Volume XVII | Issue 2 | Fall 2017
Jesse Dolin, founder of Stoney River Sinkers, pitched his company’s lead-free fishing sinkers at the Willamette Angels Conference this year, taking home a top cash prize. Photo: Stoney River Sinkers

RAIN: Nurturing innovative start-ups

Network provides resources, mentoring and support

The efforts of creative business entrepreneurs hold great promise for the economic health of Oregon, particularly in rural communities, but they can’t do it without help. “It takes a community to raise an entrepreneur,” says Caroline Cummings, venture catalyst for the Oregon Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network organization. 

RAIN serves entrepreneurs in the south Willamette Valley and mid-coast regions by providing access to resources and partners. “Our organization wraps services around these at-risk entrepreneurs so their chances of success increase and their chance of failure decrease,” says Cummings, a Eugene entrepreneur and angel investor for the Willamette Angels.

Founded by the Oregon Governor’s Regional Solutions network, Oregon RAIN is financially supported by the Oregon Legislature as well as by governments in the four counties it serves, and by businesses, donors and nonprofit foundations.

“For an economic catalyst in a little town like ours, this is really something,” says Florence entrepeneur Carl Hulan, founder of LocalGrange, a farm-to-table app that allows customers to purchase goods directly from local farmers.

In coordination with the cities of Corvallis and Eugene, as well as communities throughout the region, Oregon RAIN partners with two “accelerators” that assist entrepreneurs in establishing viable companies that generate jobs, wealth and opportunities for the region. RAIN Corvallis is served by the Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator; the RAIN Eugene Accelerator is managed as a virtual nonprofit by the University of Oregon, the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Eugene.

Oregon RAIN recently offered two Coastal Pre-Accelerator (Pre-X) programs for entrepreneurs in Florence and Lincoln County. The 12-week, bootcamp-style programs featured seminars, workshops, and mentoring on topics that included marketing and sales, competitive advantage, financials, and business modeling. 

Top prize

One of the companies participating in the Pre-X program was Stoney River Sinkers. Its founder, Jesse Dolin, went on to pitch his company’s lead-free fishing sinkers at the Willamette Angels Conference this year, taking home the top cash prize in the Launch Stage speed pitch competition.

Dolin’s startup is just one of 761 assisted by Oregon RAIN since its inception in mid-2013. So far, these companies have created 331 jobs and raised more $22 million in capital. 

 “Our mantra is ‘what’s next?’” Cummings says. “We are constantly pushing ourselves as well as our companies to continue growing, and taking ourselves and our businesses to the next strategic level.”

To learn more, visit www.oregonrain.org  

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