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The Providence Design Catalyst program is a competitive grant program providing seed capital, business mentorship, professional development training, and peer-to-peer networking to help design businesses reach their growth goals. Combining the global expertise of teachers, dedicated support from business mentors, and financial investment based on milestones and achievements, the Providence Design Catalyst program creates vital momentum for sustained business growth.

The Program+

The Providence Design Catalyst program is a milestones-based competitive program. Businesses are selected after a rigorous application process which includes a review of growth milestones for each business.

  • Grant funds up to $15,000 are provided to qualifying Providence design businesses as seed capital to support specific business growth goals. This is a reimbursement style grant*.
  • Funds are disbursed in three separate tranches once the business grantee reaches milestones towards their defined goals. The funds awarded will reimburse purchases.

  • All selected businesses are matched with a business mentor to assist in their specific growth goals.

  • Business and all owner’s residence must be currently located in Providence.

    * A reimbursement grant provides funding to grant recipients after expenses have been incurred.

The Timeline+
  • Applications Due: January 13, 2023

  • Notification to Awardees: February 17, 2023

  • Program Orientation:  March 3rd (in person)
      • Four Business Development Workshops: All day, in-person (dates subject to change: 3/10, 4/7, 5/5, 6/2)

      • Clinics & Office Hours: Wednesdays 4-7 PM, remotely via Zoom (dates subject to change: 3/22, 4/12, 6/7, 7/5) 

      • Business mentor meet up: Twice a month, March – June 2023

      • Final Showcase Event: July 14th, 2023

    All Workshops will be full day in person sessions at CIC Providence with a lunch break. Clinics will happen remotely via Zoom. “Workshops” are part of our core Design Catalyst Curriculum, with pre-work. “Clinics” are one-off sessions with local experts, running for 3hrs on Wednesday afternoons from 4-7pm.

The Providence Design Catalyst program eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Business owner(s) must be of low-moderate income. CLICK HERE for reference. Income eligibility is based on adjusted gross annual household income(AGI). To determine eligibility, add the income of all household members aged 18 or older, then locate the size of your household in the table linked above. Household size should include all adults and children living in the home, however, only the income from adults aged 18 or older should be included. If the household income is less than the dollar figure for the size of the household in the 80% row, applicant income is eligible. If selected as a finalist in the application process, businesses will be required to provide appropriate documentation for income verification (all owners’ 2022 returns or current financial statements).
  • Business owner(s) maintain a primary residence in the city of Providence. 
  • Have an established creative or design micro-enterprise (five or fewer employees including the owner(s) and paid interns. Does not include: contract workers and volunteers) based in the city of Providence.
  • Business must be a commercial enterprise (Student-owned businesses or nonprofits are not eligible).
  • Business must accept the commitment to participate in the full six-month program including attending classes, meeting with their mentor, submitting status reports, submitting reimbursement requests, engaging with their peers, and participating in the final showcase.
  • Businesses that have received Providence Design Catalyst grants in the past are not eligible.
2023 Class Schedule+


Class Schedule:

Fri, March 3rd
6PM in Person
Design Catalyst Meet and Greet  at DxRI office
Fri, March 10th
10AM – 4PM in Person
Entrepreneurial Strategies 
with Kristine Merz
Weds, March 7th
4PM – 7PM Virtual
CLINIC 1 : Competitive Analysis and Vision  with Adriana Dawson
Fri, April 7th
10AM – 4PM in Person
WORKSHOP 2 : Business Development with Dwayne Keys
Weds, April 12th
4PM – 7PM 
CLINIC 2 : Core Legal Concepts for Small Business  with C. Alexander Chiulli
Fri, May 5th
10AM – 4PM in Person
WORKSHOP 3 : Cost Structure & Budget with Kristine Merz
Weds, June 2th
10AM – 4PM in Person
Marketing Your Design Business
with Megan Boyaval
Weds, June 7th
4PM – 7PM 
CLINIC 3 : Marketing Email and Workflow with Sharice Enis
Weds, July 5th
4PM – 7PM Virtual
CLINIC 4 : Pitching Your Business  with Devin Samuels
Weds, July 14th 
Final Showcase Event! Location TBD


*Please keep in mind you are required to schedule mentor sessions in addition to workshop and clinic attendance to complete this program.


Alessia Arregui
Arregi Glass

Alex Hornstein
Wild Lives

David Lawlor
Run of the Mill

Hannah Liongoren
Hannah Co. | Boondock Designs

Hernan Darío Jourdan
Ministry of Future Access

Jacques Bidon

Michelle Peterson
Slow Bloom Ceramics


Kristine Merz (she/her) is a versatile entrepreneur and expert in human-centered research and design, passionate about driving impactful transformations in people’s lives. As the founder and president of Orange Square, a certified WBENC woman-owned business, she has been delivering award-winning brand transformations for over 20 years, using tried-and-true methods to help organizations discover, define, and deliver new brand strategies and identities. Kristine is also a co-founder of Joyuus, a digital health innovator that focuses on creating accessible well-being for mothers and those who care about them during the 12 months postpartum. She is also the author of “Shift,” a book that explores how to lead change through human-centered innovation. In addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors, Kristine serves as the board chair of Farm Fresh RI, demonstrating her commitment to the community striving towards a shared vision of a better, more equitable future for all. 

Workshop 1: Entrepreneurship Strategy and Workshop 3: Cost Structure & Budget

Adriana Dawson is a nationally recognized social impact leader driving results at the intersection of Purpose + People + Profit for over 20 years.

Her multi-sector career led her to the telecommunications industry in 2019 when she joined Verizon as Community Engagement Director, where she currently oversees the Verizon Foundation and social impact programming efforts for her markets. In this role she leads and expands Verizon’s partnership network, strategic investments, and collaborates up and across the enterprise supporting regional and national initiatives. In addition, she serves as a Global Lead for SOMOS, an enterprise-wide Employee Resource Group (ERG) giving voice to Verizon’s 5K+ Hispanic/Latinx employees.

Adriana, a first generation-professional, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Northeastern University and holds a Master of Arts in Management Communication from Emerson College.

Clinic 1: Competitive Analysis and Vision

Dwayne Keys (he/him) is a Financial Coaching Manager & Interim Director of Programs (Multifamily) at Compass Working Capital, a non-profit organization dedicated ending asset poverty, in which he works one-on-one with Compass clients, supervises a team of financial coaches & leads the programs & relationships for Compass’s multifamily housing partners. He’s an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) and certified in Financial Social Work. For over 18 years Dwayne has advocated on behalf of historically excluded communities for economic justice and full inclusion in economic prosperity, with a focus on eliminating poverty, preventing displacement, and supporting anti-racism initiatives. Prior to joining Compass in 2017, Dwayne spent 13 years working in for-profit banking and financial services, holding roles in customer relationship management, service and sales. A 22-year resident of the Southside of Providence, Dwayne serves on multiple boards and commissions based in the city and throughout RI. Dwayne attended Johnson & Wales University where he earned his A.S. in Retailing, B.S. in Marketing and M.B.A. in International Trade.

Workshop 2: Business Development

C. Alexander Chiulli represents varied businesses, non-profit organizations, emerging companies, educational institutions, management and consulting organizations, and individuals. Often serving as outside general counsel, Alex regularly assists clients on formation, corporate, contract, governance, employment, regulatory, policy, governmental, real estate, insurance, transactional, and general liability matters. Alex additionally devotes a significant portion of his practice to advising clients on intellectual property, entrepreneurship, Internet, privacy and information, non-profit, and First Amendment law. An experienced litigator, Alex regularly appears before state and federal courts and agencies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts on wide-ranging civil, appellate, and administrative matters, as well as before the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Before law school, Alex worked for Fortune 500 and start-up businesses in the areas business development, project management, and market research.

Clinic 2: Core Legal Concepts for Small Business

Sharice Enis is a digital marketing professional and the founder of Sharice & CO. Sharice & CO is a micro agency specializing in email marketing automation, and sales funnel strategy for creative entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Clinic 3: Marketing Email and Workflow

Megan Boyaval is a fractional head of marketing for start-ups, defining strategy and execution plans that make the most of limited resources. Her specialty is helping leaders answer key questions about the optimal growth plan and creating marketing programs that work. Megan sees transformation potential everywhere, and she is passionate about healthcare delivery, product design, customer & employee experience. Megan earned a degree from Smith College and is a former board member of The Steel Yard, in service to the maker community.

Workshop 4: Marketing Your Design Business

Devin Samuels

As the Senior Program Manager at Social Innovation and Change Initiative at Harvard University, Devin Samuels leads the New World Social Innovation Fellowship as the program’s resident educator, program designer, and implementer with the aim of fostering an exemplary learning experience that drives impact. Prior to this role, Samuels was Programs and Events Manager for DESIGNxRI where he led the small-business accelerator program, Providence Design Catalyst, and created Equity x Design RI, a multi-business program which led to the creation of new equity-based protocols within the field. Devin continues to bring this level of intentional program creation, management, and facilitation into his work at SICI.

Concurrent to this, Samuels has been an arts educator teaching and performing poetry nationally for the past 15 years. With a strong investment in community, Devin Samuels has spent years cultivating youth and adult arts education spaces. His pedagogy utilizes poetics and the radical imagination to grow critical thinking, self-reflection, and empathy as primary drivers of social change. Devin is a 2017 Poetry Foundation Incubator Fellow and his work can be found in City & Sea Poetry Anthology, Slag Review, Wayne Literary Review 2018 and Systemic Crises of Global Climate Change: Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender.

Devin Samuels currently serves on the board of Detroit Jews for Justice, is the Co-Director of the Providence Poetry Slam, and an active member of multiple movement and arts organizations.

Clinic 4: Pitching Your Business


City of Providence

Real Jobs Rhode Island

CIC Providence

Rhode Island Commerce

Eastern Bank


Photo of Rye Dean and Lumuku playing cards.
Anyhow Studio, a community pottery studio and the owner smiling.
Alaina Mahoney, a welder, working with a power hammer.

“I am SO appreciative of this opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally. I feel like DESIGNxRI is so special because it is building a community that can support and foster creative people at all stages of their career. One year later, I am no longer just a person with an idea. I am making it happen through concrete steps. There has been A LOT of learning along the way, but that has also helped me believe in myself more and more. All of this is invaluable.”

-Rye Dean, LUMUKU 2018

“When I first opened, I listed 1 Intro to the Wheel class; now I am running 6-7 classes per term and they sell out within 1-2 days of the listing plus a waitlist. I have 9 active members, plus more folks who use the studio space. I hired a studio manager who works part time as well as a studio assistant.”
-Liz Welch, Anyhow Studio 2021

“The Design Catalyst program allowed me to acquire new customers and ramp up my production abilities with the purchase of new equipment. The studio space that I found during the program has been essential for my business. I am still in touch with my peers from the program which helps having people to ask questions to who have been through the same experiences.”

– Maria Prus, M Designs Studio 2019

“I was able to decide which legal entity to use for my work, hire a legal advisor, and hire a designer to build out the branding. I was also able to purchase technology equipment that I very much needed to carry out the work of my Design Studio.”

-Shey Rivera, Studio Loba (formerly known as Design Studio for Culture + Planning) 2021

“I have gained so much confidence in my business and have continued to grow. I have taken on new collaborations and many new wholesale orders. I think I am in a much better place than I would have expected after the program.”

-Alaina Mahoney, A.M. Design and Fabrication LLC 2020


Over $1 million invested directly into Providence design businesses ($1.3 million is program resources)

40 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

31% added staff capacity with interns, freelancers, or full-time employment

60 design businesses in total have completed this accelerator program

21% businesses received additional funding and/or mentoring from outside sources

All businesses analyzed and re-envisioned their business model and growth capacity


No one gets where they are going alone. Mentorship is an important way DxRI connects this community of talent. If you’re ready to give back, we’ve got some amazingly talented designers ready to learn from you. If you’re looking for some extra guidance, let us know!