Rising Tide Capital’s 4th Annual Start Something Challenge Gala

Rising Tide Capital (RTC) 4th Annual "Start Something Challenge" winners. Left to right: Kevin Cummings (CEO of Investors Bank), Omar Ruffin (BiArté Biker Gear Corporation), Alex Forrester (COO of Rising Tide Capital), Paul Silverman (Principal of SILVERMAN), Angela Huggins (Angel Hugs 4 All), Alfa Demmellash (CEO of Rising Tide Capital), Sheri Sobrato Brisson (Sobrato Family Fund), Myani Lawson (Founder of Bergen Lafayette Montessori School). 

Rising Tide Capital (RTC) 4th Annual "Start Something Challenge" winners. Left to right: Kevin Cummings (CEO of Investors Bank), Omar Ruffin (BiArté Biker Gear Corporation), Alex Forrester (COO of Rising Tide Capital), Paul Silverman (Principal of SILVERMAN), Angela Huggins (Angel Hugs 4 All), Alfa Demmellash (CEO of Rising Tide Capital), Sheri Sobrato Brisson (Sobrato Family Fund), Myani Lawson (Founder of Bergen Lafayette Montessori School). 

By Lenore Holz

Jersey City nonprofit Rising Tide Capital (RTC) held it’s fourth annual Start Something Challenge Gala on November 5, 2015 to celebrate entrepreneurship, and raise awareness and funding for their mission. At Liberty House restaurant in Jersey City nearly 300 RTC supporters, funders, and local small business owners enjoyed networking, a banquet, special performances and inspirational speeches with a glowing Manhattan skyline beyond the historic train terminal at Liberty State Park and New York Harbor. The gala culminated the annual six­-week long Start Something Challenge (SSC) competition celebrating ten finalists who were awarded prizes for rounds of publicizing and pitching their business.

Three SSC champions —­­ all based in Jersey City and all RTC program Graduates for the first time in the contest’s history —­­ won grants to improve their business. Third place winner Myani Lawson, Founder of Bergen Lafayette Montessori School, won $5,000, second place winner Angela Huggins won $7,500 for her business Angel Hugs 4 All, and first place winner Omar Ruffin of BiArté Biker Gear Corporation, was awarded the $10,000 first prize. The People’s Choice award was also announced at the gala, earning Jennifer Henry, Founder of HillPoint Preparatory, a cash prize of $1,000. Seven non­placing contestants received iPads and other perks.

(Left) Angela Huggins presents 2015 Entrepreneurial Award for Philanthropy to Sheri Sobrato Brisson of the Sobrato Family Fund. Award by Jerome China. (Right) 2015 People's Choice Award Winner Jennifer Henry, Founder of HillPoint Preparatory School.

(Left) Angela Huggins presents 2015 Entrepreneurial Award for Philanthropy to Sheri Sobrato Brisson of the Sobrato Family Fund. Award by Jerome China. (Right) 2015 People's Choice Award Winner Jennifer Henry, Founder of HillPoint Preparatory School.

RTC entrepreneurs presented three Honorees with unique metal sculpture awards created by RTC Graduate and artist Jerome China in the “industrial gears” theme of the gala. The 2015 Honorees were Jersey City natives Paul Silverman, Principal of SILVERMAN with "Community Builder of the Year" award, and Kevin Cummings, CEO of Investors Bank with "Corporate Entrepreneur of the Year" award. Sheri Sobrato of the Sobrato Family Fund was presented with the "Entrepreneurial Award for Philanthropy." Sponsored by JP Morgan Chase, Investors Bank, SILVERMAN, and NJ Advance Media among others, the gala raised $395,000 to fund RTC’s work and scholarships for future CBA graduates.

(Left) Jennifer Henry presents 2015 Community Builder of the Year to Paul Silverman. Also pictured, Anthony Cammarata (middle). Award by artist Jerome China. (Right) Myani Lawson presents Kevin Cummings, CEO of Investors Bank, with "Corporate Entrepreneur of the Year" award, sculpted by artist Jerome China.

(Left) Jennifer Henry presents 2015 Community Builder of the Year to Paul Silverman. Also pictured, Anthony Cammarata (middle). Award by artist Jerome China. (Right) Myani Lawson presents Kevin Cummings, CEO of Investors Bank, with "Corporate Entrepreneur of the Year" award, sculpted by artist Jerome China.

RTC’s community of entrepreneurs provided services and products throughout the evening, including event production, live music, photography, table centerpieces, and gift bags.

Co-­founded in 2004 by Harvard graduates (and spouses) Alfa Demmellash and Alex Forrester, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to the economic empowerment of underserved communities through entrepreneurship. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, RTC’s mission is to transform lives, families, the community, and neighborhood as a whole through the power of successful small business. To date over 1,238 individuals have graduated from their centerpiece program, the Community Business Academy, a 12-­week course teaching basic skills of starting and growing a small business. Current and future entrepreneurs are offered a sliding scale scholarship for the course, as well as ongoing social, educational and mentorship opportunities after graduating. RTC is based in the Greenville neighborhood of Jersey City, with an office in Newark, with classes and events across North NJ.

Congratulations to the 2015 Finalists, Honorees, and to this dynamic organization for their wonderful work building sustainable communities. We’ll be following RTC closely to share news of their exciting projects throughout New Jersey.

Photos by Imara Moore Photography and Reggy Stainfil Photography

About the Writer

Lenore Holz landed in Jersey City in July 2001 and hasn’t looked back. She helps others solve problems as Brownstone Concierge, crafts organic teas and fresh lemonade as Iced Tea Fusion, and teaches yoga and meditation. A self­-identifying progressive, Lenore is committed to her community through advocating for the local economy, animals, and keeping Liberty State Park free and green. #SaveLSP