Mar 25, 2012 5:37 PM by Tara Grimes (KRTV)
The Made in Montana Marketplace has come and gone, but not before thousands took home specialty made products.
Of the 110 vendors present, one Kalispell business owner, Melanie Nelson, tells Montana's News Station that she gave up a comfortable life to follow her dreams.
At just 30 years old Nelson has what some dream for their entire lives - her own company.
Named 5 Sparrows, the business sells specialty beverage products.
"I had to follow my heart," said Nelson. "I just feel like I had to do what I was being led to do." But that decision came with a cost.
"I had owned my coffee shop for eight years," said Nelson. "Eventually I decided to sell the coffee shop because it really took off."
At least one part of her product line is drawing hundreds to her business.
Nelson explained, "The sugar free aspect of the line has opened us up to a whole new market. Now natural food stores are interested in us and in the coffee world, which is my background there is nothing made with Stevia so we have a distributor in Washington, we have a client in California, and we're all over Montana."
Nelson says her sugar free line launched just last June.
Attendee Tom Jacobson said of the product line, "I didn't realize I was drinking sugar free, it was amazing, it was very good."
Nelson is just one of more than 100 vendors looking to expand their businesses through the Made in Montana Marketplace in Great Falls.
Many are just as unique as hers: hand crafted diapers, souvenirs porcupine toothpicks, and even Antler Art.
Jacobson said, "This is an awesome opportunity for people to get together and display those things and get a little notoriety."
And that's exactly what Nelson is getting.
Nelson is from Kalispell, but her beverage products can be found at 2J's and Morning Light Coffee in Great Falls.
ONLINE: Made In Montana Marketplace on Facebook
On Friday - Wholesale Buyers' Day - Made In Montana Marketplace awards were given to:
Toni McClue of Montana Sweetgrass Etc. (Brady)
Best in Show
Exhibit Booth (#601)
Sandra and Jeff Rumney of SG Design (Cascade)
Best Exhibit Booth (#412)
Lynn Nemeth of Woolynn Purses (Whitehall)
Exhibit Booth (#714)
Juliana Stevens of Juliana's Jammin' (Columbus)
Best First-Year Booth (#407)