What is RISmallBusiness.org?
RIsmallbusiness.org is a one-stop information and advocacy hub for Rhode Island’s small business community. The site is managed by the Office of Lt. Governor Dan McKee with support from the RI Small Business Coalition, a volunteer team of local small business owners.
The idea for the site was born in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic during one of Lt. Governor McKee’s small business conference calls where the topic of discussion was: How we can help small businesses make it through this pandemic?
Justin Gontarek, owner of Warwick-based Oceanside Graphics had an answer. He stepped up, volunteered his time and worked with the Lt. Governor’s Office to launch Gift it Forward, a statewide effort to encourage Rhode Islanders to support local businesses by purchasing gift cards through an online database.
The Gift it Forward database was a hit. Over 1,300 small businesses registered their information on the site for consumers to see. The effort received media sponsorship from WPRI 12, The Rhode Show, iHeartMedia, Cox Media and Lamar Advertising.
The work to build the site continued and another issue arose: Not all small businesses are set up to sell gift cards online, some don’t even know where to begin. Then came another small business with a solution. Chris Parisi, owner of Providence-based Trailblaze Marketing, offered his time and skills to help the cause. Thanks to Chris and his team, small business owners had the option to work with Trailblaze Marketing to set up online gift card sales at special, low-cost rates. Chris also partnered with Third Spoon in East Greenwich to produce and donate the first Gift it Forward television ad.
Lori Giuttari, Chief Operating Office of Providence-based Visual Thrive joined the Gift it Forward team to help with marketing and promotion for the website. Lori and her team are the creators of RI Thrives, a database of small businesses operating during the pandemic.
As Rhode Island’s small businesses began to reopen, Gift it Forward was rebranded under the RIsmallbusiness.org name. Now, the website offers reopening guidance, a shop local database, resources and more.