Melanie McLeod Prummer, decked out in a lavender theme, won over the judges and earned $1,000 for her lavender farm at the first-ever pitch fest hosted by the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership on Wednesday night.

McLeod’s Lavender is currently 70 plants on a little test plot at Prummer’s farm. She makes fudge, oil, soap, and sausages that have snuck their way into local businesses like Brix a few times. She started her plot in 2017 and is using the funding to expand to a quarter-acre plot that can hold about 700 plants.

“I wanted to make sure my soil conditions were good enough,” Prummer said. “I feel like this is a privilege. I feel really honored to be selected because I feel like people have faith in me.”

Prummer and five other community members were chosen as the best of about a dozen applicants and had 5 minutes to present their business idea then 5 minutes to answer the three-judge panel’s questions.

The partnership took over the monthly pub talks, and Executive Director Wayne Patterson said the organization wants to “wrap our arms around” the entrepreneur community in Douglas County.

“You’ve got an idea? Come and pitch it,” Patterson said. “That spirit is what it’s all about here. We have this community that’s hungry for wanting to find ways to build new businesses.”

He calls the award get-off-the-couch money to get people to think about taking that idea to the next stage. He hopes to have a pitch fest every quarter, but he said he already has funding to do one every month for an entire year.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with the pre-seed fund is trying to figure out a way to build a new entrepreneurial pathway,” Patterson said. “How do we start new businesses in Douglas County? It’s a numbers game. I hate to say that, but if instead of having 10 people opening new businesses every few months, what if we had a hundred? How many of those will be successful and continue to grow?”

Anyone with an idea in Douglas County can apply at www.uedpartnership.org to be considered for the next pitch fest.

Janelle Polcyn can be reached at jpolcyn@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter @JanellePolcyn.

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Janelle Polcyn is a reporter at The News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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