WARWICK, RI - The — RI Developmental Disabilities Council (RIDDC) wrapped up the year with over 25 new businesses launched through their Self-Employment Program in 2021, many of whom participated in Small Business Saturday Shop RI (SBSSHOPRI).
Despite the usual limitations of staff and money, plus the added restrictions of COVID-19 among a widely immune-compromised community, the RIDDC Self-Employment Program, which was formed in conjunction with SBSSHOPRI, initiated virtual training, networking and outreach programs to continue their progress.
SBSSHOPRI expanded its investment in assisting entrepreneurs with disabilities by developing a series of eight, free business classes to aspiring small business owners. The program enlists professionals within the business community who teach start-up classes, finance, marketing and business planning as well as offer one-on-one technical assistance to support the participants and to help them overcome employment challenges, ranging from physical to practical issues, such as a lack of technology and resources for equipment and supplies. In addition, business pitch contests have encouraged business development, teamwork and rehearsals that are critical to effective meetings and every sales presentation. Since its inception, the project has also awarded mini-grants to program participants, while creating opportunities for direct sales at select local markets, and re-ignited RI’s small business community to display their products at their annual event, SBSSHOPRI.
In its fifth year, Small Business Saturday Shop RI was designed to create a holiday shopping venue for the RIDDC’s entrepreneurs. Focusing on diversity and inclusion, the event also includes many small business owners - a wide variety of artists and artisans selling online, at local farmers’ markets and within brick-and-mortar shops.
Nationally celebrated, RIDDC is the first state-funded organization to create the one day, pop-up mall experience, which included 165 vendors, including twenty-six entrepreneurs with disabilities, veterans, and many minority-owned businesses. This year, a record breaking 3,000 holiday shoppers gathered for Small Business Saturday Shop RI (SBSSHOPRI), which returned to its former in-person venue at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, RI.
Beyond the local recognition both programs have garnered, individual business owners and graduates of the business series program, have received accolades locally and internationally. Among them, Michael and Sheila Coyne, of Red, White and Brew coffee shop and The Budding Violet, a retail consignment shop for other small businesses, including other RIDDC program graduates, have been featured local and network television stories for their business, their social enterprise concept and their pay-it-forward support of Michael’s cohorts. As a person with autism, Michael nonetheless is the gregarious and industrious cashier, customer service rep, while mom, Sheila, is the hands-on, daily operations manager, with other family members pitching in. In just two years, they have private labelled their own coffee and sold their items as far away as Washington, and received items for the store to sell as far away as England.
Another dynamic mother-son duo, Deb and Jason Wood of We Be Jammin’ launched a creative line of jams, jellies and salsas, favored by Jason, and worthy of The Providence Journal’s recent front page food section. The business has now grown to sales of over $105,000.00 annually.
Similarly, mom and daughter team, Claudia and Katie Lowe, specialize in hand-made greeting cards under the banner of Cheetah Greetings, born out of Katie’s passion for the craft as well as making people happy; they, too have appeared in local television features.
“The program focuses on providing resources to the community, an expanding community,” acknowledges Sue Babin, project director for the RIDDC’s Self Employment Project. “The success and growth come with our thanks to the Rhode Island State Department of Labor and Training, Rhode Island Small Business Association, The Center for Women and Enterprise, the Rhode Island Small Business Development Centers, and community organizations providing supports to people with disabilities. The opportunity to demonstrate the value that entrepreneurs with disabilities can contribute to RI’s economic community has been impressive and has established RI as a replicable model for self-employment nationally!”
Looking ahead to 2022, RIDDC has begun to focus its energies into forming coalitions on behalf of its other projects, such as housing, and supportive decision-making. Planning is underway for a variety of meetings, events, and conferences between local organizations, those who benefit from their services, and their families and support networks.
The Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council (RIDDC) believes that people with developmental disabilities should fully participate in community life. Men, women, and children should be able to enjoy family life. Children and adolescents should go to school. Adults should work. All should have decent homes, have friends, and live as independently as possible.
Name: Deb Morais
Email: Send Email
Organization: Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council
Address: 400 Bald Hill Road, Suite 515 Warwick, RI 02886
Phone: (401) 286-6666
Release ID: 89061773