The year was 2005, I was attending the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, studying textiles, where I would graduate from that June. Dreaming of my future fiber filled days, imagining my studio illuminated with light from the sun pouring through it's giant south facing window, CBC radio quietly entertaining me with it's background chatter, shelves upon shelves of colorful yarns and fiber.
Amy was completing her business administration program at NBCC St Andrews. She was ready to take on the entrepreneurial world with force. She's a determined and strong willed lady, to say the least, for those that don't know her. Her intention was never to settle in the coastal village of St Andrews, Amy always knew where her heart was rooted, in our sweet little valley called Markhamville, where we were born and raised. She envisioned a future of working for herself, carrying on the legacy of our family, but diversifying from the traditional cattle farming we grew up with and that our family had been doing for generations.
One evening, after one or two glasses of wine, sitting by the crackling wood stove that warmed the inside of Amy and her husband James's 150 year old farm house, where they lived at the time, we had an idea, a wonderful brilliant idea!!
We would team up and instead of farming beef cattle, we would farm fiber!! Amy wanted to own and operate a business and I wanted to work with fiber, it was a win, win!!
Then came the fun part!!
Writing a business plan. Thankfully, Amy had just studied the in's and out's of writing such a document and I had a team of professors at the Craft College that were ready and willing to help in any way they could!
It just so happens as we were full speed ahead bringing our brilliant idea into reality, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, an agency that promotes entrepreneurship in NB by making capital investments in start-ups, announced their competition for prize money to write a business plan. The plan had to be innovative to NB and the applicants had to be students of a NB University or College.
Heck yes, we fit the bill!!
After tire-less nights, researching, writing, re-writing, interviewing, questioning, number crunching, doubting, memorizing and re-writing, we completed our business plan to open New Brunswick's very first exotic fiber processing mill and submitted into the Foundations contest, with fingers, toes and legs crossed that it would be deemed worthy of the $20,000 1ST place prize pot!
Yes, our plan did change, our intention when we first set out, was to farm, but after many chats with fiber farmers, the common concern was that they had no where to have their harvests processed into a usable value added product. Thankfully we already possessed what all entrepreneurs must have in their arterial belt of success, the ability to switch gears, think outside the box and be okay to change the plan.
And guess WHAT!!????.......we freaking WON!!!!!!
The joy, the pride, the honor, the excitement, my eyes are literally welling with tears as I write this today 15 years later!
Then came the really, really fun part and by really fun I mean the, crazy, exhausting first few years of being a brand new business owner. Good thing we were young and both born with strong stubborn genes, thanks Dad!
Oh and did I forget to mention that we both decided that in the first year of operation it would be a good time to start a family and have babies, dear Lord how did we make it through??
Me, Alyson, one month after opening the doors of Legacy Lane Fiber Mill. Look at that carder, shiny and new!
The days turned into years and our crew of 2 began to slowly grow. Our sweet Mama, along with taking care of our wee ones helped out with our books and kept things together on paper as Amy and I slung skeins.
Legacy Lane was housed in the basement of Amy's home for the first 6 years of operation. That was a huge saving grace to our business along with being a huge pain in the a*# too.
Amy and James's newly built home, it's empty basement housed LLFM for as long as it could!
Now we didn't abandon our plans of farming all together, we tucked that away until the opportunity presented itself.
And it did!
After 2 years of operating the mill, we took over, along with the help of our devoted supportive parents and husbands, management and care of herd of 70 alpacas!!
Crazy, a mill, babies, 70 alpacas....our days were filled and our nights were sleep-less. After 4 years of doing it all, we decided our focus needed to be on the mill, I wanted to further develop our services to include more studio time for me. So we passed the torch of alpaca farming onto another crew of fiber friends.
Passing that torch really was the best thing that we could have done. We started to really focus on building our client list, refining our skills in fiber processing, we zoomed in with a focus on alpaca fiber, began developing a line of finished products and expanded our services to fleece producers.
Now don't get me wrong, we gained invaluable experience and knowledge from farming those little critters and believe 100% that we wouldn't be where we are today without the opportunity.
The story continues with many other grand adventures to share but that's enough of a history lesson for now...I've got to set up the spinner!