For Jim and Kelley Hobart and their two children, nothing is more important than a close-knit family and community. When their daughter asked if they could raise alpacas on their ranch in 2005, they discovered the many unique benefits of alpaca wool and were amazed. They opened Alpaca Direct in Hayden and a companion online store to share the joys of the durable, eco-friendly yarn and fiber with knitting and apparel enthusiasts all over the world. “Whether you’re visiting our store or shopping from afar, we want you to feel like you’re a part of what we're creating up here in North Idaho,” says Kelley.
Alpaca Direct uses the Internet to weave together a robust modern business. They rely on AdWords, Google's advertising program, to reach customers overseas and build international awareness of their brand. “Our products are especially popular in cold-weather climates. Geolocation helps with attracting these likely buyers,” Jim says. They also use Google Analytics to improve their marketing campaigns. Together, the Google tools power Alpaca Direct’s growth. “We use Analytics to identify niche markets that are going to be interested in our products and then AdWords to expand our presence into those markets,” Jim explains. G Suite tools give them the logistical muscle to compete with larger companies—they do budgeting with Google Sheets, communicate with Gmail, and plan staffing with Google Calendar. YouTube allows them to share knitting techniques and product reviews with a global audience. And Google Hangouts enables enthusiasts from afar to participate in their weekly knitting group at the Hayden store. “There are a lot of people all over the world who don’t have a local yarn shop. We want to become their local yarn shop even though we’re all the way here in Idaho. With Google tools, we can do that, and they can be part of our community,” Kelley says.
Today, Alpaca Direct has proudly served over 100,000 customers in 30 countries. They enjoy a double-digit annual growth rate, with 92 percent of their sales coming from the web. They especially love sharing a bit of Idaho warmth with outsiders. “We get hundreds of visitors vacationing here and walking through our doors. We want all of them to leave with a rich, special connection with us and our products,” Kelley says.