Start-up loan helps entrepreneur launch alpaca business

Entrepreneur Joanne Schembri has launched Calderbrook Alpacas after securing an £8,000 start-up loan.

The Littleborough-based business, which now owns six alpacas, takes groups of clients for walks across the South Pennines.

Research suggests that contact with the animals has therapeutic value, particularly for the elderly and for people suffering with dementia.

Clients are taught how to lead, handle and engage with the alpacas. Joanne is also about to launch her petting and educational therapy services to take the alpacas into schools and care homes.

Joanne has also found additional income streams though selling alpaca waste, which is an excellent soil enhancer, and alpaca fibre, which is proving to be a versatile and valuable alternative to sheep’s wool.

She said: “Launching a business with alpacas has been a long-held dream of mine and the Start Up Loan has meant that I have been able to build the business far more quickly than if I was starting from scratch.

Launching a business with alpacas has been a long-held dream of mine.

"Alpacas are incredibly gentle and inquisitive, their fibre is non-allergenic, which means that they are wonderful animals for people of any age to interact with. We have plans in place to steadily grow our herd using a sustainable and responsible breeding programme which will enable us to increase our schedule of walks, visits to care homes and schools, allowing the local community to interact with these unusual animals.”

The funding was provided by GC Business Finance, the North West delivery partner of the government’s national £310m Start Up Loans programme.

Chris Hutchison, head of lending at GC Business Finance, said: “Joanne has spotted a great gap in the market in her area for what is becoming an increasingly popular pastime. Like many of the entrepreneurs we work with, Joanne’s business first began as a passion and we are proud to be able to support her to grow Calderbrook Alpacas into a successful and sustainable enterprise.”