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Success Stories

With RAIN Catalysts, Oregon Entrepreneurs Shine

Max Sprague
Small Business
A sunny industrial kitchen with equipment, a hood over a range, and ovens.

Though their businesses may be small, rural entrepreneurs play a big role in the nation’s economic development and prosperity. They create local jobs, revitalize Main Streets, and enrich their communities. With every open sign and website launch, these intrepid innovators bring the American dream to life.

Still, starting and maintaining a profitable business is no small feat. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18 percent of all small businesses will fail within their first year. 50 percent will fail before their fifth year. It takes experience, resources, and connections that are often out of reach for many rural entrepreneurs and communities. That’s where Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network Catalysts (RAIN) comes in.

RAIN Catalysts, based in Eugene, Oregon, is a non-profit run by business owners and strategic partners. To engage underrepresented and under-resourced entrepreneurs, RAIN employs a unique “venture catalyst” model that focuses on providing technical assistance, peer support networks, equipment, and capital to small businesses with a focus on community development and sustainability.

Now, with the help of a $104,472 grant from USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program, RAIN has expanded their services in Benton, Lane, Linn, and Lincoln Counties. USDA RD’s RBDG program funds organizations that provide technical assistance and training to small businesses in rural America. Through the grant, RAIN has already saved an estimated 77 jobs in rural Oregon and helped businesses like Philomath, Oregon’s award-winning artisan chocolate maker Moku Chocolate grow.

“I said, We’re going to need to scale up, but it’s so expensive, and I don’t know how to do that. [RAIN] introduced me to Business Oregon, and we had this Zoom meeting,” said Maureen Nikaido, owner of Moku Chocolate. “They were so interested in what I was doing and wanted to know how they could help me. […] I thought, Wow, there’s people out there who care about this, and this means something to Philomath if this is successful. We were able to get a grant which is huge for us.”

With RAIN’s help, Moku was able to expand operations and create more jobs for Philomath. Moku Chocolate can now be found in markets in Oregon and California, something Maureen would never have dreamed of before meeting with RAIN, and they can now proudly call themselves two-time International Chocolate Award winners.

"RAIN Catalysts is thankful for the support of the USDA because it allows us to help entrepreneurs like Maureen Nikaido start and grow successful businesses in underrepresented rural communities. Small businesses like Moku Chocolate are critical for the growth of rural economies; not only do they create new jobs and contribute taxes, but they can also help catalyze an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages and facilitates more local business development. As seen with Moku Chocolate, their presence and collaborations with other local food and beverage companies make the entire rural region a more attractive place for entrepreneurs to open new business or launch startup companies," said RAIN’s CEO Caroline Cummings.

Organizations interested in supporting rural entrepreneurs and small businesses in their community through RBDG or other business programs are encouraged to contact their nearest USDA RD Oregon office or contact Oregon Business Programs at (541) 248-8049 ext. 129.

Obligation Amount:
$104,472 Grant
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • Oregon: District 4
  • Oregon: District 5