Through the Roseburg Angel Investment Network, start-ups like Oregon Medical Solutions, Wrappin’ & Rollin’ and other businesses get a chance to impress and earn support from local financial backers.
Story by Jim Hays, Photos by Thomas Boyd
Erika Maritz saw a need, which led to an opportunity, which was soon followed by a problem. She found her solution in a ray of financial sunshine called RAIN.
During her 14 years as a radiation therapist for Community Cancer Center, Maritz repeatedly saw patients who required feeding tubes struggling with the cumbersome apparatus and committed herself to helping them. With her own ideas and input from patients, Maritz developed the Comfort Feed holder, which made the tubes much more manageable.
Maritz paid to have several hundred made from her design, and the cancer center started buying them for its patients — until her inventory was almost depleted.
“I was down to about 20 units,” Maritz recalls. “I told the center’s dietitian I would have to either ‘Go for it’ and have more made and start marketing them or close up shop. She told me, ‘Oh no, you can’t quit, this is too valuable.’”
Thus began Maritz’s involvement with RAIN — the Roseburg Angel Investment Network. When she was finished, she had impressed potential investors enough that she won a prize package at the network’s annual conference last December. With RAIN’s help, she got additional Comfort Feed holders made and jumpstarted her fledgling enterprise, called Oregon Medical Solutions.
Since 2013, the RAIN program has put owners of selected young companies in the company of investors interested in strengthening local entrepreneurship and the Douglas County economy. To date RAIN has invested more than $725,000 in six small companies.
“The idea is creating early-stage funding for businesses,” says Chris Burnett, controller for Lone Rock Timber and RAIN’s 2017 managing member.
The long-range goal, Burnett says, is to create new, stable and successful businesses that will help grow the local economy, add to the variety of goods and services available in the area and, eventually, create jobs.
RAIN provides awards of both money and services for enterprises in Concept and Launch stages.
THE LONG-RANGE GOAL IS TO CREATE NEW, STABLE AND SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES THAT WILL HELP GROW THE LOCAL ECONOMY.
Concept, which Maritz won in 2017, is for local companies still in development. An individual or group might have an idea for a business that needs further developing. They could also be running a limited business already, but aren’t quite ready to take the next step. Concept applicants are limited to Douglas County enterprises.
Launch stage is open statewide and is designed to assist companies that have already raised seed money, have a proven concept and have established their market. Winners at this stage can receive as much as $150,000.
“In the launch stage, the business may not be in revenue, but they are ready to launch, which takes significant funding,” says Debbie Caterson, executive director of the Umpqua Business Center and director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Umpqua Community College. “Concept stage is a business plan competition where we do training with them and help them develop their presentation to the investors.”
Prospective RAIN recipients and their businesses go through a screening process, which starts with an appointment with an SBDC adviser.
“The business adviser takes a look at the company’s needs, challenges and what steps they need to take next,” says Caterson, herself a 2015 Concept Stage winner for Inspiration Mixes, her gluten-free baking company. “If the company wants to give a pitch to the investor group, then the business adviser would refer them to me, then on to Chris (Burnett), who evaluates the proposal to see if it’s something the investors could have an interest in.”
Caterson’s recommendations are important, Burnett says.
“We want to make sure companies have utilized the services of the SBDC and have developed a pitch before proposing an investment to the group,” he says.
Darci Hawkins, who operates the food truck Wrappin’ & Rollin’ with her husband, Daryl, learned about RAIN through the UBC while assembling a business plan in 2016. They credited their training experience for helping them leave that year’s conference with Concept money.
Both Maritz and Hawkins say they got more than financing out of their experience with RAIN. Maritz got her Comfort Feed units made, updated her Oregon Medical Solutions website and produced a sales brochure. She also got free access to training and consulting.
Beyond that, Maritz says she came away with renewed confidence.
“I was blown away by the number of people who came to me during the event and told me their story of someone they know and love who could have benefited from my product,” she says.
For the Hawkinses, the money certainly helped, but more important was the opportunity to network.
“We met a lot of new people that we have reached out to in the last year for advice and guidance,” she says.
Both women say the RAIN process was invaluable, even if they had left empty-handed.
Says Maritz, “Even if I knew going in that I wouldn’t win, I would do it again.”