Ok we give in! So many people now are asking us about how to start up an alpaca walking or trekking business. People are also asking will we share our risk assessments, insurance details, marketing, general know-how etc? When we started out there was only one other business in the UK that we could find at that time who was walking alpacas as a business, now there are dozens.
I have been wary of sharing our experience and know-how because we have been let down by others in the past but perhaps the time is right. One or two other business are offering courses and someone is even offering a franchise, (although what they are offering is not a franchise as we understand it).
I think we all need to be a bit careful of what I would describe the alpaca walking explosion. From just a couple of business there are now dozens up and down the UK and what was a very unique experience is not as rare as it was just a few years ago. Is there room for any more? I would certainly not want someone opening up a centre just down the road from us which has happened once already and we would not assist anyone who was intending to open a business just around the corner from friends of ours who run walking business on the South Coast. We do however think there is some room for growth around the UK and you need to study your area yourself to decide if this is a good idea in your location. I would strongly recommend that you don't start in competition too close to another business, there are only so many customers out there.
So, what are we going to offer or not offer being more of a case in point? We are not going to offer to run paid courses for people to start up, others do that adequately already and we just don't have the time.
What we will offer is for those people that are buying animals from us specifically to start a trekking business, we will train them and offer full advice on how to go about it in our opinion. We are now going in to our eighth-year walking with alpacas and run in excess of 600 alpaca group walks a year.
So how much is a walking/trekking alpaca or llama ready to go? I am not sure there is any such thing as a real ready to go animal in the world of alpacas, more so in the world of llamas however, and we believe that a mixture of the two species works well both with the public and the animals themselves. Any animal that you buy will need plenty of familiarisation with your own surroundings and walking area before you set off for your first public walk so don't expect to get them home and go straight away, you need to know the individual personalities of your animals and what they are capable of by working with them yourselves.
We would normally sell pet alpacas for between £350 and £500 however trained alpacas and llamas that are 90% ready to go and that have already had some experience with walking with the public would vary between £750 and £1,500 from us, plus of course the dreaded VAT. Yes you can buy alpacas and llamas cheaper (or more!) but pet animals, even if halter trained, need to be evaluated to see if they will happily work with people and not all will or indeed have the personality necessary to do the job.
Our business has changed from just a walking business to a full-on farm park and we are also happy to advise on one or two other fun animals that will enhance the visitor experience to your farm without breaking the bank if you also want to diversify as we have.
We are happy to be on the end of the phone or an email for help and advice when the business is in its infancy.
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