By: Claire Heaney, Herald Sun
Photo: By Andy Rogers
Photo Caption: Isabel Renters with products made from alpaca wool.
When treechangers Isabel and Nick Renters bought a couple of alpacas, they had no idea the investment would lead to a new career processing fleece.
Mr Renters said the closest of a handful of mills still operating in Australia was kilometres away and waiting lists for the wool were huge.
Eventually, the couple, who live in Ecklin South in Victoria’s southwest, hatched a plan to start their own milling business.
“We sat down and crunched some numbers and decided to go with it,” said Mr Renters.
At the time, he was running a gardening business in Warrnambool, 30 minutes from Ecklin South.
The couple sourced a bespoke mill from Canada and 18 months ago the business — Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill — was launched.
The outlay for the mill and purpose-built shed was up to $500,000.
Mr Renters said that after some initial tuition from the Canadian trainer, the new millers were left to their own devices.
The humidity and even the time of the day affected results, and when it was too hot, the fibre dried and wouldn’t spin.
“Like any new business, we were optimistic and confident that what we were trying to do would work,” he said.
“It did take a bit longer to be proficient with the equipment.”
Mr Renters said the combination of a prominent social media presence and the power of word of mouth saw them picking up work.
“We are in dairy country here but it is not unusual for me to go to the post office at Cobden and pick up a 20kg package of fleece,” he said.
The mill processes alpaca, merino and Polwarth fibres.
The Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill yarn store is open Friday to Sunday until the end of March and orders can also be placed online.
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