Staying connected with our local entrepreneurs who have been awarded a pre-seed fund through Pitch Night - a GrowthTalks event.
2020 | July
It’s been one year since Melanie McLeod pitched her business idea at a GrowthTalks Pitch Night event - a lavender farm named McLeod’s Lavender. She was awarded a pre-seed fund of $1,000 to "grow" her business.
2020 | July
Pitch Night: McLeod's Lavender One Year Later
It’s been one year since Melanie McLeod pitched her business idea at a GrowthTalks Pitch Night event - a lavender farm named McLeod’s Lavender. She was awarded a pre-seed fund of $1,000 to “grow” her business. On June 17, Leah traveled the winding backroads from Roseburg to her farm in Tenmile to catch up.
Leah was greeted in the driveway by Melanie and her husband Michael. They walked a path along grapevines, an unknown variety that was planted on the property before they bought it. Behind their lavender is a stunning view of farm fields that hug the beautiful Umpqua Valley hillsides off Highway 42.
The pre-seed fund that was awarded to McLeod’s Lavender was used to purchase a water pump. Michael installed the pump in the winter of 2019. The pump has allowed Melanie to plant an additional 50 lavender plants this past spring bringing her total plant count to 150. There are seven varieties she is currently experimenting with. Melanie hopes to plant an additional 50 plants by the end of this summer. A larger field is being prepped now to start planting lavender in by next spring. Melanie is working on becoming certified naturally grown - using no chemicals and hand-weeding the entire property. Melanie said without the pre-seed fund, their farm would not be where it is at now. The lavender, grapes, fruit trees and more are all thriving thanks to the pump and the large water storage capacity. Without the $1,000 from the Partnership, she said she would not have purchased the pump and would not be able to expand their business plans for their lavender farm.
With the additional lavender plants, Melanie is able to experiment with more products. Her most popular item she sells is lavender sausage which sold out the first day at the farmers market. Due to COVID-19, they have been unable to source more pork. She says the virus is testing her skillset and flexibility, allowing her to create new products. Other popular items she is currently selling include lavender jelly, lavender syrup, lavender coconut oil scrub, lavender shea butter scrub, chocolate lavender blueberries, lavender fudge, lavender infused apples, and lavender Scottish shortbread. She continues to think of new ideas and test product.
Melanie fell in love with lavender in 2016 when her and her mother-in-law traveled to a u-pick farm in Springfield. Melanie is not only an entrepreneur - she is a mom, a wife, an executive director for a local non-profit. She and her husband also own and manage an apartment complex in Roseburg. Melanie loves her job, but it can be stressful. The u-pick lavender farm was so relaxing, and she felt rejuvenated after the experience. Melanie says cutting lavender was a really peaceful experience. After returning from the trip, she jokingly told her husband “let’s start a lavender farm.” Melanie had brought home some Provence lavender and her husband made this amazing lavender sausage which was a hit. The rest is kind of history.
Melanie did not know you could do so much with lavender. She says she wants people to enjoy it as much as she does. Her vision for the farm includes wedding photography and eventually a wedding venue, having a u-pick option for brides to pick lavender for their bouquets, creating an online presence to sell product, an AirB&B on the property, and more. A takeaway from the evening conversation was that to Melanie and her husband, relationships matter. They hope to create more local partnerships as they continue to expand their lavender farm.
Melanie said her pitch experience was great. She was nervous, but she was committed to it and her husband helped push her along the way, making her practice at night after a long days work. Melanie felt like she needed to be well-prepared. Before the pitch, she did not have all of her business ideas organized. She was unsure of her demographic. She needed to map out what she felt was important for the business. The pitch made her do all of these things and reach out for support. In addition to her husband’s help, Melanie received help from Erika Maritz, founder of Oregon Medical Solutions, LLC, who had won a RAIN competition previously. Cara Otis of Sugar Mama’s Gourmet Desserts, a partner in the making of lavender fudge, was able to look at her presentation from a different perspective and offer tips. Melanie’s advice to people considering Pitch Night is to practice, practice, practice. She watched a lot of RAIN competitions in preparation. Melanie even asked her sister who is a professional designer to help design her slides in the presentation. Her sister said no, telling her not to box herself in. The presentation had to stay true to Melanie, her ideas, and her products.
Melanie said she appreciated that the application for Pitch Night was very simple. She said the Partnership was organized which made the process easy. Her advice to entrepreneurs is to be patient and be thoughtful about your next step. She recently attended a conference where some farmers who attended lost all of their crops. Melanie thought if she lost all of her plants tomorrow, how would she cope? She says you have to plan, but you have to be adaptable.