Fellows follow passions to $300K

By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer

Following their passions led this year’s Innovation Fellows to concrete projects that have the potential to affect the food and textile industries in Rhode Island, and perhaps beyond. More

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Fellows follow passions to $300K

WHETTING APPETITES: David Dadekian, right, owner of Eat Drink RI LLC, with sous chef Ashley Vanasse.
COLORFUL WORDS: Amy Bernhardt’s Innovation Fellows project, Colorfast, will create a state-of-the-art research and manufacturing pilot facility for the design and production of digitally printed textiles.

By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 4/21/14

Following their passions led this year’s Innovation Fellows to concrete projects that have the potential to affect the food and textile industries in Rhode Island, and perhaps beyond.

Colorfast, Amy Bernhardt’s project, will take what she describes as a “revolutionary” new tool – digital surface printing of fabrics – and build a research and manufacturing plant with state-of-the-art equipment. A graphic designer, she said she is more interested in launching a company here than heading out of state to join somebody else’s firm.

Exposure to employees of Hope Global through a Make It Happen Rhode Island meeting excited Bernhardt as she explored ways to get into doing surface and textile design and looking at it from the perspective of someone who lives and works in Rhode Island.

“Did I want to travel to New York and be exclusively a pattern designer or did I want to do more?” she said she asked herself. “I had such a strong feeling this technology was the next big thing – it’s revolutionary – and that we could have such an advantage here if we could produce high-quality textiles in Rhode Island.”

Likewise, David Dadekian will build on his website company, Eat Drink RI LLC, by establishing a public marketplace with stands and/or shops, plus, eventually, commercial production and processing facilities. He wants to see that market become a tourist destination not unlike Chelsea Market in New York City, the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco or Pike Place Market in Seattle.

“We have the great advantage of being a state where it’s very easy to get to anyplace in 45 minutes,” said Dadekian, who is not sure where this “central” market will be located yet. “We also hopefully can draw tourists to this location. We’d love to be able to say this is a centerpiece, a showcase for people to come to from around the country and the world.”

These are the latest projects the Rhode Island Foundation last week announced it will fund through its three-year, $300,000 fellowships.

The Innovation Fellowships are funded by philanthropists John and Letitia Carter. A seven-member panel made the selections, which included 10 other finalists from a field of 343 contenders. Criteria included exceptional vision and leadership, and the potential to scale and have statewide impact, said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the foundation.

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