Rising Tide graduates cohort of 134 potential entrepreneurs (from 53 towns in N.J.)

Nonprofit’s nationally regarded program aims to grow business owners from underserved communities

Even the pandemic didn’t slow the efforts of Rising Tide Capital, the nonprofit in Jersey City that has drawn national attention and recognition for its efforts to support entrepreneurs from underserved communities.

Last week, the Fall 2021 cohort of the Community Business Academy had a virtual celebration to mark the completion of its 12-week experiential learning program focused on starting, running and growing a business. (Classes are taught in English and Spanish.)

The class included 134 entrepreneurs from 53 cities and towns across New Jersey.

Alfa Demmellash, the co-founder and CEO of Rising Tide Capital, said this year’s graduation theme, “Leaning into Possibilities,” highlighted the resolve that these 134 entrepreneurs and small business owners have demonstrated by pursuing their dreams amid overwhelming uncertainty.

“These graduates, faced with the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, embody the passion necessary to realize their ambitions and rebuild their communities,” she said. “If this global health crisis has taught us anything, it’s that a foundational element of community resilience is one where the people and the local businesses have a culture of mutual support.”

With this class of graduates, the Community Business Academy — which began in 2006 with 15 participants — has produced more than 3,500 graduates.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka delivered special remarks acknowledging the large presence and impact of Rising Tide Entrepreneurs in their cities and congratulated the new graduates on their dedication to working to support their communities through entrepreneurship during these challenging times.

The keynote speaker was Tomas Porturas, community relations vice president for New Jersey at Wells Fargo.

About Rising Tide Capital

Rising Tide Capital is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Jersey City, with a hub in Newark, that seeks to transform lives and communities through entrepreneurship.

The Rising Tide Capital alumni network is 71% women and 93% persons of color. Within two years of graduating from the program, entrepreneurs achieve a 95% increase in business sales, a 63% increase in household income and a 59% reduction in the use of public assistance. On average, graduates of the Community Business Academy open a new business every three days and enjoy an 80% survival rate after five years in business.

The Rising Tide model also operates in Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Kansas and upstate New York through partnerships with local nonprofits.

“It is an honor to be able to celebrate this very special group of entrepreneurs — we are all inspired by their hard work, determination and courage,” he said. “At Wells Fargo, we know the past two years haven’t been easy for small businesses, especially minority business owners. That’s why we’re proud to support organizations like Rising Tide Capital who work tirelessly to support entrepreneurs at every stage of growth.”

Additional speakers included Mary Kate Naatus, KPMG Dean at the Frank J. Guarini School of Business at Saint Peter’s University; Aicha Balla, vice president of RBC Capital Markets and board member of Rising Tide Capital; and Doug Forrester, president of Integrity Health and founding chairman of the board of Rising Tide Capital.

Baraka said the members of the cohort are deserving of special recognition.

“I want to thank all of the graduates for persevering and completing this process during what must have been a very difficult time in the middle of a public health emergency, and for staying focused and pursuing your dreams,” he said. “Right now, we need as many minds working, as many bodies working, as many thoughts active and as many people as we can to help us rejuvenate and regenerate our economy to get our people moving and working consistently and collectively.”

Fulop concurred.

“It’s truly inspiring to see the talented entrepreneurs and the businesses they are bringing to life right here in our neighborhoods,” he said. “It is proven that small businesses are the foundation of our communities and of our economy. … You have great purpose and the future prosperity of communities like ours needs you. Thank you for what you are doing, and the path you are helping to pave for us all.”