When you’re a social purpose business, the year is measured in more than revenue or product – it’s also measured in impact. At Alpaca, our mission is to make it easy for all of us to support teachers. Our business model gives parents an easy way to subscribe to their kids’ school to send needed supplies and appreciation to teachers. But our mission goes beyond our business model, so we also defined five promises that we make to our customers, teachers, schools, investors, and each other.
As we round out 2022, we’re looking back at these five promises to give you an honest assessment of how we did, and where we have opportunities to grow.
1. Listen to teachers
Big Win: 1000 teachers interviewed Big Challenge: Fulfillment needs slowed down our in-person interviews
Listening to teachers is a promise we’ve made from the very beginning – to not believe that we know better what teachers need, but to constantly ask teachers about their experience in their profession and find ways for parents and community members to support it.
I’m amazed at how much we learned from teachers in 2022. We conducted more than 100 teacher interviews, often on tours of their classrooms, and surveyed more than 1000 teachers about their experiences. We learned about what they spend their own money on for their classrooms, what they love about teaching, and what challenges them!
But all efforts have opportunity for improvement! At Alpaca, every employee is asked to do a weekly coffee with a teacher in their classroom. As we grew this year, the complexities of fulfillment were very real! So we fell off a bit in our teacher coffee visits this fall. We’ve got a great goal of returning to this in January, and making it possible for our team members to spend more time in schools.
Big Win: 10,500+ thank-you notes written Big Challenge: As we scale, how do we engage more community members in this?
We’re proud of this one! By our best estimates, the Alpaca community wrote and sent more than 10,500 thank you notes this year! Thank you notes are the way we start our days, the way we come together as a team, and the lifeblood of our office! Our favorite is seeing so many people come together each month to write them, and to see the amazing messages people write to teachers. Here are a few of our favorites:
In 2023, we are now starting a “thank-you note corps” - a team of professionals, parents, retirees, students, and community members who write thank you notes for us at home.
Big Win: Nearly 50% of our schools are Title I Schools Big Challenge: Our Alpaca for All program needs nurturing
It’s so important to us to see Alpaca in schools of all kinds – public and private, rural and urban, in communities with lots of resources and those with less. Why? Because teachers in every type of school and community are vitally important, and all of them need support, appreciation, and community. It’s why we created Alpaca for All – a fund dedicated to getting Alpaca to every school, by supplementing schools with fewer subscriptions and in underrepresented communities.
Right now, Alpaca for All is really just getting started. Through some amazing partnerships with local foundations and school districts, we were able to bring Alpaca to every Omaha Public Schools elementary teacher this year, and that means we’re reaching schools across our city! We are proud to see that 47% of our schools are “Title I” schools, meaning that a high percentage of students at these schools receive free and reduced lunch. But overall, we’d like to see Alpaca reaching so many more schools and teachers, in so many more places.
In 2023, we’d love to hear from you about the schools you think would benefit most from Alpaca! Nominate your favorite school - or a school where you think teachers could really use the support - here.
4. Tell stories
Big Win: Alpaca reached thousands of new people through national news coverage Big Challenge: We want to hear from more parents and teachers about their experiences
We love telling stories so much at Alpaca! From our “featured teachers” whose stories show up in our monthly packs, to the amazing business sponsors who are investing in our community’s teachers, we love how each story is shaping who we are.
This year, we were lucky to open up our very first Alpaca office space, a true gathering place for our community. Local business teams, school groups, nonprofit organizations, political figures, and families alike joined us in the Alpaca space to tell us about their work, talk about how we might collaborate together for teachers in our community, and write a few thank you notes! In 2022, we welcomed hundreds of community members – they’re all a part of our story now.
We were also really lucky to see the Alpaca story reaching so many people through stories in local and national news outlets, and a far reaching piece with the Flatwater Free Press. We’re just getting started, and know we have a long way to go, but we’re learning so much about how to listen to teachers, share their work, and make each parent and community member feel like part of this exciting story.
5. Bring out the best
Big Win: Alpaca’s team grew to a team of 3 full time and 10 amazing contractors Big Challenge: Bringing on more brand partners to truly invest the BEST in teachers is a big priority in 2023
One of our favorite things each month is to hear about the ways that teachers are truly doing their best work with the supplies, appreciation, and tools they receive through their packs! We’ve partnered up with some amazing brands to help bring teachers the best – from teacher favorites like Crayola and Expo, to local brands like Hardy Coffee, Nibbs Chocolates, and Coneflower Creamery.
We cannot talk about bringing out the best without some gratitude and joy for the group of people that has come together to build this company. Some of the very best designers, educators, marketers, operations team members, and writers have come together for teachers through Alpaca this year, and we’re so grateful for every one of them.
In 2023 we are hoping to truly expand our community and network to bring more parents, PTO and parent groups, and community members together in our community. We’re hoping to expand to new cities, build new partnerships, and give parents new ways to get involved with Alpaca.
Like any new company, we are just getting started, learning the ropes, and building our community. We aren’t perfect in any of these commitments, but we’re making great progress across them all. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we’re making the impact we want to make for educators, but we are committed, excited, and ready to go.
Get to know your teachers
Supporting your teachers is easier when you know what they need and what motivates each of them.