HOMEGROWN: Brenda Brock, founder and CEO Farmaesthetics, at Maplewood Farm in Portsmouth. Brock has been named Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
COURTESY FREDERIC LAGRANGE
By Rhonda J. Miller
There’s no point telling Brenda Brock that the number of small businesses in Rhode Island has declined over the past few years as they’ve succumbed to state and national economic pressures.
Brock is busy with her Newport-based Farmasethetics line of all natural skin-care products being used in world-class spas, including the Ocean House in Westerly’s Watch Hill, some of the Four Seasons hotels in Florida and California, and her latest customer, the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego.
Wholesale growth is up about 28 percent, the Farmaesthetics shop on Bellevue Avenue is up about 50 percent and e-commerce is up about 15 percent – strong results for a 14-year-old company whose mission is “to preserve open space and bring attention to rural American traditions for health and beauty.”
Consumer interest in natural products and sustainability caught up with Brock’s vision, as has recognition by the business community.
Brock has been named Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. She was scheduled to be recognized at the Annual Rhode Island Salute to Small Business at the Alpine Country Club in Cranston on June 12 and at the national SBA ceremonies in Washington, Dec. July 21. She is one of the winners representing the 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. One of them will be named National Small Business Person of the Year.
Brock’s business success and recognition symbolizes what some might describe as “the strong will to survive” nature of small business in the economic chaos of the past few years.
Rhode Island has between 70,000 and 90,000 small businesses, with that overall number declining by a few thousand over the past four years, according to Rhode Island Small Business Administration District Director Mark S. Hayward. That’s in line with the nationwide trend, he said.
The SBA categorizes businesses of up to 500 employees as a small business. Many small businesses in the state are made up of one or two people and 73 percent of businesses in Rhode Island have less than 20 employees, he said.
“I think overall, small businesses are weathering the storm and for the most part, making it through a difficult economy,” said Hayward. “Those that still exist are modifying what they do to be able to survive. “Cash is the lifeblood of a small business, so some are giving discounts for cash to keep up the cash flow. Some are modifying services or products,” said Hayward. “You’ll hear the word ‘diversification’ a lot when it comes to sustainability of small business.”