The PROVIDENCE DESIGN CATALYST is a competitive design grant program providing seed capital, mentorship and learning to Providence-based design businesses to support business growth.

Design is one of the fastest growing sectors locally and nationally. Today design is being recognized as the lynchpin in consumer experience and the driver for innovation. Design’s dynamic capacity for integrating strategy, experience and aesthetic is propelling new business start-ups, product innovations, global online markets, urban developments and traditional industry shifts.

Providence and Rhode Island is already a hotbed of design activity. We are home to an increasing number of designers and design businesses, and house one of the world’s most recognized and premier design schools. The Providence Design Catalyst program will continue to catalyze this design business growth, and showcase the innovative and dynamic design talent brewing in this city.

The Providence Design Catalyst program supports Providence-based design businesses in reaching their business growth goals. The program will help catalyze their ability to meet these goals through mentoring, learning and financial investment. Combining the global expertise of teachers, dedicated support from business mentors, and financial investment based on milestones and achievements, the Providence Design Catalyst program will create the vital momentum for sustained business growth.

In 2015-2016, the Providence Design Catalyst pilot accepted 17 design businesses into the program. The cohort spent the first four months of 2016 in an intensive experience to catalyze business growth: meeting at least once a month for trainings, engaging in sessions with their mentors and peers, and working to achieve their business growth milestones in this time period. Here are the results:

  • $500,000 investment into 17 design businesses
  • 17 business mentors engaged from the RI business community
  • 55% of participant businesses developed a new product line and/or extended their brand
  • 48% of participant businesses extended an existing product line and/or added production capacity with new equipment
  • 6 of the 17 added staff capacity with interns, freelancers, or full time employment
  • All analyzed and re-envisioned their business model and growth capacity, making thoughtful decisions on what was needed foundationally to continue on their growth trajectory.
  • While some milestones adjusted based on mentor and program input, all reached their milestones.
  • Additionally, 25% of participant businesses received additional funding and/or mentoring from outside sources.

Meet the 2016 Cohort:

The Providence Design Catalyst program is led by DESIGNxRI, an economic development nonprofit for the design sector in Rhode Island. It was designed in partnership with the City of Providence’s Department of Community Development, RI School of Design and Aidan Petrie, co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer emeritus at Ximedica. Funding for grants provided by a Community Development Block Grant through the City of Providence.