Amid Drought, Area Entrepreneurs Roll Out New Rain Barrel To Conserve Water



Raleigh, N.C., August 15, 2011–-With most of North Carolina baking under dry skies, every drop of rain that falls on your roof is worth saving – and a local company hopes to make that possible. With a community development loan, Rain Water Solutions is ramping up efforts to market “IVY,” an easy-to-use rain barrel, with a deep green color, 50-gallon capacity and affordable price tag.

Rain barrels have become an increasingly popular way to capture scarce rainwater, allowing homeowners to save that water for trees, gardens or lawns. Today, Rain Water Solutions employs seven people in its production and distribution of “Moby,” a 65-gallon black rain barrel. But company owners Lynn and Mike Ruck and Jennifer Platt have big plans for Moby’s smaller sister, IVY, whose size, trendy design and roughly $55 consumer cost should have broad appeal.

Rain Water Solutions was founded during a different drought, about a decade ago. Back then, the Rucks realized how useful an old family rain barrel – then relegated to an out-of-sight spot in the backyard – actually could be. When they couldn’t find another rain barrel on the market, they did what any ambitious entrepreneur would do: They rented a gravel parking lot by the airport, ordered 300 food-grade barrels, and got busy cleaning, cutting, and fitting the barrels with spigots. Their first bulk rain barrel order was to the Town of Cary, where the conservation program recognized that rain barrels were a product whose time had come.

Since then, the company has sold barrels, retail and wholesale, across North Carolina and much of North America, as well as Haiti, where it partnered with a disaster-relief agency to help earthquake victims. It has won awards from the Triangle Business Journal, the city of Raleigh and the North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Even with accolades, however, access to capital remains tight for small businesses – and Rain Water Solutions is no exception. To finance the new barrel, the company turned to The Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF), a community development financial institution, which just provided the loan to make the new rain barrel possible. NCIF supplies loans and business counsel to natural resource-based businesses that work sustainably, particularly in rural communities across the Southeast. Since 2001, NCIF, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Conservation Fund, has loaned over $5 million to 60 businesses -- supporting hundreds of jobs, leveraging roughly $30 million in outside funding and providing thousands of hours of technical assistance to businesses in economically distressed areas.

“I don’t think we could do this without the Natural Capital Investment Fund – and I don’t think we’d want to do it with anyone else,” owner Lynn Ruck remarks. “We share such similar business missions and goals.” By bringing a trim and trendy rain barrel onto the market at a reasonable price, she adds, the company hopes to gain market share that will allow them to hire additional staff and ramp up orders to municipalities across the country.

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