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American Provenance founder Kyle LaFond had five minutes to convince a crowd of about 250 business leaders and investors that his natural deodorant and personal care products company deserved an expenses-paid trip to San Francisco.

American Provenance was one of five companies competing in the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Pressure Chamber pitch contest Tuesday, and that pressure certainly made LaFond nervous, he said. Even a bit sweaty.

“I’m glad I own a deodorant company,” LaFond said after the contest.

Despite his nerves, LaFond will indeed be packing his suitcase for the West Coast — where he will get a chance to pitch his company to several Silicon Valley investors — after earning the judges’ and audience’s vote.

Winning the contest and securing a spot on the trip sets up American Provenance for its next funding goal — $2 million in investment by the end of the year.

American Provenance is “a real company with real numbers,” LaFond said during his presentation. Sales and revenue of the products have continued to grow year over year with about 90 percent of sales coming from the company’s deodorants, which come in a variety of scents.

Cooking up natural deodorant and balms smells sweet for Blue Mounds entrepreneur

Every year since the company launched in 2015, it has doubled its revenues, LaFond said.

LaFond kept the crowd laughing, making jokes about tattoos — an art-style that inspired the art on the company’s product packaging — and the scope of the deodorant business.

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“Basically, if you have an armpit, you can use our products,” LaFond said. “So I think we have a pretty good market.”

American Provenance products are sold at hundreds of stores — some local, such as Metcalfe’s, and some national chains, including Hy-Vee and Whole Foods.

Pressure Chamber is a contest for businesses that have raised more than $25,000 in investment and are looking to take the next step.

The goal of the contest is not just to help one company, Chamber President Zach Brandon said, but also to showcase Madison-area startups to both local and national audiences.

American Provenance is “on the cusp” of becoming a nationally-known brand, Brandon said.

“We hope this trip accelerates their path,” Brandon said.

Other competitors in Pressure Chamber were:

  • Goods Unite Us, of Madison, which runs an app that lets users see the political leanings and donations made by more than 4,000 brands and companies.
  • NovoMoto, of Madison, which sells rent-to-own solar-powered systems to off-grid residents and businesses in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • OnLume, of Madison, which is developing a platform for precise fluorescence image-guided surgery.
  • The Virtual Foundry, of Stoughton, which makes and sells metal filaments for 3-D printers intended for plastics.

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Shelley K. Mesch is a business and technology reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She can be contacted at (608)252-6143 or smesch@madison.com