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A unique nonprofit called Rising Tide Capital is revolutionizing the model for economic development in low-income communities by empowering entrepreneurs from the bottom-up with financial investment, support, and training through intensive entrepreneurs' courses.

What makes Rising Tide Capital different is their focus on low-income communities in which many residents are either unemployed or underemployed and have little access to capital to start their own ventures. By developing the skills and abilities of aspirational entrepreneurs in these communities, they're empowering them to generate sustainable income for themselves and improve their lives.

As a result, they're also becoming a force for economic growth and opportunity in their neighborhoods, positively influencing the individuals they employ and serve. 

From Making Loans to Investing in Human Capital

Rising Tide Capital believes that entrepreneurship shouldn't be reserved to those in certain zip-codes because doing so hinders the human race's ability to innovate and prosper.

During the nonprofit's beginnings, its founders realized that there was a very common yet grossly inadequate understanding of the circumstances that create poverty. Chief Officer of Strategy and Innovation, Alex Forrester, explains that many people believe poverty is an issue directly related to the presence or absence of money.

As they gave out microloans to startup businesses in low income and struggling communities, they found that investing in the people within these fledgling companies was just as important as providing the financial resources to help the new business owners open their doors.

Even more so than money, knowledge and support are necessary drivers of entrepreneurship for people of all backgrounds. From this insight sprang their Community Business Academy, which offers entrepreneurs' courses on the ins and outs of how to run a business. 

How the Community Business Academy Works

The Community Business Academy consists of 12-weeks of entrepreneurs' courses in which aspiring and current business owners learn how to run and grow a business. In the classes, participants study business planning, management, and the fundamentals of business operation such as budgeting, financing, bookkeeping, and marketing.

These entrepreneurs' courses, however, involve much more than learning the nuts and bolts of responsible business ownership; they're also about mentorship, networking, and developing a community of informed peers. Through this aspect of the Community Business Academy, graduates emerge with an entire support system for success.

They found that investing in people was just as important as providing financial resources.

"It's not just that you take the class and then that's it. It's the support that is there for you anytime you need it," says a former participant in the entrepreneurs' courses, Hilda Mera. "I just need to make a phone call, and they send the help that I need."

As Mera describes, the organization provides its entrepreneurs with ongoing support, as their businesses grow and their needs change. Since 2006, nearly 2,200 entrepreneurs have graduated from the program and business owners who complete the courses stand to experience up to a 95% increase in revenue.

Some business owners who attended the Academy have gone from not being certain whether their business was profitable, to having a clear understanding of accounting principles and business operations. 

Empowering Successful Entrepreneurs

In its beginnings, Rising Tide Capital only had the resources to serve a small group in Jersey City. Today, they're partnered with Stand Together and are now serving four states across the U.S.

Through the partnership, Rising Tide Capital has been able to devise a new framework and scalable business development plan that's ripe for fast growth in communities of need. Someday, Forrester hopes they'll be able to provide support to low-income communities across the country.

"If we can get this into every city in America, I believe we can create a tipping point that would build resilient, thriving communities from within, using the talents and aspirations of the people living there," he says. "You really begin to tap into the most powerful force that's out there, which is human potential."

Business owners who complete the courses stand to experience up to a 95% increase in revenue.

Entrepreneurship is everywhere, and Rising Tide Capital believes that the engine of prosperity should be open to everyone. All people who desire to fulfill a community need, everyone with a product or service to provide, should have the opportunity to build a meaningful life doing just that.

"We are doing what we're doing to show our community that no matter where you come from, you can be whoever you want to be and you can grow," says Hilda Mera. "For me, it's freedom. I'm here doing something that I like, and at the same time, I'm helping my community."

By leveraging innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit found within these communities, Rising Tide Capital has the power to unleash the value that can be created for each individual and empower entire communities.

For more interesting news about the people and ideas that are changing our world, subscribe to Freethink.

About Stand Together

Stand Together helps social entrepreneurs supercharge their efforts by connecting them with passionate partners and the resources necessary to make a greater difference.

Through Stand Together's philanthropic community, they're tackling some of the nation’s biggest challenges so that every person has the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Learn more about getting support for your business, or become a partner today at StandTogether.org.

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