Alan’s Journey: Co-founding The Woolkeepers® to Empower Farmers and Transform Wool Supply Chains
Nestled amidst the breath-taking landscapes of Scotland, Alan Walsh, a dedicated wool buyer, embarked on a mission together with Jo Dawson, 4th generation of H Dawson to bring about a profound change for wool supply chains. Driven by heartfelt conversations with farmers, Alan and Jo recognised the need for transformation. They witnessed the farmers’ struggles, grappling with soaring costs and meagre returns for their exceptional wool. This realisation sparked the birth of The Woolkeepers®, a visionary programme focused on complete traceability and fair compensation for farmers. In this blog we delve into why The Woolkeepers® was founded and explore Alans authentic and determined spirit, illuminating his unwavering commitment to effecting positive change.
Alan’s journey unfolded through intimate connections with farmers, enabling him to empathise deeply with their challenges. He observed the persistently high production costs, coupled with inadequate remuneration for their wool. Alan recalls, “You’re always dealing with farmers, hearing their woes and trials… we’re trying to get their wool used more and valued significantly higher.” Motivated by this awareness, he set out to create a collective that would champion farmers’ rights, ensuring they received their due compensation directly, unburdened by the complexities of the supply chain.
A significant hurdle faced by the 2 co-founders has been reshaping consumer preferences, steering them away from synthetic materials like polyester and towards the natural allure of wool. He acknowledges the need for gentler handling when cleaning wool but passionately championed its exceptional qualities. Alan affirmed, “Wool is a thousand times better than polyester… with a little extra care during cleaning, it performs admirably.” Driven by the co-founders unwavering belief in wool’s remarkable benefits, they have dedicated themselves to rekindling the world’s love for this timeless material.
Since co-founding The Woolkeepers, Alan’s perspective on supply chains and textiles has undergone a remarkable transformation. The foundation of quality assurance by The Woolkeepers® ensures that the right kind of wool reaches its intended destination—the perfect end product. Alan emphasised the simplicity of this approach, stating, “We now pack wool from different farms in separate bags instead of mixing it… It’s not a monumental change but this shift has facilitated direct engagement with farmers and streamlined the supply chain, fostering enhanced collaboration and yielding better outcomes for all stakeholders.
Alan’s extensive background in the wool industry gives him a unique understanding of the imperative need for a sustainable supply chain. He questioned the rationale of shipping wool overseas for processing and manufacturing when local resources and expertise were readily available. Alan reflected, “It does matter where the wool comes from and where it’s going.” This realisation propelled him to support a supply chain that prioritises fair compensation for farmers, while inspiring consumers to support locally sourced, expertly crafted products.
At the core of The Woolkeepers’ ethos lies the principle of pairing the right type of wool with the appropriate end product. Alan explained their process of sourcing specific wool varieties for different applications. With a hands-on approach, the team ensures that each type of wool finds its ideal destination, guaranteeing superior quality outcomes. By emphasising hand selecting and customisation, The Woolkeepers® has helped to re-establish coarser wool types as a versatile and coveted raw material.
Alan’s inspiring journey as a co-founder of The Woolkeepers® embodies the transformative power of unwavering dedication and collaborative efforts with the farming community. His authentic spirit and resolute commitment to the welfare of farmers have ignited a movement that empowers growers and revolutionises wool supply chains. By focusing on complete traceability and fair compensation, The Woolkeepers® ensures that farmers receive the recognition and remuneration they rightfully deserve. Guided by Alan’s and Jo’s vision, the future of wool shines brightly, promising a sustainable, ethically sourced and unparalleled product that both delights consumers and uplifts those at the farm level.