2012 Rhode Island Innovation Fellow Soren Ryherd
Soren’s winning proposal, The Retail Project, aims to establish sustainable brick and mortar retail stores in Rhode Island by first creating them as profitable online businesses.
Soren says this approach, which “flips standard retail incubation on its head,” greatly reduces risk by building a baseline of profitability prior to incurring the high costs of retail build-out, staffing, and inventory investment. These brick and mortar stores can be profitable and sustainable by leveraging the much larger online market to support the local storefront.
The project has the potential to create jobs in retail, distribution, delivery, marketing, and more. Soren projects 39 online stores, two storefronts, and 33 jobs in the next three years, and hundreds of stores over the next 10 to 15 years.
“The Retail Project is about expanding the boundaries of the market from local neighborhoods or cities to potentially the entire country or world,” said Soren. “We’re taking one of the worst aspects of the state, our large number of empty retail spaces, and making it into an economic engine that will help drive the new economy over the long term – something that is exciting, and interesting, and valuable.”