In mid-2016, the Rhode Island Foundation (RIF) engaged Next Street to map the state’s small business ecosystem – the array of advisory and capital resources available to support the formation and growth of small businesses – as part of their commitment to equity, economic vitality, and job and wealth creation.
Our team conducted over 80 interviews with service and capital providers, public and private sector leaders, and small business owners, and compiled a database of organizations, programs, and capital sources. In addition to general resources, the team took a deeper look at the distinct needs of and resources for minority-owned businesses, as well as those in the food and manufacturing sectors. We identified several critical areas of opportunity:
- Making it easier for business owners to navigate available services and capital;
- Scaling and strengthening service and capital models that are working; and
- Ensuring that the specific needs of manufacturers, food businesses, and businesses owned by people of color are met.
On Valentine’s Day, the Rhode Island Foundation convened key stakeholders and business owners at a public event to affirm their “love for Rhode Island’s small businesses” and to share the team’s findings. It was an exciting program that catalyzed a series of planning efforts with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and other public and private sector partners to prioritize and take action.