Success Story: Michael Ray and Nurse Tree Arch Design

We love hearing stories of how people are benefiting from the new level of services provided by the Idea+Space at the Joel D. Valdez Main Libraryopens a new window. The Idea+Space opened a year ago and has been offering a unique mix of workshops on starting a business, jumpstarting a job hunt, and strengthening nonprofits.

Inventor Michael Ray started attending the Library’s Catalyst Café sessions in 2013, even before the Idea+Space existed. He had recently retired from the University of Arizona and just developed his first Nurse Tree Archopens a new window prototype, a solution to Tucson’s ever-shortening gardening season. His arch designs are engineered to do several things: save water, and protect food crops from wind, extreme temperatures, and wild animals. The arches encourage deep moisture and garden beds that stay below 85 degrees, even on Tucson’s hottest days.

However, Ray had no experience starting a business, let alone one intended for social good. Ray discovered that he wasn't a good fit with business assistance agencies more focused on technology, so he turned to the library and the Ward III Council office. Ward III connected him with SCORE business mentor Bill Roach (the library also provides SCORE mentors). And at the library's Catalyst Café workshops he was introduced to social-good business structures like the L3C.

As Ray works to take his business to the next level he continues to come to the Idea+Space. “The Library’s Catalyst Café chooses topics that are original and timely. I had no idea of the L3C business designation until the Library brought it to my attention. I also find the meetings great for networking with other talented and entrepreneurial people,” he says. Ray recently incorporated Nurse Tree Arch Design as an L3C (in Vermont, and as a foreign entity LLC in Arizona), and made his second Indiegogo campaign a big success. He has finished the design of his first manufactured arch, a less costly, simpler lean-to design. It will start production this month.

You can see a prototype at this weekend's Envision Tucson Sustainable Festivalopens a new window, Sunday, October 18, at the YWCA, 525 N. Bonita, in Tucson, AZ from 11 am to 4 pm.

Recommended books: 

  • Growing Food in A Hotter, Drier Land by Gary Paul Nabhan
  • Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway
  • Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • Raising Dough: The Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business by Elisabeth Ü.