LEAP Mentor Program – 3rd Cohort Launched!

On December 2nd, RIBBA welcomed 15 new mentees into the newly expanded LEAP Mentor Program. These 15 young adults will work with mentors over the next 5 months to refine their goals and navigate barriers to achieving them.
In addition, the newly expanded program will provide not just mentorship, but also help each participant identify and utilize their strengths, provide education on financial literacy and work readiness, as well 1:1 sessions with career and financial coaches.
Since the program’s start, we’ve been able to support over 40 mentees. We’re grateful to our sponsor Bay Coast and funding partner Real Jobs Rhode Island for making this expanded program a reality.
For more information on upcoming cohorts, please contact Amanda Roman | Director of Program Development & Operations | amanda@ri-bba.org.

Emerging Leader Highlight: Edinalia Lopes

Edinalia Lopes is a Financial Analyst at IGT and a participant in the inaugural Emerging Leaders Development Program provided by RIBBA. 

1. What has being a part of the Emerging Leaders Program meant to you?

Being part of the Leadership program means many different things for me.  It gives me a chance to network with other professionals from RI, from different industries/cultures.  Though I am not currently in a leadership position, this program caught my eye because I would like to grow in my career and this program is a way for me to learn more about what I personally need to get there. I wish this type of program was part of college/grad school curriculum because so many of the things we are learning can help everyone not only in their careers but also understand what leadership qualities they have and what they need to work on to strengthen.  The program has given me a chance to step back from the day to day things I do for my career and evaluate myself; learn more about myself and learn about what qualities I have to become a great leader.

2. What’s the most significant think you’ve learned so far?

The program is teaching me more on how to be a genuine/unique leader and I feel like I couldn’t learn that elsewhere.  Before this I felt like I had to fit a mold and follow what past leaders have done to be successful but now I am starting to understand how my unique abilities and characteristics can help me get to where I want to go.   I think that is the most significant thing I have learned; that I can become a leader using my own strengths and not have to change everything about myself to be the type of a leader that others might expect me to be.

3. How has understanding your strengths changed the way you see yourself?

First of all,  there were some things about myself that I didn’t know were strengths for great leaders! For example, when we took the assessment test and one of my qualities came out to be Empathy.  I now realize how big of a strength empathy is for a leader, whereas before I thought of it as more of a weakness.  I thought it would be seen as “caring too much” or “feeling too much”;  now I see that it is one of the best qualities, especially now that I understand more about emotional intelligence and using it to lead. We are only half way through the program and I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself so far.

 I think this program would be beneficial for anyone, In any area of work or career levels.  Learning about our strengths, how to use our unique abilities, emotional intelligence and understanding the difference between managing and leading, is greatly needed!  It can be an asset to someone just coming out of college or someone who’s been in their career for years; you can learn new things about yourself at any stage of life.  Someone starting their careers can use this program to get a leg up, learn and hone on their strengths; and someone further in their career can learn new ways to lead and strengthen some of the characteristics they might not have given importance to, in the past. The world is changing and we can ‘t assume that the old ways of leading will keep working, so I would highly recommend this program to everyone!


The Emerging Leaders Development Program is free for participants through funding received by the RI Department of Labor and Training and is delivered by RIBBA in partnership with the University of RI Office of Strategic Initiatives.

RIBBA announces the creation of a forgivable Micro-Loan Program totaling $450,000 for distribution to minority-owned businesses in the Ocean State

Seeing a higher-than-normal need for services due to the pandemic, and their existing clients struggling to keep their doors open, this is a much-needed financial relief for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) businesses community. The RIBBA Forgivable Micro-Loan program is made possible with funding from the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) Foundation.

Arnell Milhouse, a POC Foundation Advisory Board Member reached out to Lisa Ranglin to forge the partnership between RIBBA and the POC Foundation. Through this partnership, POC Foundation has committed to supporting the RIBBA Forgivable Micro-Loan with $450,000 in funding.

“Community-based organizations, like RIBBA, need to be fully funded with adequate resources and an infrastructure to support the growing demands of businesses owned by people of color, and now thank to the POC Foundation, we have it “, says RIBBA Founder and Executive Director, Lisa Ranglin.

“The POC Foundation is committed to helping organizations like RIBBA and incredible leaders in the African American community like Lisa Ranglin, create programs that will help African American business owners grow their businesses and develop sustainable ventures that will contribute to the overall economic strength of Rhode Island”, says POC Foundation Advisory Board member, Arnell Milhouse, “This funding opportunity will also assist by helping important African American narratives be told directly by people from within the community. We are extremely grateful to the generosity, vision, and vanguard leadership of Barbara Papitto and her late husband, Ralph Papitto.”

Applicants may apply for the loan with a low 1% percent interest rate in increments between $500 - $3,000.  The loan, which can be used to pay operating costs such as rent, utilities, insurance, marketing costs, and supplies, can be forgiven if the expense is Covid -19 related and for an individual’s business.

For information on how to access the online application go to the Rhode Island Black Business Association’s (RIBBA) website (www.ri-bba.org ) or call (401) 383-1179.

About RIBBA 

Established in 2010, the Rhode Island Black Business Association RIBBA is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the business opportunities and vitality of minority-owned businesses in Rhode Island through access to capital, contracting, business development resources, entrepreneur training, business advocacy, meaningful investor services, and workforce development.  A One-On-One Business Development Assistance, an Emerging Leaders Class and Mentorship program, and Microloan Access Leadership are among the services and programs RIBBA provides to the business and entrepreneur community.

About the POC Foundation 

The Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) is a non-profit private foundation dedicated to listening to and helping Rhode Island’s communities of color empower themselves and create stories of success. The POC Foundation does this by investing in programs and organizations and ventures that boost education, job skills training, and entrepreneurship.

POC Foundation Website: www.POCFoundation.com

Passion on Purpose: A Perspective on the Kickoff to the RIBBA Emerging Leaders Development Program

Achiever. Responsibility. Relator. Futuristic. Learner. 

These are not randomly selected descriptors—there is purpose, power, and possibility in each of them. There is also purpose, power, and possibility in each of the people that represent these strengths. These 5 descriptors are the most highly represented strengths according to the Gallup Clifton Strengths assessment for the inaugural RIBBA Emerging Leaders Development Program cohort.  Thanks to the team at Leadership Rhode Island, we were able to learn just what each of our top strengths mean for us specifically, how we can use them effectively, and how they show up in the spaces and circumstances we find ourselves in. Additionally, thanks to Anne Lipsitz, we were able to consider and articulate how understanding, embracing, and aligning our strengths can help us build a strong personal brand as well as facilitate organizational and overall success. It was a fantastic and inspirational day, and we are humbled and excited to share some initial perspectives on the experience of the start of the program. 

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 25 dynamic, talented, and passionate people came together to launch a journey with different expressions of a common goal: to continue to develop their professional and personal trajectories and increase and enhance opportunities for success. This looks different and shows up in varying ways for each of these unique people, but one thing we can all agree on is that this program will be lifechanging and undoubtedly impactful—it already has been.  

To begin with, none of us are part of this incredible effort by chance. Lisa Ranglin, the RIBBA team, and countless other collaborators have been on a journey for some time to make this opportunity a reality, and just at the right time, it came to fruition. It is no secret and nothing new that leaders of color tend to have fewer opportunities for promotion, fewer chances for leadership roles, fewer opportunities for board representation, fewer pay increases, and the list goes on, however, the story does not end there. What is remarkable about the Emerging Leaders Development Program is that it provides a unique opportunity for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) professionals to experience an intentional and customized program that equally builds on their experiences and addresses the areas individually that they need assistance with. All of this is in a valiant and paramount effort to challenge the narrative that there are not enough leaders of color to succeed in critical, elevated, and powerful roles. As was discussed on Day 1, the members of this cohort came to be leaders, but the reality is that we are already leaders, and in some cases, without us realizing it—we just need appropriate, affirming, and inclusive space to amplify and leverage our talents. In other words, we have the skills to succeed and simply need to maximize them.  

Each of the 25 participants come from different vantage points and experiences, varying companies, work and educational backgrounds, with varying skills, talents and interests. Despite our differences, we are all committed to maximizing our individual and collective experiences and in turn, shifting the tide of leadership in Rhode Island and beyond, and increasing the chances of success for ourselves, our families, and our communities forever. This is excellence personified and we hope to help make this experience possible for future leaders to come.  

By Stephanie Mireku and Tyler Joseph, Emerging Leaders Development Program Participants

Orange Live Entertainment, Forgivable Micro-Loan Recipient

Orange Live Entertainment is a Multi-media Platform that offers videography, animation, writing, advisement, hosting and more. The owner of Orange Live Entertainment is Damont Combs, who started out in Jamaica Queens, New York where he began being involved with poetry and other artistic activities. When moving to Rhode Island, he had to adjust to living in a new environment while attending Johnson & Wales University. Some of the accomplishments he made along the way included starting out an Open Mic Night at Blue State Café located in Rhode Island, publishing his first poetry book My Poem My Riddle. Damont published other poetry books in 2016, 2017 and 2018 that are in bookstores in Rhode Island such as Stillwater Books and JW Brown.

Eventually in 2018, Damont became a full-time poet, competed in a national competition and earned a National Poet of the Year award. He took the show on the road and performed poetry at places such as laundry mats, barbershops and churches. In 2019, he was recognized as a Rhode Island Mentor of the year. From 2020 throughout 2021, Damont has continued to see more success, such as: working with the Pawtucket Art Council, hosting events with the PVD Outspoken Festival, helping local poets obtain fair financial compensation as a poetry agent, and is looking forward to working with Providence Latino Film Festival.

Damont’s journey and accomplishments are what make him so appreciative of the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA) and the support given to him. Damont received a forgivable micro-loan from RIBBA to help him get a more advanced computer and to pay for a part-time assistant. These essential business needs will help his full vision for the business come to fruition.

It is widely known that art helps communities get through hard times and Damont hopes to continue growing Orange Live Entertainment to do just that.

To learn more about Damont Combs and Orange Live Entertainment, click here.

Written by Angelika Walker, RIBBA Intern

RIBBA offers forgivable microloan program for BIPOC-owned businesses

PROVIDENCE – A new, forgivable loan program will provide a combined $450,000 in microloans to Black, Indigenous and people of color-owned small businesses in the state, the Rhode Island Black Business Association announced Thursday.

Read full article online

A Fresh Start: New Year, New Strategy

With the start of a new calendar year, often comes an impetus to begin again, to renew, and to reassess priorities and goals. Similarly, with a new season and often coinciding with the beginning of a new academic year, some of these same sentiments come to the surface. As students consider new ways to innovate and maximize learning, business owners can see these times as opportunities to do the same and more. As priorities, opportunities, and trends continue to develop and shift, it is imperative for businesses to consider how they can pioneer, pivot, and lead. It is particularly important for business owned by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) entrepreneurs, to consider these opportunities to differentiate and advance their business trajectories to mitigate the challenges presented in our increasingly complex marketplace. Here are a few ways that businesses can accomplish this: 

  1. Participate in training to achieve and enhance new levels of skills and talents 
  2. Attend events and/or develop an outreach strategy to expand your professional network and customer base
  3. Apply for funding opportunities to support new initiatives and provide continuity for existing programs
  4. Consider increasing capacity and reach by pursuing opportunities for operational support (e.g. internships, exchanges, apprenticeships, consulting, assessment, and partnerships)
  5. Research best practices and potential opportunities for growth and expansion within your field of interest













About the author: Stephanie Mireku is RIBBA’s volunteer Content Writer and works with businesses, volunteers, and community members to highlight their and RIBBA’s work. Her passion for writing of all kinds, and background in English and Business Administration fueled her interest in combining these areas through the Content Writer role. Stephanie first became involved with RIBBA through the LEAP Mentoring program as a mentee in the 2021 cohort. She is enthusiastic about relationship building, mission centric creativity, social impact, and philanthropy, and puts this into action through various outlets including her work as an Assistant Director of Alumni Relations at Providence College.  




RI Black Business Association Announces and Welcomes Emerging Leaders Steering Committee Members

Business leaders throughout the state will play key role in guiding program and ensuring its success


Providence, RI – Tuesday, August 31, 2021 – The Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA), a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the business opportunities and vitality of Black-owned and minority businesses in Rhode Island, announces the launch of the Emerging Leaders Steering Committee and welcomes 14 members. The committee will be dedicated to the overall direction and success of the Emerging Leaders Development Program. 

The Emerging Leaders Development Program is a 6-month leadership program prepares high-performing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & People of Color) professionals for advancement into senior leadership and executive roles while raising their visibility as a force within their organization and community. The program will be delivered by RIBBA in partnership with the University of Rhode Island Office of Strategic Initiatives. 

“We’re so grateful to each of the steering committee members for being committed to our organization’s purpose. RIBBA’s mission-critical work is about creating access to resources, opportunities and building communities,” said Lisa Ranglin – Founder and Executive Director at RIBBA. “We advocate for equitable distribution of resources to underserved people to change the trajectory of people’s lives which sets the path for a huge difference in the outcomes and promotes career advance and economic sustainability. 


Steering Committee Members: 

  • Cicely Dove: Chief Program Officer of Shelter & Crisis Services at Crossroads Rhode Island 
  • Barbara Morse: Health Reporter/Weekend evening anchor at WJAR-RV 
  • Leah DeCesare: Award-Winning Author and TEDx speaker 
  • Grant Falconer: Head of PMO at Santander Bank 
  • Kyle Bennett: Director, Public Policy & Research at United Way of Rhode Island at United Way of Rhode Island 
  • Kilah Walters-Clinton M.Ed.: Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Executive Office for Health and Human Services 
  • Lawrence E. Wilson: Managing Director at The Wilson Organization, LLC 
  • Lorraine Lalli: Assistant Dean of Students at Roger Williams University, School of Law 
  • Sean Holley: Cranston Director for Workforce Solutions of Providence/Cranston  
  • Ana C Mendez: Officer; Operations Consultant at Bank of America  
  • Makeba Hardy- Thomas: Chief of Staff at the Department of Environmental Management  
  • Paul Cooney: Group Account Representative at Mutual of America 
  • Jael Lopes: Director of Strategic Community Partnerships at Providence Public School Department  
  • Arndres Mason: Associate Vice President Operations at Avalon Healthcare Solutions, Co-Owner & Program Administrator, Pathway Karate Academy. 


“I enjoy working with the team at RIBBA supporting the Emerging Leaders Development Program as it brings a new group of leaders to the table and provides the mentorship and support they need to continue to meet goals they set for themselves and the corporations they work for,” said Kyle Bennett – Director of Policy & Equity at United Way. “This work is a direct impact on Rhode Island Corporate Leadership Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.”  

“I believe in the structure and value of this program and I’m honored to be a part of the committee supporting its launch,” said Leah DeCesare: Award-Winning Author and TEDx speaker 

The Emerging Leaders Development Program is free for participants and begins on October 12th. To apply by the deadline of September 20, 2021, please fill out the Application Form or learn more on the Emerging Leaders Web Page. For questions, contact Amanda Roman, Director of Program Development & Operations, at amanda@ri-bba.org 


About the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA):RIBBA is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the business opportunities and vitality of Black-owned and minority businesses in Rhode Island through access to capital, contracting, business development resources, entrepreneur training, business advocacy, meaningful investor services, and workforce development. 


5 Ways to Support Black Owned Businesses

Many of us have heard the phrases, “money is power” and “there’s power in numbers”, in many contexts and in many seasons of our lives. While there’s truth to both adages, I would take it a step further and say there’s power in the how and what in terms of spending money and there’s also power in the number of people that patronize, support, and advocate for a business. With that said, it makes a big difference where people choose to use their resources, whether it be time or money. Specifically, if you are concerned with advancing economic opportunity and equity, then it is imperative to consider the impact of individual and collective choices as it relates to spending. More specifically, if you truly want to advance and amplify the platforms of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, it needs to be an ongoing, intentional, and open-minded effort. One important and effective way to do this is to promote and support Black owned businesses. From day to day needs to long term material investments, to services and leisure resources, there are many opportunities to rethink the way you spend your money and time. I’m pleased to offer a few ways to get started. 

  1. Invest time, money, and talent into organizations that are focused on advancing the work and platforms of Black people and specifically Black business owners 
  2. Buy Black 
  3. Amplify Black Businesses
  4. Share resources and opportunities to help grow and advance the Black owned businesses that you know 
  5. Help educate those in your sphere of influence 


Additional Information: 




Additional Resources: 







About the author: Stephanie Mireku is RIBBA’s volunteer Content Writer and works with businesses, volunteers, and community members to highlight their and RIBBA’s work. Her passion for writing of all kinds, and background in English and Business Administration fueled her interest in combining these areas through the Content Writer role. Stephanie first became involved with RIBBA through the LEAP Mentoring program as a mentee in the 2021 cohort. She is enthusiastic about relationship building, mission centric creativity, social impact, and philanthropy, and puts this into action through various outlets including her work as an Assistant Director of Alumni Relations at Providence College.