, and we actually wrote orders! And that is how Alicia Adams Alpaca started. In retrospect, it all happened very quickly. What initially started out in our own living room, was moved to an old hog barn, converted and completely renovated to our needs with beautiful old beams and slate tile. The brand grew and continues to grow organically. Of course, when something is going well there is sure to be an obstacle that presents itself. Our major obstacle occurred in January 2012 when our barn, including the entire inventory and show samples, burned down. The next trade show was a few weeks away, and we had zero samples to show. After getting over the major shock of what this all meant, which included a financial loss, we rolled up our sleeves and decided to not let ourselves and brand go but to tackle the next challenge and make it our best show ever. I called up some of our regular clients and asked them if I could borrow/buy some product back for the trade show and fortunately was able to get little bits here and there of our line offerings to display. Somehow with a lot of effort and painstaking work, we managed to hit our calculated goal at the next show. After our barn location burned down, we scrambled and found an office above a local pharmacy to work from with some simple shelves for limited display. Over time, however, we were encouraged by many to expand to best showcase all of our offerings, as they were continuing to grow—including home & gift, accessories, women, men, and babies/ children products. We found the most prominent storefront in Millbrook, which had been empty for some time, but were hesitant because it was way too big for our needs. We eventually decided to take it after all and to house all of our operations at the one location, including our office, inventory and retail display area. In 2017 the building was sold, and we worked with the new owner to convert the upstairs attic, raising the roof and moving our office and studio/ photography space upstairs. This has since opened up room for us to now host pop-ups downstairs for companies like Scandia Home (a duvet and bedding company that offers beautiful luxuries for bed, bath and home) who is currently showcasing their products on one side of our retail front. The additional space also allows us to arrange trunk shows to familiarize consumers with what alpaca products are all about. I enjoy educating others and allowing them to look and learn about everything alpaca. I have learned a lot in the entrepreneurial world, especially how to not waste my time with inefficient and lazy people but to stay connected with makers and shakers in every generation. I look up to these people and they help to keep me going.