ALL THAT GLITTERS: Amy Beth, left, from Maggie Models, wears some of Fashion In Prov’s designs. Fashion In Prov CEO Laura Conte, right, will be attending the Matchmaker Fair in hopes of getting a cash infusion for her business.
The Matchmaker Fair scheduled for Oct. 4 in Warwick could also be called “speed dating for small business,” said Mark S. Hayward, Rhode Island district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“It’s a 15-minute opportunity for someone who has a business plan or wants to take a business to the next level to meet one on one with a commercial lender,” said Hayward. “That gives them 15 minutes to say, ‘This is who I am. This is what I do. This is what I want.’
“This is different than anything we’ve ever done,” said Hayward. “We always put lenders and potential borrowers together, but this is the first time we’ve done it in a speed-dating method.”
Fashion In Prov CEO Laura Conte is going for it at the Matchmaker Fair – she’s clear on who she is as a jewelry designer and wholesaler and is ready to take her business to the next level so she can increase design, sales and distribution.
Her company is only three months old, but she’s learned the jewelry business from members of her family and already has relationships with manufacturers in China – so she has to produce.
“I’m facing a very pivotal decision,” said Conte. “Interest in my products is increasing, and I’m attending the SBA event to see if I can get capital to hire people.
“As a small-business owner, I wear all the hats now. I really need to hire people full time for sample-making,” said Conte. “After I come up with a design, I have to have samples – one for me, one for the customer and one for the factory in China.”
As a wholesaler, Conte works in big orders for her designs for jewelry, including earrings, watches and belts. She’s also building her brand of embellished apparel, like a vest she made of beads and chains that took 55 hours to complete. The woven vest, which she created by looping beads and linking them to chains, is part of a collection she plans to introduce at Style Week in Providence in January.
“I’m doing a bit of juggling right now,” said Conte, who has her design studio in a mill in Pawtucket. “I have to cover rent and supplies, and when I have an order from a catalog customer, I might have to have 50,000 pieces of jewelry in three months.