Via George A. Willis
Edna Rashid’s story is typical of an aspiring entrepreneur who achieved success with the help of The rising tide capital.
Rashid saw herself as a grandmother with 10 children in her care eight years ago, after her eldest daughter Naimah suddenly passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 33. Beyond pain and sadness is the truth, Rashid, 54 age, then had a family. to care for, including a grandson with special needs.
So she retired early from her longtime job as a manager in Newark City, New Jersey, and started brainstorming ideas to support her family. Finally, Rashid was encouraged to attend a presentation by Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit agency in Jersey City, New Jersey whose mission is to change lives and communities through entrepreneurship.
“It was the best thing I ever did,” Rashid told Zenger. “They not only teach you about economic capital, but also the value of human capital.”
In 2013, Rashid and her son, Qasim, founded NF insulation, a full-service insulation company based in Newark, NJ, that specializes in handling residential, commercial, and industrial contractors. A family business led by a woman of color is a bright spot for Rising Tide Capital, which for 17 years has helped set up hundreds of minority-based businesses in urban communities.
Founded by Alfa Demmellash and Alex Forrester in 2004 on Martin Luther King Drive in Jersey City, Rising Tide Capital has trained more than 3,200 entrepreneurs primarily in the northeast and is replicating its model in 10 states different.
“We decided to focus on entrepreneurship because of the ways it presents a path for people who have difficulty trying to access traditional job opportunities or who cannot,” Demmellash told Zenger. access to higher education opportunities and certainly access to financial resources. “All of that was in our minds as we set out to shape the mission of Rising Tide Capital.”
Demmellash was born during the Ethiopian Civil War and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. Forrester, her husband, is the son of Doug Forrester, an unsuccessful businessman who ran for governor of New Jersey in 2005. A love affair like-minded friends became married. , which fosters a shared interest in cross-generational economics and what can be done to address the root causes of poverty. They examined the ways in which communities of color have been marginalized and affected by America’s history of apartheid. Ultimately, their focus narrows to expanding entrepreneurship in underserved communities.
“We went through different situations over the years,” says Demmellash. “But the mission remains at the heart of it, and that’s how to work with entrepreneurs.”
RTC offers two semester-long curriculums known as the Community Business Academy (CBA), an intensive 12-week course in the business management skills needed to start, fund and operate a business. CBA is accredited by Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, and 90% of those who attended were people of color and 70% were women, Demmellash said.
“We believe there is local talent that has been overlooked and underrepresented,” she said. “Supporting those leaders with access to public, social and financial capital is how we will rebuild our communities from within and address some of the root causes of disparities. economic disparity.”
The Academy has only 200 seats per semester and those who are accepted will receive a full scholarship and pay only for their materials and the application fee based on income level. Graduates of the program participate in Rising Tide’s Business Accelerated Services program, which supports entrepreneurs for up to three years after graduation. To date, 3,220 people have graduated from CBA, and 80% of the businesses the graduates have founded have survived the 5-year mark.
Hilda Mera, an immigrant from Ecuador, graduated as a CBA from Rising Tide Capital in 2015 after opening an auto repair shop in Newark two years earlier with her husband, Jose Masache. “I always say Rising Tide Capital is the door that opens the rest for me,” Mera told Zenger. “They don’t just give you classes and say ‘goodbye. Whatever you need, from consulting to coaching, they are there. All you have to do is call and they will help you. They don’t really leave you.”
Mera currently teaches at Rising Tide Capital with a focus on empowering women to be business leaders in their communities. “That’s what I love to do,” she says, “because I love helping entrepreneurs and telling them if I can do it, they can.”
CBA applicants must have a solid idea of a business or be actively involved in their own business to be considered. “We want to encourage people,” Forrester said. “People have been pushing in this direction and our job is to get behind their efforts and support them and surround them with a community of others who are doing the same.”
Students come from all educational, professional and economic backgrounds. “We don’t look for the entrepreneurs with the highest potential and go after them,” says Forrester. “It’s really a much broader embrace of what entrepreneurship means in the community as a form of people listening to the needs of those around them and finding ways to meet that need.”
COVID-19 forced a transition to online learning, something that will remain as an option when the pandemic subsides. Technology is helping to clone CBA in cities like Chicago, Illinois; Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Wichita, Kansas; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Richmond, Virginia; and Brooklyn, New York. “This is not about people with a certain level of education,” says Demmellash. “It is essential that people bring a heart and a commitment.”
Rising Tide Capital, funded primarily by corporate, foundation and government endowments, is looking to expand its headquarters in Jersey City to make a greater impact on metropolitan cities across the globe. country. A $1.5 million fundraising campaign is underway to build a permanent center, complete with workspace, classroom space, training space and affordable housing . It’s a grand vision that can have a permanent impact.
Demmellash, the daughter of a businessman, says: “It warms my heart when we see the children of entrepreneurs at events or their parents’ businesses, and you see their eyes. ,” said Demmellash, the daughter of a businessman. “Children of entrepreneurs have a high graduation rate and have a higher chance of becoming entrepreneurs. That’s the long-term transformational mindset we’re trying to create. ”
With many small businesses struggling with the pandemic and unemployed workers looking to start their own businesses, RTC is seeing the need and meeting it. “It is extremely important, especially for people of color, to know there is space for them to start and grow their businesses over the long term,” says Demmellash. “They are the agents of change in the kind of long-term economic transformation we are looking for.”
Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Bryan Wilkes
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