Outsource. Establishing a manufacturing company and sales team is tedious, expensive, and time-consuming. There are companies out there that have done it for longer, have learned from their mistakes, and are in business for a reason. Find one that fits and partner with them.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rayne Guest.
Women are a driving economic force, yet less than 30% of tech start-ups have a female founder. Rayne Guest, founder and CEO of R-Water is proudly among these ranks and one of the only female entrepreneurs in the disinfection and cleaning sector. She was raised in the mountains of Idaho and attended five universities while studying various fields including business, marine biology, and nutrition. Rayne has spent time in Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Africa, among many others and is driven to do good by doing good in the world. She has developed a patented cleaning and disinfecting technology to further this cause, while unapologetically shaking up the archaic industry.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 2008, I was asked by the Kor Hotel Group to develop a recycling program for Anguilla, an island that they were developing on. I soon learned that a huge problem had emerged on the island as more and more resorts and hotels were being built. Plastic containers from disinfecting and cleaning products were not being tiple rinsed before being disposed of, leaving toxic residues inside. When these containers were thrown into the landfill, the toxic concentrate left behind seeped into the groundwater. It eventually contaminated the island’s aquifer, their source of drinking water, causing the islanders to become sick. I remember thinking that I had never seen anyone rinse these containers before throwing them out. If this problem was happening on an island this size, what was happening throughout the world?
Shortly after, the hotel group implemented a newer technology that allowed them to produce nontoxic solutions on-site and replace all the chemicals previously used for cleaning and disinfection — meaning that spray bottles could be refilled, and delivery, packaging, and hazardous plastic waste could be eliminated. But within a year, a multibillion-dollar global chemical company, Ecolab, bought the technology and shelved it.
By this time, I had also seen how detrimental the packaged products were to the health of the housekeepers using them. They were never required to wear the proper protective gear required by law to use the products safely and many suffered from health issues as a result. Seeing the workers get denied a more effective and safer alternative was disgraceful and my outrage fueled my mission to find a new way to produce the solutions.
Luckily, the process we developed turned out to be even better than the previous one.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
It was rough; I was completely stressed out emotionally, physically, and financially but I was getting enough positive feedback to keep me going, including hugs from janitorial workers thanking us for doing something that improved their health while making their jobs easier. Fortunately, I am a bit stubborn by nature and hate seeing injustices in the world, so people telling me that this mission is impossible, only made me want to achieve it more. There’s power in proving people wrong, especially when you know in your soul that what you are doing is right.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There were times that even my family would question me and urge me to settle into a “real job with benefits.” There were a couple of times that I posted my resume on the job sites and sought other employment. When I did, I would have nightmares about what would happen if I did not see this through. No matter how hard it seemed in the moment, the only thing more painful than doing it, was not doing it.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We are having a lot of successes, but at the same time, we are still encountering a lot of obstacles. We are disrupting a huge industry that has been around for a long time and is very profitable for a lot of large companies. We are definitely in a David versus Goliath situation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
No mistake that costs you money and time is funny, but perhaps a great learning experience. Early on, I fell into the “build it and they will come trap.” Former Texas Governor Mark White introduced us to various facilities such as jails that were experiencing infectious disease issues. Our technology was met with enthusiasm at every turn, “I want four,” “I want six!”
I got a little ahead of myself and decided that we should build thirty of the machines. I hired a crew of people, and the machines were built. However, odd things started happening as we got further into the procurement processes, such as our internal champions in the facilities getting moved out their positions. The orders did not materialize and by the time we were able to get new orders to go through, we had already moved on to an upgraded version of the device, so the thirty units were scrapped.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our team members make this company stand out. Everyone is brilliantly versatile, wearing a ton of hats.
The stories of how each of our angel investors came onboard are unique, almost unbelievable. And, on top of that, they all seemed to come on when we were on our last dime.
As an example, several years ago, I finished a meeting that ended far from in my favor. A chemical expert, aka a large distributor for a chemical company, completely dismissed me in a meeting, even though I had all the documentation to back up what I was saying. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I and went back to the hotel with my tail tucked between my legs to have a glass of wine (please note, I don’t recommend drowning your sorrows, but sometimes girls got to do what a girl has got to do.) There I was sitting alone at the hotel bar pondering my next steps with my usual, “I’ll show them” attitude and one of the gentlemen at the only other occupied table in the room inquisitively looked at me and said, “So what’s your deal?“
I chuckled defeatedly and said, “I just got my ass handed to me at a meeting.”
He asked what I did for work. I told him, and he replied, “Well isn’t that interesting. My sons and I were just sitting here talking about expanding our investment portfolio.”
We spent the next few hours reviewing the documentation that I had with me and set a date for their family to visit our facility in San Marcos, Texas. A few weeks later, they showed up and were impressed with what they saw. On their way out, they wrote us some checks. To this day, we can always count on them.
One of my driving forces is to ensure that they and our other investors are as happy that they met me as I am that I met them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Learn to play the game, literally. Athletics have always been a great outlet for me, but when you are consumed with your business, you don’t always take the time you should for yourself to step away from it. I started to focus on activities that served a dual purpose.
They say 90% of deals are done on a golf course. After discovering I have a good swing and could drive it around 250 yards, I started taking some lessons. Golf is a great way to get away, enjoy the outdoors, and meet like-minded people.
I also love to dance, whether it is out and about or in my living room. It is a great way to shake out the stress and let your mind decompress.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am very thankful to everyone involved, but especially for my brother and my patent attorney. My brother was making great money and left his role at an engineering firm to join me on this journey and bring to the table a skill set I didn’t have. And, my patent attorney has worked pro-bono since R-Water’s inception because it is a cause he profoundly believes in.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
With every machine we install, we are facilitating a healthier life and environment for everyone involved while saving them time and money. We are also in the process of launching our non-profit which focuses on disadvantaged youth, our elderly, veterans, and animals. We will be sure to reach back out to you when that’s ready 😊.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why.
- Raise capital on your own terms. Rather than accept VC money that might stifle your voice and vision, consider Promissory Notes that will convert to equity when pre-determined goals are reached. The benefit is two-fold, you’ll be able to get further along before giving up any portion of your company and you can also accept small investments from individuals who see value in your cause. Had Rayne gone down the traditional VC funding path, her technology would be sitting on a shelf during a global pandemic.
- There ain’t no shame in the bootstrap game. Whether it means taking in a roommate, wearing hand-me-down clothes, or enlisting the help of a founding team with specialized qualifications like engineering and legal — short-term sacrifices can go a long way in getting your business off the ground. Also, identify your biggest expenses and get creative. During Rayne’s first year in business, her landlord accepted a 100,000 dollars Promissory Note in exchange for the comparable months of rent.
- Outsource. Establishing a manufacturing company and sales team is tedious, expensive, and time-consuming. There are companies out there that have done it for longer, have learned from their mistakes, and are in business for a reason. Find one that fits and partner with them.
- Don’t get caught in networking traps. As an entrepreneur time is one of your most valuable assets. If the legitimate business does not result after three networking events, cross the group off your calendar. The same applies to individuals, especially when the male/female dynamic is involved.
- Listen to what the universe is saying. Is your gut telling you to walk across the room and have a conversation with someone? Do you feel like you should push your flight by a day? Wherever you may be, let the tugs guide you. You may be surprised who the universe is trying to bring into your life.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder?
I have found that the key to the emotional highs and lows is a healthy lifestyle all around. When you are a founder and completely immersed in your cause, it tends to be all-consuming so eating an anti-inflammatory diet and getting exercise is essential.
Also, have logical, trustworthy people that you can vent to regularly, so you don’t have to repeat yourself or have to tell a back story. My parents and Craig Franklin, my first angel investor, have historically been these people.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to really thrive in the fight, otherwise, it will destroy you.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I believe that is exactly what we are doing, leading a movement away from politics and profit and towards human and environmental health. I am still a capitalist, but I only want to “do good by doing good.”
We have a high-impact technology; we are reducing infectious diseases, eradicating harmful chemicals and the unnecessary plastics and packaging waste that pollutes or land and oceans. We are on the mission to creating a healthier, safer planet.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To learn more about R-Water, please visit our website, https://www.r-water.com/.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.