Rising Tide Capital

Assisting struggling individuals and communities to build strong businesses
Rising Tide Capital made my dreams come true. They always stay engaged with my business, so I stay engaged with them. Whenever they have an event, I attend. When I can, I’ll volunteer. And once my business reached a level where I could contribute financially, I started to sponsor a student each year for the CBA, because I want to pay that forward.
– Beatrice Johnston, Brand Excitement, WWW.BRANDEXCITEMENT.COM

Working poverty ensnares millions of Americans in a cycle of financial instability. These men and women work full-time, sometimes multiple jobs, and barely have enough to survive and provide for their families. Many often look for entrepreneurial pursuits to make ends meet, but they lack the business knowledge and resources necessary to launch a sustainable business. Low-income individuals often have the entrepreneurial talents, ideas, and spirit to serve their communities, but they need direction, resources, and support to launch successfully.

The Solution

Rising Tide Capital (RTC) delivers high-quality entrepreneurial development services to underserved, low-income communities, catalyzing economic and social empowerment. By helping individuals start and grow successful businesses, Rising Tide Capital plays a vital role in community revitalization. They deploy the knowledge capital, social capital, and financial capital individuals need to accelerate business growth, provide for their families, and serve their communities.

  • Entrepreneurs can enroll in the Community Business Academy (CBA), an intensive 12-week accredited course in business planning and management skills. The experiential, hands-on course covers business fundamentals such as budgeting, marketing, and finance. Upon completing the course, graduates have an actionable business plan for growth and six college credits.
  • Business Acceleration Services (BAS) are also available for entrepreneurs and graduates of the CBA. These year-round wrap-around services include one-on-one business coaching, pro-bono legal services, training seminars, business competitions, financial support, and opportunities for networking and collaboration.
  • Sometimes financial capital is the missing piece to growth. The Credit to Capital program partners with entrepreneurs to find the right investment resources. Walking with the entrepreneur through the entire process, RTC works with a network of financing partners that focus on small business loans.


Empowering entrepreneurs with the knowledge and resources they need to start and grow a business helps men and women gain control over their futures by activating their creative powers and unleashing their talents in the marketplace. Rising Tide Capital now serves nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs a year in five New Jersey locations. Their entrepreneurs have an 87 percent survival rate past the first five years of business. On average, entrepreneurs see a 64 percent increase in business sales within the first two years, and they also see a 49 percent increase in household income.

The Story

Alfa Demmellash came to the United States from Ethiopia as the daughter of a refugee who worked for years as a waitress and seamstress, laboring long hours late into the night to save enough money to bring her daughter to the United States. Years later, Alfa met Alex Forrester as undergraduates at Harvard, where they quickly realized they shared a passion for social entrepreneurship and microfinance. Together, they identified a critical gap in the market, where low-income communities lacked access to high-quality business services. In 2004, they opened the doors to Rising Tide Capital. Since then, they’ve seen over 1,300 entrepreneurs graduate through the Rising Tide Capital program, resulting in new businesses, expansions, and job creation in some of the most economically distressed neighborhoods of New Jersey.

As a result of these strong outcomes, RTC has received national recognition for its work — including selection as a CNN Hero, presidential recognition, and designation of its CEO by Forbes as one of the “Most Powerful Women Changing the World.” Most recently, RTC was selected into a six-year fellowship for Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Stand Together Foundation PARTNERSHIP

Rising Tide Capital is a 2017 Stand Together Foundation Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Rising Tide Capital receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.

Jersey City, New Jersey
est. 2004
Alfa Demmellash
Co-founder & CEO
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Alfa Melesse Demmellash was born and raised in Ethiopia. At age 12, she came to the United States with a keen interest in poverty alleviation and conflict resolution. Alfa graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2003, with a degree in government. Alfa co-founded Rising Tide Capital in 2004. In 2009, she was selected as a CNN Hero and recognized by President Barack Obama. She was one of Forbes’ Most Powerful Women Changing the World with Philanthropy in August 2012 and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2015. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from St. Peter’s University and New Jersey City University.
Alex Forrester
Co-founder & COO
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Alex Forrester is the co-founder and COO of Rising Tide Capital. Alex graduated from Harvard University in 2004 with an accelerated BA in postmodern philosophy and theology. Driven by an interest in social justice, entrepreneurship, and micro-finance, Alex co-founded Rising Tide Capital in 2004. Alex is driven by an interest in the characteristics of high-performing social enterprises, the concept of “Social Return on Investment” (SROI), and in the use of strategic philanthropy and social entrepreneurship to address systemic social problems such as global poverty, ex-offender recidivism, and modern-day slavery. Alex is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from New Jersey City University.
Success Metrics
Of RTC businesses survive past 5 years, compared to US average of 50%
Reduction in graduate use of public assistance
Change in average household income within 2+ years
In economic impact for every $1 invested in its programs
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