The Brit took the path often travelled when he met a Swedish girl in Thailand back in 1999. Two years later, they moved to Stockholm and he was forced to take any job that was available.
“In England I had my own company and things were going well, but I had to start at the bottom when I moved here,” Nicholls tells The Local whilst ensuring his alpacas are getting their lunch of hay.
“I took a job ploughing snow for the local municipality. After that I worked with Swedish Wireless as a carpenter and things took off for me from there,” he says. Nicholls got into the mobile telecommunications sector at just the right time right when 3G technology was accelerating.
“I must have built thousands of 3G masts and that helped me progress up the ladder where I became a project manager.”
After stints with giants Peab and Bravida, he was ready to take the plunge and start his own company. He established Vertical AB providing rigging solutions for network construction and wind measurement using helicopters.
Nicholls employs 20 people and his company has expanded across the Nordic region. But even when he was up in the air, he was harbouring another dream – starting a bed and breakfast where guests could get close to alpacas.
Alpacas, which look a bit like llamas, are normally found in South America not the snowy wilds of Sweden. Nicholls though wasn’t to be deterred and worked on setting up the resort in his new home of Norrängen in Broddbo, central Sweden.
“I saw a programme on television about alpacas and just became fascinated by them. They are remarkable creatures and it has been proven that spending time with them is good for your health,” Nicholls enthuses.
“Our first three alpacas were adopted from a woman in Stockholm who had them in her garden. Now we are up to 26, and they all have their own personalities. All of ours have names.”
Nicholls fulfilled his dream when he opened Norrängens Alpacka bed and breakfast in May. Business has already been brisk with tourists coming from overseas to get up close and personal with the creatures that are known for their gentle nature.
“We are already booked up until September and our hope is that it will be more than just a seasonal trade,” says Nicholls who is still maintaining his other business interests while taking care of the alpacas.
“People can do as much or as little as they like with the alpacas. They are particularly good around children as they have a very loving personality,” he adds. “In general alpacas don’t want to be stroked but we have one called Speedy Gonzalez who enjoys all the attention from customers.”
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Alpacas, which can be sold for hundreds of thousands of kronor, are best known for their coats, with the fiber used to make luxury blankets and fleeces.
While Nicholls likes getting hands on with his animals, he stops short of shearing them.
“I prefer to leave that to an Australian guy who has plenty of experience with sheep. Just getting them up on the table before they are sheared is enough for me!” he laughed.