Adriana I. Dawson is the only child of immigrant parents who settled in Rhode Island in the early 1970s from Colombia and went to work in textile mills, where Dawson spent several summers working alongside her mother. Today, Dawson is more likely to be the expert to whom textile-makers turn for advice.
As the northern Rhode Island regional director for the R.I. Small Business Development Center at Johnson & Wales University, the Providence resident sees herself as “a bilingual/bicultural professional” who understands the challenges new immigrant entrepreneurs face, according to her 40 Under Forty application.
She joined RISBDC in August 2002 as assistant state director and shortly thereafter implemented a Latino business initiative that provided technical assistance and training programs for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs. Dawson created the Latino Business Expo in 2003 and continues to coordinate the annual event.
Since July 2006 she has organized counseling and training support for entrepreneurs throughout the Blackstone Valley, working closely with the local chambers of commerce, community organizations and others on economic development projects.
While working in the executive office for administration and finance in Massachusetts in 1998, she met her mentor, Antonia Jimenez, former special assistant to former Gov. Paul Cellucci. “Her professionalism, ethics, communication skills, empathy for others, community-mindedness and, most importantly, passion is what made her the most influential person in my career,” Dawson said. •