June 27, 2009

An Ethiopian Immigrant's Organization Helping Small U.S. Businesses

CNN recently highlighted the work of an Ethiopian immigrant living in the United States helping low-income entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses, which I think is worth sharing with you. Alfa Demmellash, who grew up in impoverished Ethiopia, is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rising Tide Capital, Inc., a Jersey City, New Jersey-based nonprofit organization "whose mission is to assist struggling entrepreneurs and communities to build strong businesses that transform lives, strengthen families and create vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods." The organization's vision "is to build a replicable model for high-quality entrepreneurial development services that can be locally adopted in other low-wealth communities and used as a catalyst for social and economic empowerment." (Photo courtesy of Rising Tide Capital, Inc.)

Focusing on transforming lives and communities through entrepreneurship, Rising Tide Capital offers three programs to traditionally underserved populations such as women, formerly incarcerated persons, minorities, unemployed and working poor, and immigrants & refugees:

  • The Community Business Academy (CBA) is a ten-week "intensive course in basic business management and planning, where entrepreneurs gain hands-on familiarity with the fundamental concepts, tools, and skills needed to plan and run a successful business. The Community Business Academy is designed specifically for the start-up entrepreneur with little or no business experience or someone in the process of growing a micro-business";
  • Business Acceleration Services include "one-on-one coaching, targeted business acceleration courses and access to markets and networking events designed for individuals struggling to open, stabilize or grow a business. Program initiatives include the 100 Day Challenge – an intensive goal setting and achievement track for those seeking to make dramatic leaps in their personal and business performance"; and
  • Access to Capital: While Rising Tide Capital does not provide loans directly, graduates of the CBA will receive assistance in identifying microlending organizations most suited for their needs. I strongly support the organization's advice to CBA graduates as they seek funding opportunities, "Remember a loan is just more debt unless you know what to do with it to benefit the sustainable growth of your business."

Rise Tide Capital's philosophy and methodology include:

  • Transforming individual lives by providing a viable means of economic self-sufficiency and a tangible sense of hope for the future;
  • Strengthening families by empowering parents to better provide for their children and to make better decisions by reducing the emotional strain of financial instability and insecurity; and
  • Creating thriving, vibrant communities by developing local leaders in the form of business owners, who will build the community from within by offering employment opportunities and concrete examples of success through hard-work for the next generation.

Here is CNN's video highlighting Ms. Demmellash's important work in making tools available to individuals trying to improve their lives through entrepreneurship:

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