As a college student working in Rwanda, Alfa Demmellash saw firsthand the role that poverty plays in fueling conflict. She returned to the United States to focus on economic empowerment and in 2004 co-founded Rising Tide Capital (RTC), a nonprofit microbusiness development organization that supports low-income entrepreneurs in Northern New Jersey. RTC’s vision is to provide services that can be replicated by other urban communities, sparking social and economic transformation.
In 2014, RTC’s 10-year anniversary, the organization will graduate its thousandth entrepreneur from the 12-week Community Business Academy (CBA) by the end of the year. Entrepreneurs and small business owners who attend the Academy gain hands-on training in business planning, management, budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and financing. Graduates receive ongoing support from RTC to take their businesses to the next level.
There are currently 406 Rising Tide Entrepreneurs operating businesses throughout Northern New Jersey, with another 368 in the planning stages. Within five years of graduating from the CBA, they have increased their revenues by an average of 187 percent and their incomes by an average of 47 percent. RTC operates programs in English and Spanish in four cities in Essex and Hudson Counties – Jersey City, Newark, Union City and Orange Township.
RTC is precisely the kind of innovative, forward-looking organization that helps to make communities better, and for that reason they have been chosen as a Bank of America Neighborhood Builder for 2014. The Neighborhood Builder program comes with an unrestricted $200,000 grant and leadership training. “Bank of America was our first funding partner in 2006 and their investment in our work has made all the difference,” said Demmellash. “We are truly grateful for their belief in our mission and investment for our future.”
Rising Tide Capital plans to use the grant to build a new information management system that will expand its footprint in New Jersey. Through this system, the organization will develop dynamic programming for underserved entrepreneurs, helping even more people to achieve their dream of starting and growing a business.