Lincoln Chafee, accept my friend request!

If you’re like me, you are a recent graduate, are in your early-twenties, and are a young professional living or recently moved to the Providence metro area. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why there are so few of us around.

At first glance, you could say that this state cannot seem to retain the young energy that it so desperately needs. According to the Rhode Island Sex and Demographics 2010-2000,the age demographic of 25-34 year olds have decreased by -9.5% in the last ten years. Meanwhile, the age bracket of 20-24 year olds has risen by +14.4% in the state (and I attribute that to Brown University and RISD students.)

Why are all the young professionals leaving?! I’m sure recent grads have spent enough time in Rhode Island to know that we are in a huge budget deficit with an embarrassingly dismal job market.  No, Craigslist, I do not believe you when you say I can earn $5,000 a week by working from home!

Yet, there are HUGE advantages for those willing to utilize the opportunities of being a part of such a small community; easy exposure to ambitious, educated professionals who may help nourish your entrepreneurial seed.  For instance, when I log into my Facebook account, “People you may know” suggests I befriend:

Lincoln Chaffee, Governor of Rhode Island with 5 mutual friends in common

 Angel Taveras, Mayor of Providence with 8 mutual friends in common

 And my personal favorite, Miss Rhode Island with 5 mutual friends in common

Could I have easily learned elsewhere that Miss Rhode Island studied Biomedical/Medical Engineering at the University of Rhode Island? Yes.  Luckily, only Facebook allows me to learn that her favorite quote is:

“Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter… All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you. “

– Cady, Mean Girls

I can tell you with confidence that in my 5 years of living in New York City, I have never, ever had Facebook suggest a “friendship” with Mayor Bloomberg because we had 5 mutual friends in common. Trust me; it would’ve been a lot easier to land a job after graduating if that was an option. 

This leads me to believe that Rhode Island’s small, close knit communities have created a foundation of easy social networking, a solid budget for grant opportunities, and most importantly, a support system from the local universities—all in all, a solid breeding ground for young entrepreneurs. As an example, this past year President Obama announced the Startup America Initiative and chose Rhode Island-based mentorship program, Betaspring, as part of 13 entrepreneurial programs to help accelerate 25,000 jobs by 2015.

Just as we are witnessing Rhode Island gain national support for entrepreneurship, we are easily able to witness young success on a more personal level.  A Geo client and friend of ours, Adam Leonard began his career as CEO and president of Diavibe shortly after graduating from Brown University in 2009. Taking an academic project and creating a business from it, Diavibe is “an early-stage medical device company developing a novel pain management product for patients receiving home injectable therapy.” On May 31st, Adam’s start-up company successfully accelerated into promising grounds when it was named as the recipient of a $20,000 grant from the Innovation Providence Implementation Council, funded by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Providence Economic Development Partnership, and Rhode Island Foundation. And, as with success comes reward; at the young age of 24, Adam contacted us earlier this year in search of a condo to purchase.

This puts me to shame. The reason being is not because I haven’t put in my deposit for a newly renovated condo on the East Side with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Instead, my shame stems from the fact that it taken me so long to realize the opportunities in front of me.

Oh, gotta go! I think Chafee is starting a FB chat!