West Coast Alpacas is based in the Ardgowan Estate in Greenock, and was founded in December by Fred and Francesca Wade, with a view to diversifying the local tourism offering and promoting an “exciting option for the daily, socially distanced walk”.
It has received support from Business Gateway, which highlighted digital training programmes such as Google my Business, a platform that drives customer engagement. The firm has consequently experienced a 60 per cent increase in social media engagement and is fully booked for the next year.
The family-run business also benefited from market research reports available on the Business Gateway website, and it was given help with the likes of carrying out a risk assessment to ensure the site was Covid-19 safe, and information on government grant funding opportunities.
West Coast Alpacas now has eight of the animals, who live in a paddock on site, and it hopes to add three as well as run seasonal events throughout 2021 when it is safe to do so.
Francesca Wade said: “Being lovers of the outdoors, we wanted to add something special to our local area. We have such a great community spirit here in Inverclyde and we want to encourage people to explore what's on their doorstep.
“From our first conversations with Business Gateway at the end of 2020, we’ve been able to establish our website and social media presence and in a very short time have developed an effective online booking platform, EventSmart, where customers can easily book a slot to visit.
“Through a range of webinars, Business Gateway has equipped us with the necessary skills to increase our customer base and signposted us to the wider network to secure financial support from the council.”
Barbara Mennie, Business Gateway adviser, said: “It’s excellent to see a tourism business like West Coast Alpacas thriving during what has been an exceptionally challenging year for the industry.
“Through a bespoke package of start-up support services, Francesca and Fred have been able to achieve impressive results, and have ensured their business is in a strong position going into the 2021 summer period.”