A struggling market is a hard reality check for many businesses and local economies. Opportunities seem limited and perseverance is a hard quality to develop overnight. The truth is, though, that historically, “tough economic times” allow natural innovators to shine and become empowered business leaders. Their secret: they are opportunity thinkers.
Soren Ryherd identified a key problem when his home state of Rhode Island was hit hard by a lagging economic downswing. Once the problem was identified he was able to turn a traditional business model upside down and disrupt the status quo.
With his extensive online marketing and e-commerce knowledge, Soren formed the Retail Project RI as a response to traditional brick and mortar retail locations which he continued to see being closed down storefront after storefront in his neighborhood.
He realized that the usual way of retail operations needed to change if their community ever again wanted to see the boutique and artisan shops that gave Rhode Island its unique flavor.
The Retail Project RI aims to develop online retail shops by turning them into strong, powerful brands through internet marketing. Once the brand has met certain key performance indicators and metrics online, it will then be deemed viable enough to establish as a brick and mortar storefront in Rhode Island. This approach will ensure that the store has enough of a customer base and the necessary marketing tools to make it in a volatile market and develop healthy long-term growth.
The presence of more storefronts will create economic opportunities including job growth and investment, and revitalize the local neighborhood. The benefits only flourish from there as Rhode Island will regain its reputation as a world-class travel destination and as a thriving arts, entertainment, and education mecca for students and families of young working professionals.
“We’re taking the worst aspects of the state and making them into an economic engine that helps drive the economy” Soren explains about the long-term value his idea will provide to Rhode Island. With three employees currently, the Retail Project RI is doing their part to contribute to the local job market.
An aggressive brand strategy is setting the Retail Project RI on pace to develop 40 new brands per year in the near future. In November 2012, the first brand developed and launched by the Retail Project was Felix Chien, a supplier of luxury pet dog items. Three months later the company launched Urbilis which has come to be known for its beautiful and modern urban gardening products. The third brand to launch is Slumbersome, which supplies natural sleep and rest products in response to the growing exposure surrounding the health and well-being benefits associated with proper sleeping patterns.
Soren is taking a calculated and realistic approach to this “brand factory” style of business. “Some will fail, some will just remain small internet businesses, and some will be the next Crate and Barrel,” says Soren describing the vision of the many brands they intend to pursue. “Over time, we’ll have a developed set of skills about how to do this,” he says of the Retail Project’s ability to leverage this model to create new success stories.
The Retail Project RI doesn’t manufacture the products themselves. Rather they source them from other vendors across North America and create a branded online marketplace. “But we would like to see that happen” he explains about their long-term plans to tap into the local manufacturing, arts, and design talent of the Rhode Island area.
“This idea…is really catching on,” says Soren when discussing similar models popping up in New York. By reinventing the wheel, Soren is demonstrating his leadership and vision. Even more remarkable is his drive to improve the future of the state he loves. This commitment is what makes his journey so interesting.
To learn more about the Retail Project RI, their brands, and how to become a vendor visit retailprojectri.com. You can also check out their sponsor’s site, the Rhode Island Foundation at rifoundation.org.
Check back soon as we’ll be featuring a more in-depth look at each of the three online stores already launched by the Retail Project RI, and what makes them such captivating consumer brands.