More than 80 exhibitors gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick on Tuesday for the sixth annual We Mean Business Expo. Among the many booths from state and municipal organizations were a few budding small businesses that were hoping to learn more about how to succeed in Rhode Island.
Among the exhibitors was Richard Nuttall, founder and CEO of Trivia Glasses, who stood at a colorful display of his wares.
Nuttall started Trivia Glasses about six months ago, and has already found success in South County. Soon his product will be coming to Fat Belly’s restaurants in Warwick.
Trivia Glasses are just what they sound like – pint glasses featuring small, block ads, a QR code and a text message number that automatically sends trivia questions to the patron. For the bar or restaurant that uses the glasses, it’s a way to get people to linger longer while playing trivia, and for the non-competing advertisers on the glass, it’s a way to get prolonged exposure to customers.
Nuttall came up with the idea when playing trivia at Fat Belly’s with his wife.
“We ended up staying longer than expected,” said Nuttall, who noted they spent more on food and drink while they played.
Nuttall wondered if there was a way he could capitalize on the trivia idea, and created the online platform for the trivia questions, which are sent via text message to the user’s cell phone every ten seconds. He then brainstormed a way to get his product into restaurants: give the new pint glasses to the restaurant for free.
“We replace every pint glass in the restaurant,” said Nuttall. “Except Guinness.”
Advertisers can buy ads for $695 per tile, which are each about one square inch. The glasses stay in the restaurant for six months before they’re swapped out for new ones, and the old ones are given away to patrons.
Nuttall said he signed up to be a part of the business expo to learn about the opportunities available for small businesses like his.
Among the plethora of information being doled out on Tuesday was an announcement made by Governor Lincoln Chafee that Mark Hayward, district director for the Small Business Administration, called “critical.”
Chafee announced that all state departments and agencies have been instructed to accelerate their evaluation of regulations for adverse effects on small businesses by nearly two and a half years. Public Law 445, which took effect on July 1, states that all state departments and agencies are required to evaluate all existing regulations for harmful impacts on small businesses. Agencies are required to review 25 percent of their regulations each year for four years, but under the governor’s new plan, departments and agencies must complete an evaluation of 25 percent of their regulations by Dec. 31. This pares the time frame down to 120 days.
“We have 1,638 regulations in this state with which our nearly 96,000 small businesses must comply,” said Chafee in a statement. “Four years is too long to complete these economic impact assessments. We can do better. We need to act swiftly and proactively to make it easier for small businesses to succeed and grow here in Rhode Island.”
After the initial 120 days, the agencies will have subsequent 120-day periods to evaluate the remaining 75 percent of regulations. The entire evaluation should therefore be completed by December 2013, a full two and a half years before they would normally be finished. Until the 120-day target is met, agencies may only file new regulations in case of an emergency or with Governor Chafee’s permission.
“The immense challenges small businesses face in our state are urgent and they demand attention now. That is why I have fast-tracked this plan, which recognizes that neither small business owners nor the state can afford to continue waiting for these important evaluations,” said Chafee in a statement.
At Tuesday’s gathering, the governor said that many small businesses face the burden of “onerous” regulations, and he aims to give them a helping hand.
“In order for us to succeed, we’re going to have to do business at the speed of business,” said Hayward.
Secretary of State Ralph Mollis was also present at Tuesday’s announcement, seconding the importance of small business success to the vitality of Rhode Island’s economy.
“For every business we help … we are preserving jobs,” he said. “For every business we help create, we are creating jobs.”
Mollis said he often hears that government and regulations interfere with business, but he feels government has an important role in economic success.
“Government needs to be the partner every step of the way,” he said.
For business owners with questions about state policies and regulations, like Nuttall, there were booths for both the SBA and the Economic Development Corporation. Experts were on hand throughout the day to field questions and concerns.
In addition to learning about opportunities for his business, Nuttall also hoped to take advantage of the networking aspect of the expo and gain some exposure for his product.
“We want to be in every popular restaurant and pub in Rhode Island,” he said.
For more information on Trivia Glasses, visit www.TriviaGlasses.com.