Newberry County native Alicia Holbrook thought when she graduated from the University of South Carolina she would be wearing dresses and heels to work, not jeans and mud boots. But she turned a late-night idea into a family agribusiness.
Holbrook’s farm, Carolina Pride Pastures, raises alpacas and llamas and sells products made from their wool. The farm is open for visitors for special events, and Holbrook plans to offer yurt camping soon. Yurts, portable round tents used by nomadic tribes in Asia for centuries, have now become trendy for camping.
Holbrook got the idea to raise alpacas on the family land while watching a television program on the animals when she was awake late one night with her infant daughter. Holbrook and her husband decided to give it a go.
While in business for the past few years, Holbrook has been expanding Carolina Pride Pastures with help from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.
She participated in a program for business innovators offered through the Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship and Clemson Extension Service, offered for the first time last year. Holbrook said the agribusiness program helped her scrap her original business plan and refocus it by offering more farm events, field trip educational programs and online product sales, which she said led to a dramatic increase in her business.
“If I had not gone through the program, I never would have seen the numbers on paper and realized there’s a better way to do things,” she said. “When we first started the business, field trips were not part of our plan. We quickly learned that agritourism could be a huge revenue stream.”
Holbrook partnered with another local farm, Lever Farms, on a field trip program. The businesses hosted 50 students in their first year. Now more than 1,500 people visit the farm every year, including students, church and civic groups, and even clubs with members who work in fiber arts such as knitting or crocheting.
Carolina Pride Pastures also opened an on-site farm store, which is open most Saturdays in the fall and spring.
“In the very near future, we hope to expand the farm experience by offering overnight stays in yurts,” Holbrook said.
The four-session ACRE program includes advice in business planning and management, marketing, cost of production, profitability and financial statements. Participants also can pitch their business plans to an agribusiness panel for the chance to win $5,000.
“The entrepreneurs selected for this program will do their part to improve and diversify South Carolina’s agribusiness landscape,” S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers in a news release.
Applications for the next session of the program are due Oct. 1. Those selected must attend sessions on Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Nov. 19 and Dec. 7 at the Clemson Sandhill Research and Education Center on Clemson Road in Columbia.
The ACRE Entrepreneurship Center also offers programs for established agribusiness entrepreneurs. For more information, call Kyle Player at 803-734-2324 or email at email@example.com.