Beyond this booming segment lies an incredible entrepreneurial spirit where startups enjoy success, thanks to stellar community support.
Residents know Cedar Rapids to be the lip balm capital of the world, thanks to two homegrown companies, Raining Rose and Eco Lips. Both companies in Cedar Rapids have successfully expanded into the broader personal care product industry.
Take Raining Rose, for instance. It began in 1996 as a hobby out of a family kitchen before it was purchased in 2003 by a pair of telecommunications executives, one of whom – Chuck Hammond – serves as the CEO. The company has expanded into a 127,000-square-foot facility and has 300 full-time and roughly 150 contract employees.
The company now produces millions of units of products every year, including deodorant, shaving cream, lotion, soaps, beard oils and more. “There’s a good chance that a product you use or see on store shelves was made right here at Raining Rose,” Hammond says.
From Lip Balm to Bug Repellent
Helping solidify Cedar Rapids’ reputation as the lip balm capital of the world is Eco Lips. Here, innovative products are being pioneered, like a plastic-free, plant-based lip balm tube and an overnight lip mask that helps rejuvenate your lips while you sleep.
The company was launched in 2003, but after outgrowing their original space in the New Bohemia District, Eco Lips moved to Marion, Iowa, where they planned to stay for a decade. The company, however, recently moved back to Cedar Rapids and into an 86,000-square-foot building, as it needed an even larger facility to keep pace with its growth and the increased demand for natural and organic products.
“As the creators of the first organic lip balm, Eco Lips has expanded over time to encompass lifestyle and beauty products,” says Jane Merten, vice president of marketing for the company. The company recently acquired Simply Soothing, the makers of Bug Soother, a natural bug repellent, and has plans to expand on that line.
Eco Lips has several staple ingredients used in its top-selling lip balms, including mongongo oil, hemp seed oil and, most recently, pracaxi oil and cupuacu butter.
Entrepreneurial Spirit Thrives in Cedar Rapids
The shining success of Cedar Rapids’ lip balm companies is part of a broader entrepreneurial narrative, though: The area, which exudes quite the entrepreneurial spirit, is home to a number of thriving startups.
Plus, all the resources entrepreneurs need to succeed are in reach, from access to the University of Iowa and a highly skilled workforce to a low cost of doing business, programs like the Iowa Startup Accelerator, which can match companies with resources to help them grow, coworking spaces and helpful community members.
“The people of Cedar Rapids have an incredible degree of integrity, kindness and honesty,” Hammond says. “I see it every day and appreciate the sense of community we have.”
Coworking Spaces Galore
The number of coworking spaces available in Cedar Rapids says a lot about the community’s attitude toward entrepreneurs – it’s ready to help them thrive. A few spaces available include The Space, Groundswell and Office Evolution.
At Office Evolution Cedar Rapids, which opened in April 2018, members run the gamut, from small businesses and entrepreneurs to remote employees. They represent industries ranging from accounting and legal to IT, architecture and more, says Melissa Miller, who owns Office Evolution Cedar Rapids with her husband, Tom.
“Cedar Rapids is a city full of opportunity,” she says. “There is so much industry, community support and growth here. This is a city where you can grow your business and comfortably raise your kids and still only have a 15-minute commute.”
A number of tech startups have also seen success here, including Channel Fusion, which designs, launches and supports local channel marketing solutions for industry-leading global clients across many sectors and verticals.
Pankaj Monga, CEO of Channel Fusion, says he’s been able to grow his company, thanks to the customer-centric mindset of employees. It also helps that Cedar Rapids is centrally located, so his company can support customers on the West and East coasts.
For those considering a move to Cedar Rapids, Monga says there’s a network of support, with loans, grants, angel investments and mentoring available to entrepreneurs. “I think there’s a lot of energy and excitement when it comes to investing in new talent,” he says.