Providence Re-Launches Grant Program for Small, Design-Based Businesses

Design Catalyst provides funding, business mentorship & professional development training to catalyze growth


PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Program Director Alyssa Alvarado, DESIGNxRI Executive Director Lisa Carnevale, Cambridge Innovation Center General Manager Rebecca Webber and past grantee recipient, co-founder of Atomic Clock Rebecca Atwood at CIC Providence to announce the re-launch of the Providence Design Catalyst program. The 2019-2020 Providence Design Catalyst will provide qualifying Providence design businesses with $185,000 in grant funding capital in amounts between $10,000 – $20,000 in addition to business mentorship and professional development training to catalyze business growth.

“The Providence Design Catalyst program helps our world-class design talent cultivate and develop their business skills while exposing them to a global market,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Our amazing artists are the reason why our City is known far and wide as the Creative Capital and we’re proud to help them showcase their talents to the world.”


The program is run by DESIGNxRI, an economic development nonprofit for the RI design sector, based in Providence. Through DESIGNxRI’s partnership with both the City of Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (Real Jobs RI), and this year CIC Providence, the Providence Design Catalyst program supports Providence-based design businesses in reaching their business growth goals.

Through a competitive, merit-based grant application process, applicants are asked to submit qualifications and experience, business goal(s), expected milestones, success projections and a proposal about how their business growth will benefit the Providence design ecosystem. Applications will be reviewed by the Design Catalyst steering committee, led by DESIGNxRI and will be accepted beginning October 1, 2019 and running through November 4, 2019. Applications and more information can be found at DESIGNxRI’s website.

“Design expands our thinking of how innovation drives our economy,” said Scott Jensen, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. “We are thrilled that Real Jobs RI can support the next generation of employers through their development of skills necessary to accelerate their growth and continue creating jobs in Rhode Island.”


Design is one of the fastest-growing sectors locally and nationally. Providence is a hotbed of design activity – it is home to the third most industrial designers per capita in the U.S. and one of the world’s most recognized and premier design schools, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).


“While the City’s design talent continues to thrive, there remains a great need to cultivate and sustain existing creative entities, said Lisa Carnevale, Executive Director of DESIGNxRI. “Support from the Providence Design Catalyst leads to positive business development, jobs and business growth, pathways for recent graduates to remain in Providence, and establishes a foundational strategy for next generation business development.”

New to this year’s program is a partnership with CIC Providence. CIC will welcome Providence Design Catalyst cohort participants to their state-of-art offices, offering them co-working memberships and hosting all workshops and gatherings throughout the length of the program.


“Rhode Island is home to some of the world’s best designers,” said Rebecca Webber, CIC Providence General Manager. “CIC believes supporting innovative thinking starts with creating a community and sharing ideas. We are delighted to partner with Design Catalyst, and to help their grantees turn ideas into viable businesses.”


The Providence Design Catalyst program began in 2015. Since then, DESIGNxRI and partners have invested in 39 design businesses. Here are program highlights:

  • $846,000 investment into 39 design businesses
  • 31 business mentors engaged from the RI business community
  • 69% of participant businesses developed a new product line and/or extended their brand
  • 62% of participant businesses extended an existing product line and/or added production capacity with new equipment
  • 31% added staff capacity with interns, freelancers, or full-time employment
  • All businesses analyzed and re-envisioned their business model and growth capacity, making thoughtful decisions on what was needed foundationally to continue on their growth trajectory.
  • Additionally, 21% of participant businesses received additional funding and/or mentoring from outside sources.

“My company, Atomic Clock, has grown in so many ways because of DESIGNxRI,” said Rebecca Attwood, co-founder of Atomic Clock. “I never imagined when I moved to Rhode Island that something like this would exist; a grant program that would provide not only financial support but crucial mentorship, workshops with experts, and countless ways to connect with the design community. Being a catalyst grantee created a structure of support that has already changed our business and made us better at what we do.”

The Providence Design Catalyst is funded by both the City of Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Training (Real Jobs RI). CIC Providence is providing in-kind support for the 2019-2020 program. Partners and steering committee members include Bethany Costello with RI School of Design, Aidan Petrie with Ximedica and New England Medical Innovation Center, and Philip Hawthorne with Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI.