Lisa Raiola | Founder, Hope & Main
Is Rhode Island a good place to grow jobs? Why? Yes, it’s a fantastic place to grow jobs because we are a small-business state with remarkable diversity for our size, which enables new ideas to take root and have a good shot at visibility.
If government could do one thing to help businesses grow jobs, what would it be and why? Assisting small businesses with capital. We do a good job creating capital and tax incentives for large businesses and not such a good job for small businesses. … The private banking sector here, similarly, has not responded to that need.
What’s the most important attribute a business leader needs to grow their business and add jobs? It’s grit and persistence. I am the sum total of my mistakes. I find myself coaching small-business owners and the best advice I can give them is … to keep digging deep within themselves if they really want something. … In an incubator setting … we tell people, “Fail fast and move on.”
In which industry do you see the greatest potential for job growth in Rhode Island and why? We are experiencing explosive enthusiasm in food. … I see this landscape expanding very rapidly. The job growth we’ve had is small by comparison, but comes from a lot of small businesses trying to launch and scale. … In the last year, two more incubators launched in Rhode Island. When I look at how many businesses we’ve launched in three years – over 150 – not all are going to be successful or create tons of jobs, but they are creating momentum and interest.
How has Hope & Main built out its own staff over the past year? Every hire we make is focused on [facilitating] member success. The challenge we have is that small-business support organizations existed when we started Hope & Main – chambers of commerce, Center for Women & Enterprise, Polaris MEP – but none focused on food.
We need a full range of staff because we are assisting people from recipe to product to brand to business.
How does Hope & Main continue to inspire the launch of small food businesses in Rhode Island? The secret sauce is, unlike other [business-assistance organizations], Hope & Main members make their product here. They see each other every day, night, weekend – it’s like being in college. A lot of the learning and growing that goes on is within that community.