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volume seven issue four





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volume seven issue four

INSIDE THIS ISSUE 9 4 Uses Of Technology for Company Success


10 Small Business Person of the Year 11 Young Entrepreneur of the Year 12 Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year 13 Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year 14 Home-Based Small Business of the Year 15 Financial Services Champion


16 Microenterprise of the Year 17 Rhode Island District Director Award 18 Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year


19 Joseph G. E. Knight Award 20 Small Business Exporter of the Year 21 Family-Owned Small Business of the Year 22 National Subcontractor of the Year

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4 Uses Of Technology That Drive Company Success | SMALL BUSINESS






Drive Company Success by Bryan B Mason

Small companies typically look at technology as a necessary but unwanted expense. Often, systems were acquired one at a time to fulfill a need or solve a problem and don’t talk to each other. The objective has been to minimize costs rather than drive sales or provide information for decision making. I suggest the following uses of technology that I believe are critical to company success: Drive Sales – You want to use technology to provide the right information at the right time to prospective customers and be able to identify which potential customers need your time depending on where they are in the Customer Journey (see last’s months article on this topic). Deliver Best in Class Service – In this day in age, you need great customer service if you want to have lots of repeat business and just as importantly – great customer reviews and recommendations. So you need technology to be able to provide a 360 degree view of the customer – purchase history, contact history, open issues for resolution, next steps, etc. Enable Operational Efficiency – You want to minimize duplicate data entry (e.g. having to enter customer name and address in more than one system). You want to have your technology support optimized work flows. You need consistent information between systems so everyone knows what needs to be done. You want information to be the same between your operational systems (items and inventory) and your online retail store.

Support Management Decision Making – You need information on what is going on so you can spot trends. You need easy access to what is selling and not selling. You need to know which sales people are performing and which are not. Most importantly, you need to track the key metrics that drive your company’s success (understanding that these are different for each company). So you ask yourself, how do I get from where I am to where I want to be with technology? The answer, of course, is that you need to develop and execute a technology plan. A technology plan identifies the target end state and lays out the steps to get there. Having one minimizes the transition costs as work proceeds in a logical and deliberate process. It also minimizes misdirection as the end state is already defined. Some of the key components of a successful technology plan include: • • • • • •

A map of how data flows throughout the company An evaluation of current systems An identification of gaps in functionality and inefficiencies The identification of potential solutions A target technology end state The sequence of steps and costs to transition from the current state to the future state

If you don’t think you can do this on your own, get some help. After all, it is critical to your company’s success. Mr. Mason founded the Apollo Consulting Group in 2008 to help small and midsized companies in solving their challenges. Mr. Mason brings over thirty years of corporate, consulting and entrepreneurial experience in a variety of industries. He possesses skills in general business management, analysis, strategy development, marketing, finance/budgeting, operations, pricing optimization, workflow optimization, process reengineering, project management, and information technology. Mr. Mason has two degrees in Economics and was a Volunteer Mentor for the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RI-CIE). He writes a weekly blog on his company website at

Bryan B Mason

Principal The Apollo Consulting Group LLC | volume seven issue four



Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year

Kelly Mendell Leading the way for RI Small Business Kelly Mendell is the president and majority owner of MIKEL, a woman-owned, leading undersea warfare technology company in Middletown. In 1999, Kelly’s father, Brian Guimond, started MIKEL, in 2002 Kelly joined him, and by 2008 she was the company’s president. Kelly’s journey began at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she majored in engineering and began interning in a machine shop gaining hands-on experience in manufacturing, planning, materials, and quality control. Kelly graduated from UMASS with her BS in Industrial Engineering and from Babson College with an MBA. Kelly would go on to work for companies including Polaroid, Gillette, and Raytheon as both an industrial engineer and manufacturing manager. In 2002, after the birth of her daughter Laura, Kelly joined MIKEL as the Managing Director. Kelly was responsible for managing all aspects of the business including billing, payroll, contracts, accounting, benefits, financial tracking, sales, and marketing. A few years later, after her second child, Max was born, the work-life balance became even more demanding and included many trips and long evenings of work after her children went to bed. Mendell persevered, making strategic personnel decisions during a time of economic downturn and was moved into the role of President. Kelly reflected on the difficult decisions she had to make in 2008, “We had to do layoffs and that’s what really motivated me to grow because we have a family atmosphere here and I feel a sense of obligation to these people I’m hiring.” She continued, “I want to make sure they have jobs for a long time that are challenging, interesting, and good paying. It’s not pleasant to lay off people that you care for


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and are good workers, so I decided that I didn’t want to ever be in that situation again.”

security because companies have to keep up with the market demands to stay alive and viable.

To ensure her company’s future would be stable Mendell reached out to SBA resource partners, SCORE and The Center for Women & Enterprise. She began working with SCORE on how to win government contracts while using her CWE counseling to focus on presentation, speaking, marketing, documentation, and professionalism.

In Kelly’s spare time she holds a leadership role on the executive board for SENEDIA, which promotes the defense business in Southeast New England, STEM in schools, and increases the visibility and education for those in the defense sector. Kelly has also sat on panels for the National Conference on Women-Owned Businesses discussing her Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) success story, and Small Businesses Association of New England (SBANE).

These essential educational and personnel decisions allowed MIKEL to garner crucial government contracts that would keep them in the black from 2008 through today. “I was really motivated to grow,” said Mendell, “I wanted our company to rise and I wanted to bring stability to our business at a time when defense was not stable and we had a lot of uncertainty with our programs,” she added. Due to Kelly’s leadership MIKEL was able to stay successful during one of the most difficult economic periods in national history and by the time 2015 had come MIKEL had grown to 110 employees. Today the company employs over 175 engineers, logisticians, technicians and developers and hopes to continue to provide even more challenging jobs in the future. “The key to growth is to do a really great job on your current work.” In conjunction with this philosophy, MIKEL is on the lookout to work in other high growth areas in the DoD like the unmanned domain and cyber

For her demonstrated success and potential for future growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Kelly B. Mendell, President of MIKEL, as the 2018 Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year.


Rhode Island Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Dr. Johnny Luo “I wanted to create a healthcare system that I would be happy to be not only a provider but a patient in” A lifetime of education led Dr. Johnny Luo to the graduation stage of Brown Medical School, clinical training in North Smithfield, and into the lives of his patients. Dr. Luo was prepared to treat their illnesses and injuries but he was certainly not prepared to explain health insurance. More often than not, Dr. Luo found himself helping Medicare eligible patients understand the various plans as part of his daily routine especially as the Affordable Care Act was being implemented. Frustrated with the lack of clear education about these plans, Dr. Luo made the decision to no longer pursue clinical medicine but start educating people on how to make the best decision for their healthcare. Doctor’s Choice was born as a resource to help individuals make an educated decision regarding Medicare health plan coverage. “It was never about the degree or the pride of being a doctor it was really about healing healthcare,” said Dr. Luo, “I’m really passionate about healthcare but more selfishly I wanted to create a healthcare system that I would be happy to be not only a provider but a patient in,” he added. Doctor’s Choice operates as a “choice model” brokerage, meaning they’re not tied to any particular insurance company. This allows Doctor’s Choice to offer as many competitive Medicare health plan options as possible while providing the guidance to help individuals decide which option is most suitable for them. Doctor’s

Choice is paid a fee from the insurance companies they work with to help their customers with enrollment, and this model allows their consultations to be free of charge. As a testament to how difficult these healthcare plans can be to maneuver, Dr. Luo has seen tremendous growth, tripling the size of his Warwick office, expanding his services to 23 states, and hiring six new employees in the last year. He has also published a book, “The Retiree’s Guide to Medicare”, as well as expanded his services to work with some of the largest employers to help educate retirees as well as family members of employees. “There is no lack of information out there, the government gives you a giant book

every single year called “Medicare and you”, it’s very comprehensive,” said Luo, “the problem is that people are not looking for more information, what people are really looking for is actual guidance. What we do that’s different from anywhere else is that we do a full analysis of each market that we’re in, we take a look at who’s enrolling in what, and also the experience they are having –whether they’re happy with their plan or not- and we end up being able to recommend plans based on a person’s specific medical conditions, what drugs they take, how comfortable they are with risk, as well as what their lifestyle looks like.” While Dr. Luo’s age may dictate youth, his wisdom and understanding of both business and life is anything but, “While Dr. Luo’s age may dictate youth, his wisdom and understanding of both business and life is anything but. “Savor the journey that gets you to the next level,” he said, “The journey is what makes everything you work for worth it. Never settle because you can always do more, give more and accomplish more, and in the end enjoy more. This is the distinguishing factor between the life you want to live and the life you deserve to live.” For his demonstrated success and potential for future growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Dr. Johnny Luo, President of Doctor’s Choice, as the 2018 Rhode Island Young Entrepreneur the issue Year.four 11 | volume of seven


Rhode Island Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year

Tienda Alinary

Patience, Determination and Community: Alba Rios’ Recipe for Success Born in Colombia, Alba Lucia Rios immigrated to the United States in 2001, settling in Rhode Island where she met her husband Manuel Grajales. Together, their goal was to own a business, to prosper and be successful. In 2007, they began taking steps toward that goal by purchasing Tienda Alinary, a retail establishment providing specialty Colombian products to the community. Under Alba’s ownership the store continued to prosper until, in 2008, the building she rented was foreclosed upon. The economic downturn proved harsh as Alba fought to continue her business’ existence. Understanding the significance of her location, and what the 24 year history of Tienda Alinary meant to her community, Alba began searching for guidance. She contacted the Small Business Development Center and The Center for Women & Enterprise, inquiring about how to access the capital she needed to purchase the building. Working with Sandra McNamara she began educating herself on how to acquire what she needed. Over the course of that year Alba began approaching lenders but got used to the common answer of “No”; frustrated but unwavering she approached Pawtucket Credit Union and finally heard the “Yes” she had been waiting for. With the funds in hand Alba purchased the building from the bank. Over the next three years Alba and Manuel began renovating the property. Facing heft improvement bills they began expanding Tienda Alinary’s offerings; first was the addition of the bakery. Every morning Manuel would bake the bread before going upstairs to work on repairs. Next was the addition of the restaurant and full breakfast offering, and before long the demand grew for a lunch menu as well. To address another community need they also began offering shipping services, allowing those looking to ship something back to their native


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country the opportunity to do so in a streamlined, culturally friendly process. A community hub, many people come to Tienda Alinary looking for legal advice or a recommendation for a doctor. Rios’ understands the role her business plays and does what she can to refer those looking for help in the right direction. Often her support is more subtle, a bowl of soup to someone in need, a credit line to those who may be a little short that day - always with an understanding that community is about support, and a business can do so much more towards that end than simply being a place to shop. Proud of her success, Alba still stays grounded, choosing to focus on those who have helped her succeed. She continues to thank Alinary Salavarrieta - who had owned Tienda Alinary for 24 years before selling to Alba - for creating the community landmark the store has become. Alba also feels a deep connection with Sandra Cano, whose friendship and emotional support means so much to her. Mostly, she wants to share her message of success with those in her community, “If you want to succeed in your business you can, but first of all do things right. Get informed, there is plenty of help in the state, but you have to reach out and if you reach out and do the right things you are going to succeed with patience and determination.” Her message of success continues to be strengthened by her service to her community, a community that supports Alba right back. For her demonstrated success, community support and potential for continued growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Alba Lucia Rios, Owner of Tienda Alinary, as the 2018 Rhode Island Minority Small Business Owner of the Year.


New England Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Carol Dancer


A bsorbent S pecialty P roducts

C o n t i n u e To Tr a n s f o r m B a r r i e r s I n t o O p p o r t u n i t y Adversity is a fact of life for small business owners, never has a business opened its doors without obstacles immediately baring their teeth; Carol Dancer’s small business journey is no exception. Prior to Absorbent Specialty Products becoming a reality, Carol and her father, Perry, were in business as manufacturers of industrial absorbent materials made from paper mill sludge and landfill waste. In 2001, they lost the business to a devastating fire.

you, you kind of turn it around and say I can do it, I know we can make it fly,” she added. For her demonstrated success and potential for future growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Carol Dancer, President of Absorbent Specialty Products, as the 2018 New England Woman Small Business Owner of the Year.

Hurt but determined, Carol and her father began again by seeking out financial partners for a new venture. They soon founded the new company and before long realized their partners had other than honorable motivations. Over the next three years the partners drove the business into disarray, causing Carol and Perry to leave the company. Undeterred, Carol branched off on her own, taking the knowledge she had gained over years of entrepreneurship and opened the doors to Absorbent Specialty Products. Dancer began Absorbent Specialty Products modestly, focusing on the niche of mortuary reconstruction products. Before long they began receiving requests from customers of the business Carol had left. They were looking for someone who could supply acid and base neutralizers now that the supplier had closed. Carol began manufacturing these neutralizer products for liquid chemical spills immediately, building her customer base. As Absorbent Specialty Products began to grow so did the scope of what the business produced. Dancer began focusing on her next offering, working on the early stages of what would become the Quick Dam product line. Quick Dam products offer homeowners, hospitals, and hotels the opportunity to stop flooding before it happens. Too often water damage is a reactive issue, demanding hefty restoration prices that may or may not be covered by insurance. Quick Dam offers multiple protective options from potential disastrous damage. Dancer’s new line had a dramatic effect on Absorbent Specialty Products, skyrocketing sales over 500% from 2012 to 2017. Carol continues to focus on her three most successful areas of mortuary reconstruction, neutralizers, and Quick Dam products. It is fitting that Dancer’s success comes from the creation of barriers; while she has created barriers to protect homes from disaster, she has faced so many barriers and adversity in her professional life and continued to come out the other side even stronger. “It gives you a drive; I’m going to do it with or without you,” said Dancer, “When people are thinking you can’t do it, or they’re taking the opportunities away from

Photo: Carol Dancer (front) and her staff at Absorbent Specialty Products | volume seven issue four



Rhode Island Home-Based Small Business of the Year

Stony Hill Cattle Company

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART AND BUSINESS ARE The owners of Stony Hill Cattle Company, Kim Coulter, William Coulter, Nina Luchka, and Joshua Coulter, raise beef cattle, hogs, turkey, broiler chickens and layer hens. They are fully licensed and insured to sell their beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and eggs, as well as their value-added products such as bacon, sausage, and frankfurters to the public through their farm stand and farmers markets. While Stony Hill’s present offerings are impressive, their story began in 1955, when Kim Coulter and Nina Luchka’s grandparents, Benjamin and Emily Luchka, purchased a dairy farm. Benjamin, Emily, and their two sons worked the farm until 1960 when they sold the dairy herd and purchased beef cattle. By 1985, the Luchkas began selling their meat products to friends and family members. Before long, word of mouth spread about the quality products available at the Luchka farm. Without intending the Luchkas found a new avenue of revenue, and with it a way of aiding in keeping the farm operational. In 1996, Kim and Nina lost their father, Kenneth. Though distraught the sisters were thrust into their father’s day-to-day responsibilities. They quickly began focusing on growing the herd of cattle as well as the number of hogs they raised while also purchasing layer hens to expand their public offerings to include farm fresh eggs. In 2007, Kim and Nina bought their uncle’s share of the farm, believing strongly in keeping Stony Hill farm in one piece.


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It was during this time that Kim and her husband William began working with six other farm families to start the Rhode Island Raised Livestock Association. Together, the group worked with the Rhode Island Department of Health and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Agriculture Division, to bring about updated guidelines so that farmers could sell directly to the public, restaurants and public institutions. This act has directly led to farms in Rhode Island tripling in number while helping to usher in restaurants featuring local, farm-raised meats, fruits, and vegetables. Like many farms, revenue can have drastic fluctuations yearto-year. To ensure Stony Hill could withstand any unforeseen mishap they applied for a SBA Business Line of Credit for $25,000. The credit gives a safeguard against any herd loss or potential crippling economic disaster. While Stony Hill is in business to make money, their values and priorities are that of the land, “We are farmers and we are landowners,” said William Coulter, “but most important, we are stewards of the land. It is our job to protect our natural resources,” he added. For their demonstrated success and growth potential, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Kim M. Coulter, William A. Coulter, Nina L. Luchka, Joshua A. Coulter, Owners of The Stony Hill Cattle Company, as the 2018 Rhode Island Home-Based Small Business of the Year.

New England Financial Services Champion


Buck Harris

Vice President of Community Lending at Community Investment Corporation “Over the last several years of working with Buck, I have seen him go to great lengths to help small businesses get the financing they need,” said Joshua Daly, Director of the Southern Region of the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center. Those who know Buck know all too well that phrases like the one above are commonplace when discussing him. Since spearheading Community Investment Corporation’s (CIC) offerings in Rhode Island, Harris has quickly launched ICC into both the number one SBA Micro-lender and Community Advantage Lender. Often Harris goes above and beyond to provide potential small business owners with every opportunity to acquire the capital they need. In most cases these borrowers are out of the realm of conventional lenders and, without Harris and CIC, would have no other options. “Small business loans are life changing for people who cannot otherwise get the financing they need to open or grow a small business” said Harris, “and it’s not just capital we are offering; we are providing guidance, opportunity, and hope for a more rewarding life. The only thing our borrowers have to pay back is the cash! I couldn’t imagine a more rewarding career,” he added. Harris has become an asset to SBA resource partners like the SBDC and SCORE, working with their counselors, and building on their efforts by providing financing to their clients. CIC makes every attempt to expand their offerings to as many people as possible. In fiscal year 2017, between Community Advantage and Micro loans,

Harris closed 21 loans for a total of $1,500,000. “Buck is an asset to the Rhode Island small business community,” said SBA Rhode Island District Director, Mark S. Hayward. “There are times when conventional lenders aren’t able to help those small businesses in need. Buck has time and again reached out and done everything he can to help that population of people through education, referrals, and lending,” Hayward attested. While Harris continues to make his mark in Rhode Island, he makes it a point to serve other New England markets, including Connecticut. Remaining dedicated to serving as many in the small business community as possible, wherever they may be, whatever their circumstance might dictate, has bolstered Harris’ reputation amongst his peers and the entrepreneurs he works with.

There are times when conventional lenders aren’t able to help those small businesses in need. Buck has time and again reached out and done everything he can to help

For his tireless work and dedication to furthering the small business community, the U.S. Small Business Administration is proud to honor Buck Harris, Vice President of Community Lending at Community Investment Corporation, with the 2018 New England Financial Services Champion Award. | volume seven issue four



Rhode Island Microenterprise of the Year

The Worm Ladies of Charlestown, Rhode Island

“ W o r m i n g ” Y o u r Wa y I n t o A S u c c e s s f u l S m a l l B u s i n e s s As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention” or, in the case of Nancy Ellen Hatch Warner, it’s a worm farm. Nancy, a 77 year old grandmother of four, owns and operates The Worm Ladies of Charlestown, which sell red wiggler worms, their castings, and other supplies to people interested in turning their food scrap into a soil enhancer – in other words, composting. The Worm Ladies also runs workshops and clinics and provides consulting services for individuals and businesses interested in using worms for organic waste management.

Sensing both the educational and entrepreneurial potential of her discovery, Nancy worked with three U.S. Small Business Administration partners to move her business forward. Nine years ago, as a result of attending classes at the Center for Women & Enterprise, Nancy hired a lawyer and incorporated. With the help of a SCORE business counselor with whom she worked for more than 5 years, Nancy completed a business plan that positioned her to obtain a $30,000 microloan from Community Investment Corporation. Nancy also won SCORE’s 2017 American Small Business Championship.

How did someone with a master’s degree, working in art education and therapy, end up with a worm farm? In Nancy’s own words, “it was a hobby that got out of hand.” A fiber artist, Nancy raised angora rabbits, whose hair she sheared, spun, wove, and knitted into her creations, which were exhibited locally and in galleries in Maryland and Washington, D.C. These rabbits, however, presented a challenge with how to manage the manure and flies under their cages. An avid gardener, Nancy had come across worm composting and, in the early 1990s, decided to see if it would help. It did. The worms ate the manure, the flies disappeared, and her problem was solved, “showing her how much good the worms did.”

Last year Nancy used that microloan money to buy equipment and expand operations from her backyard into a hoop house at Schartner Farms in North Kingstown. This expansion from a seasonal to a year-round operation ensures an uninterrupted revenue stream and increased production. The Worm Ladies will be selling to schools, nurseries, farmers, growers, and offices, and it will be enriching the soil of a 22 acre farm at a compost training facility being launched on Exeter Road in North Kingstown. Because of this growth, she also hopes to soon hire her first employee, and the help of interns who can earn college credit.

Several years later, after reuniting with a long-lost childhood friend and giving her a bucket of worms for her garden, Nancy decided to turn her hobby into a money-making venture. They began The Worm Ladies. Nancy has since taken over sole operation of the business, along with the help of volunteers and an independent contractor.

For her demonstrated success and potential for future growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Nancy Hatch Warner, owner of The Worm Ladies of Charlestown, as the 2018 Rhode Island Microenterprise of the Year.


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Rhode Island District Director Award

Cheryl Watkins Snead “It’s all about the journey…and I know you’ll have an amazing one”

On January 22, 2018, Rhode Island lost a trailblazing leader in the small business community, and, to all who knew her, a friend. Cheryl Watkins Snead left an indelible mark on everything she touched, truly embodying the age-old adage of “leaving it better than you found it.” Whether it was the company she founded and grew to a national supply-chain powerhouse, her advocating for countless young people, women, and people of color, or her unwavering support for small business; Cheryl made them better.

more importantly a friend,” said SBA District Director, Mark S. Hayward, “She received many awards during her short life, which proved that she was a very special person, but most importantly she gave to people much more than she received. She taught us all to live each day with enthusiasm and determination not knowing which day will be your last. Her infectious smile provided us with inspiration to achieve, and her supporting words with the confidence to continue the journey,” he reflected.

Born in New Jersey, Cheryl began her path towards entrepreneurship through education, crafting her skillset at UMass Amherst, where she was the first African-American woman to graduate with a B.A. in Mechanical Engineering. Upon graduation, she dove into the workforce perfecting her craft at General Electric while gaining a keen understanding of management. While working Snead never gave up on her continuing education, a trait that would repeat throughout her life. Cheryl would go on to earn her M.B.A. from Purdue University and with her technical prowess and strengthened understanding of business, branched off on her own, founding Banneker Industries.

We hope, by giving this award and publishing this article, to continue to shine a light on who this amazing woman was, the countless lives she touched, and the incredible admiration we here at the Rhode Island District Office of the Small Business Administration have for her. We also understand that our words will never do justice to who she was, so we will close with Cheryl’s own words of wisdom.

Cheryl understood that business, much like life, has opportunities and obstacles, ebbs and flows, positives and negatives. In an ever expanding technological world that demands minute-by-minute updates, we sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. What Cheryl understood more than most was that the journey is as important, if not more so, than the destination. In October of 2017, Cheryl spoke at a “TEDx talk” in Providence where she addressed her career, management, and leadership style. During her presentation Snead had this to say, “I do want to be remembered, when my career is over, when my life’s journey is over, that I managed with enthusiasm, I lead with passion, and I would add four words to it - as a servant leader.” Those close to her would say she achieved what she set out to do, “Cheryl was a leader, business giant, entrepreneur but

“So as I conclude, and you think about everything I shared with you, it’s really not been about the destination at all. In fact, having your plan is important but be flexible and agile for the changes in life that are going to come. When you lead, lead with passion and when you’re serving others you have no idea where that’s going to take you. And finally, when you do run into obstacles and challenges – ‘cause we will, that’s life – you now have a tool in your toolbox, a process to achieve it, to overcome it. I hope now you know a little bit about me but more importantly a little more about you. You know what your past is, you’re in your present, now look at your future - not just your destination- but it’s all about the journey…and I know you’ll have an amazing one.” For her lifelong commitment to bettering the small business community, her steadfast dedication to the growth of opportunities for women, young people, and minorities within that community, and her entrepreneurial excellence, the U.S. Small Business Administration is proud to posthumously recognize Cheryl Watkins Snead, Founder and CEO of Banneker Industries with the 2018 Rhode Island SBA District Director Award. | volume seven issue four



New England Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year

John L.


For John Shepard and Veterans Assembled electronics, ensuring veterans succeed is their full time job John Shepard’s journey and eventual creation of Veterans Assembled electronics began as a prime contractor for a Naval Undersea Warfare Center where he worked on the modernization legacy weapons systems. During this contract Shepard found difficulty in identifying technicians with the skills necessary to fill the demanding role. At the same time Shepard began hearing the concerns of other prime contractors about the skills-gap in the employment pool – the consistent theme being that traditional academics were failing to fill the industry specific skillset.

Since VAe’s inception they have grown from offering classes in Rhode Island and Florida, to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and North Carolina. By using an SBA line of credit they are able to open these locations and ensure the proper equipment and services are available to all there students. While VAe continues to grow they are adamant that growth must not come at the expense of the veterans’ experience. “Each location is a small, tactical location,” said Shepard. “There are two advocates and two instructors, and the second part of our success really is through the advocacy role,” he affirmed.

Shepard, a veteran himself, asked, “Why don’t we train service-disabled veterans to do this work?” Being an industry professional he knew what skills were needed and was in a unique position to build a curriculum geared towards the direct demands of the hiring companies. John began building the VAe curriculum from the perspective of building value into the veteran, that value being a skillset and practical education that is desperately sought out by employers. Shepard investigated the manufacturing aspect of electronics as well as the electronics technician perspective, integrating the two fields to create a unique and practical academic experience.

Before onboarding begins each veteran is matched with an advocate to aid them in the educational process. In many instances the obstacle these service-disabled veterans face are more than just educational. “Chances are if a veteran is having a major transportation issue than the there’s something else,” said Matt Vargas, COO. “A lot of times veterans are dealing with three or four issues so we can treat symptoms or we can solve problems. We really try to get to the bottom of what the issues are and try to resolve them so once they get to that career, they see the light and they just take off,” he added.

VAe began seeking accreditation, and with the support of the Veterans Affairs office, were soon approved by both the international standard bodies for electronics manufacturing and electronics technicians. In 2010, VAe hosted their first crop of service-disabled veteran students in a five month program. Students were immersed in classes for 40 hours per week for 20 weeks, totaling 800 hours of in-depth, highly personalized education. Students graduate the program with 12 industry recognized certificates.

VAe’s unique pairing of education, advocacy, and placement has produced unarguable results; 90% of veterans who enter their program graduate; of those graduates 80% find employment, of that 80%, 90% stay in that career for a sustained basis. For his demonstrated success, potential for future growth, and dedication to the veteran community, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor John L. Shepard, CEO of Veterans Assembled electronics, as the 2018 New England Veteran Small Business Owner of the Year.

Group Photo: Founder and CEO, John Shepard (Center) flanked on his left by COO, Matt Vargas, and on his right by CFO, Michael Videira. | rhode island small business journal 18 RISBJ


Joseph G. E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence

Christine Francis Owner of Carmen & Ginger | Providence, Rhode Island

Christine Francis’ parents are collectors, so she attributes their example to her love of “everything old.” She always worked for other people and didn’t aspire to be a business owner because, as she says, “I’m not really a risk-taker.” Fate had a different plan. Laid off from her full-time job in construction management at the end of 2008 and mostly as a way to generate some income, in January 2009 Christine started an Etsy shop called Carmen & Ginger. Carmen was one of her cats, and Ginger was a friend’s dog – hence, the business name. Christine had originally thought it would be easier to specialize and to do so in cat and dogrelated goods, but she ultimately spread out to all things vintage. The Etsy-based shop quickly grew, supported by her active blog and a solid on-line customer base. Two years in, Christine was in the top 100 sellers on the Etsy site specializing in vintage goods. After returning to full-time work, she continued to operate the on-line shop and, a couple of years later, she was ready for some risk: she left her full-time corporate job and opened Carmen & Ginger as a brick and mortar store in the newly-renovated Arcade building in downtown Providence. That was “Black Friday,” 2013. After the first year, the store doubled its size, expanding into adjacent space. Carmen & Ginger has thrived in that larger space, selling primarily vintage goods in categories as varied as clothing, jewelry, games, and housewares, but also new items such as greeting cards, hand cream, and Rhode Island and Providence-themed goods. In addition to the increased footprint, Carmen & Ginger now has 2 employees. Having worked in the corporate world, Christine knew she needed a brand and needed to cultivate it. She has done so while creatively supporting her

community. Although she returned to full-time corporate work in 2011, that fall she began the Urban Vintage Bazaar. The Bazaar is a semi-annual event featuring a variety of vintage resellers from Rhode Island and surrounding states. Moved to the Arcade in the spring of 2014, each event typically features approximately twenty visiting vendors and attracts more than 1000 visitors, benefitting other businesses in the Arcade and a non-profit organization that receives as a donation a portion of the vendor fees. The next Urban Vintage Bazaar will be held on April 28, 2018. In addition, in 2014, Christine produced the first ever Guide to Providence Vintage. The free guide, expanded in size and content in 2015 – including the production of an on-line version – was released again in 2017 and is available at locations throughout the city.

Having worked in the corporate world, Christine knew she needed a brand and needed to cultivate it.

Christine’s awards and recognitions have grown as steadily as her business. For example, Rhode Island Monthly magazine twice recognized Carmen & Ginger in its “Best of Rhode Island” awards: readers voted it “Best Vintage Store” in 2016, and last year it was the editor’s pick for “Best Vintage Shopping in the City.” In December 2016, Carmen & Ginger’s holiday windows were featured in an on-line article in Country Living magazine, whose Facebook page has more than 5 million followers; the article has been shared more than 600 times. For her entrepreneurial spirit, resourcefulness, and contributions to community-oriented projects, Rhode Island SCORE proudly honors Christine Francis, owner of Carmen & Ginger, as the recipient of the 2018 Joseph G. E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Photo: Christine Francis, owner of Carmen & Ginger. Photo Credit to Rachel Hulin | volume seven issue four



Rhode Island Small Business Exporter of the Year

AVTECH Software

We have no limits to our world. We’re only limited by our imagination. AVTECH Software, a private corporation founded in 1988 by Michael Sigourney, is a computer hardware and software developer and manufacturer. Since its founding, AVTECH has continuously expanded its offerings, growing from a startup software developer to a small business with international reach. Their progression was not immediate but gradual, taking the addition of key personnel and co-owners including CFO, Anne Sigourney and President and COO, Richard Grundy. Anne joined AVTECH in 1997, managing the accounting, administration and human resources departments while Richard came onboard in 2001, growing through engineering leadership roles and now overseeing day to day operations and executing the strategic growth plan. With key personnel in place AVTECH worked to create a strong infrastructure, including the 2008 SBA loan funded purchase of its headquarters at Cutler Mill in Warren, RI. The facility continues to be a center of growth for AVTECH as well as the surrounding area which has seen significant investment and improvement since that time.

to accelerate the sales and marketing of their Room Alert® product line to businesses around the world. Room Alert® products monitor computer rooms, data centers and other facilities for conditions such as temperature, humidity, power, flood, water leakage, smoke and fire, air flow, room entry, motion, cameras and more. “We’re thankful for the support and resources the SBA makes available to area businesses,” said Grundy. “Through participation in the SBA Emerging Leaders program in 2016, we were introduced to the STEP program and the Chafee Center at Bryant University. The STEP program and the many other resources provided by the SBA and Chafee Center have been instrumental in our international growth over the past several years,” he added. Over the next two years AVTECH participated in four STEP sponsored trade missions to Canada, UK, Israel, and Ireland – with another trip scheduled for April 2018 to Dubai. AVTECH’s exporting business has grown from approximately 23% of their revenue prior to 2016 to over 30% in 2017, with forecasts projecting over 40% by 2020.

In 2016, Grundy attended the SBA Emerging Leaders program, a seven month intensive entrepreneurship education and training course focusing on financial literacy. Through this course Richard was introduced to the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). The STEP program was created to increase the number of small businesses that export their product or service, as well as increasing the value of exports for those small businesses that already do.

“Our strong network of international resellers have helped Room Alert protect businesses around the globe from downtime and damage caused by extreme environment conditions,” said Sigourney. “Working with the STEP program and participating in state sponsored trade missions have made these global markets more accessible than ever before. We’re proud to manufacture Room Alert in the USA and appreciate the resources the SBA provides that have helped us reach customers now in 186 of 196 countries,” he noted.

AVTECH’s ownership team began meeting with STEP grantee, The Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University. The Chafee Center helped educate AVTECH on exporting services and how to effectively reach and expand in different international markets. In turn, AVTECH began

For their accomplishments in expanding the global economy, the U.S. Small Business Administration is proud to recognize Michael Sigourney, CEO; Anne Sigourney, CFO; and Richard Grundy, President and COO of AVTECH Software, as the 2018 Rhode Island Small Business Exporter of the Year.

Group Photo: (L-R) President and COO, Richard Grundy; CFO, Anne Beaupre Sigourney; and CEO and Founder, Michael Sigourney. 20

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Rhode Island Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Small Business of the Year


G il’s Appliances A Family Tradition of Trust and Integrity

Sisters, Lisa Sienkiewicz and Gail Parella quite literally grew up in the business started by their parents, Gil and Sarah Almeida, in 1961. The Almeida family lived in an apartment upstairs from their original store on Wood Street in Bristol. Gil’s began as an old-fashioned, family-run record store before shifting focus from music to televisions and appliances. In 1976, Gil and Sarah moved the business to its current, larger location on Metacom Avenue, and in 1995, Lisa and Gail took over the business from their parents and began focusing solely on appliances. Since that time the sisters have been dedicated to continuing the tradition of trust, integrity, value, and exceptional customer service that their parents began over 55 years ago.

Lisa Sienkiewicz and Gail Parella and support. As a result of their efforts, Gil’s experienced impressive sales growth in 2017 and was able to add new employees to their staff.

The sisters continue to move the business forward in ways that allow them to thrive in an ever-changing economy and meet the needs of new generations of customers. Gil’s customers enjoy the personalized service of a family business without paying more for the benefit. TThis is possible thanks to their partnership with a large East Coast appliance buying group which gives Gil’s more purchasing power and an even greater selection than big-box stores.

In addition to focusing on the economic success of their business, Lisa and Gail strive to be the same reassuring and supportive presence in their community that their parents were by supporting local groups through sponsorships, donations, and volunteerism. Gil’s sponsors several local Little League baseball teams, community festivals, and food and toy drives. They are proud to sponsor such community events as the iconic Bristol Fourth of July Concert Series, as well as the Last Night Concert in Bristol featuring the RI Philharmonic over Labor Day weekend. The highest honor in Bristol was recently bestowed on Lisa and Gail when they were named Chief Marshals of the 2017 232nd Bristol Fourth of July Celebration for their ongoing commitment to family and community values and local commerce. The highlight of their philanthropic work is their partnership with RI Child & Family, in which Gil’s hosts an annual Holiday Toy Drive to benefit Child & Family’s Adopt-a-Family program.

Lisa and Gail have also ensured Gil’s web presence flourishes by completing a website redesign and expanding their overall online and social media presence. By continuing to invest in digital marketing content and advertising campaigns on multiple platforms, Gil’s has seen a rise in brand awareness

For their demonstrated longevity, success, and community outreach, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Lisa Sienkiewicz and Gail Parella, Owners of Gil’s Appliances, as the 2018 Rhode Island Jeffrey Butland FamilyOwned Small Business of the Year.

In 2016, Gil’s opened a second retail showroom on Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown, RI, to better serve the Aquidneck Island and South County communities. In 2017, the sisters completed a renovation and expansion of their Bristol location, nearly doubling their showroom space while adding working kitchens for cooking demonstrations and special events highlighting local chefs and artisans. | volume seven issue four



National Subcontractor of the Year

Evans Capacitor Company, East Providence, RI

Evans Capacitor Company, headquartered in East Providence, develops and manufactures high-energy/high-power density capacitors. Capacitors store energy and then, when needed, release that energy in a burst – like your camera battery releasing stored energy when you use the flash to take a picture. Capacitors are used in a wide-range of consumer and commercial electronic products. Evans’ capacitors, however, are used primarily for demanding aerospace and defense applications, including airborne radar, laser targeting, and electronic warfare systems, where size, weight, power, and efficiency are critically important. David Evans and Charles Dewey co-founded Evans Capacitor in 1996 to pursue technology Mr. Evans invented. With over 20 patents in capacitor chemistry, design, and packaging, Mr. Evans continues to invent, leading the company’s development and engineering team. Mr. Dewey draws on his significant prior management experience to provide oversight and direction to the company’s administration, production, marketing, and finance. The company is privately held, with over 90% owned by the founders, employees, families and Directors. Since its inception, Evans Capacitor has been a supplier to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, which nominated Evans for this award. For more than a decade, Evans has supplied capacitors to Lockheed Martin for use in the Arrowhead® program, which essentially is the vision and targeting package in the U.S. Army’s Apache attack helicopter. In its nomination, Lockheed Martin applauded Evans’ extraordinary delivery and quality, specifically highlighting that Evans’ assemblies as installed in the Arrowhead®


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system have performed with 100% reliability, without a single report of a capacitor-related problem in flight. This package has improved the safety and efficacy of the program and is described by Lockheed as “a terrific help to the warfighter.”

Last year Evans Capacitor received a STEP (State Trade and Export Promotion) grant – which is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration -- to expand their international presence to new markets. Working with the John H. Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University, Evans received international marketing assistance that Mr. McClennan described as “terrific,” aiding Evans in trade shows in the U.K. and Canada, creating advertising in a U.K. digital magazine, and having representatives participate on Evans’ behalf in a U.K. exhibit. Being recognized as the national subcontractor of the year is “a great honor and extra-ordinary,” said Colin McClennan, Vice President of Evans Capacitor. “It is a testament to everyone’s hard work over a long period of time, from the top down. It speaks to the value of the technology originally developed and continually improved, placing Evans in the world wide technical lead.” For its long history of exceptional delivery, quality, and reliability to a large federal prime contractor, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Evans Capacitor Company as its 2018 National Subcontractor of the Year.

Group Photo: (L-R) President, David Evans and CEO, Charles

Dewey; together they co-founded Evans Capacitor Company in 1996.


Rhode Island Small Business Manufacturer of the Year

Jade Manufacturing Company

Successful deployment is the ultimate quality metric in the defense industry Founded in 1945 by Arthur Boyle, Jade Manufacturing Company began as a traditional machine shop serving a variety of industries. In the late 1970s Arthur’s son, Don took over as Jade’s president. Don recognized the vibrant manufacturing environment in Rhode Island, and began outsourcing some of his production demands to local businesses to expand both Jade’s capacity and capabilities. With new found production avenues and an ever watchful eye on quality, Jade focused on supplying the growing yet demanding defense/ aerospace industry. Utilizing an extensive supply chain of local manufacturers, Jade expanded services offered to include not only precision machined components, but also plating, anodizing, painting, welding, fabricating heat-treating, and Mil-Spec hardware. These additional services enabled Jade to compete for more challenging projects and concentrate on building complete assemblies rather than just individual components. Don’s vision of expanding Jade’s production beyond his in-house capabilities resulted in significant sales growth for both his own company and also those local businesses who’d joined his supply chain. Don feels strongly that, “Supplying products to U.S. warfighters is a noble effort and requires manufacturing at the highest quality possible.” Production tolerance demands to 10,000th of an inch and rigorous inspection/certification requirements are daily challenges met by the team at Jade. Don takes great pride in his products being deployed around the world by the U.S. military. “Successful deployment is the ultimate quality metric in the defense industry. We’ve consistently achieved that standard of excellence.”

missile defense system used since the first Gulf War and is currently used by 14 NATO nations as their primary missile defense system, while Aegis is a radar platform used extensively in the U.S. Navy fleet. Jade also contributes work to “next generation” programs like the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) and Zumwalt Class Destroyer; AMDR is considered to be the heir apparent to AEGIS and while the Zumwalt is merging the B2 stealth bomber technology with surface ships to create a radar resistant vessel. As Jade continues to grow its reach they look for partners to help with the burden that comes with expansion. Through Polaris MEP and the Chafee Center for International Business - the Rhode Island State Trade Expansion Program Grantee – Jade was supplied with extensive market research, identifying eight potential new companies that they could attain in the coming year. The Chafee Center has also connected Jade Manufacturing with potential new customers in Dubai, Jerusalem, and Canada. For his demonstrated success and longevity, continued manufacturing excellence, and potential for future growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Donald J. Boyle, President of Jade Manufacturing Company, as the 2018 Rhode Island Small Business Manufacturer of the Year.

Supplying products to U.S. warfighters is a noble effort and requires manufacturing at the highest quality possible

Their consistent delivery of deployable product has led to their inclusion on a multitude of highprofile projects, mostly in the radar and missile detection arenas. Boyle specifically highlighted their continual work on the Patriot and Aegis systems; The Patriot program is a ballistic

Group Photo: (L-R) Steve Gruner, Director of

Manufacturing; Don Boyle, President; Chris Burch, Vice President. | volume seven issue four




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Morning Keynote Presentation

Luncheon Keynote Presentation

U.S. PROTECTIONISM AND THE FUTURE OF GLOBAL TRADE Presented by: Joe Brusuelas Chief Economist, RSM Joe Brusuelas brings his 20 plus years’ experience in finance and economics in providing a forward-looking commentary on the macroeconomic outlook and the future of global trade, including insights on the impact of import taxation and technological innovation.

THE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IMPERATIVE FOR GLOBAL TRADE –CONCERNS AND OPPORTUNITIES Presented by: Sudhir Jha Senior Vice President & Global Head of Product Management and Strategy, Infosys Sudhir Jha brings decades of industry experience and expertise in enabling enterprises to succeed with digital transformation. A Silicon Valley veteran, his insights underscore the importance and impact of embracing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for a greater competitive advantage.

REGISTER: or (401) 232-6407

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MAY 23, 2018



ONLINE VISIT CALL (401) 232-6407 Registration Fee

Registration Continental Breakfast Sponsor Showcase & Exhibitor Showcase

8:00 a.m.

Welcome Remarks

8:15 a.m.

MORNING KEYNOTE PRESENTATION U.S. Protectionism and the Future of Global Trade

9:00 a.m.

Breakout Session 1 (concurrent)

Individual: $195 per person

SESSION 1A: Blockchain: The New Frontier

Group Rates:

SESSION 1B: Cyber Security: Creating Operational Resilience

• Two or more from same company: $175 per person

10:15 a.m.

SESSION 2A: Cryptocurrencies: The Hype, The Reality, The Future

• Four+ people: $150 per person (includes a reserved half table at the luncheon)

SESSION 2B: Best Practices in Data Protection

• Eight+ people: $1,000 ($125 per person)

SESSION 2C: Geopolitics and the Tech Sector: Using Interactive Simulations to Address Geopolitical Risk

(includes your own table at the luncheon)

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SESSION 3B: Leveraging Emerging Technologies to Create a Culture of Innovation

Cancel on or before May 4th for a full refund, less $30 processing fee. No refund after May 4th.

SESSION 3C: Cloud Control and More: Understanding U.S. Regulations Governing the Export of Technology 12:45 p.m.

From points south of Providence: Take Route 95 north to Route 295 north to Route 7 north (exit 15B). The University is two miles north on the left. From points north of Providence: Take Route 95 south to Route 295 south to Route 7 north (exit 15B). The University is two miles north on the left. From points east of Providence: Take Route 195 west to Route 95 north to 146 north to Route 295 south to Route 7 north (exit 15B). The University is two miles north on the left.


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Luncheon (Main Gym, Chace Wellness Center) LUNCHEON KEYNOTE PRESENTATION The Artificial Intelligence Imperative for Global Trade – Concerns and Opportunities

DIRECTIONS Bryant University is located on Rt. 7, 1150 Douglas Pike, in Smithfield, RI.

Breakout Session 3 (concurrent) SESSION 3A: Big Data and Analytics for Sales Operations

MAY 18, 2018

Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Please contact the Chafee Center, (401) 232-6407.

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Visit presenters from throughout the day as they demonstrate their newest technologies. Exhibitor Showcase and Sponsor Showcase

Stop in and visit our sponsors and exhibitors to learn more about their products and services. Networking Reception

Relax and join us for a casual opportunity to meet new people and connect with colleagues.

WORLD TR ADE DAY COMMITTEE MEMBERS Jason Kelly / CO-CHAIR Executive Vice President Moran Shipping Agencies Ernie Almonte / CO-CHAIR Partner RSM U.S. LLP



Jason Kelly Executive Vice President Moran Shipping Agencies

Ernie Almonte Partner RSM U.S. LLP

ast September, as our World Trade Day Committee got together to start planning World Trade Day 2018, everyone was talking about what was happening in their businesses, what was in the news, and what we thought companies would be interested in hearing about. The excitement in the group exploded as it became apparent that so much was centered on technology and that this would be a great theme for the event! Ideas started to flow for topics, speakers and discussions and today we are excited to share the agenda for World Trade Day 2018 with you. Whether you are an importer or an exporter, a business or a consumer, a manufacturer or a service provider, technology is changing the way you are doing business. In order to be competitive, companies must strive to keep pace with rapid technological developments which provide a plethora of opportunities, as well as challenges. What was once thought impossible, has now become common place and the ideas just keep coming. From self-driving cars to robots, there is much to learn and embrace. World Trade Day 2018 will focus on Technology in Global Trade and the latest developments that are impacting our businesses. Participants will hear from keynote speakers who will provide educational insight as well as thought-proving discussions on topics ranging from Blockchain Technology to Artificial Intelligence. Executives from local companies will share how they are moving forward with advanced manufacturing, putting drones and robots into their facilities. Marketers will discuss ways to apply Mega Data to drive sales.

World Trade Day is a unique opportunity to participate in in-depth discussions on these and other global issues. With over 500 participants, representing companies large and small from all industries, there are opportunities for learning, sharing ideas, connecting on new opportunities and networking. Plan to attend on May 23, 2018! Whatever your companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s size, industry or activity, Technology in Global Trade is impacting everyone and World Trade Day will provide the perfect forum for learning more about the opportunities and challenges the future holds. We look forward to bringing you this great event and hope to see you there! Check our website often for updated information on the agenda: Sincerely, Jason Kelly Executive Vice President Moran Shipping Agencies

Ernie Almonte Partner RSM U.S. LLP

Kyle Brockett Santander

Joe Nero Rose & Kiernan

Gerald Cohen Chafee Center

Avishai Nevel Nevel International

Raquel Cordeiro Bryant University

Dan Schobel Coface

Heather DeMarco Chafee Center

Kathy Therieau Commerce RI

Ray Fogarty Chafee Center

Stephen Ucci Adler, Pollock & Sheehan P.C.

John Ginsbury Oppenheimer & Co.

Linda Woulfe Chafee Center

Steve Ilmrud Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence

Keith Yatsuhashi U.S. Department of Commerce

Kate Medeiros Chafee Center

Cheryl Zimmerman FarSounder

Eric Menke AstroNova

ABOUT THE CHAFEE CENTER World Trade Day is presented by the John H. Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University, in partnership with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, the State of Rhode Island, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. By providing comprehensive international trade services including global market research, corporate training, and strategic consulting, the Chafee Center is a gateway for companies to access international markets. World Trade Day is the largest regional event of its kind and delivers valuable services to the business community. Funded in part through a Grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

ABOUT BRYANT UNIVERSITY Bryant University has a more than 150-year tradition of growth and innovation in higher education, delivering exceptional education for success in an age of unlimited global opportunity. Bryant provides undergraduate, graduate, and professional education programs that help individuals and businesses to reach beyond geographical and intellectual boundaries | volume issue four success. 27 to achieve personalseven and professional

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