5 Companies Founded by RIC Entrepreneurs

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Rhode Island College Impact

65% of RIC graduates live and work in Rhode Island. Many have built their own Rhode Island-based businesses, enriching the R.I. economy.

Here are just a few RIC entrepreneurs who created Rhode Island-based businesses. They run the gamut from fitness to fashion. Some have partnered with others to launch their ventures and others have gone it alone; but none could have achieved what they have without a bold belief in their ideas and in themselves. These are their success stories.

Logo for Lusciously Golden Skincare


Sephora Desire ’22 and Kalkidan Tesema ’22 met at RIC in their sophomore year and made use of their health science major to start their own skincare company – Lusciously Golden Skincare, LLC. Founded in 2021, Lusciously Golden Skincare products are advertised as affordable and made with organic materials.

Desire and Tesema praised RIC’s Project ExCEL program for being a significant part of their success as students. “We are both from foreign countries, but Project ExCEL ensures that every student is able to fight through their difficulties,” Tesema says.

As a way to give back, they celebrated the first anniversary of their company by establishing the Golden Student Scholarship at RIC in partnership with Project ExCEL. This award is given to an ExCEL student who persists in their academic career and who demonstrates leadership, good character and integrity.

Logo for Papi's Coquito


Luis Olmo ’15 and Travis Escobar ’13, along with Victor Regino, are co-owners of Papi’s Refrescos, LLC, the first millennial, Latino-owned liquor company in Rhode Island.

Since the launch of their first product – Papi’s Coquito – in 2022, the drink is now being sold in over 50 liquor stores, restaurants and bars around Rhode Island. It has become not just a product but a celebration of Latinx culture.

The recipe for the drink was passed down to Regino from his grandmother. Olmo, who holds a degree in accounting, is in charge of commercializing the drink. And Escobar, with degrees in political science and public administration, brings operational experience, as chief operating officer.

Escobar says that although it took a while to get Papi’s Coquito to market, he sees a bright future for the company and is looking forward to adding more brands inspired by the Latinx community. (Read full story.)

Logo for White Rose Swim


A life-long passion for fashion design led Mariah Paolino ’18 and her business partner Kayla Tluck to create their own swimwear company – White Rose Swim. They produce swimsuits for women, using eco-friendly fabrics from recycled water bottles, fishing nets and other post-consumer materials found in the ocean. They launched their first collection in 2020.

Already, the company has had some success. “Our suits have been worn by cast members from multiple reality TV shows and were featured in Liberty Hotel’s ‘Fashionably Late’ fashion show in Boston,” Tluck says.

Their company also partners with small businesses across the United States, such as boutiques and pop-ups, and are now looking to diversify their products by branching out into men’s swimwear, along with clothing and accessories.

Logo for Get Strong


Nigel Evangelista ’09 says his time at RIC laid the foundation for GET STRONG, his gym/physical fitness center. At RIC, he was production manager for the campus radio station – WXIN – and vice president of Student Community Government (SCG).

From SCG, he says, “I learned how corporate structure and local government work and how to build interpersonal connections.” From WXIN, he says he learned how to infuse the entertainment aspect into his business. “A physical trainer’s job is all about having people entertained while making sure they get results,” says Evangelista.

GET STRONG currently has more than 80 members, mostly over the age of 50. Some have been training with Evangelista for over 10 years. Evangelista says he couldn’t feel prouder of all the lives he has helped change and all that he has accomplished after graduating from RIC. (Read full story.)

Logo for Up & Away Balloons


In 2021 finance major Samantha Sousa ’23 partnered with Katie Massarone and Trinity Greene to open Up & Away Balloons R.I., LLC.

Up & Away Balloons R.I. isn’t your typical twist-it-into-animal-shapes balloon business. Their installations are often massive, sculpturesque works of art created on site for events like baby and bridal showers and milestones, such as first birthdays, turning 16, 21 and 50. And business is ballooning; they’re already booking six months ahead.

“I’m super proud of our business. I’m always thinking of ways we can do more and be more successful,” Sousa says. (Read full story.)