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Published February 25, 2007

Her dream: To be Oprah's choice


GRAND LEDGE — Pam Redman has a business axiom: "You never know when it's going to be your lucky day."

Redman and her son, Khory, and her sister Leanne Haeck are the mainstays for Pam's Pantry — a skyrocketing business focused on selling hand-made gourmet dip mixes. Launched three years ago, the business today sends representatives criss-crossing the state to sell individually wrapped mixes at as many as seven craft shows a week.

Redman estimates Pam's Pantry had gross sales of more than $250,000 last year, selling 32 different dip mixes at $3.50 each and soup and bread mixes at $5.50 each. And her brand name is causing customers to line up to buy her mixes by the armloads at craft shows.

But Redman is hoping that the fortunes of Pam's Pantry, "home of the best darned dips in the country" will sent into the stratosphere by an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey and the QVC shopping network.

She beat out many other businesses nationwide to be accepted as a contestant in the special TV promotion, "Oprah's Search for the Next Big Idea."

On March 23, Pam will walk into the Donald E. Stephens Conference Center in Chicago to present her products to a panel comprised of QVC and Oprah representatives — a dream moment that is causing the clan at Pam's Pantry to brim over with excitement.

The Oprah and QVC review panels will be looking at products at three sites nationally all day for three days next month.

Oprah Winfrey

She hopes Pam's Pantry will be named one of the ten finalists selected to present their products on The Oprah Winfrey Show and get an opportunity to sell their product over the QVC network.

Pam works full-time for an advertising and marketing company and then joins her sister and son and a team of workers — April McDaniel, Darcy Kollman and Kara Wise — in Pam's 2,000-square-foot "certified" kitchen to assemble the mixes.

Family, friends and business associates fan out over thestate each weekend to set up tables and sell the dips, dressings and spreads.

The business has its own full-service Web site, has a network of 12 stores accepting its products, and Pam was recently interviewed by Startup Nation, a nationally syndicated radio talk show that airs across 50 markets in the U.S. including WJR in Detroit and WOOD in Grand Rapids.

"We don't sleep very much," joked Pam.

Fast growth

"It's getting out of control," quipped her sister, who works full time for the state.

Leanne talked about an image in her mind: "I can see myself getting in a golf cart at my house and driving next door to the Willis Industrial Park where we have our own building," she said, grinning.

The dip mix business was born out of financial desperation three years ago after Pam's husband, Kerry, was injured at work and caused the family to live on one income for two years.

The story about how Pam and Leanne went to their first show is in their Web site. The story is told with a mixture of awe, humor and excitement.

"Ever heard of Morley-Stanwood? That was our first show. The let us into the show after the deadline for signing up. We were up until three in the morning making mixes," Pam recalled.

The Morley-Stanwood Craft Show draws about 1,500 people every year to the event about 13 miles south of Big Rapids.

Success at the show that year was a boost to Pam's confidence, and the Morley-Stanwood show has since become her most profitable venture. "We sell more at that show that we do at shows that draw 80,000 to 90,000 people," Pam said.

After that first show, orders began coming in by e-mail and Pam's Pantry was selling out at show after show.

But last year excitement over her products seemed to gain a powerful momentum, Pam said. "We have brand recognition," she said.

"Now, people are lined up, waiting for us to set up our table so they can buy our mixes," Leanne said.

Copyright 2007 Lansing State Journal