By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Larry Curran thought up dozens of business ideas throughout his life. Didn't try any of them, until now. The 65-year-old owns Choose Rain, one of about a dozen upstarts at the University of Central Florida's Business Incubator at the Daytona Beach International Airport, 601 Innovation Way. Choose Rain is a bottled-water maker with a new facility in Ormond Beach.
"We're going to be collecting rainwater," Mr. Curran said.
Then do a bit of microfiltration, along with ozone and ultraviolet light treatment. The whole thing got started back when he had a well. He saw a newspaper story about a business not far from his well possibly dumping harmful chemicals. Mr. Curran was in a conundrum; he needed potable water, but couldn't trust what was under his feet. Then he thought back to his rural Ohio youth. The family had a cistern to collect rainwater. He went to work putting a cistern at his home.
"I did all the math and it all worked out," he said. "I decided to build my house as a rainwater house. When I turn on my facet, it's rainwater."
And friends liked his tap water.
"I had lots of people coming to my house and taking away water in 5-gallon jugs," Mr. Curran said. "People kept saying, 'You should (sell) this for a living.'"
The thought grew into research, which became a business plan. That was in the early 2000s. Mr. Curran put that business plan in the drawer with all the others he'd had.
"Had I done it in 2003, I would have been (the first)," he said.
Some folks out in Texas beat him to bottling rain water and selling it. But Mr. Curran was winding down his accounting career, and eying that old business idea.
"I am an environmentalist," he said. "I think drinking chlorine is bad for you. I think drawing water from the aquifer is bad for you."
Turns out that only about 20 percent of the water that hits the ground makes it to the aquifer. Most evaporates or heads toward the ocean. While water covers about 70 percent of the earth's surface, more than 95 percent of it is saltwater. There's also less water than many might think. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earth has about $332.5 million cubic miles of water. If all that water was put into a sphere, it'd be about 860 miles in diameter. Earth's diameter is about 7,900 miles. That's like comparing a large marble to a basketball.
Choose Rain rented a 12,700-square-foot manufacturing facility in Ormond Beach and got the water rights to the roof. Mr. Curran said the company can capture about 2.2 million gallons of rainwater and put it into biodegradable bottles. When things are going full steam ahead, he believes Choose Rain will employ 35 to 50 at the facility, and bring about $16 million a year to Volusia.
"(The business incubator) has been a tremendous help," Mr. Curran said. "At 65 I assumed I knew everything about business. What I really have never done is understood marketing."
The business incubator celebrated its first anniversary in July. In 2010 the Volusia County Council approved $1.4 million to renovate a 10,000-square-foot facility to house it. Additionally, the county gave the university $750,000 to run it for three years.
"The business incubator is a place to start a company," said Doris "Connie" Bernal, site manager, said. "The entrants have a lot of resources to work with here. They have professionals who help them with a number of areas."
Choose Rain opened about a year ago. It was accepted into the incubator in March.