Metro, News

Design Catalyst grant program relaunches for 2019-20

Program to give $185,000 to local design businesses, professional development

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, October 11, 2019

In an effort to spur creativity within the local economy, Providence has re-launched the Providence Design Catalyst program to provide grant funding to small, design-oriented businesses.

Design Catalyst has $185,000 in capital to distribute for the coming year in individual grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to design businesses founded in Providence. In addition to funding, the program also provides business mentorship and professional development programs.

The grant program is run by DESIGNxRI, a nonprofit organization that aims to grow Rhode Island’s design business community and provide opportunities for local design professionals.

“We want to push for investment in small Providence businesses,” said Catherine Chung, program and events manager of DESIGNxRI.

Since Design Catalyst’s initial launch in 2015, the grant program has provided mentorship for 39 small local businesses and invested $846,000 in these start-ups. The program is funded by the city of Providence, the Cambridge Innovation Center and Real Jobs Rhode Island, a branch of the state’s Department of Labor and Training.

This year, the Real Jobs program will contribute up to about $50,000 to Design Catalyst, said Alyssa Alvarado, program director of Real Jobs RI, in an event for DESIGNxRI. Although most of Design Catalyst’s funding comes from the city of Providence, Real Jobs RI provides financial support specifically for training and mentoring, Alvarado said.

Applications for a Design Catalyst grant will be open until Nov. 4 and then reviewed by a committee of Design Catalyst members led by DESIGNxRI, she added. To qualify for the grant, the applicant must be a small business consisting of five people or less, and those people must qualify as “low-income,” which the application defines as at or below 80 percent area median income, according to DESIGNxRI’s website.

“We look for what positive economic contribution they can make to the city, but we also ask them about what aspect of mentorship they need,” Chung said when describing the application review process.

Under Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s tenure, the city’s government has emphasized Providence’s creative potential and its room for growth. This program aims to foster businesses that can capitalize on that potential and support the city’s development.

“Mayor Elorza wants the Providence Design Catalyst program to support Providence’s world-class design talent,” as well as “cultivate and develop their business skills for long-term success,” wrote Victor Morente, Elorza’s press secretary, in an email to The Herald. “Amazing artists are the reason why Providence is known far and wide as the Creative Capital and the program helps participants showcase their talents and connects them with successful business mentors, support and resources,” Morente wrote.

Cambridge Innovation Center General Manager Rebecca Webber also hopes these businesses will stay in Providence as they grow. “We don’t want designers and great thinkers to feel they have to hike up the 95 to Boston or head down to New York to grow a business. They can and should build their business here,” she said.

Chung is excited to see what the 2019-2020 cohort will bring. Whether they range from “filmmakers to graphic designers,” she hopes they learn from each other as much as they will from their mentors or instructors.

“There is a hotbed of design activity here,” Chung said. “It’s not called the ‘Creative Capital’ for nothing.”

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