Job Creators Q&A: Lisa Raiola

PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

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.

BUSINESSES LAUNCHED
2016: 39
2017: 53

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.”

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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.