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We are proud to be part of the Rhode Island community! Follow our blog for the latest news and occasional commentary about what’s happening at the Foundation and around our great state.

New analysis charts the route to small business prosperity
By Neil Steinberg / February 14, 2017 /   Loading Disqus...
Economic security is one of our strategic priorities. Like you, we want to see a strong local economy that enables all Rhode Islanders to prosper. That is why we invested in this analysis of the supports available to small businesses in Rhode Island. Small businesses are the backbone of Rhode Island’s economy and our communities. They shape the character of the places we live, employ our friends and family, and support our local nonprofit organizations.


To grow successfully and sustainably, different kinds of businesses need different kinds of support at different times. We believe our primary value is to help build a strong ecosystem — a robust and supporting environment that helps enterprising Rhode Islanders start and grow businesses.

We’re really deliberate about using the word ecosystem, because we believe that’s what this is: a community of interacting entities and their ever-evolving environment.

A resilient business ecosystem attracts investment and talent. Shaped by the factors beyond what any individual entity controls, it is nimble and responsive. The synergies that result from clusters of activity, investment, and people have exponential results for businesses and the broader economy.

We seek to strengthen Rhode Island’s business ecosystem by:
• Advocating for a robust network of services that is easy for entrepreneurs and enterprises to access and navigate.
• Identifying and addressing barriers to starting and growing businesses.
• Supporting intermediaries that fill important gaps in providing supports and resources to new and emerging businesses, particularly in underserved communities.
• Supporting networks that have demonstrated clear understanding of industry-specific needs and opportunities and developed strategies to address them.

When we began this project, we suspected that there were some gaps in services. Coordination among various entities is not consistent and the system can be extremely challenging for business owners to navigate.

We wanted data to help guide our focus and investments. So we hired a national consultant with experience mapping business ecosystems and identifying strategic opportunities for improvement.

Next Street’s suggestions include:
• Making it easier for business owners to navigate the network of services and capital available in Rhode Island.
• Expanding and strengthening service and capital models that are working.
• Ensuring that the sector-specific needs of manufacturers, food businesses, and businesses owned by people of color are met.

The research and recommendations are thorough and actionable. We are committed to following up on some of these opportunities, and this analysis will guide our focus and investments going forward. (As a first step, we are partnering with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to make the data underneath this analysis available to small business owners in an easy-to-use format. We hope to make this available by June.)

We undertake this work with a spirit of humility and collaboration. While we do not directly provide on the ground services or capital to businesses, we can provide support for a base of information, seed new opportunities, and engage the community.

To our partners in the ecosystem and small business owners, we look forward to continuing the conversation with you. We all need to be really smart about building this ecosystem; we do not have time or resources to lose. We hope you will review this analysis, share your feedback and insights, and stay involved.

Together, we can we support Rhode Island’s economy, communities, and people.
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