Late last week, 146 entrepreneurs — including 56 from Essex County — graduated from Rising Tide Capital’s (RTC) nationally recognized 12-week Community Business Academy (CBA) with a newly-acquired business education, an expanded network, and access to the support and resources they need to start or grow a successful business. In a historic moment in the organization’s 10-year history, the 1,000th entrepreneur graduated from the program, as part of the largest CBA class to-date.
The new RTC entrepreneurs joined an alumni network of 968 CBA graduates across Northern New Jersey in a graduation ceremony held at Saint Peter’s University. Featured speakers included Virginia Bender of Saint Peter’s University, Rising Tide Capital’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees Doug Forrester, cofounders Alex Forrester and Alfa Demmellash as well as representatives from the eight sessions of the CBA. During the ceremony, graduates received a Community Business Academy completion certificate and free membership into the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
Among the graduating class was Newark native D’TaRelle Tullis, who is making a difference in her local community. With a mission to fight childhood obesity and provide affordable dance classes to surrounding communities, Tullis started her mobile dance studio Pitter Patter Feet in 1993. Starting with schools in urban cities like Newark, Maplewood and Irvington—she teaches ballet, hip hop, jazz and tap to youth combining dance with classroom instruction.
“Most families in my hometown lack the funds to offer their children professional dance classes; my business allows me to provide that opportunity. While my parents were unable to afford dance classes while I was growing up, I hope to infuse physical activity into the everyday curriculum to ensure the optimal development of youth,” she said.
With clients ranging from childcare facilities to public schools, Tullis uses her expertise as a New Jersey State approved consultant and trainer in early childhood development to create classes that provide physical and social development. While she started her business 22 years ago, Tullis took the Community Business Academy to gain the business and financial management acumen to sustain her business.
“I been in business for a really long time, however while I enjoyed the artistic side of teaching the dance classes I needed help with actually running the business. The CBA was extremely valuable. I learned that I needed to create a system to my everyday work to ensure I deliver excellent quality services. I also learned a lot about myself and built lasting relationships with my classmates and instructors.”
Since taking the Community Business Academy, Tulis has won $3,000 for Pitter Patter Feet after pitching her business in the Newark Innovation Acceleration Challenge. She says her participation in the CBA gave her the additional boost of confidence needed to present her business and talk about pricing and book keeping. Tullis plans to explore options for creating online classes to expand her reach to more students.
The CBA, offered in locations throughout Hudson and Essex Counties, teaches entrepreneurs business fundamentals including budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and financing. Each CBA student receives a full-tuition waiver—covered by Rising Tide Capital’s funding partners—and continued business support through the Business Acceleration Services Program.