Innovative Grant Program Provides Funding, Business Mentorship, and Professional Development Training to Catalyze Growth
January 28, 2021
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined DESIGNxRI Executive Director Lisa Carnevale, CIC Providence General Manager Rebecca Webber and past grantee recipients Urvi Sharma and Manan Narang, co-founders of INDO-, to announce the launch of Providence Design Catalyst. The 2021 program will provide qualifying Providence-based design businesses with $185,000 in grant funding capital in amounts between $10,000 – $15,000 in addition to business mentorship and professional development training to catalyze business growth.
“The Providence Design Catalyst program helps our world-class design talent cultivate and develop their business skills while exposing them to a global market,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “During a time when so many small business owners are struggling to adapt and stay afloat, we are proud to join DesignxRI to invest in our designers and small business community who make us the Creative Capital.”
Providence Design Catalyst is a competitive grant program that provides seed capital, business mentorship, professional development training, and peer-to-peer networking to help design businesses reach their growth goals. Combining the global expertise of teachers, dedicated support from business mentors, and financial investment based on milestones and achievements, the Providence Design Catalyst program creates vital momentum for sustained business growth. The program is run by DESIGNxRI, an economic development nonprofit for the RI design sector, based in Providence.
“We’re excited to launch the 5th Design Catalyst program,” said Lisa Carnevale, Executive Director of DESIGNxRI. “This program has proven to build sustainable business growth in our creative design sector and support some of our most innovative and entrepreneurial citizens in Providence. We look forward to learning about the amazing designers who choose to apply, and soon after welcome the 2021 cohort with our partners.”
Over the last decade, art and design have been a growing sector nationally for decades. Providence is a hub of design and creative sector activity – it is home to the third most industrial designers per capita in the U.S. and one of the world’s most recognized and premier design schools, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
This year’s program will again feature a partnership with CIC Providence. CIC will welcome Providence Design Catalyst cohort participants to their state-of-art offices, offering them co-working memberships and hosting program events and gatherings. Due to the ongoing public health crisis, this activity will largely be conducted virtually.
“Especially given the challenges of the past year, creativity will be the cornerstone of our innovation community,” said Rebecca Webber, CIC Providence General Manager. “CIC is eager to partner in the Design Catalyst program for a second year to support grantees and their promise of growing creative ideas into businesses rooted in the community.”
The Providence Design Catalyst program began in 2015, with the first cohort running in 2016. Since then, DESIGNxRI and partners have invested in 50 design businesses. Here are program highlights:
- $846,000 investment into 50 design businesses
- 31 business mentors engaged from the RI business community
- 69% of participant businesses developed a new product line and/or extended their brand
- 62% of participant businesses extended an existing product line and/or added production capacity with new equipment
- 31% added staff capacity with interns, freelancers, or full-time employment
- All businesses analyzed and re-envisioned their business model and growth capacity, making thoughtful decisions on what was needed foundationally to continue on their growth trajectory.
- Additionally, 21% of participant businesses received additional funding and/or mentoring from outside sources.
“The Design Catalyst program was a really valuable experience for INDO-,” said Urvi Sharma, co-founder, INDO-, an award-winning contemporary furniture and homeware design studio and 2019 Design Catalyst alum. “With the program’s support, we made strategic decisions with the funds that helped us lay a foundation for our company, putting us in a better position to grow over the long term. We are grateful this kind of program exists in Providence.”
The Providence Design Catalyst is funded by the City of Providence through the Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Partners and steering committee members include Bethany Costello with RI School of Design, Aidan Petrie with New England Medical Innovation Center, and Susan Mocarski from Cleverhood. To learn more about the program, including full eligibility requirements and how to apply, visit: https://www.designxri.com/learn/providence-design-catalyst/. Applications will be reviewed by the Design Catalyst steering committee, led by DESIGNxRI and will be accepted beginning today, January 28, 2021, and running through February 11, 2021.