Exclusive: Cleantech smart-shower builder Rainstick raises $3M
The round's closure is the most recent downpour in the company's flow of accolades and capital.
McFetridge (centre), her husband and co-founder Sean (second from left), and the team at the Interior Design Show in Vancouver (Photo supplied)
Just like the first time I spoke with Alisha McFetridge, financial news was only one of the plaudit-worthy talking points. Sure, her company, Rainstick Shower, has just closed a $3 million round. Sure, investors include high-profile funders Red Thread Ventures, HCM Ventures, and Women's Equity Lab. Sure, more cash came by way of Sustainable Development Technology Canada recently. But, to belabour the bathroom metaphor, the taps have been turned on for a while.
The raise comes in the midst of a nomadic year for the team. McFetridge has experienced extended stays, for example, in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, Orlando for the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, and Toronto for the birth of her niece (she can now add godmother to her list of titles). It’s safe to say, then, that she has been racking up the frequent-flyer miles.
How do you entertain yourself on the 30,000 foot battle against boredom and discomfort? If you’re McFetridge, you dive into the reading material. On one such journey, she received an unexpected surprise. McFetridge started flicking through the available literature in the back-of-seat pouch. She settled on a design magazine: a natural choice enroute to an interior design show, and the founder-equivalent of a student cramming for an exam.
“I open up the page,” McFetridge tells me, “and right there in front of me is my own company. I can't believe that. I'm like, ‘Who told these people about this?’ It was so exciting that I screamed on the plane. I think everyone looked around. I had Sean [her husband and co-founder] sitting beside me. It was just a hoot. We couldn't believe it.”
Back on land, McFetridge rushed to buy any copies of the magazine that she could get her hands on. Her colleague, marketing specialist Cheyeanne Almeida, did too. It’s far from the only keepsake from those experiences. At CES, for example, Rainstick beat out 1,800 competitors for Best of Innovation. It was one of just 15 awards dolled out.
Photo credit: Cheyeanne Almeida on LinkedIn.
The company’s shower of accolades continued to flow when the company headed across the country to attend the Kitchen and Bathroom Industry Show (KBIS) in Orlando. Rainstick was part of Kickstarter Zone, dedicated to newer-stage companies or those debuting a new product. The team received the news of their win on the last day of the conference, but the silverware wasn’t the only thing that made them go home happy.
“The thing that really stood out to us,” McFetridge gushes, “is we actually got the Best of Impact Award. I believe there were seven awards that went out. And the other folks that won this award are well-established companies. I mean, we were up against really stiff competition: LG, Kohler, Delta, Moen. Against them, they pick this small Canadian company with this new technology. We felt so humbled, but also overwhelmed with such good feedback.”
The company’s time in Orlando can be linked to at least some of the influx of capital, too. “Rainstick first came on my radar at KBIS,” Leanne Wood, an investor and president of Flying Camel PR (the firm that now represents Rainstick), said in an email. “Attendees and other exhibitors at the show started taking notice when they won a KBIS award and the Kickstarter award for new brands. Having been in the kitchen and bath industry for close to 20 years, I knew that this technology was a game-changer.”
“As I got to know Alisha and Sean, I was incredibly impressed with their mission and approach to business,” Wood continued. “To make a personal investment, I look at the big picture. What is the potential for growth and impact on the industry? Do I believe in what they are trying to achieve? Do I trust and respect their business savvy? Rainstick Shower checked all the boxes for me. I believe in the product, the purpose, and the people behind the brand.”
Recent funding also came from public sources: SDTC’s grant in October. McFetridge speaks highly of not just the funding but the doors it has opened nationally. “We feel like Canada does a great job in supporting sustainable tech,” she explains. “It validates Canada as a partner that wants to do more. We're very happy. It has been able to help us with our product refinement, but more largely, it's been the introductions, the networking, the people we've met, and the funding that has been able to really help Rainstick to get to where we are.”
The country-wide appeal has brought the Kelowna-based company east. When she wasn’t snuggling that newborn niece, McFetridge had plenty to keep her busy in Ontario. First, Rainstick took home Studio North’s Best Collection Award during the 2022 Toronto Interior Design Show (IDS). Next, the team struck a deal with The Property Brothers: the HGTV stalwarts and home renovation influencers Drew and Jonathan Scott.
Rainstick took home Studio North’s Best Collection Award during the 2022 Toronto Interior Design Show.
“We had an extremely successful show at IDS with tons of interest from designers and consumer attendees,” McFetridge said. “An esteemed panel of judges including Elizabeth Pagliacolo, editor-in-chief of Azure Magazine; Ben Dreith, U.S. editor of Dezeen; and Byron and Dexter Peart, co-founders of Goodee, selected the Rainstick out of eight different brands who participated in the Studio North feature area. Studio North highlights independent product designers, exhibiting custom work and limited-edition collections.”
This all made me wonder about the actual home for Rainstick. I knew it as a B.C.-located company, but its LinkedIn told me otherwise. Seeing the skyline of Toronto on my Zoom call with McFetridge — the Big Smoke living up to its name over her right shoulder — certainly didn't help. But she reaffirmed the organization’s Okanagan base.
“Actually, as of January, we officially moved back to Kelowna as our headquarters,” McFetridge reassures me. “Our dog is there, we switched the license plate on the car— we are officially Kelowna residents. But, our life feels very transient. We have staff in Ontario, a contract manufacturer is in Ontario, we have consultants in Ontario… But, yeah, the long answer to that is we're back-and-forth, but we're officially in Kelowna.” Home is where the dog is, after all.
All the travel certainly means plenty of time for contemplation. McFetridge is reflecting on a huge year. Thinking back to KBIS, she drifts to self-deprecation. “KBIS was really our industry show. So, from a market feedback perspective, that was the best feedback we could have received. They polled attendees after the show and Rainstick was voted as the favourite product that attendees came to see. I mean, we're excited about the product, but we can't even believe it. It’s been overwhelmingly positive. We’re like, ‘What the heck? Is someone paying these people?’”
I feel it’s safe to say that the conference’s organizers were far from crooked. But, payments were made. Deservedly, they landed in Rainstick’s account and those that did amount to a cool $3 million.