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The Fall Design Catalyst Program

July - December 2024

Looking for the Providence-based Spring Catalyst Program? Click here

The Program

The Fall 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 potential strategic growth milestones, and financial sustainability assessments. Read more about milestones and funding below.

All selected businesses must:

  • Participate in all development, skill-building classes over the course of July 2024-December 2024.
  • Participate in the final public presentation event.
  • Meet with their mentor weekly for the first 3 months of the program.
  • Schedule and attend 3 meetings with Catalyst’s financial advisor during the program.

All selected businesses will receive:

  • Access to Innovate Newport co-working space for the duration of the program.
  • A dedicated mentor to assist in specific growth goals.
  • Grant funds ranging from $1,500-$15,000 (contingent on attendance of all classes, completion of all associated coursework, and consistent meetings with mentor).

The Timeline

Applications open: April 16, 2024

Application Info Session: April 24, 2024

Applications Due: May 12, 2024

Program Starts: July 10, 2024

2024 Fall Design Catalyst Info Session

April 24th | 6 – 7 PM
Virtual

The Design Catalyst Program is returning for a second time in 2024! Questions? Concerns? Attend our virtual info session on Wednesday, April 24th to learn more about the program and application process. Sign up below!

Eligibility+

The Fall Design Catalyst Program eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Business owner(s) maintain a primary residence in the state of Rhode Island. 
  • Have an established creative or design micro-enterprise (five or fewer employees including the owner(s) / current interns, does not include unpaid interns or volunteers) based in Rhode Island.
  • Business must be a commercial enterprise (full-time student-owned businesses or nonprofits are not eligible).
  • Business owner(s) must be at or below the 80% income threshold as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Income eligibility is based on gross annual household income as filed in your 2023 taxes. To determine eligibility, add the income of all household members 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, 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’ 2023 returns or current financial statements). More on this in the application.
  • Businesses must accept the commitment to participate in the full program including attending classes, meeting with their mentor, submitting status reports, submitting reimbursement requests, engaging with their peers, and participating in the final showcase.
  • Previous Design Catalyst businesses are not eligible.
  • Business co-owners must reside in Rhode Island.

 

Eligibility

The Fall Design Catalyst Program eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • All business owner(s) must be of low-moderate income as determined by the RI department of Housing and Urban Development. CLICK HERE and reference the highlighted 80% line to confirm eligibility. Income eligibility is based on gross annual household income. To determine eligibility, add the income of all household members claimed on your taxes 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, 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’ 2023 returns or current financial statements).
  • Business owner(s) must maintain a primary residence in Rhode Island.
  • Participants must have an established creative or design micro-enterprise (five or fewer employees including the owner(s) / current interns)
  • Participating business must be a commercial enterprise (Student-owned businesses or nonprofits are not eligible).
  • Participants 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.

 

Program Schedule+

 

Date Time Event Location
July 10 TBD Program Orientation Innovate Newport
July 17 10am-4pm Class 1 Innovate Newport
July 24 9am-12pm Class 2 Virtual
July 25-30 Financial Advising Week 
July 31 10am-4pm Class 3 Innovate Newport
Aug 7 9am-12pm Class 4 Virtual
Aug 14 10am-3pm Class 5 Innovate Newport
Aug 21 9am-12pm Class 6 Virtual
Aug 28 10am-3pm Class 7 Innovate Newport
Aug 30 -Sept 3 Financial Advising Week
Sept 4 9am-12pm Class 8 Virtual
Sept 22 Funding Proposals Due
Oct 1 Funding announcement
Oct 4 Funding awarded
Oct 9 10am-4pm Class 9 Innovate Newport
Nov 13 9:30am-12:30pm Class 10 Virtual
Dec 11 TBD Final Presentation Innovate Newport

Program Schedule

Date Time Event Location
July 10 TBD Program Orientation Innovate Newport
July 17 10am-4pm

Class 1 
Entrepreneurial Mastery: Building Block Strategies for Success 

Innovate Newport
July 24 9:30am-12:30pm

Class 2
Legal Basics for Creative Businesses

Virtual
July 25-30 Financial Advising Week
July 31 10am-4pm

Class 3
Finance for Creatives

Innovate Newport
Aug 7 9:30am-12:30pm

Class 4
The Entrepreneurial Self: Vision, Mission, and You as a Business Owner

Virtual
Aug 14 10am-3pm

Class 5
Brand Identity

Innovate Newport
Aug 21 9:30am-12:30pm

Class 6
Marketing Strategy 

Virtual
Aug 28 10am-3pm

Class 7
Marketing Your Business

Innovate Newport
Aug 30 -Sept 3 Financial Advising Week
Sept 4 9:30am-12:30pm Check In Week Virtual
Sept 22 Funding Proposals Due
Oct 1 Funding announcement
Oct 4 Funding awarded
Oct 9 10am-4pm

Class 8
Presentation Workshop

Innovate Newport
Nov 13 9:30am-12:30pm

Class 9
Presentation Scrub

Virtual
Dec 11 TBD Final Presentation! Innovate Newport

Business Milestones and Funding

After completing the first eight business development classes and all associated coursework, grantees will be required to submit three strategic business growth milestones, along with a proposed grant budget supporting the achievement of each. Milestones will be crafted during the program, and submitted before/after the final workshop.

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.

These submissions will be reviewed and approved by our Catalyst Steering Committee. Based on these identified milestones and budgets you will be awarded funding to spend out over the remaining 3 months of the program (till December 2024). Please note that while you may submit a budget for each milestone, you may not necessarily receive the full amount of funding you request. The actual funding allocation will be determined by the Catalyst Steering Committee, taking into consideration the feasibility and impact of each milestone.

Fall 2024 PARTNERS

Real Jobs Rhode Island

Papitto Opportunity Connection

WHAT DESIGN CATALYST ALUMNI ARE SAYING

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

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS AS OF 2022

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

DxRI