Keith Wilson owns Alpaca Expedition Outfitters, a local shop with a mission to provide hope. The storefront location — next to Southern Girl Coffee in downtown Oxford — is currently closed due to construction, but you can shop online at AlpacaExpeditionOutfitters.com. Alpaca Expedition Outfitters donates 10% of its profits to help provide help for people in need.
How did Alpaca Expedition Outfitters start? The idea came to me one winter night right before Christmas 2015. For the past two Christmases, I had pieced together a backpack full of supplies such as a sleeping bag, jacket, food and other backpacking trinkets to give to a homeless person. I realized that the things I used to backpack and camp are the very same things some people use on a daily basis to survive — next door and around the world. Alpaca was a way I could combine my passion for backpacking with my passion to give hope to others.
Explain the name ‘Alpaca Expedition Outfitters.’ I thought, “What is warm, soft and fluffy? An alpaca!” But the symbolism goes further than I ever thought possible. Alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains, usually in areas 14,000 feet above sea level, and are exposed to some harsh conditions. They are also an incredibly vital part of the people’s culture. They are specifically bred for clothing, their fibers are naturally moisture-wicking and odor-resistant, warmer than wool and softer. This is truly the world’s most incredible fiber. Because of their qualities and the harsh conditions they have to endure, I wanted to create jackets, sleeping bags, backpacks and other things that have the same durability, resilience and quality the alpacas have. I realized then the name wasn’t just a coincidence. God put it on my heart.
What items do you sell? As with everything, you have to start out small. So, we decided to start with T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats. Most everything we have is made in the USA to ensure humane working conditions, but recently we have added Comfort Colors to our collections. Also, this fall, we are getting alpaca fleece socks — our very first item with real alpaca fleece. We are also experimenting with flannel button downs for the fall. The backpacks and sleeping bags are next on our list of investments — our most exciting investments yet!
Ten percent of your profits go to help others. How do you decide what to contribute to? Donating one jacket for every four sold was the original idea I had in 2015, but we decided it would be better to give 10% of the profits, so that we can broaden our giving to more areas than clothing.
We decided that we wanted to provide the most basic needs for people who don’t have them. It’s not because we feel bad for them because they are less privileged or because we feel guilty; it’s because all of us at Alpaca know that if we were thirsty we would want someone to give us a drink. If we were naked, we would love for someone to help clothe us. If we didn’t have a home, we would want a roof over our heads — not because we deserve it but because we need it. There are people who need those things and need help getting them. So, we narrowed it down to three basic needs: food and water, clothing, and shelter.
We completed our first water project this past February in Nepal to supply a family of four with clean drinking water through a company called NeverThirst out of Birmingham.
You include the hashtag #AdventureForHope on your website. Explain that. Backpacking is one of the ways I disconnect from the world and connect with Jesus. The reason I adventure and the reason Alpaca gives is to give the hope of the gospel to people. When we give clean water, we know that person will be thirsty again. When we give clothes, we know the clothes will wear out eventually, but hope is forever. It gives people a purpose and strength. Only God can truly provide those things. The organizations we give to not only provide water or clothing, but the hope found in Jesus.
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