Rachel Dominguez-Benner | I Am an Entrepreneur Ep. 26

Meet Rachel, co-op developer + crafter

Rachel Dominguez-Benner’s entrepreneur journey spans the continent.

Her creative venture first launched in Portland, Oregon, sparked from a seed planted in Mexico, and spurred on by an art class in Penland, North Carolina. Today, Rachel crafts her home goods gift line from a home studio in an east Dayton neighborhood. You can buy beautiful Rachel DB Creative products at smattering of local retailers.

“My most popular [product] is kitchen towels,” she said. “I wanted a product that people own multiples of already, that they’ll buy more than once, that would make a great gift, because I love giving gifts. And something that…could be art and was useful, and was made of natural materials. So through all those things, we get to the humble kitchen towel.”

When she’s not screen-printing her original designs on a variety of objects, she is developing co-ops. She specializes in communications and member engagement for cooperative businesses.

“It’s my interface with capitalism. I’m just going to be straight up and say it,” she said. “Rachel DB Creative is how I am taking control of my own labor and deciding how I want to interact with using my labor in exchange for money. And so that’s also why there are the two pieces. Because there’s the tangible, beautiful, bringing art into your everyday products, and that’s great. But there’s also a lot of work to be done in helping reimagine our future together. And that’s why I’m so drawn to working with cooperatives and developing cooperative businesses.”

A printing pivot

Rachel’s maternal grandmother first exposed her to life as an entrepreneur during summers spent in Mexico.

“In the part of the house that was on the street, she had a store. In part, that was her social connection. That was how she knew she would get to see people and get to know what was going on in the neighborhood,” Rachel recalled. “Seeing the daily flow of their life and thinking, I like this. And so I think that may have been a little seed that was planted.”

Flash forward to the mid-2000s. Rachel joined five bike mechanics in Portland to lunch a worker-owned bike shop. She was the office manager, but found herself missing her creative practice. Her then-boyfriend suggested she sew a product that would be useful to cyclists.

“And so the first things that I made to sell were actually waterproof toe-cage covers for bicyclists,” she said. “And I listed a pair on Etsy, you know this was 2006, and somebody bought them!”

She developed a few products for cyclists and attempted to wholesale them, but retailer feedback was that her products lacked pizazz. Then she discovered screen printing.

“The real pivot came when I learned how to put my own designs onto the fabric, onto the surfaces that I was using to sew into useful goods,” she said. “There’s something very, both grounding and magical, of having something that’s in your imagination, and then being able to use your own labor to bring it into our shared reality.”

Rachel prints almost exclusively on cotton, knowing it will ultimately make its way back into the environment.

She loves meeting and interacting with the customers who purchase her product.

“I’m so connected to being able to make things that I need, or that I want to use. Getting to bring people closer to how their goods are made is something that just touches my heart,” she said. “The delight and the joy that people have of knowing the person that made the thing they’re purchasing and using, that’s part of what keeps me going.”

Discovering the Gem City

In 2014, Rachel and her now-spouse, Ian, were getting priced out of Portland. He had ties to Dayton via family in the Air Force.

“We decided — why not Dayton?,” Rachel recalled. “The property was within our means to imagine being able to purchase a house. And the people here — we are the gems.”

Soon after moving to the city, Rachel found Launch Dayton Startup Week.

“For me, the the most beneficial resource has been the social aspect with other people who are also entrepreneurial, who are also sometimes feeling like you’re out here on your own, on an island,” she said. “Sometimes they’re called networking, but what I found in Dayton, and with Launch Dayton events especially, is that it’s not buttoned up, have to hand out business cards. It’s really getting to talk about what you’re passionate about, and being curious about other people and what they’re doing and working on, and then those connections naturally happen.”

Her advice to fellow + aspiring entrepreneurs? Share your ideas.

“Start speaking about what you dream of for Dayton, for our city,” she said. “Start telling people what you think could be better, because that’s how you get connected and attract the other people, people that want to build together to make that thing a reality.”

“I’m Rachel Dominguez-Benner, and I am an entrepreneur.”


Explore the Series

There’s no one way to be an entrepreneur.

You don’t have to look a certain way, operate in a particular industry, or pursue specific education. You don’t have to grow up in a particular household, or spend your free time nurturing any particular hobbies — entrepreneurs grow from all walks of life.

In this series, entrepreneurs, founders, and small business owners from across the Dayton Region share their individual stories to break down pervading stereotypes about who can or can’t be an entrepreneur.

They proudly declare, “I Am an Entrepreneur”and you can be, too.