One year ago I stood in the lobby of the Bank of America (Superman Building, to most of us) and accepted one of the inaugural Rhode Island Innovation Fellowships. The independent panel chosen by the Rhode Island Foundation to distribute this incredible fellowship funded by John and Letitia Carter had found something exciting in my idea to address neighborhoods, jobs, and economic development through an innovative process that flips retail incubation on its head.
One year later I am still surprised that I have been given the opportunity to pursue a dream.
The last year has been exhilirating. Beginning in July of 2012 we began the process of bringing life to the idea of testing new brands against a national audience. In doing so we also began the process of brand creation, for in realizing the dream of the Retail Project in launching and testing new concepts, we realized we needed to create a Brand Factory.
Felix Chien came to life at the start of November 2012. Envisioned as “Neiman Marcus for Dogs”, Felix Chien has begun to develop a national following as a go-to site for fashion-driven dog apparel and accessories. Starting with a handful of products, Felix Chien has grown to be a retail experience featuring hundreds of products from over twenty design houses.
Urbilis launched in late February of 2013. Bringing form and function to the urban gardener, Urbilis’ mix of design-centric garden products has so resonated with the marketplace that less than three weeks into our marketing launch, several of Urbilis’ vertical garden products were prominently featured on the popular design blog ApartmentTherapy.com. We look forward to great things from Urbilis.
I thank both the Rhode Island Foundation and the Carters for this opportunity. However, none of our progress in making The Retail Project a reality could have been possible without the work of our team. I want to thank our fearless and unflagging Brand Manager, Mary Bergeron, for all her work in making this a reality. In addition, our team of interns, Cameron Muir, Nicole Graber, and Sana Keira all brought ideas, enthusiasm, and talent to the table and we would be a lesser company without them.
What’s next? We’ve added new staff, with Customer Experience Manager Casey Sangmeister on board, and we have new internships available for Summer 2013. We are deep in development plans for bringing yet another brand to life, so watch for our Brand #3 concept announcement in the next month, with an online store launch in late Spring. And don’t stop watching, because Brand #4 will be launching in late summer of 2013! And while we do not expect any brick-and-mortar launches in 2013, we look forward to growing our family of brands to the point where we are actively pursuing physical retail locations in Rhode Island.
CEO, Retail Project RI
2012-2014 Rhode Island Innovation Fellow