Blessed with a super sensitive nose and a particularly pertinent palate, Lisa Donoughe found her way into the food and drink world relatively quickly. Once she was there, she demonstrated that she is indeed one of those rare creatures who is both creative thinker and implementer. It is being an agent of change that gives Lisa the most work satisfaction, and that is the basis of her marketing tank Watershed Communications.
Before she landed in Portland, Lisa started shaping some of the biggest names from her big agency perch of New York City. It’s okay to drop some names of the short list. In her quiver were chefs like Charlie Palmer, Bryan Voltaggio and Kent Rathbun. Big brands? There were plenty: Bombay Sapphire, Stolichnaya Vodka, San Pellegrino, Campari, Cervena Venison, and Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. By the time she branched out in the Pacific Northwest in 1999, she was already a known force in the category.
The Oregon bounty blew her away. She set out to share it with the world. Way before seasonal and local were the buzzwords, Lisa had an idea to bring Oregon’s talent—both people and product– to the east. Staging one of the first events of its kind, a decade ago her food event evoked the response, “a revelation,” from the then deputy-dining editor of The New York Times. Eventually, it was this kind of work that earned her the William Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award from the Portland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Ultimately Portland became the brand that Brooklyn decided to compete with. That’s okay, in Watershed’s book, competition is great, as long as we win.
But it is not all about bringing a state to recognition, or setting up major companies for resale, such as the worthy Erath Vineyards for acquisition by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, or even establishing visionary entrepreneur Steven Smith as the country’s premier artisan tea maker. If Lisa sees a burning need, she’s out to fix it. Seeing that Oregon’s tiny wine producers needed a forum, she created and founded the award-winning Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival, a decade-long annual wine competition and education series that showcases Oregon’s top artisan winemakers. The Indie Wine & Food Festival has been the launch pad for countless wine brands, and is estimated to have created $75 million in economic growth for the Oregon wine industry.
Now with offices in New York, Chicago and Portland, Lisa is happiest spring-boarding America’s great food and drink minds, quality ingredients, poignant places and ingenious products with a conscience that define our culture.