Back in January when Alpaca was starting to come together, I made myself a couple of clear promises. These weren’t “core values” quite yet, because I wasn’t sure what Alpaca would become (I think I still called it a “project” most of the time). But early on, I promised to do two things every day: listen to teachers and write thank you notes. I knew that if I kept those promises and did those things each day, I’d be upholding the reasons I was building this in the first place.
Over time and as our team formed, we’ve solidified the promises we are making, as a team, as we grow Alpaca. Here’s what we’re promising our customers, our teachers, our investors, and each other.
Alpaca’s core customers are parents who want a new way to support their schools. But our mission is driven by another “customer” - teachers. They are at the heart of everything we do. For us, listening to teachers is a priority for how we spend our time and how we build our product. We regularly take coffee to teachers after school, tour their classrooms, and hear about their experiences. Our consultants and team members come from the teaching community. Every pack we deliver is influenced by teachers. Every item in them is chosen by teachers. And every month, we survey all of our teachers to learn about what they think and what they’d like to see in future packs.
Handwritten thank you notes have been core to our identity as a company since day one. Why? Because writing a thank you note requires time, energy, and intention. It asks the writer to step back and consider the impact someone made in your life, big or small. Our handwritten thank you notes are the only non-negotiable item in every pack, and they are the thing we get the MOST positive feedback about from teachers.
We knew it from the start – that if Alpaca became a company that only took care of the teachers at schools with active parent groups or a financially supportive community, we wouldn’t be doing it right. Alpaca is not here for the privileged few, but to elevate every educator. It’s why we offer business sponsorships, the Alpaca for All fund, and opportunities for anyone anywhere to invest in teachers as the extraordinary professionals they are.
If you know our team, you know that we care deeply about telling the stories of the teachers and parents in our community. You’ll see those stories on our website, in our pack’s “featured teachers,” and in each and every team member. Telling stories is also why we work in a real office in the heart of the city where we started – so that our space is filled with members of the community who tell their stories, and so that they become a part of ours.
Join us for one day and you’ll see a crew who loves to win – we want to be the absolute best at what we’re building. And at Alpaca, “the best” means a few different things. We work hard to bring the BEST supplies and brands to our teachers. Because teachers aren’t charity cases, and they don’t deserve leftovers. And, we seek to “bring out the best” in all of us – in parents who find a new way to support their schools, in teachers who feel supported in their work, and in our own teams in building a company we’re truly proud of.
We hope you’ll hold us to these promises. They are the commitments that we believe underscore the social purpose of our business, so if we’re not doing these things, we’re not doing something right. We’ll report back this year on how we did on each of them, and we welcome your ideas on how we can do them best.