Watch Lisa Raiola Remove Systemic Barriers to Starting a Food Business

President & Founder, Hope & Main

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If you’re not plugged into Rhode Island’s food industry, you might not be aware of Lisa J. Raiola, MPH, but it’s thanks to her that nearly 300 businesses have launched since she founded Hope & Main in 2014. Housed in a former schoolhouse in Warren, Hope & Main has become the state’s premier culinary incubator – which means it helps grow a business by providing membership access to things like shared-use commercial kitchens, aid with permits, cold and dry storage, and other industry-specific resources that can be prohibitive to someone wishing to turn, for example, their idea for a mayo-alternative to a condiment now stocked at markets (Avonaise by alum Lenny Carlson).

In November, Raiola announced that she was expanding Hope & Main to Providence with a Downtown Makers Marketplace in the Financial District and the development of shared-used kitchens in the West End. “Since the day we opened our doors in Warren nine years ago, people have asked us two questions: why doesn’t Hope & Main have a market and why don’t you have kitchens in Providence?” Raiola said in a statement. “Now, with the good help of the Papitto Opportunity Connection and Paolino Properties, we can check both boxes.”

Much of what propels Raiola’s endeavors is access. “Too many people face systemic barriers to starting a business, particularly in food. The journey to the shelf favors the well-connected and the well-resourced. Consumers can help us flip that script by demanding local products.” 

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Raiola came to New England to attend Brown. She refers to the Makers Marketplace as Providence's next lively experiment. “It will be a place of discovery,” she says. “You will find products there that may have just launched within weeks, and you will be among the first to try something new. And the best part is that we will all get to support the dreams of aspiring Rhode Island food-preneurs, and perhaps the next breakout star on our local food scene.”

Reason for Optimism: “The best thing about 2023 is that 2020 is three years behind us. 2020 was an existential moment, particularly for small food businesses: they were watching Noah's Ark leave the dock and a lot of them couldn't get on board. But what we discovered is how absolutely precious these businesses are for us, and to lose them is to literally lose our community identity. So as 2023 approaches, I see folks doubling down on their loyalty to what is local. This gives me hope.”

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