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Financial Empowerment & Entrepreneurship

Start Something With Rising Tide Capital

2 min read

According to the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis, 6.3 percent of all individuals in the U.S. workforce are categorized as “working poor” — that is, individuals who spend at least 27 weeks in the labor force but who still fall below the poverty line. For many, low wages, underemployment, and low job security contribute greatly to poverty, especially in urban communities. Individuals who are underemployed can suffer from low self-esteem and social isolation. The stress from trying to work enough hours during the week to make ends meet can be toxic and debilitating. Low-income individuals often look to entrepreneurship to escape poverty but lack the business knowledge or financial resources to get started. For some, it’s simply a matter of finding direction and organization to make a foray into the world of business.

Founded in 2004 by Alfa Demmellash and Alex Forrester to empower under-resourced communities in New Jersey, Rising Tide Capital promotes the growth of small businesses in New Jersey by providing much needed capital and expertise in management, helping low-income individuals rise out of poverty.

RTC offers intensive courses to its aspiring entrepreneurs, in which students learn the fundamentals of small business management, gaining a familiarity with the skills, concepts, and tools to manage a lucrative business. RTC also offers a Business Acceleration service, in which entrepreneurs are provided pro bono legal services, in addition to marketing and accounting services at below-market costs. For businesses in need of capital to expand or improve their credit, RTC’s Credit to Capital program helps with the direction through often complicated business financing options. Their innovative model combines venture capital and micro-lending to assist those who generally aren’t provided these entrepreneurship and business services. In doing so, RTC ensures that the working poor can rise above the poverty line by their own means, with business skills and knowledge that will last a lifetime.

RTC has accomplished much it its 13-year existence. Eighty-seven percent of the businesses they sponsor survive past five years, much higher than the U.S. average of 50 percent. Additionally, RTC graduates see an average 47 percent increase in their household income, which can mean the difference for many people in being able to permanently rise out of poverty — all through business entrepreneurship. The added steady income from launching a successful business has helped its graduates reduce their reliance on public assistance by 56 percent.

RTC has launched several innovative programs and matriculated over 1,300 graduates. They have garnered national recognition for their efforts — RTC was even recognized by President Obama during his White House speech on social innovation. Alfa Demmellash, CEO of RTC, has been selected as a CNN hero and was named by Forbes as one of the “Most Powerful Women Changing the World.

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