One year ago, jewelry-design company Haverhill Inc. was little more than an idea on a piece of paper. Today, CEO Alison Cariati is preparing to file the Providence company’s first corporate tax return after a strong holiday season and has begun talking about the day when Haverhill might be able to hire full-time employees and move into an office of its own.
“To get a small business off the ground in this environment is really difficult,” said Cariati, who works out of an office in the Founders League at 95 Chestnut St. “You really need people that have been in the business and know what they’re doing.”
It was just that sort of professional counsel and guidance that Haverhill Inc. was able to take advantage of after winning the 2013 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition. Cariati and co-founder and designer Haverhill Leach took home the top prize in the entrepreneur track last year, and walked away with $45,000 in cash and $24,000 in professional services.
“That was the money we needed to spend on marketing and launching the business,” Cariati said. “It got our photo shoot done. It got our website up. It got our first samples made and our collection produced.”
However, the rewards of winning the Business Plan Competition, an annual contest founded in 2000 to encourage entrepreneurship and support companies that will create local jobs, are not all as tangible as a cash prize or free legal services. The deadline for submissions to this year’s competition is March 31.
“It makes you become the CEO and the person that you have to be,” said Cariati. “If it’s a hobby, it’s not going to happen. The competition makes you stand up and say, ‘This is what I do and this is why I want to do it.’”
Lynell Masterson, founder of wellness management and coaching service Nell, based in Providence, resolved to enter the 2014 competition for exactly that reason. A mother of three, Masterson created her business around her long-time ambition to help others move their lives forward through integrated life coaching, expressive arts therapy and physical techniques like yoga.