New analysis charts the route to small business prosperity

Opportunities abound to better help Rhode Island’s small businesses grow, according to an analysis commissioned by the Rhode Island Foundation. The “Next Street” study includes research and recommendations related to what’s working and what must work better in order for the state’s small businesses to thrive.


“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,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.


The comprehensive analysis of the state’s small business ecosystem is based on a thorough review of available data and interviews with more than 80 service and capital providers, public and private sector leaders and small business owners.


“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,” said Steinberg.


Next Street identified several promising areas, including making it making it easier for business owners to navigate available services and capital.


“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,” Steinberg said.


Scaling and strengthening service and capital models that are working is a second critical area identified in the report.


“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,” he said.


A third area of opportunity is ensuring that the specific needs of manufacturers, food businesses, and businesses owned by people of color are met.


“A resilient business ecosystem attracts investment and diverse 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,” said Steinberg.


He urges the small business sector to review the analysis and share their feedback and insights. The study is posted at


“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,” he said. “Together, we can we support Rhode Island’s economy, communities and people.”

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2016, the Foundation awarded a record $45 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit

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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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