1. Home
  2. /
  3. Programs and Events
  4. /
  5. Design Catalyst

The Spring Design Catalyst Program

January - May 2024

This year, we are running two rounds of the Design Catalyst Program. Spring Catalyst is currently underway, and applications for the Fall Catalyst Program launch on April 12th. The Fall Catalyst Program will be hosted in Newport, RI and is open to the entire state. Keep scrolling to learn more about the current Spring cohort, and click here to learn more about the Fall Catalyst Program.

2024 Spring Design Catalyst Showcasee

May 2nd | 6 – 8 PM
Providence Public Library | Ship Room | 150 Empire St, Providence, RI 02903

DESIGNxRI is thrilled to celebrate the 2024 Catalyst Cohort at the Catalyst Showcase! Join us on May 2nd at PPL’s Ship Room to meet the Cohort and learn more about their creative businesses.

The Program

The Spring Design Catalyst Program is a competitive, milestones-based grant program for Rhode Island creative businesses. This program provides seed capital, business mentorship, professional development training, and peer-to-peer networking. Creative businesses are selected after an application process involving interviews, reviews of growth milestones, and financial sustainability assessments. Business growth milestones are significant achievements or stages that a company reaches as it expands and develops. These milestones indicate the progress and success of the business. Examples can include: revenue goals, customer acquisition, physical space and program expansion, new hired employees. These milestones vary depending on the industry, business model, and goals of the company.

Spring 2024 Class Schedule+

There are two mandatory curriculum components of the Catalyst program: Workshop and Clinics. Workshops are full-day, in-person sessions at CIC Providence (10am–4pm) with a lunch break. Pre-work will be assigned to maximize workshop time. Clinics are single sessions with local experts. They run remotely on Wednesday afternoons from 4-7pm.

The following are dates for 2024 Catalyst workshops, clinics, and requisition deadlines:

Thurs, Dec 7th Orientation CIC Providence
Wed, Dec 13th 5 – 7PM Financial Advisory Hours Dwayne Keys Zoom
Thurs, Dec 21st 5 – 7PM Financial Advisory Hours Dwayne Keys Zoom
Tues, Jan 2nd 5 – 7PM Financial Advisory Hours Dwayne Keys Zoom
Thurs, Jan 4th 10AM – 2PM Requisition Paperwork #1 Workshop Session CIC Providence
Fri, Jan 12th
10AM – 4PM
Workshop #1 ‒ Entrepreneurial Strategies Kristine Merz CIC Providence
Weds, Jan 17th
4 – 7PM
Clinic #1 ‒ Competitive Analysis and Vision Adriana Dawson Virtual
Weds, Jan 31st 5 – 7PM Financial Advisory Hours Dwayne Keys Zoom
Sat, Feb 3rd 11AM – 1PM Financial Advisory Hours Dwayne Keys Zoom
Tues, Feb 6th
Requisition Paperwork #2 Due
Fri, Feb 9th
10AM – 4PM
Workshop #2 ‒ Business Development Dwayne Keys CIC Providence
Tues, Feb 13th
4 – 7PM
Clinic #2 ‒ Core Legal Concepts for Small Businesses C. Alexander Chiulli Virtual
Mon, March 4th 5 – 7 PM
Financial Advisory Hours Dwayne Keys Zoom
Tues, March 5th Requisition Paperwork #3 Due
Fri, March 8th
10AM – 4PM
Workshop #3 ‒ Cost Structure & Budget Kristine Merz CIC Providence
Weds, March 13th
10AM – 4PM

Clinic #3 ‒ Marketing Strategy Megan Boyaval Virtual
Tues, April 2nd Requisition Paperwork #4 Due
Fri, April 5th
10AM – 4PM
Workshop #4 ‒ Marketing your Design Business Galen Mooney CIC Providence
Weds, April 10th
4 – 7PM
Clinic #4 ‒ Pitching Your Business
Devin Samuels CIC Providence
Thurs, May 2nd Final Showcase Location TBD
Fri, May 10th Final Report Paperwork



Analiese Stinson
Feel Fine Jewelry

Analiese Stinson is a Providence-area artist and maker. She ended up in the jewelry field because of her love for detailed, well-made objects, and her appreciation for the sentimental side of life. After working as a jeweler in the luxury sector for almost a decade, Analiese started her own company Feel Fine Jewelry in 2019. Feel Fine focuses on two types of services:

  1. Working with clients, individuals and couples, to create meaningful custom pieces of heirloom quality.
  2. Providing small-scale manufacturing services to local designers — streamlining their production without losing the uniqueness and quality of their brand.

Andreas von Sachsen-Altenburg
Storytime Online

Storytime Online is an EdTech social venture that gives children, families and educators around the world affordable access to interactive children’s books in diverse languages. Our mission is to provide early literacy resources to underserved minority language populations, promote cultural education, preserve cultural heritage, and enable authors and artists to share and earn from their work across cultures globally.

Andreas is a German-American entrepreneur with a diverse background in supporting startups, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and companies across the USA, LatAm, Africa and Europe. His experience spans marketing, early-stage strategy, digital product development and international business development. Committed to social impact, his ventures aim to apply disruptive innovation theory to address large-scale market challenges.

Ayumi Kodama

Ayumiya started as a creative home for two sisters, Ayumi and Miya. The “-ya” in Ayumiya translates to “dwelling,” a place where objects, space, and experience are brought together. 

Ayumi [i-you-me] is an artist and a designer, who holds an MFA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design. Influenced by her graphic design background, she works with a variety of materials including glass, fiber, wood, and paper. She strives to create work that tells a personal story.

Ayumiya does not limit itself to specific materials but rather commits to listening to each one, deriving—not prescribing—processes.

Casandra Inez & Spocka

Cas and Spocka both grew up and live in Providence. They are self-taught curators, artists, and entrepreneurs. Together, they opened Public in 2019; a community and creative space in the Olneyville neighborhood where they host art exhibitions, workshops, and curate gatherings. By providing people from a racially, economically, or oppressed background with more economic opportunities utilizing their creative skills, they are helping shape an inclusive and diverse art scene.


Erminio Pinque

BIG NAZO LAB is an international, larger-than-life-sized performance group and Creature-making studio based in Providence that employs a variety of puppet, mask and wearable sculpture techniques to create audience interactive creature theatre.

Erminio Pinque
Erminio Pinque is a performance artist, puppet & prop fabricator and the Artistic Director of BIG NAZO LAB. 

He’s a Rhode Island School of Design Illustration Alumni and has been a RISD Instructor in FAV from 1987-2018 and teaches creature fabrication techniques to students of all ages. 

Mason Hainey

If there was a word to describe Mason Hainey’s creative style, it would be “curious”. 

Since 2012, Mason Hainey has served as Founder and Creative Director of M.Hainey ( formerly known as MIZU ), an all natural perfume and lifestyle brand, located in East Greenwich. Prior to his work at M.Hainey, Mason studied at Maine College of Art, with a focus on fashion design, before ultimately dropping out as a sophomore, to pursue his own label full time. In the time since, his work has been worn on the red carpet and featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and GQ among others. When he is not designing, Mason loves to find inspiration in the natural world, usually hiking or mountain climbing with his Blue Heeler pup, River.

Rhode Island based artist Renee Metro has been honing her stained glass fabrication skills since 1998. She draws inspiration from color, light and the works of Frank Lloyd Wright. “I feel like I’ve done a bit of everything and having that versatility applies nicely, especially to stained glass.” Renee’s work can be found at the artists’ cooperative, Hotpoint Emporium in Bristol, RI and also online at fulcrumstainedglass.com. Be sure to check out her new storefront, opening April 1st, 2023 at 2699 Post Road Warwick, RI 02886 if you’d like to take a class or purchase supplies.

Fulcrum Stained Glass
Fulcrum Stained Glass is a Rhode Island based stained glass design and fabrication studio dedicated to solid craftsmanship with an inclination to making glass more functional in today’s world.

Siobhan Marie
Blue Tomato Studio

Siobhan Marie Doherty is the founder of Blue Tomato Studio, which offers creativity coaching, joy facilitation, and feminist historical comedy.  Empowering others to share their voices more effectively has led her to working with clients as wide ranging as Stanford University, Mozilla Firefox, SFO Airport, and Each One Reach One.

A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, she also has 15+ years of teaching and performing in professional theater in NYC & SF. She believes that everyone is wildly creative and is passionate about work that meets the heavy parts of life with humor, honesty, and purposeful play.

Blue Tomato Art
Blue Tomato Studio offers creativity coaching, joy facilitation, and feminist historical comedy. Visit bluetomato.art

Tyler Bisson
Audio Geography

Tyler Bisson is an audio engineer and musician. Audio recording and record collecting have always been both personal and professional interests. He has worked full time for his own company, Audio Geography, since 2012, making lathe-cut records. The record cutting business has connected his love of the DIY music scene, his belief in physical media, and his skill in the mechanics of audio production, while allowing him the flexibility to explore his own musical endeavors.

Audio Geography
Audio Geography is an audio engineering studio focused on creating small run lathe-cut records and cassette tapes. Audio Geography serves bands and musicians who lack access to traditional record production due to exorbitant startup costs.


Hello! My name is Therese Iacono and I am a professional wedding & portrait photographer based out of Providence, Rhode Island. I have been photographing weddings, families and businesses around the New England area & beyond since 2012. Some of the businesses I have worked for include New England Construction, Garden City Center and Pawswatch. I have been featured in magazines such as Engaged and Hill & Harbour. In my spare time, I enjoy kayaking and going to comedy shows!

Reimbursement Grants

A reimbursement grant means that accepted businesses receive the funds only after you’ve incurred the costs for purchased items, services, etc. Accepted businesses will need to submit expenses for review in order to receive reimbursement. Applicants should be aware of the following:

    • Accepted businesses will need to submit expenses for review in order to receive reimbursement. 
    • Expenses must meet the guidelines provided by our funders.
    • Expenses must relate and contribute to reaching stated application milestones. 
    • Businesses may have to hold up to $5,000 worth of debt for up to 10 weeks while waiting for reimbursements to be processed. (Note that this $ amount is greatly dependent upon the amount of grant award the business receives.) * Make note in the last question of the application if you are interested in or would need help identifying other resources while you have to wait for the funds.


    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

    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.

    Clinic 3: Marketing Strategy

    Galen Mooney is a web designer, educator, and marketing strategist helping creative business owners attract their ideal clients online. She combines design best practices with personalized marketing strategies to help businesses connect with clients they love. Galen is the founder of Local Creative, a web design agency specializing in personality-driven design and small business marketing. With over 10 years of experience in the industry, Galen is an accomplished writer, speaker, and virtual event host passionate about sharing what she’s learned through her blog and video content.

    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


    Providence City seal depicting when the city was founded and incorporated<br />

    City of Providence

    Real Jobs Rhode Island

    CIC Providence

    Rhode Island Commerce

    Eastern Bank

    Campus Fine Wines


    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

    The grant program has helped me to think about my business for its possibilities, not as a static thing. I had not taken the time to reflect on the story of my brand, how it has evolved, and the service that I really offer - the program made me see so much more. With this new self-knowledge, I feel positioned to update my storytelling and make my next steps with an eye to increased profitability and work-life balance.

    -Rachel Robinson, Robinson Press 2022

    “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 $1.2 million invested directly into Rhode Island design businesses ($1.6 million including program resources)

    58 business mentors in total have been engaged from the Rhode Island business community

    50% of participant businesses developed a new product line during the program

    100% of businesses expected to extend an existing product line and/or offerings in the next year

    50% of businesses added staff capacity with interns, freelancers, part-time, or full-time employment

    81 design businesses in total have completed this accelerator program

    87% of businesses had their own workspace or studio by the end of the program

    62% of participant businesses increased their profits during the program