Rising Tide Capital awards more than $30,000 at Start Something Challenge pitch competition

Alexandra Sartoga, founder of Garden Steaks, was the big winner at the Start Something Challenge business pitch competition held by Rising Tide Capital earlier this week in Jersey City — landing the $10,000 first prize.

But, if organizers of the event have their way, all of the entrepreneurs and small business owners at the event will come away with something to help them spur the economy.

In addition to the finale, the summit included a local economy roundtable and a small business resource fair designed to connect RTC entrepreneurs with the resources needed to strengthen and expand their businesses.

More than 150 local government officials, business leaders, thought leaders, funders and philanthropists attended the summit.

Alfa Demmellash, co-founder and CEO of Rising Tide Capital, was thrilled by the response.

“We reimagined this year’s Start Something Challenge to increase and deepen our support of our community of entrepreneurs,” Demmellash said.

“For the first time, we combined the challenge with our summit to maximize opportunities for our entrepreneurs to network with some of New Jersey’s most influential leaders in business, government and philanthropy.”

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver gave the keynote, imploring those in attendance to follow their dreams of entrepreneurship.

“Many people have made the mistake of believing that this country’s economy is fueled by major corporations,” she said. “While they are important, the real strength of our economy comes from small and medium-sized businesses.

“Rising Tide Capital helps aspiring entrepreneurs to go beyond an idea and create a sustainable and thriving business.”

The qualifying contestants were all graduates of RTC’s Community Business Academy, a nationally recognized training program for entrepreneurs on how to start, grow and sustain a business.

Within two years of graduating from RTC’s Community Business Academy, entrepreneurs experience a 112 percent increase in their business sales, a 68 percent increase in household income and a 48 percent reduction in the use of public assistance.

Sartoga was the winner in the food competition.

Here are the winners in the remaining categories. Each was awarded $5,000:

  • Sustainability: Java Bradley, Java’s Compost, West Orange;
  • Health: Erica Cannedy, Embracing Change Counseling Services LLC, Livingston (Jersey City resident);
  • Expression: Oniki Cole Hardtman, Oh Niki Occasions LLC, West Orange;
  • Community: Alysis Vasquez, Midnight Market, Jersey City.

The runners-up were each awarded $250.

Paul Silverman, principal of Silverman, announced the finalists; and Leslie Anderson, CEO and president of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, who was also a judge of the competition, presented the award to Sartoga.

The event was held at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City.