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  5. Providence Pre-Catalyst

Launching in 2023, Providence Pre-Catalyst (PPC) will help Providence-based ventures take their businesses to the next level with trainings that grow and sustain Providence’s design and creative sector businesses.

Envisioned as a primarily virtual series, over the course of one month, PPC participants will participate in business workshops targeted to their early stage design businesses, and have access to business coaching in a small cohort setting.

While the full Design Catalyst program is ideal for businesses that already have a few successes under their belt, there lacks a mechanism to help our city’s most innovative minds dig into their ideas for a business and get these businesses to fruition. Enter the Pre-Catalyst Program.

2023 Class Schedule+

Class Schedule:

Mon, Jan 9th | 6-8 PM

Visioning Your Business

with Dwayne Keys

Weds, Jan 11th | 6-8 PM

Personal Growth Management

with Linda Lin

Sat, Jan 14th | 10-11:30 AM

Coaching Session #1

with your coach

Monday, Jan 16th

Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Weds, Jan 18th | 6-8 PM

Product Development

with Matt Cavallaro

Sat, Jan 21st | 10-11:30 AM

Coaching Session #2

with your coach

Mon, Jan 23rd | 6-8 PM

Marketing & Pricing

with Mel Rainsberger

Weds, Jan 25th | 6-8 PM

Financial Considerations

with Erin X. Smithers

Sat, Jan 28th | 10-11:30 AM

Coaching Session #3

with your coach

Mon, Jan 30th | 6-8 PM

Legal Considerations

With C. Alexander Chiulli 

Weds, Feb 1st | 6-8 PM

In-Person Celebration!*

Location TBD


*Please keep in mind all classes and coaching sessions require mandatory attendance to complete this program (with exception to the in-person celebration, which is optional, though we hope you can make it!)


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. 

Linda Lin is the cinnamon bun of branding- she turns brands into delicious bite sized pieces for consumers.

She discovered her own flavor through her work with nonprofits in the Providence area. Leaning more into the community side, she found business foodies who share the same passion for food and community. Her new objective is to assist neighborhood restaurant owners in creating a sense of community through shared culinary experiences.

Whenever she is not swimming in a sea of emails. She is most likely hiding in local coffee shops searching for the next thing to eat.

Matt Cavallaro is an industrial designer living and working in Providence. His professional experience ranges broadly to include designing both hard and soft goods for clients like the US Military, Target, and various start-ups. He is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design (2010) and has been a teacher in the Industrial Design department since 2014.

Matt has extensive knowledge within the design and production processes for cast iron goods and has worked to deepen this tactile knowledge over the past 14 years. He has founded and currently operates two businesses in the cast iron space, Nest Homeware (www.nesthomeware.com) and Ares Iron (www.aresiron.com), which produce cookware and furniture components, respectively.

Mel Rainsberger (she/her) has over eighteen years of experience in design, new technologies, and interactive media. Her client list includes AARP, WPI, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), CVS, Microsoft, Amazon, and the RI Secretary of State. She’s an expert in researching and communicating industry trends and comparable technology experiences; applying and driving design standards across all channels. 

Erin X. Smithers (she/her) is a Credit Risk Professional, freelance photographer, and content creator. Growing up in China, Erin had excellent mentors who taught her the importance of hard work, integrity, and service. Proud of her heritage, these qualities are in sync with her personal branding, her work ethic and within her daily life. Through her tenure working at Citizens Bank, she has worked Consumer Loan Specialty Servicing, Consumer Ops QA/QC, and Consumer Lending Risk Management; and currently she is part of the Consumer Credit Risk program office. As a freelance photographer and content creator, Erin’s work explores and expresses the essence and beauty of life and nature, as told through performances and storytelling. Erin has earned her journalism BA from China and her business degree from the States, and currently she is completing her MBA at Providence College.

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. 


City of Providence

CIC Providence