Alpacas promote profits for small business owners

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COLUMBIA - The day after the shopping rush of Black Friday is dedicated to small businesses nationwide. On Small Business Saturday, holiday shoppers are encouraged to get a start on their seasonal shopping at local businesses.

In addition to the boutiques and restaurants downtown, many businesses elsewhere in Columbia are also looking forward to hosting shoppers. Mary Licklider, owner of the Curly Eye alpaca farm, said families can do more than just buy presents at her farm store.

“We’re hoping people come enjoy the critters as we do everyday, and do some holiday shopping,” Licklider said.

Curly Eye’s holiday shopping event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Dec. 2. Visitors can feed and pet the alpacas and purchase items made from alpaca fiber. Licklider says they may find a different shopping experience at her farm than downtown.

“You’re not likely to run into the crowds and those kinds of issues that you run into downtown. This is probably a more kid-friendly venue,” Licklider said.

Licklider says there are some important similarities as well.

“Like downtown, these are going to be unique products,” Licklider said. “These are going to be handmade, here on the farm, for the most part. We carry a handful of products from other places that sort of fill in around the things that we can’t make ourselves.”

The vast majority of the products are made on-site. Curly Eye farm is also home to Heartfelt Alpaca Creations. Heartfelt is a collaborative effort by Licklider and three other women, each bringing a different skillset and background to the table.

“As we got working together we just sort of realized, ‘hey, between the four of us we’ve got everything we need,’ even though none of us has all of it,” Licklider said.

Mary and her husband Gary have owned alpacas for 15 years. They send the fleece they collect to mills in Kansas and Michigan.

“You’ve got midwestern fiber, going to midwestern mills, being made up into product here in Columbia,” Licklider said. “You’re truly and completely patronizing midwestern businesses.”

The U.S. Office of Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy estimates over 1.1 million Missourians are employed by small businesses.  

Find where to shop with a map of local business participating in Small Business Saturday.

Questions about Curly Eye, Heartfelt, or the shopping event can be directed to Gary Licklider at 573-864-2716.