Start Something Champions Gala Raised $395 Thousand to Support New Jersey Entrepreneurs

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Rising Tide Capital celebrates entrepreneurial leaders that support local living economies

The Start Something Challenge Winners with the Gala honorees and RTC Founders, CEO Alfa Demmellash and COO Alex Forrester. Photos by Reggy Stainfil Photography

The Start Something Challenge gave me the opportunity to align myself with very talented, creative and like-minded entrepreneurs who are all committed to growing and developing their passions into profitable businesses.

On Thursday, November 5, at the Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City, Rising Tide Capital hosted its annual celebration of entrepreneurial excellence, the 2015 Start Something Champions Gala, the culmination of this year’s Start Something Challenge. With almost 300 guests in attendance, the event raised $395 thousand to support entrepreneurship development in underserved communities throughout New Jersey. Over the past four years, this gala and Challenge have raised about $1.5 million, providing scholarships for underserved entrepreneurs to receive business training.

“It takes businesses of all sizes to create vibrant local economies, and our gala is an annual celebration of entrepreneurship at all levels,” said Alfa Demmellash,” CEO of Rising Tide Capital. “This year, all of our Challenge finalists have businesses that are committed to meeting a need in their communities in some way. We are proud to recognize them alongside some very important business leaders who share similar values. We are honoring entrepreneurs who aren’t just content to build businesses, but are invested in building communities as well.”

The Challenge, which has been primarily underwritten by JPMorgan Chase since its inception, is a part of a larger effort to create more sustainable local living economies in and around Jersey City. A 2013 study conducted by the Aspen Institute revealed that microbusinesses that receive capital contribute to local economies through job creation, business sustainability and growth, and income generation.At the gala, the three winners of the 2015 Start Something Challenge were awarded $22,500 in cash to build and strengthen their businesses.

“The Start Something Challenge gave me the opportunity to align myself with very talented, creative and like-minded entrepreneurs who are all committed to growing and developing their passions into profitable businesses. I acquired a support network and lifelong friendships that I'm sure will lead to growth and continued success in all of our ownership endeavors,” SSC first place winner, Omar Ruffin said.

Two Jersey City natives were also honored at the gala. Paul Silverman, principal of SILVERMAN, was honored as the Community Builder of the Year, and Kevin Cummings CEO and president of Investors Bank was honored as the Corporate Entrepreneur of the year. Sheri Sobrato of the Sobrato Family Foundation, the first investor in RTC’s Spanish-language programming was honored with the Entrepreneurial Award for Philanthropy.

“We are proud to support Rising Tide Capital’s Start Something Challenge,” said Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings. “Small business owners are such an integral part of our state and country’s economy, so we are grateful for the opportunity to get behind a program that helps them.”

2015 Start Something Champion Honorees:

Paul Silverman: Community Builder of the Year

Kevin Cummings: Corporate Entrepreneur of the Year

Sheri Sobrato: Entrepreneurial Award for Philanthropy

2015 Start Something Challenge Finalists:

First Place & $10,000: Omar Ruffin - BiArté Biker Gear Corporation

Second Place & $7,500: Angela Huggins - Angel Hugs 4 All

Third Place & $5,000: Myani Lawson - Bergen-Lafayette Montessori School

People’s Choice: Jennifer Henry - HillPoint Preparatory

Tina Bologna - Just Jersey

Dawn McLaughlin - Positively Publishing Kids

Crystal Jones - Loving Heart Patient Advocacy

Karla Jimenez Moreno - Caídos del Cielo Bakery

Adrienne Fudge - Meals Express

Kenneth Pickett - Think Forward Innovations LLC.

Rising Tide Capital (RTC) is a Jersey City-based nonprofit organization founded in 2004 by Harvard graduates Alex Forrester and Alfa Demmellash. RTC helps entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses by providing a 12-week Community Business Academy—supplemented by year-round workshops, coaching and networking events. These programs are currently offered in Spanish and in English in four cities across Northern New Jersey: Jersey City, Newark, Union City, and Orange Township. As of June 2014, 1114 entrepreneurs have graduated from the CBA and together, they operate 515 businesses in New Jersey. RTC’s model of entrepreneurship development has received national recognition from President Obama to CNN Heroes.

The Start Something Challenge (SSC) is a statewide pitch competition and business strengthening opportunity for New Jersey entrepreneurs. The Challenge is funded by visionary supporters and organized by Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit organization that helps entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses. To ensure that every participant has a chance to win the $10,00 top prize, Rising Tide Capital provides each entrant with hands-on coaching and mentorship. Free to enter, the competition is open to any New Jersey resident 18 years or older, who operates a micro business or has a strong business idea. To date, 344 entrepreneurs from 78 towns and cities representing 17 counties in New Jersey completed applications for the Start Something Challenge.

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Tatyerra Spurlock
Rising Tide Capital
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Esther Fraser
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