Creating Alaska’s Fiber Industry
When Kate Wattum first had the idea to create a business manufacturing and selling fiber and fiber based products, she knew she would also have to lay the groundwork for an industry that doesn’t yet exist in Fairbanks or even Alaska. Currently, most animal fiber grown in Alaska is thrown away, processed by artists in small quantities or sent out of state for expensive processing. Kate established Coyote Trail Farm and Fiber Mill so she could use her experience to generate business in state and build a reputation for Alaskan fiber as she works with artists, agricultural specialists, fiber collectors and other small businesses.
As Kate began to lay the groundwork for her business, she came to the Alaska Small Business Development Center in Fairbanks and began working with Business Advisor, Alexis Fanelli. Alexis assisted her in the first steps of managing finances, strategies for marketing and the logistics behind setting up her facility on the farm. Kate very much wanted the farm setting and expanded her small “backyard farm” with an assortment of fiber producing animals that now adds to the charm of her endeavor. Teamed up with Alexis, they initially worked on setting up a bookkeeping system that would keep Kate in the know about the business’s finances and on the same page with her accountant and then supported her efforts through banks, purchasing, research and developing the merged farm and fiber model she was after.
“With my plan, research and experience the SBDC helped me structure a step-by-step process to move me from idea to actual business entity. I had some personal hurdles to get over and the SBDC agent kept moving me forward. The encouragement to continue and the solid, enthusiastic support helped keep me on track,” said Kate.
Kate plans on continuing to work closely with the SBDC as she navigates her first year in business. Coyote Trail Farm & Fiber Mill will ultimately grow to custom process and/or purchase raw fiber to transform into yarn, thread, rope and felts for crafters and roving for spinners. Tours will also be available by appointment for both the farm and mill.
As any fiber artist will tell you, it is the infinite variations in natural fibers that are the joy and challenge. The mill, when up to full speed, will be offering services and the ability to process and blend these fiber types: suri and huacaya alpaca, llama, muskox (qiviut), cashmere, yak, mountain goat, angora rabbit, most varieties of sheep, buffalo, husky, samoyed and other breeds of dog, hemp, flax, long staple cotton, bamboo, polypropylene, other nylon blends, silk and mohair. You can learn more about and contact Coyote Trail Farm & Fiber Mill by following them on Facebook.