Not long ago Geoffrey Allen was the one pounding the pavement. His trucking business folded. He was unemployed and in debt. Today, he’s got a new gig and getting ready to hire his fifth employee.
“I wouldn’t be here today. I would have went out of business at least six months in because I would have made the same mistakes I made the first time. I would have tried to do everything myself. I wouldn’t have had access to capital. It just would have been another business that failed,” Allen said.
Allen owns a small contracting company called Property Maintenance Guys based in Jersey City. It got off the ground thanks to a nonprofit that’s been quietly transforming urban communities over the last decade.
“It’s very much a team sport and if you don’t have those team members, you don’t know where to find them, you don’t even know where to begin recruiting, then its very difficult to build a business,” said Alfa Demellash, co-founder of Rising Tide Capital.
Rising Tide Capital is now a well-oiled entrepreneurial business service. Demellash says they focus on low-income communities. The hope is to act as catalysts for economic and social empowerment. So far more than a thousand small business owners have graduated from Rising Tide Capital’s signature community business academy. Nicole Silva is one of them.
“A lot of business owners when you’re just starting out, me personally, I didn’t have anyone to turn to,” Silva said.
Silva won a $7,500 check in 2013 from a Rising Tide competition for her homemade soap line, DollyMoo, and it turned her whole business around.
“We now are in about 10 Whole Foods throughout New Jersey and New York. In addition to that we have about 50 wholesale accounts all together. About a year ago we opened our brick and mortar store in Montclair, which has been amazing,” said Silva.
Jewelry designer Tina Tang won the same challenge last year for her Iron Strong line. She sells online and business is booming. Through Rising Tide Capital’s help she’ll be holding her own festival with 11 other business owners in Manhattan.
“As a business owner you’re in a vacuum so you might tap into people around you, but you’re going to get the same kind of answers, it’s the support that’s predictable. So that’s not necessarily helpful. Having a coach or meeting people who are in the same thing in Rising Tide, these are all people in the same position or who have been there,” Tang said.
In fact there’s so much interest from entrepreneurs Rising Tide Capital now has 480 spots in their community business academy. The problem? There’s over 1,800 entrepreneurs on the waiting list.
“We want people who traditionally haven’t felt emboldened to go out and start and bring creative ideas to the marketplace, to feel that and the support. But starting is just half the battle,” said Demellash.
The other half is Rising Tide’s commitment — helping to sustain and grow the business as a long-term partner and to the ride the tides as they come and go.