How a Passion for Alpaca Fiber Meets Practicality
Whitney Dorband joined Interweave as an intern in 2009. In 2014, she decided to start a fiber company with her mother, using alpaca fiber from the family’s large flock and natural dyes from her mother’s garden. Learn more about how passion meets practicality in an excerpt from her Spin Off Winter 2017 article, “From Backyard Farm to Fiber Business.”
In the grand scheme of things, the business was just a natural progression from where my parents started. There have been many twists and turns in our journey, and there are many, many more to come. As they say, the journey is half the fun.
Both my mom and I are fiber enthusiasts. I knit, crochet, spin, and weave. My mom is an artist and has taken to spinning, felting, and dyeing. Our passions have driven us to come up with unique ideas for our business and have made us believe the sky is the limit!
Unfortunately, there are limits. Time is a big one. It turns out that trying to get a website created, marketing channels established, and brand awareness built takes a decent amount of time. While my professional experience is in marketing, it doesn’t make starting a new business much simpler; with managing the ranch, my mom doesn’t have a lot of time to collaborate on this end of things.
It also turns out that running a ranch takes a ton of time. (Crazy, right?) Days are often consumed with breeding, taking care of sick animals, checking on little crias, making sure every animal is fed and watered, and spending many weekends away at alpaca and fiber shows. We recently finished one of the busiest times of year: shearing. For shearing to go correctly, it needs to be run like a well-directed production. Everyone must know exactly what he or she is doing before getting started, because once you start, there is no stopping.
Another limit in our business is color. It gets complicated when you decide on natural dyes. It gets even more complicated when you decide that starting your own backyard dyer’s garden is an even better option. My mom took the lead on starting the garden. She planned all the plants needed and managed the planting process. She made sure the garden was watered and nourished. Things were looking good for our dyer’s garden. The one thing we can’t control, though, is Mother Nature. Rains came, and the garden saw its fair share of mudslides.
We aren’t a massive yarn company yet; we are still very much a small, local ranch just trying to sell some fiber. We face setbacks on what feels like a daily basis. But it’s worth it because we love it. Just like turning a pile of roving into beautiful handspun yarn, building a business takes patience, learning, skill, perseverance, and trial and error. I think my drop spindle has taught me a lot about growing a business: the spindle will fall many times, but that doesn’t mean the final product is ruined.
Whitney Dorband is the marketing director for a financial firm in Fort Collins, Colorado. With her mother, Deb Dorband, she is the creative force behind Belvedere Fine Fibers, based in Berthoud, Colorado. Find them online at www.belvederefinefibers.com.