Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa was once home to her for 12 years, 10 of which she spent growing up without her mother, living with various extended family members. However, when her biological father kidnapped her and subjected her to a life of abuse, she thought she would never escape. To her shock, he released her in the middle of the desert, where Alfa Demmellash would hitch-hike her way to freedom and a new life with her mother.
Inspired by her mother who worked multiple jobs to make ends meet
Today, the former refugee has established her own non-profit firm which caters to hardworking underserved communities, Rising Tide Capital in New Jersey. The company works by helping build new businesses, helping over 1000 people until now. Also providing education, technical training and support, she says, “There is a lot of dreaming and a lot of creativity that is often overlooked. When you have your why, when you have a sense of your purpose, it is the most resilience-inducing thing you can possibly find.” Inspired by her mother who worked during the day as a waitress and sewed gowns at night, Demmellash believed that anything is possible. Focusing on work experience rather than technical knowledge about business, she has helped create a new model for budding entrepreneurs.
A Harvard alumna, she barely knew a word of English when she came to the US
Coming to the US at the age of 12 with her mother, without knowing an ounce of English, her story is one of true grit. After living in a refugee camp first, they later moved to Boston to start fresh. Though Demmellash dreamed of taking her mother’s business to a new level, her mother was apprehensive due to bank loans and a lack of a support system. This she realized was the struggle of many people who operate these “side hustles”. After graduating from Harvard, where she met her husband, they together started Rising Tide Capital with a $2 million budget. Also recognizing that the average entrepreneur at RTC earns less than $35,000 a year and is also a single mother, she knew how much more had to be done.
Serving local communities in New Jersey that are in much need of capital and training to set up their own businesses, Demmellash herself is a great role model of rising from the ashes.
Image credit: Meeting of the Minds