Helping Small Business Thrive From Our Backyard

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By Chris Barnett, Senior Public Affairs Officer, Rhode Island Foundation

The Rhode Island Foundation is giving two entrepreneurs in Our Backyard $300,000 grants over three years to pursue their bold ideas for launching new business. The 2015 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowships are made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter.

John Haley will manufacture a cord seeded with blue shell mussel larva that will enable Rhode Island’s shellfish industry to harvest mussels year-round rather than having to rely on annual natural spawning.

“Commercial production of the cord and creating multiple harvests every year will lead to steady employment for many Rhode Islanders, careers for others and recognition of our state as a leader in a modern, environmentally responsible shellfish cultivation industry,” he said.

The husband and wife team of Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian will launch the Providence Cinematheque, Rhode Island’s only multi-screen exhibition space and educational facility focusing on first-run, independent film programming; repertory series; film festivals and a curriculum in film history and media literacy.

“We envision the Cinematheque as a regional leader in media arts that will enhance Rhode Island’s reputation as an arts and culture innovator,” said Kamil.

This is the fourth time the Foundation has awarded Fellowships. Previous rounds generated more than 950 applications. Last year’s recipients were Amy Bernhardt and David Dadekian.

Bernhardt is about to launch Colorfast, a state-of-the-art research and manufacturing pilot facility for the design and production of digitally printed fabrics.

Dadekian is working on the Eat Drink Rhode Island Central Market, which will house a number of food- and drinkrelated businesses, including a public market and commercial production and processing facilities.

The Innovation by Design project by 2013 recipient Adrienne Gagnon is helping foster the next generation of Rhode Island innovators. She is designing a set of fun, hands-on learning activities that will help children tackle any challenge they’ve identified, in any subject, using the same process that designers use in their work.

Three years after receiving one of the first Fellowships, Soren Ryherd has launched three online stores: Felix Chien, a retailer of upscale fashion for dogs; Urbilis, a concept built around high-design garden-inspired home goods; and Slumbersome, which offers an array of bedding, masks and other products for people with insomnia.


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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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