Rhode Island: Where Entrepreneurs Come To Thrive

 

When is a startup no longer a startup? That’s a question that Rhode Island companies like Luca + Danni, Maternova and Lotuff Leather have had to seriously consider over the past year, as explosive growth has ensured they’re now among the fastest-growing businesses in the state.

dc7b90d99870c41da68016e0fdd40768--luca-and-danni-druzy-jewelry.jpg

 

Luca + Danni, a jewelry brand founded by CEO Fred Magnanimi in 2014 in honor of his late brother, has experienced especially significant growth: In May of this year alone, its e-commerce channel attracted seven figures worth of sales, resulting in over 25,000 orders placed and shipped. That’s a 1,300 percent increase in sales compared to May 2016.

 

Another Rhode Island success story can be found in Maternova, which provides obstetric and newborn technologies to private hospitals, governments, Ministries of Health, NGOs and healthcare professionals around the world. Founded in 2009 by CEO Meg Wirth, who bootstrapped the business for several years with the help of grants and seed funding, Maternova is now cash flow positive, scaling its business model, partnering with several corporates and smaller scale entrepreneurs and selling larger volumes of life-saving innovations. 

Maternova+Story_Page_02.jpg

 

Luca + Danni and Maternova’s respective CEOs, Fred and Meg, will join Jonas Clark, associate director of Brown University’s Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, at a roundtable on Nov. 20 to explore entrepreneurship and innovation in Rhode Island. Ellen McNulty-Brown, CEO of Lotuff Leather, will also be on hand to talk about doing business in Providence. The handbag maker, which has been called “the Hermes of the U.S.,” is now carried in boutiques and department stores around the world, having grown from three to nearly 20 employees over a period of several years.

lotuff.jpg

 

Fred, Meg and Ellen have all experienced firsthand how Rhode Island’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown fertile as a result of the availability of resources, mentors and seed money (in the form of tax credits, grants, angel investment groups and more). Thanks to our governor and legislature’s leadership on pension and Medicaid reform, Rhode Island has reined in structural costs and flattened business’ trajectories with a suite of new incentives aimed at growing businesses and creating jobs. And a strong and tightly connected network of partners and student programs support innovators on their way to the next milestone.

 

Further, the state has devoted numerous spaces, place and accelerators to innovation. One of these is a new innovation district, anchored by a renovated century-old power station that is now shared by Brown University (which houses all of its administrative offices there) and the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College (which have jointly opened a state-of-the-art nursing school inside the building).

 

Russell Carey, Brown’s executive vice president for planning and policy, told The New York Times this month: “It’s an unusual partnership—a land-grant school like U.R.I. and an institution like Brown. I’ve never seen anything like it.”


To learn more about entrepreneurship in Rhode Island, we invite you to attend the #WhyRI: Entrepreneurship, Innovation & You roundtable, being held on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, from 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. in the Petteruti Lounge at Brown University (75 Waterman Street Providence, RI 02912). Click here to RSVP. The roundtable is being sponsored by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Innovation Providence and Brown University’s Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship.

 

And, as always, know that you can count the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce among the resources readily available for entrepreneurs in the state. We are committed to sparking innovation and supporting new and aspiring Ocean State businesses at every stage of growth.

 

 

Business as a force for good!

Why the Best for Rhode Island Initiative Is the Best for Our Business Community

In today’s economy, consumers not only want the best goods and services available to them, but they also want to know that the businesses they support are creating their products in the most ethical way possible. That’s why the Chamber is proud to be a partner in the 2017 Best for Rhode Island initiative.

Best for Rhode Island was launched by Social Enterprise Greenhouse, and as part of SEG’s ongoing commitment to promoting social entrepreneurs, the program challenges businesses statewide to evaluate and enhance how their practices impact workers, the community and the environment.

BCorporation-Logo.png

Participants will follow standards centered on the B Impact Assessment, a trial developed by B Lab, and be given tips on how they can improve their workflows. B Lab is a nonprofit group devoted to using the power of business as a force for good. Its assessment program is the premier evaluation tool for measuring social and environmental accountability. If businesses meet B Lab’s performance standards, then they are recognized for their efforts by being labeled as a Certified B Corporation (B Corp).

To put it in comparable terms, a B Corp certification is akin to a coffee being certified as Fair Trade or milk being labeled USDA Organic. By using the B Lab assessment as an evaluation tool, Best for Rhode Island is laying the groundwork for our business community to achieve B Corp certification and improve our businesses’ standing in the broader marketplace. The initiative’s organizers put it best when they said businesses should not only strive to be the best in our state but also the best for it. And considering the track record of success for B Corp–certified businesses, taking steps to achieve B Corp status will only prove advantageous for Rhode Island’s business network.

During the Great Recession of 2007 to 2012, for example, B Corp businesses were 63 percent more likely to survive than the average small business. In the later years of this economic downturn, between 2010 and 2011, B Corp jobs grew by over 5 percent when most employment gains in the U.S. stayed flat.

Beyond their economic vitality, B Corp companies also provide excellent benefits for their employees. Retirement plans, flexible schedules, extended vacation time and healthcare for part-time workers are all among the benefits B Corp employees are likely to receive.

When I became its president in 2005, I wanted the Chamber to pursue three pillars of development. We would further a knowledge-based economy built on innovation. We would create our own flourishing entrepreneurial environment that was adjacent to Boston, an existing startup hub. And we would make clear through business attraction marketing that Rhode Island has all the commercial values and attributes that make it a thriving center of industry. I’m pleased to say that we’ve pushed the ball forward in each of these areas, and by supporting Best for Rhode Island we can continue this momentum.

In taking steps to improve not just the way products are created but also how employees are treated, B Corp–certified businesses are leading the pack in today’s innovation economy. By supporting the Best for Rhode Island initiative, the Chamber is making clear that this is the way of the future and creating a path for the state’s businesses to achieve B Corp certification. No longer is business simply about profits; it’s about the impact it has on consumers and workers. Best for Rhode Island is an initiative we’re proud to support as our state’s business community continues to pursue this worthwhile goal.

Awesome events for start-ups next week

Danny Warshay, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, has assembled world-class presenters to mentor and inspire.

Danny Warshay, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, has assembled world-class presenters to mentor and inspire.

We are very fortunate to have great depth of talent in the entrepreneur's space in Providence. A lot of that leadership comes from the academic community. One of the most abundant sets of resources comes from the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship at Brown University. A couple of events coming week may be of interest to local entrepreneurs.

Monday evening's event focuses on podcasting and the art of sound and Wednesday's lunchtime book talk with the co-founder of Runa Tea (backed by Leonardo Dicaprio and other celebrities focused on sustainability) will focus on building a startup through lessons he learned in the Amazon.

SOUND IDEAS: CLOSE LISTENING, PODCASTING, AND THE NEW RADIO
October 23 @ 5:30 - 8:00 pm
Studio 1, Granoff Center for the Arts
Registration link/Facebook link

Join the Brown Arts Initiative and the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship for a panel discussion (5:30 – 7:00 PM) exploring the inception and evolution of sound ideas and the podcasting industry and the potential for sound and podcasts to act as avenues to launch initiatives, careers and businesses. You will hear from the following panelists:

  • —Torey Malatia, Co-creator of This American Life and current RIPR GeneralManager/President/CEO
  • —Morra Aarons-Mele ‘98, founder of WomenOnline and the Podcast and book, Hiding in the Bathroom
  • —Sam Harnett and Chris Hoff, founders and hosts of the podcast The World According to Sound
  • —Alan Nakagawa, Interdisciplinary sound-based artist, Artist in Residence at Great Streets/LA Mayor’s Office

Following the panel (7:00 – 8:00 PM), Danny Warshay, Executive Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship, will lead a workshop on bottom-up research, an essential entrepreneurial skill to help you find and define your target market.

FULLY ALIVE: USING THE LESSONS OF THE AMAZON TO LIVE YOUR MISSION IN BUSINESS AND LIFE
Wednesday, Oct. 25; 12:00 - 1:30 PM
Petteruti Lounge, 75 Waterman Street

 
Runa Founder and Brown University alumnus Tyler Gage gathers inspiration in the Amazon.

Runa Founder and Brown University alumnus Tyler Gage gathers inspiration in the Amazon.

Fully Alive tells the story of Tyler Gage ’08 and his immersion in Amazonian indigenous spirituality and its life-changing impact on the trajectory of his company, living a meaningful life, and making an impact in the world. Tyler built RUNA from a scrappy start-up into a thriving, multimillion-dollar company that has become one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the United States. With the help of investors such as Channing Tatum, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Olivia Wilde, RUNA has created a sustainable source of income for more than 3,000 farming families in Ecuador who sustainably grow guayusa in the rainforest. Simultaneously, RUNA has built a rapidly scaling nonprofit organization that is working to create a new future for trade in the Amazon based on respectful exchange and healing, not exploitation and greed.

Contact elizabeth_malone@brown.edu for details.

 

Today's "Cranes In The Sky"

The spotlighting of cranes in the Providence skyline continues with this installment: a $20 million eight-story extended stay Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel project.  The developer is First Bristol Corp., led by veteran hotelier James Karam.

The building site sits at the confluence of Exchange Terrace, Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in the city's Capital Center District.  The lot, itself, is uniquely compact and triangular which necessitated design finesse and architectural creativity to ensure vibrant, street-level interaction.  The project got underway in earnest this summer.

firstbristol.png

With 120 suites being offered, the hotel's target market is upscale professionals who require housing for longer than a few days.  The Providence region is  fertile ground for such an audience given the density of local colleges, universities and hospitals. 

IMG_4837.JPG
Homewood Suites by Hilton at the intersection of Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in Providence.

Homewood Suites by Hilton at the intersection of Steeple Street and Memorial Blvd. in Providence.

First Bristol Corporation, a leading Real Estate Development and Management firm based in Massachusetts, was selected by Hilton Hotels Worldwide as the National Developer of the Year for its Homewood Suites by Hilton Brand.

Karam started First Bristol Corporation 35 years ago, and has built the family business into one of New England’s premier real estate development and management companies. 

 

 

 

Crane Spotting!

I said I was on a mission! That mission is tracking down all the exciting new construction projects underway throughout Rhode Island and explaining what's being built.  Yes, there are, in fact, lots of "cranes in the sky," and the stories surrounding these projects are quite interesting. The common denominator is that none of these projects would be occurring if investors weren't confident that the economy in Rhode Island is on the upswing.

The Edge College Hill in Providence, located 169 Canal Street

The Edge College Hill in Providence, located 169 Canal Street

In my earlier posts, I spotlighted Wexford Science and Technology's groundbreaking on the former Route 195 lands in Providence, within the new Innovation and Design District.  Then I set off to the main campus of the University of Rhode Island and poked around the largest building project in their history: the complete remaking of its College of Engineering Complex.

Today,  I am showing you what this "crane in the sky" is working on:

DBVW Architects is working closely with Vision Properties on Edge College Hill, a new mixed-use residential project in downtown Providence at the base of College Hill. Located at 169 Canal Street, this new 15-story high-rise will include 202 micro-loft style apartments and first floor commercial space. Amenities for the residential units include a top floor common room and southwest facing terrace as well as a fitness center and first floor lobby/gathering space.

The Edge College Hill is a perfect project for Providence because of our deep concentration of young millennial talent, as Inc. Magazine recently reported. The region is home to elite colleges and universities where students, faculty and staff are all intensely interested in hip, high-design, affordable housing options.

These modernly furnished apartments will primarily be marketed towards students. Features include over-sized windows, high-end finishes, 9' 7" ceilings, fully equipped kitchens and fold-down beds that tuck into contemporary cabinetry when not in use. Residents will be able to choose from views of the Providence skyline, historic College Hill, and the Rhode Island State House.

the edge.jpg
Artist's rendering (above) and the building site today.

Artist's rendering (above) and the building site today.

169 Canal Street, formerly a surface parking lot, is a long vacant parcel of land that fronts the highly acclaimed Providence River Walk. When completed, this urban, car-free development will play an important role in fostering a more walkable and livable city. In addition to adding significantly to the number of residents living downtown, the project will encourage new businesses such as restaurants and markets to join Providence's already exciting growth.

 

Providence Tops On East Coast For Millennial Talent

risd44.jpg

Why is Providence suddenly turning heads in the race for talent?  Investors like GE Digital, Virgin Pulse, Hasbro, Johnson & Johnson and more are tapping into a plentiful and resourceful workforce. The vibe here is eclectically and fashionably urban. Plus, Providence has lots of swag in these categories, too:

  • design-thinking mindset
  • spectacular foodie scene
  • access to high-speed rail
  • easy to navigate international airport
  • ivy league academic institutions
  • affordability
  • and just plain fun!

But don't take our word for it. Check out this piece from @Inc: See why #Providence is one of the top cities attracting #millennials!

New URI Engineering Complex Coming Along Nicely

It's been about a year since Rhode Island voters bullishly approved Phase II funding to create a gleaming new complex for the University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering --- a $125 million endeavor designed to put our state's flagship research institution at the vanguard, internationally, for engineering and entrepreneurial prowess.  

Eager to see how the project is shaping up, I headed over to campus to take a closer look.  I was thrilled to see teams of construction workers moving earth, burying conduit and pouring concrete. Indeed, they are laying the metaphorical groundwork for the jobs of the future. (Check out some fun facts about the project!)

From the Chamber's vantage point as business builders, it's promising that Rhode Island is responding to market demands for engineering talent. Across the state, several of our world-class institutions of higher education, including Brown University, are investing more than $300 million in sophisticated new infrastructure that will produce high value engineering research and learning facilities. That pace bodes well for Rhode Island's ability to be a prime target for new corporate investment.

URI Engineering.JPG

Pictured here is the project site where the demolition of five antiquated buildings began in the spring and was completed this summer. Sparking the need, the older buildings had not undergone any major improvements in more than 50 years. Consequently, they did not provide the open and flexible teaching, learning and research spaces necessary to adequately prepare engineering students and fully serve faculty members.

Don't underestimate the ubiquitousness of engineering. It's at the heart of most everything in contemporary society: energy, medicine, water, bridges, data, physical structures and more. That's why the sector is growing jobs at such a rapid clip. 

uri2.JPG

URI President David Dooley puts it in perspective: “Increasingly, our engineering students and faculty are not only working in interdisciplinary teams within the College of Engineering, but with students and faculty from across the University in oceanography, health, pharmacy, chemistry, computer science, and business, to name but a few, as well as companies and corporations around the state, region and the world. This new facility will stimulate collaborative, multidisciplinary learning and research. It will lead to discoveries that we cannot even imagine today. Our engineering alumni, students, and faculty have always been essential drivers of innovation and economic development in Rhode Island, and with these new facilities, we know that URI’s role in moving the state forward will be strongly enhanced."

IMG_4720.JPG

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce was proud to be an early champion of the project. We invested time, money and resources in promoting the economic benefits to the state and making the case that access to engineering talent will attract attention from corporations looking to sit alongside URI's demonstrated expertise in undersea robotics, smart building technology and other engineering disciplines. Many Chamber member companies also took up the mantle to make the project a reality: Toray Plastics (America) $2 million: FM Global, $1 million; Taco Inc., $400,000; and an anonymous gift of $2.5 million from a URI alumnus and corporate leader. 

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 3.14.36 PM.png

Ballinger of Philadelphia, is the prime architect, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and structural engineer on the project, and the associate architectural firm is Chamber member DBVW of Providence. The construction management firm is Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence.

Congratulations to Chamber Directors Brad Dimeo and David Dooley for their leadership on this essential project to Rhode Island's future. We're looking forward to the ribbon cutting in 2019!

 

More Shovels In The Ground in #PVD

Innovation districts are emerging in the downtowns and midtowns
of cities like Atlanta, Cambridge, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, where advanced research universities, medical complexes, and clusters of tech and creative firms are sparking business expansion as well as residential and commercial growth.  

Now, add Providence to the mix. 

With this week's groundbreaking on the former Route 195 land, business, academic and government leaders are partnering with Wexford Science and Technology to create a grand Innovation Center that will be at forefront of discovery.

20170925_112302.jpg
wexford1.jpg
wexford3.jpg

Wexford CEO Jim Berens emphasized that the $88 million facility will draw the best minds in research, design and commercialization. "We are excited that our work in Providence will become more visible as we begin vertical construction of the first Innovation Building, anchored by Brown University, the Cambridge Innovation Center and Johnson and Johnson. This represents another step forward in the development of a dynamic Knowledge Community that brings together intellectual capital, innovation and infrastructure to create a center of gravity and congregation that can give a sense of place to the growing innovation and entrepreneurial activities taking place in Providence and across Rhode Island."

In addition to the 66,000 square feet in the Innovation Complex, CIC also is planning to locate an 8,000-square-foot Innovation Hall and Venture Cafe-dedicated civic spaces that are modeled after CIC's highly successful District Hall in the Seaport District of Boston, where the innovation community can gather and exchange ideas.

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce has been working for many years to champion an environment in Rhode Island that leverages our amazing assets, including our comprehensive talent base, our world class universities, colleges and hospitals and our innovative businesses. We are confident that progress is accelerating at a rapid pace now.

"Wexford's project has the potential to advance our state's economy in significant ways -- fostering innovation, spurring growth, and building opportunity for all Rhode Islanders," said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. "This project will become the catalytic centerpiece of our revitalized I-195 Innovation & Design District. It represents the culmination of the very hard work of many including our visionary Governor, Gina Raimondo; leaders at the I-195 Commission and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation; the teams at Wexford Science & Technology, Ventas, CIC, Brown University, and Johnson & Johnson; and state, city, and federal elected leaders. I congratulate these partners on reaching this critical milestone."

Keep the announcements coming!

Think Differently: Innovation Campus Wants Fresh Look

girl-2696947_1920.jpg

 

The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Commerce Rhode Island to create a physical space where breakthrough thinking is formally cultivated and funded. And we're looking for the best thinkers in the world. Stand out from the crowd.

Earlier this summer, Commerce RI issued an Invitation for Expressions of Interest to generate initial ideas on how industry and academia can collaborate to build a transformative Innovation Campus (or campuses) in Rhode Island. This competition will ultimately award funds via an RFP from the $20 million bond issuance approved by Rhode Island’s voters. Applications must involve collaboration with research partners including the University of Rhode Island. The inclusion of other national and international universities and medical centers as partners is encouraged.

You can see the requirements here. Note that per the instructions, all submissions should be sent to riinnovationCampus@commerceri.com.  If you have any further questions, please get in touch with our team at RI Innovation Campus

 

 

UPDATE: Software Jobs Open at eMoney

FinTech company eMoney is settling in to their new Providence home at 100 Westminster Street and quickly getting to know the local tech and entrepreneurial community.  “It’s been amazing . Everyone here has been so welcoming,” said HR Director Tessa Raum.  

Tessa shared her staffing plans with us today.  “We’re hiring! We’re looking to bring on 50 new roles by the end of 2017, and more by the end of 2019.” 

emoneypic.jpg

Software engineers and software developers are very much in demand by e-Money, with competitive average salaries. Entry level roles as well as positions with three to five years’ experience are being offered.

The company builds software as a solution in the wealth management sector. Their vision is to “drive innovation in FinTech by creating and delivering technology solutions that help advisors and firms of all sizes achieve greater efficiency, scale, competitive edge, and growth in their businesses.”

Tessa described the culture at eMoney as “Google-like,” with strong emphasis on work/life balance. “We’re serious and passionate about our business. We want our talent to love the people they work with and to add value to our clients.”

eMoney  has been in business for 17 years with 455 employees in LaJolla, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and our partners at Commerce RI have been working with company’s human resources executives in Providence to help link them with local talent from our preeminent colleges and universities. The opportunities are diverse and exciting. 

To learn more about the jobs now available in Rhode Island, check out their hiring site here.