“Outside every silver lining
there’s a dark cloud.”
Our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods is witnessing proof of that chronic pessimism.. A local, extremely entrepreneurial company has become so successful it’s gone now. And we’re left with our lining-less dark cloud.
Here’s what happened. About five years ago, local soccer moms Mandy Holborow and Sheri Price wanted to make more healthful snacks for their kids. Right here. Just across town. They finally decided on oatmeal laced with fruit. Put a handful in baggies to keep in the cupboard, take out and add the hot water. Soon, some friends wanted to try it so Mandy and Sheri whipped up more and passed around the baggies.
As word got around, more friends – and people they didn’t even know – wanted some. So, starting in the kitchen – and later expanding into the garage – the ladies cranked out more oat and fruit snacks. Voila! “Umpqua Oats” was born.
One thing led to another. Some local coffee shops and grocery stores added Umpqua Oats – by then in small, white styrofoam cups, selling for about $3 each – and things just kept growing. Seven flavors, too. So, Shari and Mandy took over a building that had formerly been a large department store. That meant seven full-time workers – another 10-15 as needed.
Today – just four years later – Umpqua Oats is an international business with product in a lot of major airports, many stores and hotels in this country and Canada. Airlines are interested for on-board snacks. Some already have ‘em. Sheri and Mandy are talking to public school food providers, colleges and universities, fitness clubs, motels and other places where people would like a quick, healthful snack.
Bottom line: each year since founding, sales have doubled. And more. Using the same very active marketing plan that has succeeded so far, outside experts think that doubling can go on for several more years at least. It’s now a multi-million dollar, international business and no one knows where it will top out. Or if.
WOW! Talk about a couple of local Oregon soccer moms putting our little burg-in-the-woods on the map! A growing payroll – dollars multiplying in the local economy – success that could draw spinoffs or new businesses.
Except – now they’ve closed and moved. Production is in California and corporate headquarters now in Nevada. And the empty retail building that used to be a department store – before it was home to a booming local industry – is vacant. Again. Former employees now unemployed.
Shari and Mandy – their husbands and kids, too – are living in a Las Vegas suburb. Production of Umpqua Oats is being handled by Honeyville Food Products in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Orders Umpqua Oats used to handle by the baggie over the phone are being replaced by fork lift pallet-loads out of a large warehouse going everywhere. (more…)