Cedar Rapids man named Iowa Small Business Person of the Year

Raining Rose CEO and owner to represent state in D.C.

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The president of a Cedar Rapids natural care products company has been named 2013 Iowa Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Chuck Hammond, chief executive officer and owner of Raining Rose, will represent the state at National Small Business Week activities in Washington, D.C., during the week of June 16. Hammond will compete for the National Small Business Person of the Year award.

"Candidly, I'm a little embarrassed because I really didn't do it on my own," Hammond said on Tuesday. "I continue to harp about the fact that we have a great group people. I understand that awards are set up sometimes for individuals, but we all know this was a team effort.

"While the award may say 'person of the year,' it truly is the company."

Raining Rose started in 1996 as a family hobby in a Cedar Rapids basement. The company, which today produces lip balm and other personal care products, began its rise in production in 2003 when Hammond and business partner Art Christoffersen purchased the company.

Hammond and Christoffersen spent their first year focused on learning the natural body care products industry. That self education, combined with their individual business knowledge and experience, enabled Raining Rose to expand with its line of products.

When Hammond and Christoffersen purchased the company, Raining Rose had 12 employees working in a single room. The company moved in 2003 to an 18,200-square-foot former beverage distribution facility at 407 Ninth Ave. SE.

In December 2005, Christoffersen died from cancer, leaving Hammond as the sole owner of Raining Rose. Hammond successfully led the company through the ownership transition as employment, customers and product lines continued to grow.

Hammond and Raining Rose faced its toughest test in June 2008 the plant and equipment was inundated with 8 feet of water as 10 square miles of Cedar Rapids was flooded. Before entering their flooded building, Hammond and his managers plotted the strategy that ultimately would save the company.

Hammond placed orders for new equipment and found new temporary office and manufacturing sites. He also was able to gain assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administrationís disaster loan program.

Within a year, Raining Rose, one of 25 U.S. lip balm manufactures that operate both as a contract manufacturer and a private label company, not only survived, but saw its sales grow 13 percent.

In 2011, Hammond and Raining Rose broke ground for a 125,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility at 100 30th Street Dr. SE. The company, with more than 140 employees, moved into its new home in October 2012.

Combining operations from three separate locations, Hammond had the building constructed with growth in mind. The space is filling up quickly as Raining Rose continues to increase products, sales and staff.

"Right now, behind the scenes, we have a hard time in that we're just growing," Hammond said. "We moved into this building and we've had a surge of growth that no one anticipated. We've had to add a bunch of people and we're running three shifts a day, six days a week.

"That has created challenges and stresses, but our folks have stepped up and said, 'We can do this and we want to do it for our customers.'"

While sales have continued to grow, Hammond said Raining Rose management is focused on the company's bottom line.

"Growth for growth sake is not a positive thing," he said. "While the top line is exciting, the bottom line is more important.

"Behind the scenes there are mid-course corrections. We have parted ways with customers that aren't good fits either from a product or culture standpoint.

"We want to focus on good business. We have had customers that have grown significantly and we've been a part of that growth."

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