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Ditching a tech job for the fun of flour

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Monday, October 01, 2007

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AFTER 27 YEARS setting up databases for litigators in major law firms around the country and sending a son through college, DeEtta Vincent decided to move back to southern Oregon to be close to her mother. This tech guru chose to move to Plush of all places, a town in Lake County so remote that high-speed Internet access is hard to come by.

“I decided to change the focus of my life,” says Vincent, who made the move in 1999. For five years she worked as the county’s finance manager, but working for the local government was too similar to her previous jobs in law, and Vincent wanted something different.

Vincent enjoys baking and in 2004 began selling bread at the Lakeview Saturday market. She found the community receptive to her products and discovered that she enjoyed baking enough to create a business around it.

“Of course, once you start you have to get serious about it,” Vincent says. Get serious she did that year, taking orders and making deliveries all over the county during the winter and setting up a stall at the market during the summer. In 2006, Lakeview Lockers, a boutique grocery store in Lakeview, opened and became a regular customer.

Also in 2006 a new client opened up a coffee house. This prompted Vincent to look into expanding beyond bread into Tuscan-style biscotti. Unlike bread, biscotti has a long shelf life, making it good for distance marketing, an attractive attribute given Vincent’s rural location.

In August 2006 Vincent took her biscotti to Lake County Development’s American Food Fight, a competition that identifies regional products that could succeed in broader markets. She won. Her prize was a trip to Portland to the Food Innovation Center, where she learned about branding, labeling and packaging her biscotti for sale in boutique grocery stores around the state.

While Vincent says she is not anticipating becoming Oregon’s Mrs. Fields, her success at the Food Fight gave her the confidence to work toward selling her biscotti in small, regional markets and possibly drive-through coffee shops like Dutch Bros.

And yes, even with all this work to expand her market, Vincent still finds time to hand-deliver biscotti to her most loyal supporter: her mom.                               

COLLEEN MORAN


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