How one nonprofit is helping entrepreneurs survive the COVID-19 pandemic
As the U.S. economy staggers under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, never has support for our nation’s entrepreneurs been more critical. The businesses they start—often home-based and part-time—provide employment not only for entrepreneurs, but for communities. In fact, they make up 48 percent of American jobs.
Rising Tide Capital (RTC), a nonprofit organization based in New Jersey, is helping ensure that many of the entrepreneurs in its area are supported during and after this pandemic.
Since 2004, RTC has supported over 3,900 individuals from low-income communities to pursue their dreams of starting and growing a successful small business through business management education, consulting, and connection to financial capital support.
The success of RTC’s entrepreneurs is proven and palpable. Within two years of completing Rising Tide Capital’s Community Business Academy, small business owners see an average 95 percent increase in revenue and 63 percent increase in household income.
Chris Breitenberg, director of national program partnerships at Rising Tide Capital, shared RTC’s plans for how it will scale its efforts to increase access to programming in the wake of COVID-19 while continuing to grow entrepreneurship in low-income communities. As Chris says, “It’s better to save what already has been hard-fought into existence than to lose everything and start from scratch.”
The bottom line, he says, is: “If entrepreneurship was critical before COVID-19 because of the problem of poverty, it becomes essential after the dust settles, as we work to build back what has been lost and try to avoid social and political disruptions that can arise in periods of prolonged economic recession.”
Helping to support business owners survive the economic shutdown is RTC’s most urgent priority today. It’s accomplishing this goal by helping entrepreneurs understand, navigate, and access financial opportunities at the state and federal levels, while also supporting their skill-building in human resources, crisis communications, online marketing, and digitalization of products and services. Rising Tide Capital is even leaning into its community of entrepreneurs by holding topic-specific webinars hosted by former RTC program graduates.
RTC has also been able to give immediate cash assistance to entrepreneurs in its program. In April, 250 Rising Tide entrepreneurs received one-time grants of $500 as part of the #GiveTogetherNow effort led by Stand Together and the Family Independence Initiative.
But it’s help in getting entrepreneurs on the other side of this pandemic unscathed will be needed for some time. As joblessness rates soar, many people are expected to turn to entrepreneurship to patch income losses and provide a long-term financial engine for themselves and their families. Rising Tide Capital anticipates interest in its Community Business Academy to soon be at an all-time high.
To help meet the demand, RTC will launch a new affiliate opportunity in the coming months that will make Rising Tide’s model more accessible to communities around the country, particularly in smaller cities and rural areas. This program will use a “train the trainer” model, in which Rising Tide Capital will train potential instructors to deliver the Community Business Academy and teach business management to help entrepreneurs in their communities start and grow businesses.
Rising Tide Capital is already in partnership with groups across 10 cities in 4 states to deliver entrepreneurship programming to nearly 2,000 individuals each year. Utilizing new technological developments and support from Stand Together Foundation, Rising Tide Capital hopes to make this program available to entrepreneurs in all 50 states so it can help even more people succeed.
As Chris says, “Entrepreneurship has proven itself to be a pathway to financial security and a transformative lever of upward mobility for families and their communities.”