We’ve been up to quite a lot lately, and thought we’d let you all know what’s going on with Alpacka:
We’re building the rafts ourselves. Historically, Sheri’s outsourced fabrication. However, there were some ongoing problems with that, and Sheri ultimately found she couldn’t really take Alpacka in the direction she wanted, or build boats how she ultimately wants to, without starting an Alpacka boat-building shop.
We’ve moved to rural Colorado. Sheri discovered that running the manufacturing shop in Anchorage wasn’t viable without making the boats brutally expensive. After looking at a lot of areas, she chose Mancos, Colorado, near Durango - searching after good boating and year-round runnable for winter R&D, among other things. The new shop is on a working natural beef ranch in the Mancos valley countryside.
Sheri’s brought in some new partners. Fred, her brother-in-law, is now in charge of manufacturing. The other new partner is myself, Andrew.
Alpacka is transitioning from a one-woman-show to a multi-person company. With our growth & our new shop, we now have several working members the company. Sheri’s still the big honcho (I keep calling her “Old Woman River,” which she morphs to “The River Crone”). Along with that, we’re specializing. Sheri is the president, and she’s heavily involved in manufacturing, R&D, and the growth of Alpacka. Part of the result of this has been a lot of new innovations in the boat construction, as well as acceleration in the design evolution of the boats, such as the 08 spraydeck and new Dory frame.
Alpacka came to crossroads, and Sheri realized that she needed to expand and develop the company.
It’s been commented a bit that Sheri is harder to get ahold of now, and that’s true. As Alpacka began to grow, she found that with all the demands of setting up the new operation, R&D, manufacturer, etc., was overloading her & the shop. One of the things Sheri found was that she needed to hand-off much of the customer service & communication, because she’s needed in fabrication & design. So… when you e-mail or call Alpacka raft, now, I’m the guy you’re likely to get. As Dano put it in a thread, I’m the “some dude in Colorado.”
In truth, I’m in Seattle, and I’m a minority owner of Alpacka. If any of you came through the Turpin street shop in June and met a guy she had chained to the sewing machine & sleeping on the floor (Lucy had already claimed the couch), building prototype drysuits, that was me. On the forums, when I post as a private individual, I’ve always been under the handle “Shaggy.” Like everyone else at Alpacka, I wear a lot a hats, but I’m basically Sheri’s “Suit,” although we do throw around some much more colorful terms too…
I’m very honored to have been asked by Sheri to be a part of Alpacka. I was a packrafter before I ever met Sheri, and, as with so many other users, her boat opened a whole new world to me. Alpacka has been through some tough times, and it survived through Sheri’s personal frugality, perseverance, and dedication to a vision. Sheri is dedicated to building the world’s best packrafts. Sheri’s tasked me to help her transform Alpacka into a small, viable, and sustainable company, which is a responsibility I take to heart. You could also call me our ‘boater’s advocate’: when someone has a problem, a boat gets damaged, etc., I’m also the guy who bird-dogs it. In addition, Sheri has charged me, especially in a period of rising petroleum costs, to develop strategies for Alpacka that keep our boats affordable. As a guy who started packrafting when I was basically living out of my car and who still wears flip-flops with holes in the bottom, that’s another mission I feel strongly about.
It’s true there have been a lot of changes. Sheri is focusing on designing, developing, and building the boats. The result of these changes is that Alpacka will continue to stay in business, designing and building boats, into the future. We want to stay in touch with boaters, so if you have concerns or questions… please let us know.
Well, this has been a bit of tome, hasn’t it? If anyone has questions about Alpacka, feel free to post them here, or contact us.